Psychologist David Niven draws lessons from scientific studies on happiness in The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People. The book has 100 short chapters. Each has a recommendation based on the results of research. The book was published in 2000 and the research cited was published in the mid- to late-1990s.
As you might expect from such a structure, the book seems to go all over the place. Even so, some themes and trends are readily discernable.
For instance, relationships have a profound effect on happiness—more important than our material possessions. If we have close relationships with friends or family, we are much more likely to feel good about ourselves. Supportiveness in relationships is important to our happiness and it works both ways—giving and receiving. Being a good friend is as important as having friends; follow through on your commitments. Make peace with others; the pain of working through the conflict is usually much less than the pain of losing a relationship. Relationships are important at every age.
A sense of purpose and goals are also important to happiness. Volunteering is a good way to find a sense of purpose; helping others can help us feel better. Goals should be realistic—working toward and attaining goals feels good, but striving toward goals you cannot reach causes dissatisfaction. Celebrate your achievements along the way and remember them.
Your thoughts and outlook also affect your happiness. If you must assume what is motivating someone’s action, assuming the best will lead to more happiness. Don’t dwell on past problems or think of what might have been; concentrate on what you can do now to step toward where you want to go. Remember happy moments from your past to be happier today.
Related to that, be grateful for what have. Having a lot does not contribute as much to happiness as enjoying and appreciating what you have. By the way, watching television can lead to discontentment by stirring up covetousness.
There is a lot of other advice in Niven’s book. If you pick it up, you’re likely to find something that might help you be a little happier.
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