Happiness: everyone wants it, yet relatively few seem to get enough of it, especially those in their early forties. (That's about the time many of us start thinking, "Is this all there is?")
Maybe that's because approximately 50% of your 'happiness set-point' is determined by personality traits that are largely hereditary. In short, half of how happy you feel is basically outside your control.
But that also means 50% of your level of happiness is totally within your control: relationships, health, career, etc. So even if you're genetically disposed to be somewhat gloomy, you can still do things to make yourself a lot happier.
1. Make good friends.
It's easy to focus on building a professional network of partners, customers, employees, connections, etc, because there is (hopefully) a payoff.
But there's a definite payoff to making real (not just professional or social media) friends. Increasing your number of friends correlates to higher subjective wellbeing. In terms of how happy you feel, doubling your number of friends is like increasing your income by 50%.
Make friends outside of work. Make friends at work. Make friends everywhere. But above all, make real friends. You'll live a happier and longer life.
2. Actively express your thankfulness.
According to one study, couples that expressed gratitude in their interactions with each other resulted in increases in relationship connection and satisfaction the next day--both for the person expressing thankfulness and (no big surprise) for the person receiving it.
Of course the same is true at work. Tell a coworker she did a great job and you both feel better about yourselves.
Another easy method is to write down a few things you are grateful for every night. One study showed people who wrote down 5 things they were thankful for once a week were 25% happier after 10 weeks.
Happy people focus on what they have, not on what they don't have. It's motivating to want more in your career, relationships, bank account, etc. but thinking about what you already have, and expressing gratitude for it, will make you a lot happier.
3. Actively pursue your goals.
Goals you don't pursue aren't goals, they're dreams--and dreams only make you happy when you're dreaming.
Pursuing goals, though, does make you happy. So be grateful for what you have... then actively try to achieve more. If you're pursuing a huge goal, make sure that every time you take a small step closer to achieving it, you pat yourself on the back.
But don't compare where you are now to where you someday hope to be. Compare where you are now to where you were a few days ago. Then you'll get dozens of bite-sized chunks of fulfillment--and a never-ending supply of things to be thankful for.
4. Do what you excel at as often as you can.
You know the old cliche regarding the starving yet happy artist? Turns out it's true: artists are considerably more satisfied with their work than non-artists--even though the pay tends to be considerably lower than in other skilled fields.
Clearly the more you enjoy what you do and the more fulfilled you feel by what you do the happier you will be. Of course it's unreasonable to think you can abandon your career and simply do what you love. But you can find ways to do more of what you excel at.
Delegate. Outsource. Start to shift that you do into areas that allow you to bring more of your strengths to bear. If you're a great trainer, find ways to train more people. If you're a great salesperson, find ways to streamline your admin tasks and get in front of more customers.
While giving is usually considered to be unselfish, giving can also be more beneficial for the giver than the receiver. Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it.
Intuitively we all know that since it always feels great to help someone who needs it. Not only is helping those in need fulfilling, it's also a reminder of how comparatively fortunate we are... which is a nice reminder of how thankful we should be for what we already have.
6. Don't single-mindedly chase 'stuff.'
Money does a lot of things; one of the most important is to give us choices.
But after a certain point money doesn't make people happier. Money doesn't 'buy' more happiness.
Think of it as the bigger house syndrome. You want a bigger house. You need a bigger house. (Not really, but it sure feels like you do.) So you buy it. Life is good... until a couple months later, when your bigger house is now just your house.
All too soon, new always becomes the new normal.
'Things' only provide momentary bursts of happiness. To be happier, don't chase as many things. Chase more experiences instead.
7. More than anything, live the life you want to live.
What other people think--especially people you don't even know--doesn't matter. What other people want you to do doesn't matter.
Your hopes, your dreams, your goals... live your life your way. Surround yourself with people who support and care not for the 'you' they want you to be but for the real you.
So make the choices that are right for you. Say the things you really want to say to the people who most need to hear them. Express your feelings. Stop and smell a few roses. Make friends, and stay in touch with them.
And most of all, realize that happiness is a choice. 50% of how happy you are lies within your control, so start doing more things that will make you happier.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.