Most people like being happy.
But happiness isn’t always easy, and we don’t always know what makes us happy or unhappy on a day-to-day basis.
Thankfully, science is here to help. We’ve rounded up some of the best available research on why people become happy and how they stay that way.
A key caveat: One study does not a scientific fact make, and many of these studies identify correlations but don’t trace causation. That means many of these may be habits of happy people, rather than things that actually generate happiness. And plenty of studies apply only to a particular group of people. There’s no magic trick that will suddenly make you a happier person, but you should read this list as science-backed suggestions that can help.
Without further ado, here are the best science-backed ways to be happy.
1. Exercise. Study after study has shown that people who exercise lead happier, more fulfilled lives.
2. Find your sleep routine. People who sleep through the night and who experience high quality sleep are less irritable, more self-controlled and happier than people who don’t.
3. Develop familiar family routines. A 2016 study found that families who spent their leisure time on ritualized, familiar activities inside the home were happier than those who lacked routine or ritual.
- The Bucket List Family
Source: World Leisure Journal
4. Find activities that make you fully engage. The researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has argued that ‘flow,’ a state of full immersion in an activity, is critical to motivation and feeling good about a project.
- Ker Robertson / Staff / Getty Images
5. Eat breakfast. A study of South Korean teenagers found that eating breakfast correlated strongly with happiness.
- Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
6. Build quality friendships. Responsibilities to and deep engagement with friends correlates with happiness. And that effect is only noticeable when those are real-life, in-person friends, not people online.
7. Meditate. Study after study has shown the benefits of even brief meditation on well-being and happiness.
- Flickr/Moyan Brenn
8. Spend time in nature. Research suggests a sense of ‘nature connectedness’ can have a significant impact on happiness.
- Ron Fry/Reuters
Sources: Frontiers in Psychology
9. Have more sex. Research shows that people who have more sex are happier.
- Flickr / Mo Riza