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Tricks & Tips To Becoming a Happier You

At a school like U of M, your to-do list likely includes tons of homework, resume-building extra-curriculars, interviews and possibly eventual world domination. Does “be happy” fall anywhere on that list? If not, it probably should. Over the past few years, the newly developing field of positive psychology has collected extensive research on how a sunny disposition can improve your work, your relationships, and even your physical health.

Happy people do better at work.
People who are generally in a good mood tend to seek out activities that challenge them to use their talents in new ways. When the challenge presented meets your skill sets at the appropriate level, you experience what positive psychologists call “flow,” or a state of engagement in which you are completely absorbed in the task at hand. Great athletes and artists have all described the experience of flow as one in which you go on autopilot and nothing else matters besides what you are doing in the moment. The more you experience flow, the more productive and impressive you are, which in turn, can make you happy and continue the cycle. So find out what you’re good at and do more of it!

Happy people have better relationships.
Numerous studies have indicated that happy people have extraverted behaviors, which lead to deeper and more meaningful social relationships. This doesn’t mean that shy, introverted people can’t be happy, however. It just means that if introverts can push themselves a tiny bit to adapt some of the behaviors of extroverts, it can help in the relationship department. Genuinely happy people are more attractive to potential marriage partners, and studies have found that people who are generally happy have longer and more successful marriages on average. Try to carve out time in your busy schedule for friends and family… you won’t regret it.

Happy people are healthier.
Studies have been conducted on the effect of happiness on everyone from nuns to college students and the quality of life it can support. Such studies are done longitudinally, meaning that researchers periodically check up on the subjects over the span of several years. Researchers have found overwhelming evidence to suggest that people who are generally happy are much healthier physically than those who are not, and on average live up to ten years longer. While the biology and physiological elements behind this phenomenon have yet to be fully fleshed out, the consensus of the results is compelling.

Little Ways to Get Happy
Let’s face it – we’re not always happy all the time. Stress, anger and sadness will always seem to find their ways into our daily lives, and if we were constantly, relentlessly cheerful, people probably wouldn’t like us that much anyway. Happiness takes effort. Luckily, there are lots of little things you can do to pick yourself up and look on the bright side. The following are all empirically supported ways to up the happiness quotient in your life:

Aerobic exercise: Biking, jogging, walking – whatever gets your heart pumping will work!
Gratitude letters: Write a letter or gratitude to someone who has helped you or made a positive impact in your life and deliver it to them personally if possible.
Self-congratulation: Take a moment to quietly celebrate your general awesomeness and realize what a cool person you are. Each day remind yourself of one thing you love about you.
Be curious: Read the news, visit a museum, or read a challenging book. Pushing yourself physically and intellectually and learning new things can not only lead to experiences of flow, but will also boost confidence and a sense of achievement.
Savor: When you experience something that makes you happy, like a warm hot chocolate or a walk with a friend on a sunny day, deliberately make an effort to enjoy it in the moment. That way, your memories of the experience will be even stronger.
 

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