You may not think that science has ventured into just how we acquire the old "syrup of yahoo," but it has. You may also think that what makes people happy differs greatly from one person to the next, but we are surprisingly homogeneous in our tastes. If you're not making the most out of every day, here's some proven ways to motivate more mirth.
Mind your Mellon
What you dwell on grows. Happiness isn't a sustained state of affairs, it's a series of moments that you have to carve out for yourself. Think how much time you spend rehashing arguments, reinforcing resentments for colleagues and clients, casting curses on bad drivers and bemoaning your life in general.
Imagine what would happen if you spent an equal (or greater) amount of time reinforcing the happy thoughts. What if you dwell on all the things you like about the people in your life, about all the times you see someone drive well, on all the things you did right this week.
One way to ditch those negative thoughts comes to us from a study by the University of Madrid which found that writing your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then tearing it up or burning it helps to set those negative feelings aside.
Try to be mindful of your thoughts and, when you catch yourself being a Grinch, don't admonish yourself, simply replace the negative thought with a happy one.
Studies show that meditation can increase the efficacy of our brains by creating more cortical passageways and by combating the cortical thinning that occurs with age. People who meditate showed more activation in those areas of the brain that detect emotional cues, which gave them a heightened sense of empathetic awareness. They were also more prone to having meaningful relationships with friends and family members.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is able to help people to reduce the stress in their lives so that they are happier, healthier and able to focus. MBSR means practitioners are better able to regulate their behavior so they are able to bounce back from disappointments or a bad mood.
Mindful meditation can be difficult for beginners, but guided meditations are helpful and you can download free guided meditations for beginners here.
It's hard to feel like you're lucky when you are having a bad day. One of the reasons for this is because we tend to spend time with people of our own socio-economic status. When you volunteer or travel to developing countries, you get a better idea of just how lucky you are.
Reminding yourself of this fact by practicing gratitude is shown to have a positive influence on our lives. Start and end each day by thinking about the things you are grateful for and put that out into the world too. Before you start your work day, email someone to compliment them or thank them for something they did. Work colleagues, friends and family members will all be grateful for your appreciation.
Gather your Squad
Studies show that money improves happiness until you are earning about $75,000 a year. After that, money actually reduces your sense of contentment. So if winning the lottery isn't the answer to your problems... what is?
A supportive network of family and friends with whom you have strong connections is the best way to ensure happiness. Of course you don't need a study to tell you this, but it does take effort. Being there in a meaningful way for friends and family members, attending important events, being thoughtful and generous and keeping in touch are essential if you want to create a really strong support network.
One of the most important gifts to give is attention which is a very rare commodity in an age where we are constantly distracted by the busyness of our lives, by technology and by our desire to be the center of attention.
But of course you already know all of these points, because when you practice gratitude, mindfulness, kindness, generosity and positive thinking, you feel happy. So make real changes to your thinking and to the way you speak to others and to yourself and you'll soon be the happiest of all the campers.
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If you're hunting for the perfect sofa to nap, lounge and roll around on all weekend long, go for the couch with a depth of 36 to 42 inches. (But be warned: You must measure every hallway, doorway, corner and stairwell that the couch needs to pass through to avoid the furniture not fitting.) Shoppers tend to overlook the extra-deep couch option and go for the more conservative option, with a 29- to 32-inch depth, Laurel & Wolf designer Kimberly Winthrop says. "Some people sit in it and think it's too deep, but that's where you've got your lumbar pillows and decorative pillows," she says. The most important thing to consider, when it comes to extra sofa depth, is a person's height and body size. "I am 5 feet 6 inches tall, and a 38- to 40-inch sofa is very comfortable to me. My clients that are in the 6-feet height range like a sofa in the 40- to 42-inch range because they have longer legs," she says. For the coziest and most durable material, go for 100 percent polyester, the performance fabric, which feels like a linen and is nearly indestructible.
Casually layering rugs can transform a room with hardwood floors into an oasis. A no-fail combination: Pairing a neutral base rug with something bolder in color, pattern or texture (such as a speckled cowhide rug, a faux sheepskin rug or a bright Moroccan rug). "The bottom layer should be simple with a really low pile," Winthrop says. "To keep the furniture from sinking down, you'll want to make sure your bottom layer is pretty thin." Sisal or jute rugs made from natural materials (plant fibers) are a great option for a base. This layering technique can also help you make use of a too-small vintage rug picked up at a flea market. Plop the smaller rug on top of a larger one to visually extend it.
Turns out there's a simple trick hotels use to give guests the perfect night of sleep. An extra middle sheet is placed between the fitted and top sheets, then dressed with a comforter or duvet. Also, the quality of the sheets (breathable 100 percent cotton) is more important than the thread count, says Brian Povinelli, senior vice president and global brand leader for Westin Hotels & Resorts. Additionally, borrow a spa-relaxation technique to make your night haven even more blissful: Use soft fabrics, like mohair, in the bedroom to absorb sounds. Start by throwing down a faux sheepskin rug -- like this $13 one from IKEA—next to your bed to soften footsteps.
The number of corners you're seeing can impact your mood. "If you walk into a space with all sharp edges, your senses can react to that," says Haley Weidenbaum, a designer with the interior-design start-up Homepolish. "A peaceful room requires a good balance of curvilinear and rectilinear shapes." Balance out a boxy setup with round side tables, circular mirrors, poufs or oversize floor pillows. "I have an affinity for leather poufs. There's a combination of structure and comfort, so it doesn't feel like a beanbag from your college dorm," she says. Design by Homepolish interior designer Haley Weidenbaum
Figure out the perfect wattage for a space with this handy formula: "Multiply the length of the room by the width of the room (in feet) then multiply that number by 1.5 to get the total watts needed for a space. So, for a room that is 10 feet by 10 feet that would be 10 times 10, which equals 100; then 100 times 1.5, which equals 150 watts. Lastly, divide the 150 watts among all your fixtures appropriately," Weidenbaum says. Remember that every space should have three layers of light: (1) recessed or ambient lighting; (2) task lighting; and, (3) accent lighting. "In rental apartments, there's usually a lack of recessed lighting," Weidenbaum says. To come close to that look without losing a security deposit, renters can use floors lamp that provide diffused light. For task lighting, try a table lamp next to a chair in the living room. Accent lighting, which a lot of people skip, makes a room feel more comfortable. Weidenbaum recommends illuminating a bookcase with rental-friendly plug-in sconces, which require no additional electrical hardware. Design by Homepolish interior designer Haley Weidenbaum
Lush, bright-green plants are essential. If you're looking to incorporate greenery that are really hard to kill, try succulents, snake plants, spider plants and bamboo palm plants, Weidenbaum says. These plants are notoriously easy to maintain—and take up less space than the ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig tree. Design by Homepolish interior designer Haley Weidenbaum
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