If you think more money and grander achievements are among the things that will make you happier in life, guess again.
According to Professor Laurie Santos – who developed and teaches the most popular class in the history of Yale University, “Psychology and the Good Life” – the habits that lead to true well-being run counter to what most people believe would make one happy, such as the accumulation of luxurious material possessions.
So what does make us happy? Here are just a few of the simple practices that when done regularly, exponentially increase our health and well-being:
Sleep. Often overlooked and passed by in our productivity-focused society, sleep deprivation is a serious trigger for anxiety and depression. When Santos’ students traded all-night study sessions for eight hours of sleep, not only did their well-being increase, so did their grades.
Exercise. Instead of quizzes, Santos requires students to participate in the habits that increase happiness weekly, such as cardiovascular exercise. Not only does exercise have obvious physical benefits for our health, cardio releases important mood-boosting endorphins that up our overall happiness. And added benefit: exercise with friends – try a long walk or a zumba class – and enjoy mood-lifting social connection as well.
Gratitude. Santos recommends taking 15 minutes to write someone a thank-you note. While the practice of expressing gratitude certainly increases the well-being of the person being thanked, it does even more for the person doing the thanking. To maximize this experience, don’t just send the note…read it to the recipient in person.
Real social connection. In a world where many – especially today’s youth – are perpetually connected to their devices, loneliness has become an epidemic. Social connection, says Santos, is the No. 1 trigger of happiness. To get it, she says, we must go deep. Take conversations beyond surface topics, like sports and movies, to real issues about emotions and family. While it may feel awkward at first, the boost to our overall well-being will be monumental.