The secret to happiness? Here’s some advice

Matthew Solan
Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

 I have always considered myself a happy person, even though I may not always look it thanks to inheriting my father’s furrowed brow. Are there times when I’m not happy? Of course. Do I wish I could be happier more often? Who wouldn’t? Most everyone is looking for the answer to the age-old question, “What’s the secret to happiness?” the better question may be, “Is it even possible to be happier?”

Research shows about half of our level of happiness is based on genes. Some people are just predisposed to be happier and more upbeat than others. But that does not mean you cannot increase your level of happiness if it does not come naturally. In fact, research has suggested that 40% of people’s happiness comes from the choices they make.

As the people got older, they tended to focus more on what’s important to them and didn’t sweat the small stuff to the degree they did when they were younger, That according to a Harvard study and it’s long running research on happiness.  Other studies support this mindset, and found older adults are better about letting go of past failures. “They tend to realize how life is short and they are more likely to pay more attention on what makes them happy now.

You could do the same. What activities make you happy and what’s stopping you from doing them? Think back to your childhood. What did you enjoy when you were younger? Singing? Playing games? Doing certain hobbies? “When you are older you have more opportunity to return to the activities you associate with happiness, So, begin that coin collection, join a choir, or play poker or bridge.

The Harvard Study has found a strong association between happiness and close relationships like spouses, family, friends, and social circles. “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, which are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster. This is also an opportunity to focus on positive relationships and let go of negative people in your life, or at least minimize your interactions with them.

If you need to broaden your social life, try volunteering for a favorite cause. Odds are you will meet more like-minded people. Volunteering also is another way to boost happiness by providing a sense of purpose. 

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