7. Settle for Good Enough
Generally, there are two types of people: satisficers and maximizers. Satisficers are those who are happy once they have found a certain level of quality that meets their criteria. Maximizers, on the other hand, insist on having the best of everything and are more prone to get overwhelmed by endless choices, exploring every possibility. And while maximizers are usually the ones who end up with the best jobs and the best cars, they also tend to be more stressed and unhappier in the long run.
“Past a certain point, choice overwhelms us,” Brooks says. “The costs of processing all the information outweigh the gains from having more options.”
That’s not to say you should never insist on the best. Sometimes you should—but only when it really counts. Finding the best health care for your child is one thing. Choosing a paint color or a cell phone is another. Such efforts can drain countless hours from your life that you could be investing in more important things, like strengthening relationships with family and friends.
8. Try New Things
Humans are generally creatures of habit. But adding a new activity to your routine can pay big dividends.
Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University reviewed 500 diaries, covering time frames from three months to four years, and examined 30,000 memories of events. He found that people who participate in a wide variety of experiences are more likely to enjoy lasting happiness. Conversely, those who stick to the status quo tend to struggle with minimizing negative feelings.
“Novelty and challenge make people happier,” says Gretchen Rubin. “If you can find ways to try new things, it’s a huge source of gratification.” She also says not to worry if you’re not very good at something. “I often remind myself to enjoy the fun of failure.”
According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, applying yourself to something challenging can eventually lead to what he calls a state of “flow”—a balance between difficulty and pleasure that allows you to get completely absorbed in what you’re doing; that flow leads to increased happiness.
So go ahead—invest in the voice lessons, or sign up for that pottery class you’ve been thinking about.
9. Utilize Your Strengths
Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, have identified 24 personality strengths, or “signature strengths.” The two theorize that when you use these strengths at work, in your personal life, and in the service of others, you can increase your happiness dramatically.
But how do you know what your signature strengths are? Yours are those that energize and uplift you, the ones you yearn to put into action.
Visit viacharacter.org to take a survey and learn which of the following 24 signature strengths you possess (although you can be capable of any of them with enough effort): 1) appreciation of beauty and excellence; 2) bravery and valor; 3) capacity to love and be loved; 4) caution, prudence, and discretion; 5) citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty; 6) creativity, ingenuity, and originality; 7) curiosity and interest in the world; 8) fairness, equity, and justice; 9) forgiveness and mercy; 10) gratitude; 11) honesty, authenticity, and genuineness; 12) hope, optimism, and future-mindedness; 13) humor and playfulness; 14) industry, diligence, and perseverance; 15) judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness; 16) kindness and generosity; 17) leadership; 18) love of learning; 19) modesty and humility; 20) perspective (wisdom); 21) self-control and self-regulation; 22) social intelligence; 23) spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith; and 24) zest, enthusiasm, and energy.
10. Go to Bed Angry
Contrary to what we’ve been told for years, bottling up anger, frustration, or sadness may actually be a better option than venting every negative emotion we experience—findings reveal that expressing emotion actually magnifies the feeling. So just as expressing gratitude brings more happiness and a variety of positive emotions, venting anger and frustration will only intensify what you were already feeling.
“Slamming doors or throwing pillows only stokes your anger,” says Rubin. “Catharsis, the theory that if you act out in a rage you’ll somehow feel better, is poppycock. Managing anger is a big issue for me, but if I can keep a lid on it, a lot of times it will just go away.”
In the end, happiness is something that is well within our reach. And when we become happier, we not only improve our lives, but the lives of others. After all, happy people are more likely to change the world for the better. So what are you waiting for? Start getting happy today!