How to Hack Your Life for Happiness
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14 Cheap Ways to Hack Your Life for Happiness

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How to Hack Your Life for Happiness
Goran Bogicevic/shutterstock

you'll be happy you read this

What makes someone happy? The 2018 World Happiness Report shows that Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland may have it figured out — they score highest on a "happiness scale" out of all the countries on Earth. Having a national social support network and being able to generally trust the government and fellow citizens raised those scores, the report's editors say. But plenty of measures of happiness are entirely personal, including generosity, compassion, and physical and mental health. That means there's a lot that individuals can do to de-stress and make themselves happier.

Focus on 'Intrinsic' Motivations
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focus on 'intrinsic' motivations

People who have intrinsic goals (such as being more skilled or compassionate) tend to be happier than those with extrinsic goals (making more money or buying a nicer car, for instance), says Jim Hjort, a licensed clinical social worker who founded the Right Life Project based on this idea. But goals can be tied together for a win-win, such as developing a skill that will further your professional life.

Eat Comfort Food (in Moderation)
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eat comfort food (in moderation)

There are many ties between eating and happiness. Sometimes a particular food is the focus; chocolate, for instance, is known to induce happiness. Sometimes it's the experience; just about everyone has had a blissful moment of nostalgia when smelling or tasting a food that was a childhood favorite. Skipping meals also sends some people straight into "hangry" mode, which is most certainly not a happy place.

Just Say No

just say no

Committing to too much at once can result in stress, the antithesis of happiness for most people. Jill Liberman, a behavior therapist and author of the self-help book "Choose Happy," says some people say "yes" too much because they seek acceptance and approval. They may be valuing the opinion of others over their own self-respect, and it's self-respect that can lead to long-term happiness. Say "no" and take time for yourself.

Spend Money on Others

spend money on others

Money actually can buy happiness — mainly when it's spent on others. Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, and Michael Norton, a business administration professor at the Harvard Business School, co-wrote "Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending" and found people who were given money and told to spend it on others were happier than those told to keep it. Their work also found that spending more on others is a predictor of happiness.

Buy Time

buy time

Dunn and Norton also found that "buying time" with the right products or services can lead to happiness — for instance, paying someone to mow the lawn or clean the bathroom. But it matters how the newly free time is used; spending time with friends or family can have the biggest payoff.

Start a Gratitude Journal

start a gratitude journal

Gratitude journals have been shown to increase happiness and improve practitioners' sleep patterns. The University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center offers tips to keep in mind: Focus on people, rather than things, and observe how life would change if people or possessions were taken away. The center advises writing only a couple of times a week to preserve the significance of the practice. All that is needed is a small notebook and a pen.

Buy Inexpensive Experiences
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buy inexpensive experiences

The advice to buy experiences rather than stuff is often touted as a key to happiness, but which experiences are worth the money? Young people tend to get the most happiness from extraordinary experiences, but older people get the most happiness from ordinary experiences, according to a study by educators at Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

Fully Appreciate Those Experiences
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fully appreciate those experiences

Take the time and energy to fully appreciate positive experiences, whether they are ordinary or extraordinary. Being intentionally mindful of what is happening can make the experience more intense and emotionally stimulating.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation
Pretend to Be Happy Until You Actually Are
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pretend to be happy until you actually are

Gretchen Rubin, author of the best-selling book "The Happiness Project," posits acting cheery can actually make you feel happier. There may be some science behind the practice, although attempts to prove this theory have come up with mixed results.

Sleep At Least 7 Hours
Put Troubles in Perspective

put troubles in perspective

Elea Faucheron, founder of the life-coaching group Move Think Smile, says taking part in activity that forces the mind to focus on the present is one way to move past a day's troubles. The activity can be inexpensive and fun, such as creating art from materials found around the house or hosting a cook-off with friends or family.

Exercise 20 Minutes a Day

exercise 20 minutes a day

Regular exercise can increase productivity, improve memory, and help treat depression. Studies have shown that elevated moods may be limited to the days when physical activity takes place, but a 20-minute workout is all that's needed to see the benefits.

Set Multiple Goals

set multiple goals

Achieving a goal can lead to feelings of accomplishment, success, self-worth, and happiness. Falling short could have the opposite effect, though, so setting multiple unrelated goals could be a good way to keep from getting caught up in a single "failure." The goals could be professional, personal, physical, financial, spiritual, or dietary. Just one or two wins can make a difference in your mood.