14 Cheap Ways to Hack Your Life for Happiness
What makes someone happy? The 2017 World Happiness Report shows that Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland may have it figured out -- they (once again) 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 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.
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.
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.
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.