What is happiness? 7 surprisingly simple ways to feel happier

Written by
Evergreen Life

After taking the Subjective Happiness Questionnaire in your Evergreen Life app you may be wondering how you could improve your Happiness Score, particularly if you felt it was a little low.  

In this article we take a look at what Subjective Happiness means; its overarching benefits and ways to practise becoming happier. We’ve also got some helpful hints and tips that you might find useful to try out should you wish to. As with all the Evergreen Life Wellness Checks, the score can been used as a way to monitor the effect of any changes you choose to try.

How can we measure our happiness?

One way to measure happiness uses the well-recognised Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS) developed by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. These are the four questions that are asked within your Evergreen Life app. Using the scale as a tool, our aim is to show that happiness can be improved whatever a person’s starting point and there are strategies you can try in order to feel happier. Your score is just a starting point - a quick and easy test to determine your current level of happiness.

How does the SHS score work?

To measure your subjective happiness, we ask four questions on a scale from 1 to 7. For most people, their average score is from 4.5 to 5.5. A score of less than 4 might mean you aren't feeling very happy right now and seeking help from a mental health professional could be beneficial for you. University students tend to score a bit lower than working adults or retired people who average 5.6. But happiness is a subjective feeling; everyone defines it differently which also explains why differing groups of people score slightly differently.

The benefits of happiness

There are too many benefits of being happy to list them all; not only for an individual but for families, community and society at large. Here are just a few: Happy people have more satisfying and longer marriages, more friends, stronger social support, more energy, better physical health, lowered stress levels, and less pain. Happy people are more creative, helpful, charitable, self-confident, and successful at work.

Studies involving 275,000 people have demonstrated that people who consider themselves to be happy have stronger immune systems – and they may even live longer. Overall, being happy seems to be as good as giving up smoking for longevity and health!

Of course, there are medical, physical, and spiritual reasons why we might be not be happy and those things are very important. For example, mental health conditions, poor diet, toxins, pathogens, physical and psychological trauma, and social isolation can all play a part in someone’s ability to feel happy. Let’s take a look at addressing ways we interpret our situation and how we can choose to see things in a different way in order to learn how to be happier.

Practising happiness

What can we learn from happy people to be happier?

The very good news is that there are quite a few things that can be changed in a lasting way in order to become happier. But a heads up – none of these changes come without some effort.

  1. Practise acts of kindness

    Be kind every day. People who volunteer or care for others are happier and less depressed. Caring can involve volunteering as part of an organised group or club, but it can be as simple as making eye contact and thanking someone for opening the door for you or reaching out to another person who seems lonely or is struggling. Pay it forward – you’ve got to give it to receive it.
  2. Forgive

    Happy people are more forgiving than unhappy people. Holding onto feelings of resentment because of things or people that hurt us only serves to make us relive those experiences and we become good at doing that. To make the decision to forgive others releases us, but like anything else it takes some work to become good at it.
  3. Savour the good times 

    Of course, the happiest people do still have their share of stresses. They may become just as distressed and emotional as you or me, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show to face the challenge. One way to do this is to savour life’s pleasures and counting your blessings.

    Try keeping a gratitude journal where you jot down thoughts about what you appreciate in your life. Once a week is shown to be enough, as any more doesn’t tend to improve happiness.
  4. Empathy

    Expressing empathy for another person means you can understand and share their feelings. If you can’t work out why someone is acting a certain why, you might find yourself judging them. Perhaps you think they’re overreacting? Just try putting yourself in their shoes and you might begin to see things from their perspective. 
  5. Friendship

    People who have one or more close friends they can rely on in times of trouble are happier. Active constructive responding is the ability to show genuine interest in what others have to say. It’s easy to mentally disengage from what others are saying in an attempt to come up with something more interesting to say next. 

    Responding encouragingly is a powerful way to nurture positive feelings. We all know the good feeling that comes when someone is really listening to you!
  6. Eat well and keep moving 

    Regular exercise is associated with improved mental wellbeing and a lower incidence of depression. The highly regarded Cochrane Review, in an analysis of 23 studies on exercise and depression concluded that exercise had a “large clinical impact" on depression. Happy people make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.

    Many studies are proving the ancient saying, “sound body, sound mind." The recent discovery of a ‘gut-brain axis’ is also showing that there might be a link between your digestive health and your emotional wellbeing. There’s even a possible link between excessive sugar consumption and depression.
  7. Look forward

    Having goals for the future can help motivate you and keep you happier. Whether it’s a short-term aim or lifelong objective, setting yourself a goal and committing to it is a key tenet to a happy life. It’s particularly motivating to imagine yourself achieving these goals – practising optimism works!

What makes you happy?

So, happiness isn’t about any one thing in particular – it’s personal and lots of little things are better than a few big ones. But like anything, change takes practise. If you decide to put a few things in place to help you improve your happiness, why not let us know how they’ve helped you?

Remember you can retake your Subjective Happiness check (typically after 4 weeks) in your Evergreen Life app again to check in and see if your score improves over time.  

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