Log off Facebook (and phone a friend). More likes don’t necessary add up to more happiness, according to research from the University of Michigan. The more the study participants (82 young adults) used Facebook over a two-week period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined. In contrast, the researchers found that direct interactions with others—whether it be over the phone or face-to-face—actually helped people to feel better over time.
CEO, Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking chimed in saying that while Facebook isn’t bad, it could affect the way people see their lives, as it distorts the true perceptions of reality, and what others in their social circle are really experiencing. Most only post good things that are going on; it’s like a non-stop news channel that only relays great things. This effectively places a risk of other users only focusing on the negative in their own lives.
Wiking adds that social media should not be used to assess a user’s own life. However, the researchers in the study add it is human nature to lose focus on what you need in life, and instead take a look and admire what others have instead.
Go outside and get some sun. A pilot study from the United Arab Emirates last year identified a link between time spent outside and improved mood. The study’s co-author, Dr. Fatme Al Anouti, an assistant professor at Zayed University’s college of sustainability sciences and humanities, suggested that this could be because of the body’s increased production of vitamin D in response to sun exposure.
Natural sunlight is a free and available mood enhancer. It encourages us to produce vitamin D and protects us from seasonal mood changes. However, because society is more aware than ever of skin cancer and sun damage, most of us have significantly reduced our exposure to natural sunlight.
But, in doing so, we have traded the risk factors of one disease for others. Lack of natural sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiency - which contributes to an increased risk of and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness
Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity, and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it's also useful for improving your happiness:
In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants' brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.
Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.
Spend More Time With Friends/Family: Money Can't Buy You Happiness
Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying.
If you want more evidence that time with friends is beneficial for you, research proves it can make you happier right now, too.
Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel.
I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:
We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.