how to be happier over the long-term.

If emotions were teenagers, happiness would be prom queen.

We strive for happiness in almost everything we do. Think about it. How many people believe that dropping those last twenty pounds will suddenly manifest them into a confident, self-assured, and happy sex bomb? How enticing are monetary work promotions? We think that, YES, OF COURSE, earning another $10,000 a year will melt all our financial and personal worries. Love is another big one. Teenagers long for significant others, often believing that when someone loves them, everything will fall into place, and they will be liked, accepted, and feel worthwhile. Later down the line, we believe this when we are seeking to get married, have children, buy a house, etc.

But happiness, like every other emotion, does wear off. Remember your first car, when you swore that you’d have that blissful high forever? Surely, that wore off. Just like the lovey-dovey, round-the-clock sex newlywed stage in the start of a marriage.

The truth is, even though we strive for happiness, research suggests that we probably have a baseline, meaning that even though we tend to think that A, B, or C will suddenly bring infinite happiness, that simply isn’t true.

In fact, WHATEVER amount of happy you are right now is the best indicator of how happy you will be in twenty years.  Sure, there will be a few things that rock this equilibrium, either positively (new relationship, new job) or negatively (death in the family, natural disaster), but after a brief adjustment period, studies show that you return back to your original state of happiness.

Still, there are a few peer-reviewed factors that have been extensively reviewed over the past few years, and it does seem that people who possess the following are more happier.

1.Sociability: There is a reason that friendships and relationships have sustained throughout time and evolution. We seek interactions with others, because they bring the nurture, comfort, reassurance, pleasure, and a variety of other positive outcomes that are harder to achieve on one’s own. Quality OVER quantity rules on this one. A higher number of friends does NOT correlate with a higher level of happiness. It is far more important to have close friends you can confide with and rely on rather than a random group of many acquaintances.

2. Internal motivation- This one’s easy. When you are doing something YOU want to do, rather than something you HAVE to do, you have a stronger sense of perceived control. Interestingly, however, even when you are doing something by choice, if you are doing it for reasons that you feel are obligatory (example: volunteering, because it will look good on your resume), you will not generate the same happiness you would if you volunteered without ulterior motives.

3. Mind-absorbing activities- Ever work hard on a task, look up at the time, and realize three hours have passed, when it has only felt like five minutes? Turns out, there is some truth to the old saying, time flies when you’re having fun.The happiest people tend to experience this “totally losing track of time” phenomenon the most. Being actively involved in something (whether it be a musical instrument, yoga, writing, sewing, etc.) keeps us engaged with our feelings, acutely focused, less stressed, and less anxious!

4. Focusing on the giving over the getting- Charity does wonders for the soul. Altruistic acts, in the form of raising funds, donating time or resources, and any other form of volunteering promotes well-being. For one, it puts perspective on our own lives, especially when we’ve lost sight of how fortunate we are to just be surviving! And secondly, it just feels good. Knowing you are able to feed or clothe someone, clean a park or beach, or organize an event to raise money for cancer, is a highly rewarding feeling. Giving provides a sense of purpose, and having that sense of purpose makes you more self-assured, boosting your self-esteem, and therefore, increasing happiness!

5. Faith- Being a devout churchgoer can do wonders for your mood. While the exact reasons are not clear (is it the social support from the members of the congregation, the healing effects of prayer, the music, the unity in having a common belief?), much research affirms that those with higher levels of faith and spirituality tend to be happier than those who do not.

6. Optimism- No-brainier. People with sunnier outlooks report being happier than those with jaded perspectives. While a pessimistic individual cannot just wake up one day believing all is grand and well, there are baby steps one can take in being more positive. For example, spending time with people you love, surrounding yourself with positive people, messages, and images, and seeking out new opportunities are all known to enhance how one approaches life.

So, there you have it!

Now, let’s see that smile shine!