Become Happier by Building the Right Habits

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There are two kinds of happiness—the kind that lasts for an instant and the kind that can permeate an entire lifetime.

If you’re looking for the first kind of happiness, seek out novel experiences. Chase thrills, try new things, push your boundaries, and learn what brings you joy.

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But don’t forget about the second kind of happiness, which might more accurately be called contentment. That kind of happiness isn’t constructed from a string of once-in-a-lifetime moments; instead, it’s carefully cultivated through your day-to-day activities and habits.

As Dr. Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and president of TalentSmart, explains in his essay “Eleven Habits of Supremely Happy People”:

The mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness and sadness is so prevalent that psychologists have a name for it: impact bias. The reality is, event-based happiness is fleeting.

Happiness is synthetic—you either create it, or you don’t. Happiness that lasts is earned through your habits. Supremely happy people have honed habits that maintain their happiness day in, day out.

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What are these eleven habits? Many of them are the same old tips and tricks you see on nearly every list of how to live a good life: get enough sleep, get regular exercise, savor your meals instead of rushing through them, and so on.

However, Bradberry takes this list a little further, suggesting that happy people live not only for health, but also for depth:

They have deep conversations. Happy people know that happiness and substance go hand-in-hand. They avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Instead they focus on meaningful interactions. They engage with other people on a deeper level, because they know that doing so feels good, builds an emotional connection, and is an interesting way to learn.

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If you want more meaningful interactions in your life, you might need to start surrounding yourself with the right people (habit #4) and spending time with them in person instead of online (habit #10). You can even get into the habit of giving those people gifts (habit #3), but only if you take the time to find something they’ll appreciate. A poorly chosen gift, after all, makes everyone unhappy.

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It seems kind of trite to note that happiness derives from the habits we build, the choices we make, and the way we respond to external circumstances and challenges, but “try to live in a way that will promote happiness” is something we often forget in our rush to do all of the other stuff on our to-do list. If you’re looking for ways to bring a little more contentment into your life, ask yourself whether you can adopt any of Dr. Bradberry’s eleven habits. He notes that you don’t have to incorporate all eleven to live a happy life—so pick the ones that work for you, and try to do them as often as possible.

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