How to Be Happy in Life (According to Science)

Kaitlin Vogel
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For centuries, philosophers and thought leaders have explored the idea of how to be happy in life. What’s the secret? Why are some people happier than others? Why is happiness fleeting?

Happiness is something we all wish we could hold on to and make last forever. If only there was a way . . .

As it turns out, according to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, there is a way to make happiness last longer. And, it’s easier than you think.

Previous studies have shown that people are more likely to feel satisfied when they set specific goals that are easy to measure. While this method can prove useful when it comes to career or weight loss goals, researchers theorized that this may not be the case when happiness is the end goal.

When it comes to how to be happy, setting general goals may prove more effective since people will be open-minded to experiencing a wider range of positive emotions.
 
 

How to Be Happy 101: General Happiness Goals Versus Specific Happiness Goals

Does the way people frame their goals influence how much happiness they experience over time?

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University explored this question, and whether the traditional approach to setting goals could affect the level of happiness for consumers.

In the study, researchers asked 70 college students how they felt about a purchase they made to make themselves happier during the last month. Some students said they purchased it with the general goal of feeling happier. Others were more specific in terms of the emotions they hoped to experience after the purchase.
 

 
 

The Study’s Results May Teach Us How to Be Happy Long-Term

Participants were asked how they felt about the purchase immediately after, two weeks later, and one month later.

The researchers found that participants who had general happiness goals were more likely to experience greater happiness over time compared to the participants who had more specific happiness goals such as “feeling excitement.”
 

To put it simply, happiness is about learning how to manage your expectations.

 
“If people watch a movie with a specific goal like feeling excitement, then they may be less likely to remember the funny or meaningful elements of the movie,” says Rohini Ahluwalia, author of the study and professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.

“We predicted that people with general goals would engage a broader range of emotions and experience more happiness over time.”

In other words, by reframing your perspective to set broader goals, you will experience more happiness over time. To put it simply, happiness is about learning how to manage your expectations.
 
 

How Expectations Shape Our Reality and Our Happiness

When it comes to how to be happy in life, the best approach is to let go of expectations. As William Shakespeare once said, “Expectations are the root of all heartache.” And, it turns out, he was absolutely right.

Think about it: If you expect the man you’re dating to commit and he doesn’t, you will be disappointed. If you expect to get a promotion, but your coworker gets promoted instead, you will be upset.

So, drop the expectations. And see how you feel. You may be surprised to find that this might be the secret to long-lasting happiness.
 

 
 

So, How to Be Happy? Be Present and Enjoy the Moment!

Keep your happiness goals general rather than specific. If you change your mindset to simply enjoy the moment with the person you’re dating and focus on working hard at your job without worrying about the future, you are more likely to experience happiness. And we mean long-lasting happiness.
 

As William Shakespeare once said, “Expectations are the root of all heartache.”

 
The bottom line? It is only when our expectations don’t match reality that we feel unhappy. The way we think directly impacts the amount of joy we experience. So, be present, enjoy the moment, and revel in your newfound happiness!

Still not sure how to be happy? Here are 5 Habits That Ruin Your Happiness and How To Break Them

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Kaitlin Vogel

Kaitlin has worked as a professional writer and editor in New York City for over seven years. Beyond her professional experience in journalism and psychology, it is her keen interest in personal development that has driven every one of her career decisions thus far. She's committed to creating content that matters.

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