Experts in the daily routine of happiness

IIf anyone knows the secret to happiness, it’s definitely the people who have spent their careers studying it. What’s the first thing they’ll tell you? Always being happy is not a feasible or even desirable goal.

“It’s not a yellow smiley face,” says positive psychologist Stella Grizont, founder and CEO of Woopaah, which focuses on workplace wellbeing. “It’s true to yourself and all the emotions that come up.” Instead of trying to turn that frown upside down, she says, true happiness comes from being around you with lots of love, being served, and having a good time.

Grizont was among the top 18 happiness experts surveyed by TIME for their daily habits and the expert insights they are most likely to apply to their personal lives. The results are obvious—and can help all of us improve our moods and health.

The meaning of happiness is, to some extent, subjective. But nearly every expert we surveyed emphasized the same ingredients: a feeling of control and autonomy over one’s life, guided by meaning and purpose, and a connection to one’s life. the others. And most of them agree that happiness can be measured, reinforced, and taught. “The more you find yourself happy or grateful, the more it grows,” says Grizont.

Other questions we asked—such as “is happiness a choice?”—caused disagreement. Most experts are somewhere in between, especially because of the multitude of external variables that affect mood. “It’s part choice, part innate,” says Tal Ben-Shahar, co-founder of the Online Happiness Research Institute. “And the selection part is choosing to work hard.”

Experts disagree on whether happiness can be bought. As author and podcaster Gretchen Rubin said, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy great contributions,” such as enjoyable experiences. Spending money on others is also linked to happiness. However, many of the most reliable ways to increase happiness levels are free, such as meditation and compassion practices, gratitudeand altruism.

One of the most striking lessons focuses on the importance of acknowledging negative emotions, rather than repressing them. They agree that the idea that avoiding resentment, fear, or anger is healthy is one of the main misconceptions about happiness. Judith T. Moskowitz, professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says: We’re wrong to assume that focusing on happiness means acting like a “Pollyanna.” ignore the very real difficulties of life. Instead, experts say, we should try to accept and deal with difficult feelings appropriately.

Illustration by Timothy Goodman for TIME

Buy the cover copy of The Secret of the Happy Professionals here

So what works?

The experts we surveyed have several things in common about happiness habits. Spending time with family outside and with friends in a non-professional setting is important: most do both at least once a week and many socialize three to four times a week. week. John Zelenski, professor of psychology at Carleton University, describes Social relationships as the main building blocks of happiness. We all benefit from close friendships, romantic partners, and a “shared sense of respect and belonging,” he said.

Pursuing hobbies, such as art, music, cooking or reading, is also important. Most respondents make space for these hobbies five to six times a week. Mental health has long been associated with getting enough sleep, and our respondents prioritized at least seven hours of sleep each night. Exercising or playing sports is another shared habit, with respondents saying they exercise three to six times per week.

An extra key to unlock happiness could be Immerse yourself in nature. More than half of professionals report doing so at least three times a week. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, scientific director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, notes that when she’s stressed, she goes for a walk and “feels magical.”[s] in flowers, trees, birds, insects.”

She also considers breathing exercises, poetry reading, and stand-up comedy as her regular activities. coping strategies on bad days. Other experts work through useless thoughts, anxiety, and stress by reviewing favorite books, listening to upbeat songs, or journaling. Some descriptions ask a friend to hug or let it out with a good cry.

When she’s feeling down, Jenn Lim, author of Beyond Happiness, do things that she knows will make her smile, such as surprise a loved one with a gift. She also reminds herself to be curious and gentle with herself. In addition to pausing to “identify and accept” her feelings, she also asks herself if the bad day was within or out of her control. “If it was within my control, then I could have acted better,” she said. And if there isn’t, she knows to let it go.

Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, regularly revisits her personal definition of happiness: choosing to nurture moments of meaning and enjoyment. When things get bleak, “I remind myself that whatever I’m facing, someone else has to face it,” she says. After all, happiness is a universal and ancient pursuit. Take comfort in knowing that even those passionate about the science of happiness sometimes find it an elusive concept — and they don’t let that stop them from getting any closer to it.

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