How Healthy Habits Can Increase Our Daily Happiness

Small steps you can take to help increase your well-being.

Posted Mar 20, 2019

Source: Pexels

Today is the International Day of Happiness. For the past six years, this day has been recognized by the UN to acknowledge the importance of happiness in the lives of people across the globe. Individuals, schools, businesses, and organizations throughout the world are celebrating this day in unique ways. 

In fact, we just returned from the World Happiness Summit in Miami to discuss how to use the science of positive psychology to build healthy relationships based on our book Happy Together. And we head to Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center on Friday to present our work at their "Science of a Happy Relationship" event. We are delighted to share ideas and research on what helps improve happiness. 

Suzie Pileggi Pawelski
Suzie and James presenting at The World Happiness Summit
Source: Suzie Pileggi Pawelski

Today, on a day that couldn't be more fitting, I'd like to take the time to express my gratitude to the amazing man whose life work has made this day possible: Dr. Martin Seligman, Zellerbach Family Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Twenty-one years ago, while president of the American Psychological Association, Seligman founded the field of positive psychology, the science of what makes individuals and communities thrive. Due to his trailblazing work, we have learned so much more since 1998 about what leads to happiness.

Social psychologist Chris Peterson, a colleague of Seligman's and another pioneer in the field, said you could sum up positive psychology in three words: "Other people matter." And Seligman identifies relationships as one of the five key pillars of happiness in his model of well-being. Called PERMA, Seligman’s model includes Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

While each pillar is integral for a well-balanced life, thriving relationships appear to be the single most important determinant to happiness, according to research.

We evolved as social beings, and wouldn't be here without the nurturing and contributions of our fellow humans. Not only do we need one another to survive, however: We also need each other to thrive. We can't do it alone. And why would we want to?

Imagine for a moment how you feel when you have a sudden joy. And now think about how you feel when you share that joyous experience with a loved one. It's like compounded interest. Having close friends and loved ones to share our innermost experiences with can add even more meaning to a wonderful life. 

We now know that thriving relationships have a powerful impact on our well-being. We also realize that relationships take work, especially romantic ones. They don’t just magically happen, except in fairy tales and films. In real life, healthy habits are what lead to long-term love and happiness.

To increase your overall individual and well-being, practice the following habits: 

  • Be grateful for your blessings in your life. Focus on what you have, rather than what you lack. And remember it's not enough to solely feel grateful to others, we need to express that gratitude to others. And we need to do it regularly in order to experience upward spirals of positivity. 
  • Spend a few minutes thinking about your relationships and the types of interactions you have with your friends and loved ones. Do you tend to complain and focus on problems? Or do you celebrate the joys and seek out opportunities to connect? Reflect on specific steps you can take to strengthen your bonds with others. 
  • Focus on what is going right, rather than wrong in your life and the world. Good things happen five times more often than bad things on a daily basis, according to one research study. Remember to direct your attention to the good. Next, ask yourself what is the smallest thing you can do today to help grow more positivity into the world. 
  • Identify and use your strengths every day and help your friends, family and significant other to do so as well. When we exercise our strengths on a daily basis we increase our individual well-being. And when we do so with our romantic partner we experience a greater bond and a heightened sexual satisfaction.  

Remember that happiness doesn't happen overnight. And it's not something we do once and achieve it. It's not a destination, but rather a journey. A lifelong practice of healthy habits. The good news is that the more we practice it, the better we get at improving our well-being. Now that's something we can all celebrate on the International Day of Happiness.