We all know that money can’t buy happiness … but many times we act as if we’d be happier with a bit more money. We are conditioned to want to be rich (when we know the rich aren’t happy either); we are trained to want the latest gadget or style that television tells us to want; we want to earn more money because then we’ll have the good life.
But none of that will bring us happiness. No matter how much we earn, no matter how much we have in the bank, no matter how nice our clothing or cars or toys, none of it will make us happier. And the sad thing is that it could take us decades of pursuing wealth and luxury items before we realize this.
So what will bring us happiness? Luckily, it’s three things that don’t cost a thing. These three things have been proven by research — surveys of hundreds of thousands of people about what they have, what their lives are like, and how happy they are.
1. Good relationships. We have a human need to be close, to be intimate, with other human beings. Having good, supportive friendships, a strong marriage or close and loving relationships with our family members will make us much more likely to be happy. Action steps: Take time, today, to spend time with your loved ones, to tell them what they mean to you, to listen to them, and develop your relationship with them.
2. Positive thinking. I’m obviously a big proponent of positive thinking as the best way to achieve your goals, but it turns out that it can lead to happiness too. Optimism and self-esteem are some of the best indicators of people who lead happy lives. Happy people feel empowered, in control of their lives, and have a positive outlook on life. Action steps: Make positive thinking a habit. In fact, this should be one of the first habits you develop. Get into the habit of squashing all negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones. Instead of “I can’t” think“I can”. It may sound corny, but it has worked for me, every time.
3. Flow. This is a popular concept on the Internet these days — the state we enter when we are completely focused on the work or task before us. We are so immersed in our task that we lose track of time. Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge. Action steps: Find work that you’re passionate about. Seriously — this is an extremely important step. Find hobbies that you’re passionate about. Turn off the TV — this is the opposite of flow — and get outside and do something that truly engages you.