10 ways to get happy


— Happy people don’t sit around waiting for good vibes to happen to them.

Whatever makes them happy, they go for it, said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside and author of “The Myth of Happiness.”

“Happy people don’t sit around,” Lyubomirsky said. “They strive for something personally meaningful, whether it’s learning a new language, retraining in their careers or raising good kids. Find a happy person, and you will find a project.”

Lyubomirsky estimates that half of people’s happiness is determined by their genes, about 10% can be attributed to differences in life circumstances or situations, and about 40 percent of our happiness is up to us — although it varies by person.

That’s a lot of happiness under our control.

That’s why we launched “Project Happy” on March 20, the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness. Over the next three months, we will explore what happiness means today, dive deep into the different ways we pursue it and offer up some tools to help make your life happier.

So put on the Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars hit “Uptown Funk,” Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” anything by the Blind Boys of Alabama or Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major,” and check out our 10 ways to get happy.

Why not pick one and try?

Practice kindness. Do something nice for someone else, whether it’s someone you know or a stranger. It can be spur of the moment or planned out. You can do the good deed anonymously or help the beneficiary directly, said Lyubomirsky.

Keep a gratitude journal. People who kept a weekly gratitude journal actually did more exercise, had fewer physical problems and felt more optimistic about the coming week and life in general, according to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis.

Get spiritual. There’s plenty of research showing that people who participate in their local church, synagogue, mosque or other preferred spiritual community are happier. Even reading spiritual literature can be helpful. Not religious? There are ethical societies and movements that get people thinking beyond themselves.

Buy experiences, not stuff. A vacation with loved ones or buying tickets to a show or concert will make you happier than buying another gadget. Those gifts help you feel closer to others, said San Francisco State University psychology professor Ryan Howell. “Instead of buying the jersey of your favorite baseball player, for example, buy a pair of tickets to a game, which will allow you to spend time with a friend or a loved one.”

Buy stuff that creates experiences. So you still want to buy something? How about gear that allows you to have experiences in your areas of interest, such as games or music? “Experiential products such as sporting equipment or musical instruments are a special class of material items that allow you an opportunity to engage with people you care about,” Howell said. Even board games count, since you can play them with a friend.

Stop hanging out on social media so much. People who spend more time on Facebook and other social media report lower self-esteem, less connection to others, fewer positive emotions and even more homesickness (for college students), said Timothy Bono, assistant dean and lecturer in psychology at Washington University. “Social media also evokes upward social comparison, often leaving us feeling worse about ourselves,” he said.

Stop checking your email. People who check their email all the time are more stressed than people who check their email just three times daily, according to a recent study. We know it’s hard to do. “People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress,” said Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology, in a statement.

Focus on time, not money. Although people typically focus on money, marketing professor Cassie Mogilner has found that that focusing on time often helps people realize that time is a precious resource. That knowledge helps them be more deliberate in how they spend it. “This leads people to spend their time in ways that are more fulfilling and that make them happier, like connecting with the people in their lives,” said Mogilner, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Lose yourself in your activities. Do you remember the time you “lost” yourself because you were having so much fun playing tennis, gardening, sailing, learning a new musical instrument, woodworking or baking the perfect pie? Increase the number of opportunities to “lose” yourself in a new or old activity that occupies your brain and body.

Embrace failure. Failing is way to learn what doesn’t work before we learn what does work. People who succeed often fail many times before they succeed. “Success requires acquiring experiences and learning lessons,” Bono said. “Very often, the best way, and sometimes the only way, to acquire that experience and learn those lessons is through failure: trying things one way, realizing what doesn’t work and then making the appropriate changes.”

If it makes you happy to share, please let us know the ways you used these tools on social media using the #gethappy hashtag.