How Moguls Maintain their Happiness
4 pathways that will lead you to true happiness and improve your well-being
By: Brad Krause
Modern society teaches us to look for happiness in success and in material possessions -- if we make loads of money, get some fancy clothes, and live in a big house, then we’ll be happy. However, as researcher and author Shawn Achor points out, this idea is backwards. When you get these material successes, you’re happy for a while, but your happiness soon drops back to where it was before -- psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill. You need to step off the treadmill and boost your well-being in other ways -- here are four paths to try.
Connect With Others
The evidence suggests that feeling close to other people is a basic psychological need -- people with good connections have better mental and physical health. However, social relationships don’t sustain themselves, and you can easily drift apart from people if you don’t make an effort. So, invest time into the people you know -- family, neighbors, friends, people you work with. Invite people over, or suggest activities or events to go to. On the other hand, remember that it’s OK to say “no” to toxic people and invitations that won’t be good for you. If you don’t feel like you have enough social connections in your life, try volunteer or community work, or join clubs or groups related to things you enjoy doing. After a couple of months when you’ve gotten to know people, suggest an activity outside of the group.
The modern world is full of distractions, and it’s easy to get swept away without being present to what’s going on around you. Studies show that being more mindful can reduce stress, so try to take more notice of what is going on around you, and savor pleasant experiences. Eat more slowly and focus on the taste of your food, consciously look for nice views when you are out walking, or notice how your body feels when you listen to a favorite song. Meditation and yoga are great exercises to help you become more mindful, and are also very useful tools when you are in addiction recovery because of their powerful stress-reducing effects.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” applied to the body. But it also holds true for the mind. Continuous learning throughout adulthood is linked to better well-being, emotional resilience, and mental performance. For example, learning a second language can reduce your risk of dementia in later life. This doesn’t just mean book learning, though -- you could learn to fix a bike, practice complex dance routines, bake cakes, or practice a musical instrument.
Continuous learning is also really important when you’re in addiction recovery. As psychologist Sharie Stines points out in Psych Central, boredom can set in during recovery, and it makes relapse more likely. Taking up a new hobby can give you something to focus on and fill your time with.
Acts of kindness are not only good for the recipient -- they are good for you too. Even small, random acts of kindness like letting someone in front of you in line can boost your immune system and lift your mood by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. This is often called the “helper’s high” by proponents of volunteering. Furthermore, people observing the act of kindness also get in on the helper’s high, which can help positive emotions to spread through groups and communities. As well as small, random acts of kindness, you can also look into volunteering, which is a great way to help yourself while also helping others.
With these methods, you can get off the hedonic treadmill and follow a more effective path toward well-being. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on the idea of success -- cultivating health and well-being in your life can also make you more productive, so you get the best of both worlds. Which of these four paths will you start walking today?