Five science-backed tips to be happier

Dad carries baby toddler on his shoulders at sunset in field
What makes people happy? (Getty)

How do you become happier? It’s one of the more profound questions in life – especially as Britain limps towards the end of winter – and the answer is often relatively simple, according to one expert at least.

Happiness is very achievable, says psychologist Alyssa Roberts, who pinpoints five key areas where a small amount of effort can pay dividends in the long term.

She tells Yahoo News: "One part I love about being a clinical psychologist is the exposure it gives me to this kind of theory. Sure, everyone says a lot on TikTok, but it is until you back your claims with scientific research that you actually get a seat at the table.

"Practising gratitude, being compassionate, enjoying the little things, becoming resilient and simply being kind are about the best things you can do to increase your happiness.

"It's evident that happiness is intimately connected to being human with and to those around us, which is about the most absolutely profound thing you could understand."

The happiest countries around the world (Statista)
The happiest countries around the world (Statista)

Feel grateful

Science shows that people who take time to feel grateful tend to feel better about their lives.

This can take the form of writing down what you have to be grateful for, or simply taking some time to think about it.

Roberts, a clinical research professional at the University of Minnesota and senior writer at Practical Psychology, says: "Take time each day to appreciate what you have versus dwelling on what's missing. In their study, participants who kept gratitude journals reported fewer physical symptoms and felt better about their lives overall."

Feel compassion for others

Science shows that treating other people with compassion – showing pity and concern for the feelings of others – has a positive effect on our own emotions.

Roberts says: "Treating others, even strangers, with kindness and empathy generates oxytocin, which buffers stress and promotes bonding. [Research has] linked more compassionate behaviour with increased life satisfaction."

Alyssa Roberts is a psychologist at the University of Minnesota
Alyssa Roberts is a psychologist at the University of Minnesota

Savour things you enjoy

Most of us have little moments we enjoy every day – from a cup of coffee to a favourite song on the radio – but we don’t take time to actually enjoy them.

Taking a moment to focus on things that make you happy can have positive effects, Roberts adds.

"You should savour life's pleasures," she maintains. "Some call it 'stopping to smell the roses' – being fully present when enjoying nice experiences versus rushing through them. [Psychologist Fred] Bryant's work linked savouring ability to a positive mood."

Be kind to others

Showing kindness has an immediate effect on happiness – even when you might think the acts of kindness are insignificant.

Roberts argues that these small acts of kindness make both the giver and receiver happier

She says: "It helps to practice acts of kindness. [One experiment] found random acts of generosity, even very small ones, elevated happiness for both do-gooders and receivers. Relationships are core to human fulfilment."

When the going gets tough, get tough

Developing ‘grit’ – perseverance relating to long-term goals – is important to long-term happiness, Roberts says. "You should develop grit. Having perseverance and staying determined when goals get tough is rewarding long term. Vallerand’s findings tied grit to emotional well-being and mental health protection during stress."

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