By Steven G. Mehta

I love this time of the year.  Happiness abounds everywhere.  People wish each other to be happy every day.  Each year family members express wish and desire to continue this feeling all year round.  Well, the reality is that happiness can be bottled and enjoyed all year long.  I have been doing a lot of research on happiness this last year, and to my delight, the research I have done has confirmed that I am happy.  Here are a few thoughts on happiness from my research:

Do let the sun go down on anger. When I first got married, I made a pact with my wife to not go to bed angry.  As time progressed, I learned that sometimes it is o.k. to sleep on it.  Studies show, however, with many types of anger, there is no such thing as catharsis by airing out the feelings.  Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.  [10 ways to be happier]

Remember Nostalgia.  According to Dan Buettner, author of Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, swapping stories and viewing things from the past makes you view yourself in a more positive light.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes.  Recognize your mistake, take corrective action.  But don’t dwell on it.  Dwelling on mistakes can only lead to feelings of helplessness and just creates a downward spiral of negative emotions. [Real Simple, January 2011]

Happiness Lies in the Chase, even if you fail. University of Wisconsin neuroscientist Richard Davidson has found that working hard toward a goal, and making progress to the point of expecting a goal to be realized, doesn’t just activate positive feelings—it also suppresses negative emotions such as fear and depression. One of the keys to happiness is to constantly have a challenge and expose yourself to new things.  The mind is stimulated by surprise and new experiences.   Experiencing new things and challenges give a person a powerful sense of satisfaction. According to research, people who do new things―travel to unfamiliar places, try new food, and try new experiences―are happier than people who stick to the familiar.  The reality is that even trying and failing is better than not trying at all.   [10 ways to be happier] [The Pursuit of Happiness]

Good can be good enough.  According to author, Gretchen Rubin, there are two types of decision makers.  “Satisficers make a decision once their criteria are met. When they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximizers want to make the best possible decision. Even if they see a bicycle or a backpack that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they’ve examined every option. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers. Maximizers expend more time and energy reaching decisions, and they’re often anxious about their choices.” Sometimes good enough is good enough. [10 ways to be happier]

Exercise.  Studies keep showing that exercise — even a little — can enhance the mood.  Take a walk.  You’ll like it.

Money can’t buy Love or Joy. According to researchers, after income of about $75,000 a year, money doesn’t really affect happiness.  In other words, money is important for basic necessities, but after the necessities are met it doesn’t change the degree of happiness you feel.

Buy Experiences, not Toys. Research has also shown that when buying gifts, people are much happier when they buy experiences rather than the new toy.  So buy a vacation rather than a T.V.

Donate Money and Spread the Wealth. Studies show that giving away money can make you happier than spending it on yourself.   The same is true of buying things for others.  Maybe that is why so much joy is had in the giving of gifts to ones that you care about.

Limit Your Options. Having too many choices keeps us wondering about all the opportunities missed.  The more choices that we have, the more that we stress over those choices and our desire to get the best option.

Make Your Bed or Wash the Dishes. According to Gretchen Rubin, people are happier when everday tasks in their lives are completed.

Practice Mindfulness. There mere act of enjoying the little things — The taste of coffee, the aroma, the feeling of the coffee swirling on your tongue, the warmth in your hands — increases your ability to enjoy life, be more calm, and be happy.

Without Pain and Sorrow, there can be no happiness. In life we all experience difficult choices, life’s pain, and other uncomfortable experiences.  However, without those feelings, we could not appreciate the joy of living and we would not value the things that do come to us.

Take Up A Hobby. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology and managment at Claremont Graduate School, taking up an activity that fully engages your mind and attention will make you more motivated and focused — which promotes happiness.

Exercise Your Gratitude Muscles. The mere act of being grateful for something changes your perception on life and makes you happier.  I have taken to writing a gratitude journal of the things for which I’m grateful.

Don’t Wait For It, Go Out and Get it. You can’t wait for some outside force to make you happy.  You have to grab it yourself.  According to research, we are born with certain predispositions to happiness.  However, over 40% of our happiness and contentment is up to what actions we take and how we interpret the actions around us.

Practice Your Inner Labrador.  I have never seen a labrador retriever that wasn’t happy.  My wife calls them bomb proof.  They are great with kids and are always happy.  Nothing ever fazes them.  You can choose your actions, and your attitude.  Every day, you have the choice to be happy or the choice to be angry or sad.  Choose happiness.  There is something very powerful about you choosing how you will live your life today.  Today, as I write this article, I am out sick.  But I am thankful that it is only temporary and grateful for my overall health.  Despite my circumstances today, I can choose to be happy about being sick because it gives me a chance to think about how good it felt to be healthy and how great it will be to get back on my feet.

Happiness is a relative and subjective state of being.  However, no matter how happy you are, you can increase your level of happiness by using some of the concepts outlined above.  So in this season of joy, here’s to having a happy holiday.