The authors of fairy tales would have us believe that living happily ever after is par for the course. In reality we know that life is a balance of both happiness and the opposite — feelings like sadness, boredom and lack of contentment — but there are things you can do to increase the happiness factor in your relationships, at work and on a personal level. Having realistic expectations, a forgiving spirit and the ability to be optimistic are all qualities that can help you attain your unique version of living the dream.
Having a Happy Love Life
Love the whole person, flaws and all. When you make a commitment to someone, you have to be willing to accept their limitations as well as their good qualities. While you might find it irritating that your partner is awkward at parties or doesn’t know how to fry an egg, don’t commit to a relationship expecting these things to change. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but if your expectations don’t match reality, you’re likely to end up disappointed.
Trying to change your partner will result in a lot of fighting. You might even end up hurting his or her self esteem.
Realize that love means accepting a person for who he or she is, and getting the same acceptance in return. Instead of focusing on what you wish would change, be grateful you found someone who accepts ‘’your’’ flaws, too.
Drop the fairy tale mentality. Research shows that people who believe that romantic love resembles the Cinderella story have a harder time facing the reality of relationships. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Happiness isn’t a goal, it’s a by-product.” If you expect to find a lover that will fill you with overwhelming ebullience every time you gaze in their eyes, odds are pretty high that you will be disappointed. Talk to your partner about what makes you happy and learn what makes your partner happy as well. Realize that the Disneyfied version of life is fun to watch in the movies, but it doesn’t bear much resemblance to real life. Real life stretches past the glorious wedding day and into a future filled with stress and hardships to balance out the bliss.
Relationships can feel magical. However, they don’t actually operate on magic and serendipity, but on hard work, especially after the first few years.
Keep the passion alive by surprising each other. That initial flame might die down a little after a few years of washing each other’s dirty dishes, but that doesn’t mean it has to completely go out. Research shows that surprising each other by picking up new hobbies, trying new things together, and just generally embracing newness helps a couple stay interested in one another. When you surprise each other, you get a taste of those butterflies you felt on your first few dates.
Having pleasant date night activities is fine, but loses out to activities that are new and different.
Don’t despair at the thought that the passion you felt when you first met won’t last forever. Many couples find that they appreciate the deepened trust and companionship that’s earned only after years of dealing with life’s ups and downs as a team more than the excitement of love’s first sparks.
Be willing to put in effort to keep the relationship strong. Every couple faces hardships: job loss, the illness and death of family members, the trials of having kids, financial duress. All of these situations can put a lot of stress on a relationship. When your relationship hits hurdles, making an effort to get through them will enable you to emerge stronger than ever. Even if you strongly disagree with your partner, don’t let your underlying love and regard for the person waver.
Research shows that couples who resort to throwing insults during fights end up causing permanent damage to the relationship.
Instead, fight in a loving way; argue about the issue at hand, instead of personally attacking your partner’s intelligence or abilities.
Make sure you’re compatible. This can be tricky because no relationship is perfect and they all require work, but it is entirely possible that you’re in a relationship that would require more work than finding a new partner. It can be hard to take an objective look at something so personal, so use a few objective measures of compatibility:
Faith: It can be extraordinarily difficult to make a relationship work if you don’t share the same basic values. This isn’t to say that people of divergent faiths can’t be happy together, but that they will usually have to work a lot harder at it.
Politics: Our political beliefs are usually an extension of much deeper core values so differences in political beliefs often indicate fundamental differences in the way that we perceive the world.
Social: If one half of the relationship likes to go out every night and the other half would prefer to curl up with a good book, it’ll be much harder to find the mutual interests that will sustain your relationship.
Financial: It’s said that as many as half of divorces are rooted in arguments that stem from finances. If one half of the relationship is determined to be a multimillionaire while the other would be happy with a modest house and plenty of time to hike, this will likely be a source for conflict later.
Don’t get addicted to the past. All too often people say things like “We don’t talk like we used to,” or “He’s just not like the man I married”. In a long relationship, you have to be prepared for your partner to grow and mature. We continue to mature throughout our lives and you can’t expect somebody to act the same way they did a decade ago any more than you can realistically expect them to look the same as they did a decade ago. Instead of focusing on the things you did together in the past, examine the people that you’ve become and focus on the things you will do together in the future.
Don’t depend on a partner for happiness. Being in a relationship can increase people’s happiness, but it can also be a source of sadness. You can have a happy life as a single person, too. Don’t buy into the idea that the only way to live happily ever after is with a prince or princess, especially if you know deep down that something isn’t right.
Improving Your Outlook
Invest in people instead of things. Research shows that spending time with loved ones makes people happier than focusing too much energy on acquiring money, power and possessions. When it comes to making big life decisions, consider that arranging your life to be more family-focused may make you feel happier in the long run.
Look for ways to spend more time with friends and family. Schedule it in if you have to so you get in the practice of seeing people more often.
Remember that close friends are just as important as family. If your biological family is dysfunctional or hostile, you can still find happiness by spending time with your best friends.
Giving back to strangers also helps to boost happiness. Find a way to help people each week by volunteering in your community.
Appreciate what you have. You’ve heard it before, but this is a very important way to increase your happiness. If you’re a “grass is greener” person, you’re hurting your chances at happiness. Think about times when you made the choice to switch jobs or move cities, only to realize that the grass has brown spots no matter where you land. Instead of wishing for something different, focus on loving what you have.
Make a list of things you’re grateful for. Writing it all out can help you realize just how much you have going for you. Post the list in a place where you’ll be reminded of the good things in your life every day.  If you have trouble finding things to write down, find ways to add more positive elements to your life. Go out of your way to make a new friend, or learn a skill that brings you pleasure. Cultivate the positive and don’t dwell on the negative.
Don’t hold grudges. If you carry anger around with you everywhere you go, realize it’s affecting you much more than it’s affecting the subject of your ire. Even if you have a very good reason to feel angry and bitter, holding a grudge isn’t going to make you feel better. If there’s nothing you can change about the situation, let it go, no matter how hard that might be. You’ll be a much happier person for it.
Be a more forgiving and open person. Try to let small things like negative comments roll off your back instead of dwelling on them.
Let go of feelings like envy and jealousy as well. You can’t control other people, but you can control your reactions to situations you face. While the occasional bout of negative feelings is inevitable, keeping them stored up inside you for long periods of time is going to get you down.
Surround yourself with people who are happy. Emotions are infectious. If your friends are dreary and negative, it’s going to be hard to stay happy around them. That’s not to say you should ditch your friends, but it’s important to find people who make you feel light and happy, too.
If there’s a person in your life who tends to make you feel bad more often than good, consider having a frank conversation about the problem. If that doesn’t work, it’s OK to give yourself permission to end the relationship, for the sake of your own health and happiness.
Make sure your job is working for you. Not everyone gets to make a living doing what they’re most passionate about, and even those who do have job dissatisfaction sometimes. When it comes to your work, the important thing is that you feel as though you respect your employer, your work is worthwhile and you’re getting adequate credit for your efforts.
Even if it’s not your dream job, you can still be content. Your work, like other areas in your life, is not going to be perfect. Take the negative with the positive and learn what you can live with and what you can’t, and make changes if necessary.
If you’re having trouble finding work that meets your needs, consider seeking career counseling.
Making Changes Proven to Work
Spend time outside. Studies show that spending time outside, even just 20 minutes a day, increases happiness. The time you spend walking in the park or laying out on the beach is absolutely essential for good mental health, so stop thinking of outside time as a luxury. It’s a necessity. If you’re not used to spending time outside, since you’re so busy with other things, make it a priority. Schedule in a walk before or after work or school, or plan to spend the evening outside in the backyard.
Try to find a place to spend time in a natural setting; a city street isn’t going to have the same effect as a park.
Move closer to your job. Studies show that people with long commutes are less happy than those who live close to work. The discrepancy is so pronounced that it might be worthwhile to take a job that’s less prestigious and well paying in order to have a shorter trip to work. This is a specific way you can increase your happiness, if you’re brave enough to make the leap. Spending less time commuting gives you more time to do things like hang out with your family, cook a good meal, or go for a walk outside. All of these activities lead to decreased stress and increased happiness.
Get better sleep. When you don’t get adequate sleep at night, you’re more sensitive to negative emotions. A comment you might normally let roll off your back might flare up into a bout of tears or a panic attack. Aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night for best results. You’ll feel refreshed and better able to tackle whatever issues come your way throughout the day.
Exercise regularly. Exercising your body releases endorphins that physically change your mood and make you feel happier. Doing it every day simply increases this effect. If you think you hate exercise, work up to it in small increments. Aim to get 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, even just walking, every day.
Exercise also leads to a boost in self esteem and helps you feel more in touch with your body’s capabilities.
Exercise is so effective at increasing happiness that it’s an effective treatment for depression.
Do something special for your partner. Don’t get too hung up on the details. The very fact that you spent time planning something for them will be more than enough to bring about a smile.
You can’t do romance wrong unless you don’t do it at all.
Remember, “ever after” is a really long time! If you can be happy 75 percent of the time, you’re doing better than most.
Romance is a very personal thing. Generic gifts like teddy bears and chocolates are great, but a gift that speaks to your lover’s unique tastes is far better.
How to Be Happy
How to Find Happiness Within Yourself
How to Escape Materialism and Find Happiness
How to Be Happy in an Unhappy Marriage
How to Discuss Finances Together in a Marriage
How to Receive Happiness
Sources and Citations
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