Learn These Simple Secrets To Lead A Happy Life

Leading a happy life comes down to practices such as embracing all emotions, staying malleable when striving for goals, and remembering to give and show kindness.

By Tori Hook | Published

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As a lifelong academic studying happiness, researcher Christopher Boyce, always found that—despite his study—happiness seemed to elude him, so after a decade-long academic career, he quit his job, packed his belongings, and traveled the world, making his way to Bhutan. A small country in the Himalayas, the government of Bhutan makes all public policy decisions based on the happiness of its people and, for the most part, it works; Bhutan is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world. Here are the secrets to a happy life that Boyce shared with The Conversation, after traveling to Bhutan.

Most of think of happiness as something fleeting or unsustainable, but Boyce says this is because we’re thinking of happiness the wrong way. A happy life doesn’t exclude “negative” emotions like sadness, grief, or anxiety; these emotions are a part of life and can serve all kinds of functions from warning you about something to serving as a cathartic release. The happiness valued in Bhutan, which is more long-lasting, includes emotions we might consider difficult; it holds space for all emotions because when we fully accept and explore our emotions, we have more room to experience ourselves and the life around us fully.

In the U.S., we hold onto our goals with fists of iron; students are encouraged to map out their entire educational and professional careers starting in middle school, and we encourage people to give the better part of their lives to their jobs. Things are different in Bhutan, where people are encouraged to have goals and work toward them, but to hold them lightly. Sometimes our goals and interests change; rather than forcing yourself into a job or life situation that makes you unhappy, be prepared for your goals to change and grow with you.

We live in a society where wealth is often equated to a happy life and, while that’s true to a certain extent—after all, being able to meet your everyday needs without worrying demonstrably leads to a happier life—wealth beyond a certain point doesn’t add to your overall happiness. We can get stuck in cycles of believing that when we achieve a certain thing or have a certain amount of money, we’ll be happy, but often these promises we make to ourselves are empty. Caring for your physical and mental health, building good relationships, and living meaningfully always contribute significantly more to our happiness than a higher paycheck.

Allowing yourself to be kind—and to receive kindness—is also key to a happy life. We often have a hard time allowing ourselves to accept generosity from those around us, even those we love, because pride and social expectation gets in the way. But letting people love you, and learning to love others, can have a profound impact on your life; we’re almost always happier when we’re giving rather than receiving, and that’s true for those giving to you, as well.

There are three great healers when it comes to happiness, at least in Bhutan—time, love, and nature. A happy life isn’t one that’s empty of crisis or hardship, but one in which you give yourself the time and space to heal and let others who love you help you to do so. And never underestimate the power of nature; sunlight, water, breezes, and birdsongs all help us feel calm and peaceful, as well as to step outside of ourselves and appreciate the world around us—and what could be happier than that?