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How to be happier in 2016

New Year’s Resolutions – whether you love them or loathe them, millions of people will have made them this past week. If you look a little deeper at the reason behind many resolutions, it comes down to wanting to increase our happiness levels.

While no-one can be happy all the time, there are some proven steps that you can take to boost your happiness levels in 2016. Here are just five:

1. Simplify

The old adage is true that ‘the things you own can end up owning you’. Why not make 2016 the year to clear out the clutter. It’s a well known fact that having fewer material things makes life more manageable, but most of us can’t bear to part with our possessions. However, clearing out your old clothes, books and knickknacks can be a very cathartic process. If you donate your stuff to charity, others can benefit too. Take a look at The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for inspiration.

2. Build real relationships

Give social media a break and focus on building closer and stronger relationships with the people you really love and care about. Invest quality time with people who you can laugh, cry and pray with. Share your spiritual journey with people who will challenge and champion you along the way. Studies have shown that social media can actually undermine our well being in the long term [1], but that deep and lasting relationships keep us happier and healthier [2].

3. Volunteer

Giving your time and energy can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. Giving to others through volunteering has been associated with reduced depression and anxiety and increased personal wellbeing [3]. Many people who volunteer will tell you that they often get more out than they put in; something that researchers call a “helpers high”. Being able to give without expecting anything in return can be profoundly freeing and enriching, as well as benefitting others.

4. Please yourself

Giving to others has been shown to boost happiness levels, but letting other people run your life will only make you miserable. It might be time to stop trying to please everyone else and focus on your own needs and desires. Other people can have an agenda for your time, if you let them, but being able to say ‘No’ puts you back in control. Take some time to prayerfully consider what your core values, passions and talents are and build your life around those. Once you have a clear focus, it will be easier to say ‘No’. If you can share your goals with someone else it will help keep you accountable in the long term.

5. Try something new

Step outside your comfort zone this year and try something you’ve always wanted to do. Join a choir; write a novel; brew your own beer; learn salsa dancing. Whatever it is, pushing your boundaries will change how you feel about yourself. It will boost your self confidence, equip you with a new skill and open up new possibilities. Take a look at The 37 Best Websites To Learn Something New for some ideas.

So what do you think? What steps will you take to improve your happiness this year?

References:
[1] http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/how-facebook-makes-us-unhappy
[2] http://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness
[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/raising-happiness/201002/what-we-get-when-we-give

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