The Science of Happiness: The Big 7

  1. Relationship.  People who have one or more close friendships are happier. The size of our network of close relationships does not seem to matter. What seems to make a difference is if and how often we spend time doing fun activities together and that we share our personal feelings with a friend or relative​​
  2. Caring.  People who volunteer or consistently care for others seem to be happier and less depressed. Although “caring” can involve volunteering as part of an organized group or club, it can be as simple as reaching out to a colleague or classmate who looks lonely or is struggling with an issue. Many of my patients have found that volunteering at an animal shelter can be hugely rewarding
  3. Exercise.  Regular exercise has been associated with improved mental well-being and a lower incidence of depression. Once you get into the routine of exercise, it becomes an indispensable part of your self care and mood management.
  4. Flow.  If we are deeply involved in trying to reach a goal, or an activity that is challenging but well suited to our skills, we experience a joyful state called “flow.” This may happen when you are engaged in a sport, or in writing, drawing, knitting, or yoga.
  5. Spiritual Engagement and Meaning.  Studies demonstrate a close link between spiritual and religious practice and happiness. Spirituality and religion are not one and the same. Spirituality may involve being close to nature, like taking a hike on a mountain, or watching the birds in a tree on a beautiful spring day.
  6. Strengths and Virtues.  Studies show that the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths (such as persistence and critical thinking) and virtues (such as humanity) and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goals.
  7. Positive mindset.  Optimism and GratitudeGrateful people have been shown to have greater positive emotion, a greater sense of belonging, and lower incidence of depression and stress. Reflect for a moment: What are you grateful for, right now? Remind yourself throughout the day to practice gratitude. It may seem contrived at first, but give it a try anyway.​

Dr. Elayne Daniels

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