9 Counterintuitive Rules For Happiness

Happiness might just be a state of mind—but there are concrete things that give you a better shot at being happy. If you’d like to stack the odds in favor of your own bliss, here’s a cheat sheet.

1. Men: get in a relationship, women: get out of one

The Chicago Sun-Times took a survey and found that the majority (78%) of men would remarry their spouses while another study found that only half of women would do the same.

When men get into a relationship they get something they don’t already have: sex and someone they can talk to on a deeper level. Women already have this. Sex is much more readily available for women than it is for men and they can talk about everything on the face of the earth with their girlfriends—something much less common in male friendships.

2. Reconsider your “dream city”

Where you live is a gigantic decision that affects almost everything else about your life. NYC and LA are never going to be the happiest cities in the U.S.. If you think you are exceptional—have at it.

Living somewhere that sets you up for happiness makes it that much easier to actually be happy. People who are already happy have a better chance of being happy in the future (duh) so in determining the “best” cities, they survey current happiness as well as health, the city’s parks and physical beauty, access to quality schools and healthcare and cost of living.

3. Parent only if you really want it, not because it’s a social norm

There’s an episode of Sex and the City where Charlotte and Trey are trying to get pregnant so they invite their friends over with their kids. These people are WASPs, if anyone should have quiet, well-mannered children or be able to put a happy face over the most garish of circumstances it would be these people. But no, it was a screaming, tantrum-induced disaster.

Charlotte and Trey decided to tell themselves the lie all people have to tell themselves in order to have kids, “ours will be different.”

Parenting is a huge life stressor that you can never undo. The most morbid part of reading studies about how unhappy young parents and single parents (those with the smallest support system) are is that some parents actually are happier than non-parents. But, those parents are called dads—who typically are doing a smaller part of the actual parenting work.

4. Don’t be friends with people who have a ton of sex (or just be willing to have more than them)

When it comes to feeling satisfied about our sex lives, it’s not an actual quota we need to hit in order to be happy, it’s just knowing it’s more than your peers. As long as you feel you are measuring up frequency-wise with your friends, you’ll feel good about it.

5. Let people walk all over you (sometimes)

When we’re so caught up in keeping score and making sure we receive equality from others, we are in our heads rather than being present in the moment.

This game also makes us look at our relationships on a granular level—how did this person wrong me now—versus the larger picture, what do I gain by having this person in my life? Of course if a person is a jerk to you you should dump them out of your life, but you don’t need a scoreboard to tell you that.

For everyone else, keeping score gets in the way of your own happiness.

6. Consider selling out

Most people think they would be happiest “doing what they love,” but it is worth noting that “doing what makes money” can actually be a better indicator of your happiness. We used to think that money didn’t actually make you happy—once you reached a certain income threshold ($40k/year). New studies show more money equals more happiness, which is extremely unsurprising to anyone who’s tried to figure out how to pay their student loans on an entry-level salary.

7. Don’t talk about things you don’t like

It seems intuitive to have discussions about things that aren’t working for you in order to figure out how to change them. Not so much, actually. Saying something out loud reinforces it’s existence, and bums you out even more. Talk about your action plan, or the ways you will grow from meeting this challenge–not how much it sucks.

8. Get off Facebook

It’s great to stay connected to people, but the pleasure you get from that is more than negated by the comparathon k-hole many of us end up in while on Facebook.

Who’s kids are the cutest? Who has the best job? Who has the most friends?

If you don’t have travel albums from several different countries, all your adorable kids and your 5ct engagement ring—you might want to stick to Twitter.

9. Meditate

We’re so busy that it seems counterintuitive to do nothing as a means to help yourself, but this is one of the easiest items to implement on this list.

Meditation actually teaches your brain to work in new, better ways. One study found that after eight weeks, the stress part of your brain physically shrinks in size. This notion makes sense when you think closely—doesn’t taking a step back from a problem help put it in perspective? Taking time out from your entire life can put you in touch with your real wants and needs—and help you order the things you need to do to get them. TC mark

image –Kara Harms

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