How To Make Life Spectacular: 4 Rituals Backed By Research
There’s no shortage of advice on how to live a great life. Research has answers… but, frankly, who can remember them all?
What do you need to do to be happy? What attitude should you take toward life? How can you reduce stress and be gritty? What makes for a loving relationship?
It’s exhausting… I’m here to make it simple. Just remember one word: SOCC.
(Yeah, it’s a made-up word, but work with me here, okay?)
So what’s it mean?
A missing sock is frustrating. But missing SOCC is far, far worse. Time to learn how to get more of it and how it can lead to a happy, fulfilling, spectacular life.
Let’s get to it…
1) Sappy Means Happy
A lot of the advice on being happier is sappy. But science says that sappy stuff works. It may produce eye-rolling, but it actually does produce smiles as well.
“Take the time to appreciate something beautiful” sounds like the slogan you’d see on a mug you’d quickly shove to the back of the cupboard. But it also produces a 12% boost in life satisfaction.
Those who said they regularly took notice of something beautiful were 12 percent more likely to say they were satisfied with their lives. (Isaacowitz, Vaillant, and Seligman 2003).
“Help someone today” seems like it should be a bumper sticker on a VW bus parked in the Haight-Ashbury district, circa 1965… but mentoring can produce a 29% boost in feeling your life is meaningful.
Researchers studying people in their sixties have found that those who said they were in a mentoring type of relationship were 29 percent more likely to see meaning in their lives. (Van Handel Eagles 1999)
Watching cat and puppy videos online gets a lot of flack. But animals do make us happier. And people with a pet they love are 22% more satisfied with their lives.
Interaction with animals supplies us with both immediate joy and long-term positive feelings, and contributes strongly to our happiness. Those with a loved pet are 22 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives. (Barofsky and Rowan 1998)
No, I’m not going to say anything about unicorns or rainbows. But hugs? Oh, science gives those a big thumbs up.
A brief hug with a loved one reduced the effects of stress on blood pressure and heart rate by half. (University of North Carolina 2003)
If it sounds a little silly, it might just make you happier. So be sillier.
(To learn the things neuroscience says will make you happy, click here.)
Alright, puppies and hugs are scientifically validated. Sappy works. What about the O in SOCC? What’s the attitude you need for a great life?
If you don’t have a very good reason to focus on the negative, think positive. You’ll be almost 30% more likely to feel happy.
People with a tendency to see things optimistically were 29 percent more likely to feel a sense of well-being. (Lounsbury et al. 2003)
And research also shows optimists live longer. (I mean, c’mon, if the future looks great, might as well stick around longer, right?)
Optimistic people, who credit themselves when things go well and view bad times as temporary, live longer than pessimists. According to a study conducted over a thirty-year span, pessimistic people are 19 percent less likely to reach a normal life expectancy. (Mayo Clinic 2002c)
We all want others to support us. And people are more likely to be optimistic about your success when you’re optimistic about it, too.
People were five times more likely to be optimistic about another person’s goals if they thought the person was optimistic himself or herself. Less significant factors included the person’s personal experiences and the overall likelihood of the outcome. (Werneck De Almeida 1999)
(Want to learn how to be more optimistic? Click here.)
Now that you’ve got your rose-colored glasses on, let’s find out which feeling makes you stress-proof and gritty…
How does “66% more likely to be happy” sound to you? Okay, then you want a feeling of control over your life.
People with a sense of control in their lives, in both career and relationship, were 66 percent more likely to report feeling happy and satisfied. (Chou and Chi 2001)
Feeling in control is the antidote to stress. And the good news is, you don’t have to be in control, you just have to feel in control.
Researchers gave participants a skill test and exposed them to a loud, distracting sound. Those who were told the sound would go away if they succeeded on the test showed significantly fewer ill effects of the stressful situation than those who were told the sound would continue regardless of what they did. Researchers concluded that a sense of control calmed the first group, even though neither group really had any control over the process. (Pennsylvania State University 2002b)
And if you want to be grittier and achieve your goals, do whatever gives you that feeling of control.
Research comparing students of similar ability found that the feature that distinguishes those who maintain a strong work ethic in their studies from those who give up is a sense of control. Those who expressed a sense of control received significantly higher grades than those who do not. (Mendoza 1999)
I know what some of you are thinking: Sounds nice, but how the heck do I make sure I feel in control?
Answer: Don’t let your worries stay vague and scary. Get specific with your plans on how to handle things.
People who construct their goals in concrete terms are 50 percent more likely to feel confident they will attain their goals and 32 percent more likely to feel in control of their lives. (Howatt 1999)
(To learn what Harvard research says will make you happier and more successful, click here.)
Okay, last one. Everything so far has been about your behavior and your attitude. But there are these things out there that can complicate your life dramatically…
Some call them “people.” But they can also be the key to happiness. What’s the way to a long-lasting, loving relationship that makes life awesome?
Sharing your innermost thoughts with a partner is associated with a 62% greater likelihood of a happy marriage.
In studies of marriages of various lengths, couples with a high degree of intimacy between the spouses— that is, couples who shared their innermost thoughts— were 62 percent more likely to describe their marriage as happy. (Pallen 2001)
Now sometimes communicating means fighting. But, ironically, a lot of that negative communication actually comes from not communicating enough.
Unspoken expectations of your partner leads to screaming matches.
Research on marriages with high levels of conflict finds that more than half of the couples in these marriages have disputes involving the failure of one or both partners to conform to unspoken expectations. (Philpot 2001)
Arguments are no fun — but even that form of communication is better than none. No fighting = 35% more likely to divorce.
Married couples who report they never argue with each other are 35 percent more likely to divorce within four years than are those couples who report regularly disagreeing. (Vaughn 2001)
But when you fight, observe Geneva Convention rules. No war crimes. Yeah, you’re disagreeing, but stay compassionate.
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Guess what? She’s right. Research shows a lot of people forget what fights were about… but they remember how their partner made them feel.
Asked to describe three recent disagreements with their partner, people had ten times as much to say about their feelings and the tone of the disagreement as they did about the topic of the disagreement. Twenty-five percent of people forgot the topic of a disagreement but could describe their feelings in the situation. (Ludwig 2000)
It’s okay to disagree. But don’t make that special someone feel awful.
(To learn the 4 most common relationship problems — and how to fix them, click here.)
SOCC. That’s all you need to remember. Time to round up what we learned and find out the thing you’re doing right now that is getting in the way of your life being more awesome…
For a spectacular life, remember SOCC:
- Sappy means happy: Hugs, puppies, and helping. Corny? Maybe. But quite effective.
- Optimism: It leads to a longer, happier life and more support from loved ones. Brighten up, Eeyore.
- Control: Be concrete about your plans and feel in control to be stress-proof and gritty.
- Communication: Talk more for a happier relationship. They remember how you made them feel.
And what’s holding you back from earth-shattering joy right now? Oh, that one’s easy…
You’re on the internet. Spending too much time on the information superhighway kills happiness as much as being stuck in traffic on a not-so-super highway.
Recurring long periods of personal Internet use were associated with 28 percent lower life satisfaction. (Green et al. 2005)
Okay, internet time is over. Let the hugging begin…
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