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Health & Wellness

12 life lessons to increase your happiness in your 30s — or any age

Turning 30 is scary for a lot of people — a big unknown of adulthood, career and new kinds of relationships.

For writer Mark Manson, turning 30 in 2014 was a chance to crowd-source advice for winning the fourth decade of life. More than 600 people — ages 37 and older — responded. Manson then narrowed their wisdom to 10 key points.

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The article — 10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s — went viral and the advice is still relevant not only for anyone hitting their 30s, but any age.

1. Get your finances in order

A lot of people struggle to save money, pay off debt, or even skip a shopping spree. But spending wisely improves people’s happiness. People feel content when they are financially stable, but research also shows that when people spend money on stuff, their happiness decreases.

“Saving money is thinking ahead 20, 30, 40 years,” said psychologist James Maddux, professor emeritus at George Mason University. “There is an element of learning how to delay gratification, putting off an immediate goal for a future one.”

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Surround yourself with positive people and cut the toxic friends.

2. Cut toxic people from your life

It seems like common sense, but many struggle with ending bad relationships.

“People can be in such a trance and their life is so busy, they just keep on doing things with people who are not nice with them,” said psychologist Ann Kearney-Cooke. “If they are not going to treat you kindly and compassionately, you have to move on.”

These draining, stressful relationships have a huge impact on the quality of people's lives.

“One of the predictors of unhappiness is being in a bad relationship,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor at the University of California, Riverside. “Relationships can make you happy and they can make you deeply unhappy.”

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3. Focus on your health

While young adults might feel invincible, skipping workouts, noshing on junk food, and partying until the wee hours of the morning start to take their toll in your 30s. There is a connection between a healthy body and a healthy emotional state.

“We’re all born with a certain body,” said Kearney-Cooke. “By the time you are (in your) 40s, 50s, 60s, your body is more about the choices you made all those years.”

Manson heard the same from his participants.

“Hearing all these stories of people explaining over and over that your health isn’t this thing that breaks one day; it slowly deteriorates over years … it was a little bit of a wake-up call,” he said.

4. Be compassionate—to yourself

“Your 30s is when the real disappointment in your life shows up," said Manson. “I think that is a struggle that a lot of people deal with and they blame themselves.”

Maybe you didn’t get that big promotion. Or your marriage fell apart. Or you’re not the person you thought you would be.

But learning how to forgive and be kind to themselves helped people accept the disappointments and enjoy life.

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5. Know we're all a bit lost

While age brings wisdom, it turns out people go through life still feeling they only kind of know what they’re doing.

“Life is just so dynamic and challenging,” said Lyubomirsky. “We do mature and learn our lessons, but we can’t ever have it all figured out.”

Accepting that helps people lead more fulfilling lives.

6. You won’t regret taking a risk

When people talk about something they regret in the past week, many mention something they tried, but failed at accomplishing. When someone asks people in their 60s what they regret from their lives, they often say not trying something they always wanted to try, such as a new cuisine, learning a language, traveling more, or switching careers.

“They regret not having taken the risk,” said Maddux.

7. Connect to something greater

People who practice religion or some sort of spirituality feel happier than those who don’t. But it isn’t limited to religion. People involved in social or political movements also experience greater joy in life.

It “helps people feel connected to something greater than themselves,” Maddux said. And this makes life feel more meaningful.

8. You don’t have to be good at everything

People feel happier when they focus on doing what they’re good at doing.

“We don’t need to be perfect. That is liberating,” said Lyubomirsky.

And understanding this helps people evolve.

“There is a certain amount of wisdom of coming to the conclusion that at some point it is impossible to be perfect,” said Maddux.

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9. Live in the moment

Sometimes people stay in the past, ruminating about the what ifs. Sometimes they plan too much for the future, always hoping for something new. While it’s good to reflect on mistakes and consider the future, it becomes problematic when people get stuck in the past or future. They miss out on experiencing life.

“All you really have is right now,” said Maddux. “Accept the past and plan for the future while also being able to be in the present moment.”

10. Develop strong bonds

“The biggest factor in happiness is having strong relationships,” said Lyubomirsky.

While people often think strong romantic relationships predict overall happiness, research indicates having any healthy relationship with a pet, friend, family member or romantic partner makes life richer. Focusing on growing these healthy relationships remains an easy way to enhance emotional well-being.

11. Always keep growing

Growing as a person is a main "driver of happiness,” said Lyubomirsky.

While research finds that buying things leads to unhappiness, spending on experiences increases their contentedness.

A trip to a museum, a language class, a vacation can all help people evolve, which helps them develop maturity and feel less selfish.

12. Be kind to your loved ones

“Express gratitude, be kind to them, spend quality time with them,” said Lyubomirsky.

Being kind to a loved one bolsters the relationship, which in turn makes it healthy and strong.

"When you express gratitude, people are happier," she said. Telling a friend you feel grateful for him means he feels better, you feel better, and the relationship stays strong.

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