Health & Wellness

How to be happy: 8 ways to find more bliss

Happy International Day of Happiness!

The pursuit of happiness is so powerful that it has its own holiday, with March 20 set aside by the United Nations to recognize contentment as a universal goal for people around the world.

Spiritual leaders agree.

“After much consideration, I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness,” the Dalai Lama says in “The Book of Joy,” his new volume with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment. But so often, these feelings are fleeting and hard to find.”

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The pursuit of happiness is celebrated on TODAY: See the best tips

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The pursuit of happiness is celebrated on TODAY: See the best tips

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An entire industry wants to teach you how to make those feelings last, with hundreds of books filled with advice. There’s even the Journal of Happiness Studies to put an academic spin on the findings.

Of course, all this intense pressure to be happy has spawned a backlash, with books such as “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks” now competing for your attention.

Remember, you do really have some power to reach bliss: Genes determine 50 percent of your happiness; circumstances account for 10 percent. That leaves 40 percent up to you, studies have shown.

Here are eight tips to get you started:

1. Focus on relationships

If you had to name one key to happiness, it would be relationships, said Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project.” That means romantic relationships, friendships, close ties with siblings and colleagues —any meaningful and deep bonds with people you like.

“If you’re thinking about how to be happier, thinking about how to deepen or broaden your relationships is probably a really good place to start,” Rubin said.

“We need to have enduring, intimate relationships. We need to be able to confide. We need to feel like we belong.”

2. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking “I will be happy when…”

You may think you’ll finally find bliss when you get married or get a promotion or win the lottery. But events you think will make you happy often don’t.

“People think it’s going to be perfect as soon as this ‘thing’ happens, but no. It has a very short-term effect,” said Catherine Sanderson, a psychology professor at Amherst College. “One of the challenges is that we just adapt to it.”

RELATED: 10 basic rules for a happier life — and most may surprise you

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These people totally changed course to find happiness

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These people totally changed course to find happiness

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3. Don’t look to money for happiness

Once you make $75,000 a year, money doesn't have much of an effect on your contentment, one study found.

Here’s what the Dalai Lama said in “The Book of Joy”:

“The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Not money, not power, not status. Some of my friends are billionaires, but they are very unhappy people. Power and money fail to bring inner peace. Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside.”

4. Be authentic

To add more joy to your life, know yourself. Take the Saturday morning test,recommended Neil Pasricha, director of The Institute for Global Happiness.What do you do on a Saturday morning when you have nothing to do? Cook? Play guitar? Work out? The answer reveals what your natural passions are. Boost your happiness by incorporating more of these activities into your life and work.

RELATED: 8 steps to make this a happier day

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Expert: Intelligence, income don’t bring happiness

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Expert: Intelligence, income don’t bring happiness

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5. Retire…

Retiring quickly boosts life satisfaction, an analysis of thousands of American retirees found.

“It seems like retirement is a good place to be,” co-author Devon Gorry, an assistant professor of economics at Utah State University, told TODAY. “People immediately report being happier on average and less depressed.”

6. Or keep working

Yes, it’s conflicting advice. Work is often the place where people are the unhappiest, so this is not about staying in a job you hate. But fulfilling, meaningful, challenging work is an important part of happiness because it provides structure and a sense of purpose, Pasricha said.

“We don’t actually want to do nothing; we just want to do something we love,” he noted.

Residents of Okinawa, Japan — one of the world’s “Blue Zones” where people live extraordinarily long lives — don’t have a word for retirement. Rather, they use “ikigai” — which translates as “the reason you get out of bed in the morning.” Work — including volunteering — often satisfies that for us, Pasricha said.

7. Move to a happy city

For the second year in a row, Naples, Florida, took first place in the Gallup-Healthways rankings of the healthiest and happiest cities in the U.S. Naples residents report enjoying good relationships and liking what they do each day.

8. Take walks outside

Going into nature changes how your brain works: It reduces stress levels and boosts well-being, said David Strayer, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. It’s the philosophy behind forest therapy.

When you’re enjoying nature, the parts of the brain associated with being mindful become more active, he noted. There’s also the exercise component, which has positive effects on mood.

People report they see benefits even in working outdoors and gardening.

“If you can manage to get yourself to a park, place to walk, jog, just enjoy, be in nature and leave the phone behind for 30 minutes,” Strayer said.

Follow A. Pawlowski on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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