Thursday, September 5, 2019

Announcing: The Happiness Policy Handbook

Happiness is and should be the purpose of government. The word government comes from Greek κυβέρνησις  meaning to steer a ship. Inherent to the idea of steering, and governing, is the notion that there is a destination.  The north star of those steering, or governing, any nation, is the happiness of the people.  

But how does a government steer the nation towards happiness when, for most, the concept is fuzzy at best? The same way anyone finds their way when they are lost. By tethering themselves to something they know.  Sometimes you have to look back to find the way forward. 

For some, government seems like a ship lost at sea, bobbing about this way and that with the tides and storms. They need a chart. They need a way to understand whether people really are happy or not, who is suffering, and how to alleviate misery and safeguard happiness.

Looking backwards to the founders of modern democracy, in the words of John "the happiness of society is the end of government" (meaning the purpose, not the demise - in fact, when happiness is not the purpose of government, it can start to feel like the end of opportunity and quality of life). 

Looking back at the work we at the Happiness Alliance have been doing since 2010, working with small and national governments, with community organizers, researchers and businesses, and looking forward to a future where happiness is not only the purpose but also the business of government, we wrote the Happiness Policy Handbook. 

It is choke full of lessons, experience-based knowledge and tested tools and resources for transforming how we think about- and do- business.  

We hope you will buy this book and feel empowered to change your town, city, region and nation for  world were all people have equal opportunity to be happy, and no one is left in misery.  Buy on Amazon, or directly from our most wonderful publishers, New Society Publishing,


Sunday, July 14, 2019

5 guides for mindful embodied happiness

5 Guides for Mindful Embodied Happiness 
by Laura Musikanski



In the teachings of mindfulness, called the Dharma by Buddhists, there are five guidelines. These are called the five precepts. The guides are intended to help you life your life without causing yourself misery. After all, life is hard enough. We don't need to put stumbling blocks in our own way to happiness. Like the ten commandments, they are still relevant today when understood in today's context.  Like the ten commandments, they are easily lost when translated literally or with ancient understandings. Let's do an experiment to see if this is true.



Let's start first the nervous system first. Where ever you are right now, notice the state of your nervous system. Are you tranquil just now, or slightly on edge? Perhaps you feel at ease, but your shoulders have a slight ache, or there is a tightness in your jaw and front of the neck that you would like to go away. Just notice the degree to which your body is tense, tired, uneasy, relaxed, calm or at ease. Now, if you can, close your eyes or allow your eyes to lose focus of any particular thing. Take three deep breathes, making the inhale and exhale last as long as you can. Allow there to be a slight pause between in breath and out breath, without holding your breath. If breathing does not work to calm you, imagine yourself in a place especially for you. Somewhere safe and beautiful. Perhaps this is a valley in the mountains, where you can see everything around you, and there is nothing but beautiful nature. Perhaps it is a summer field, with wind blowing through the blossoms, or on a lake. Allow yourself to be fully there, fully embraced by your peaceful, safe place.



Here, in this place and state of calm, we explore the first guide. This is called the guide to not be intoxicated, or, more precisely, the guide to be calm and aware in the present. With your imagination, envision your nervous system, how it travels your entire body with its nexus in your brain. Now notice how your entire body feels right now, without going into detail about the different parts. Notice how your mind is working, without going into details about the thoughts that are occurring. Bring your imagination again to the nervous system, and envision it.



Now cast your mind to a desire for something to eat, drink or do that will change how you feel.  Coffee is an easy one. Remember how it feels to need a coffee. The sluggishness of the brain. How the muscles feel like they are being dragged by some force outside yourself in order to move. Allow your body to be filled with the feeling of the need for caffeine. Now cast your mind to something else, perhaps something a little less socially acceptable that you regularly use to change your mood. A cigarette, alcohol, weed, sex or something else.  Imagine the moment when you are wanting or needing it, when you have made the decision to light the cigarette, pour the drink, etc. Now, envision your nervous system with this desire. How does it feel? How will it feel once you indulge? Different?  Better? No longer on edge. No longer desiring. The brain will calm down. The body will relax. You'll get some relief.

The first guide for mindful embodied happiness is to train yourself to be calm without the drink, smoke, or whatever your favored intoxications are. It is for relief and ease to be your normal state of being. To get here, think of this guide (like all the others) as a learning process.  The way you learn is by noticing as often as you can:

  • When you are calm without intoxication, how does your nervous system (and the brain) feel?
  • When you are desiring something to change your mood, how does your nervous system feel?
  • How does your nervous system feel once you have partaken of your favorite intoxicant?
  • Does indulging in the intoxicant really make things better in any lasting way?

This may be the hardest of all the guides, but if you cast your mind to the times when you were calm and not wanting to change your state, you will see that in those moments you had a capacity to be present and loving, and you were less likely to do things you regretted later, or wish you had done differently or not at all.

The first guide is in the head, specifically the brain and nervous system, and it is to be calm, without intoxication, and so to be present in the moment.

credit for image Dr. Clancy https://clancy-ent.com.au/procedures/microlaryngoscopy/

For the second guide, we go to the throat.  The throat is where we speak from. Bring your attention to your throat, specifically, to your voice box. If you cannot envision your voice box, put you hand on your throat just below the chin where a little bump is. Just feel into that part of your body. When you speak, words are formed by all different parts of your body. A sight or sound may give rise to a thought, or something someone says may trigger a feeling in your gut and memory buried somewhere deep inside you. The mind and body work together to form words, but the words come out through the voice box.

Keeping all this in mind, imagine what your body feels like when you hear words or sounds that feel good. Someone saying they love you, someone reassuring you, a pet purring or happily panting. Then bring to memory how your body feels when someone says something hurtful or mean to you. Without going into it, remember how the mind starts to think, and remember the feeling in the body. Likely the shoulders tense, maybe the right arm too, in a reflex to strike back. Maybe it feels like the wind has been knocked out of you.

Now imagine how it feels when you say unkind things or speak in anger, even if you feel it is justified or needed. Again, without going into it, remember how the blood rises or how a sense of strength, conviction and righteousness fills the body when you speak out of indignation, anger or fear.  Last, bring your memory to times when you said words you know were loving, kind and healing. Perhaps this was to a small child or pet. Remember how these words effected your body, and how you felt while and after you said these words.



The second guide in the throat, and it is not speak lies, or more precisely, to not use words that cause harm. One of the keystones in following this guide is learning that any words, when spoken in any shade of anger or fear, from indignation to rage, concern to terror, can cause harm. This does not mean that you don't speak to stop harm coming to yourself and another in the moment when not doing so would be harmful, like yelling stop when someone is about to crash, but that you train yourself to refrain from any speech that could cause harm. 


To follow this guide, you train yourself to first notice how you are feeling before you speak (or email, text, tweet, or message), and when you are feeling a shade of anger or fear, you stop and ask yourself, could these words cause harm? If there is any chance they could, then you train yourself not to say or send them by first noticing the harm they cause when you say or send them anyway, and later, as you learn, by not sending or saying them.  As you are learning this guide, you will find that you will say or send words you should have known were harmful. When this happens, you learn this guide more deeply by reflecting on the feelings of shame and regret, without punishing yourself. When you reflect on these feelings, you learn how to predict when future words would be harmful and refrain from speaking or sending them.



For the third guide, we go to the heart. The heart is the home of love and life. We go to the heart because this guide is to do no harm. In Buddhism, it is the first on the list, and is taught as not to kill any living thing. This way of teaching is often interpreted as being a vegetarian and not going to war, but Buddha is said to have ate meat when it was given to him (he even is said to have died in his eighties from eating a meal of bad meat) and most people do not get to control whether there is war or not. Instead of struggling over how to interpret this precept from Buddhism, we can understand this guide in a different way by going to our heart.



In our heart, we know when we are hurt and we know when we are loved and loving. Bring your attention to how your heart is feeling right now. Imagine it pumping blood, taking in the blue blood starved of oxygen, pushing out the red blood full of oxygen, over and over.  Now bring to mind a time when you were safely and fully in love. It does not matter how that love turned out, just keep your mind on the time when you felt completely in love. It may be when you fell in love with a partner, when you were a child or just had a child, or a memory of a cherished and long departed pet. Allow the feeling of love to fill you, and sense how your heart feels. Feel the expanse of the heart, how it feels big it is in your chest. Breathe into that expanse, not allowing the mind to wander away into thoughts, but keeping it focused on the expanse of the heart. Close your eyes and stay with that feeling as long as you can.

When you recognize that the memory is gone, perhaps because your mind strayed, you fell asleep or something disturbed your thoughts, bring your mind to the opposite.  Remember a time you felt betrayed, hurt or heart broken. Without going into the details of the memory, notice how your heart feels right now with this memory. Were you betrayed? Did you feel stabbed in the back? If you did, it was in the heart region, because in the heart is where we feel betrayal, hurt and heart broken. We feel it in other places too, but the core of the feeling is in the heart.  That is how it feels to have harm done, and that is how it feels when we do harm.

From the heart we can learn to follow the third guide: to do no harm. It is at the center for all five guides, and so we put it between the other four guides and situate it in the heart.  To follow this guide, you train yourself to become more and more attuned to your heart. As you learn to recognize the pain and harm others do to you with their actions and words, or inactions and silence, you learn also how to recognize when your actions, words, inactions and silence are doing harm.



To use this guide in your life, you can use the golden rule, and ask if you would want to be treated the way you were treating someone else. If you are not sure, have a habit of treating yourself harshly, or expect yourself and others to be tough, you can use a different form of the golden rule, and ask yourself if the other person would want to be treated in such a way.



For the fourth guide, we go to the belly. The belly is the most vulnerable part of our bodies. This may be because when animals eat each other, they bite into the belly first. Bring your attention to your belly. When you do this, you may have a reflexive feeling of shame, or fear. Maybe your belly is a place in your body you do not want anyone to touch or look at. Or maybe you feel proud of your belly, or feel that your power comes from your belly. Allow your attention to rest on whatever your feeling is about your belly.

Next bring your attention to your stomach. How hungry are you? Does bringing your focus to your stomach bring rise to an idea that a little nibble of something would be nice just now?  Or did you just eat, and feel full, or eat too much and feel stuffed? Perhaps you are hungry and have decided not to eat for a while. Notice how feelings of being hungry rise, and then pass, and then you feel satiated for a little while without eating anything, and then feelings of hunger rise again.



The belly is where want comes from. Someone who can't be satisfied, in food, money, success or anything else is said to have an insatiable appetite. We depict greedy people as having big bellies not because of body size, but because want that cannot be satisfied is symbolized in the body as a belly that can never be full. A more apt description might be a skinny belly that no matter how much it takes in, cannot be filled.

When you eat too much, you have discomfort. If you eat more than too much, you will have pain in your belly and wish that you had not eaten so much. When you eat too little, or starve yourself, you will also feel pain in the stomach, and desire for food will dominate your mind.  If you and your loved ones are starved too much and for too long and survive starvation, you will likely find yourself unable to feel you have enough, no matter how much you have.

If you eat when you are hungry, and eat until you are satiated and not more, you will not be possessed by thoughts of food, or find yourself always trying but never able to fill a metaphorical empty belly.  This is the same for all the other things in life. When you work to have enough money to buy the things you need, and then rest instead of working more to buy more than enough, you take from yourself and the world no more than what is needed. Similarly, when you collect enough things to have the objects you need to enjoy your past times, and then spend time enjoying yourself, instead of collecting more than you need or confusing collecting things with enjoying yourself, you take no more than is needed. Conversely, you do not deprive yourself of food, things, or ways of enjoying yourself in healthy and harmless ways because it is not ecologically sustainable.



The forth guide is to take only what is needed to be healthily satiated. This guide has been interpreted as not stealing but it is possible to take something without stealing and do harm. This is the case with excessive consumption, use of natural resources, and manufacturing of things in harmful conditions. This is why we go to the belly to follow this guide. To follow this guide, when you are going to eat, buy, or use something, you ask yourselves if you need it, how much of it you need to be satiated, and if it will bring you joy.  You can also ask yourself if you do not need it, or if not having it will bring you sorrow. You ask these questions lightly, without judging yourself harshly for needing things, and seek for the answer in a feeling in your belly. You give yourself permission to have enough of everything, and set a boundary for yourself for having too much. You can do this with everything that buy, consume, use and dispose of; seeking always to have just enough to be satisfied, and never so much that you are too full.





The fifth guide is situated in the loins. It is a guide for our sexual nature, our strongest drive. This drive is so overpowering that if we do not train ourselves to manage it, we make a mess of our lives. It is a confusing drive, because speaking openly about it is forbidden in many circumstances. To understand this guide, first bring your mind to the area of your body we call the groin. Noticing the feeling in the groin, notice the energy in this area. Now, bring your mind specially to the part of your groin that identifies your gender to you. Putting aside your sexuality, bring your mind to your gendering organs, and allow your mind to rest on awareness of your organs as organs.  What ever gender you were born, and what ever gender you identify as, without getting carried away by thoughts of gender, notice that you have gender organs. Next, bring your mind to the feeling of life in your organs. Notice what that feeling is for you, whether desire, lack of desire, or any other feeling. Notice how quickly the mind goes to thoughts about what is or is not desired, or memories and fears, and bring your mind back to the sensation in your loins. Notice how strong the feelings and thoughts are, whether positive, negative, or numbness.

The fifth guide is to use our sexual nature in ways that are loving and never do harm. This guide means we do not violate, force or exploit someone into a sexual act, or behave in oppressive or biased ways against people because of their gender, gender identification, sexuality or choice of partner. It also means we do not use our sexuality in ways that are unfair or manipulative. This guide applies to all genders of all sexual orientation. We can explore this by contemplating our assumptions about our own gender, both the dark side and the good side, and about other genders, both the good and dark sides, and by ultimately realizing that each of us encompasses all of these aspects, good and bad. When we see our assumptions more clearly, we put ourselves in better state to make better choices about how we act.

To follow this guide, we also contemplate deeply how our sexual drives and gender assumptions effect our actions and ask ourselves if any of our actions are disrespectful or harmful to others. This does not mean we do not take direct action to protect someone who is being violated if they are clearly needing help, or if they are being harassed and have expressed a desire to be protected. It also  means that when we act to protect, we do not do so in a way that causes harm when no harm is necessary, do not exact revenge on someone because of their gender, or justify harming others based on gender or sexual orientation.  We treat women, men, trans, gender fluid, non-binary, and all other genders without intent to harm, and with intent to be loving, kind, and caring.


The five guides are:

From the brain and nervous system, to be calm and aware in the present.
From the throat, to not use words that cause harm.
From the heart, to do no harm.
From the belly, to take only what is needed to be healthily satiated.
From the loins, to use our sexual nature in ways that are loving.

When we follow these five guides, we are less likely to create misery in our lives. We are less likely to do things we regret, and that cause harm to others and to ourselves.  We sleep better. We need intoxication less. We treat ourselves better. We eat better. We exercise in healthy ways for us. We are better friends and lovers. We are more likely to find happiness.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Laura Musikanski 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bridging the Gap - new article!

Announcing a new article that shows how Sustainable Development and Happiness Indicators work together.

Published by Springer and download for free! (Usually $39.99)


Abstract: 
International institutions, national governments and communities are promoting and measuring happiness in various ways. However, as of the writing of this article, there is not an agreed upon happiness index that institutions, governments, and communities use to gather and compare data. On the other hand, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have a set of indicators commonly shared by institutions, governments, and communities, do not explicitly consider happiness even though SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being references well-being. 

In this article, we construct an Aggregated Happiness Index (AHI) based on five indices in use and applied at different governance levels. Based on common domains and indicators from these indices, the AHI is composed of twelve domains, thirty-one indicators and distinguishes between objective and subjective indicators. 

The AHI domains and indicators are benchmarked against the SDGs goals and indicators respectively using a grading schema based on a traffic light. Our analysis reveals that at the domain level the SDGs cover 66.7% of the AHI, however the coverage at indicator level drops to 48.6%. The SDGs indicators cover 61.1% of the AHI objective indicators and 17.9% of the AHI subjective indicators. 

Major gaps are found in the domains of community & social support, subjective well-being and time balance. We found a lack of subjective metrics in other domains, including economic standard of living and health. We discuss the opportunities and drawbacks of approaching SDGs and happiness metrics separately or synergistically. 

Given the potential benefits of integrating both approaches, we propose the framework we term SDGs for Happiness composed of 18 indicators of which 61.1% are subjective that should be considered in addition to the SDG indicators to measure happiness within the SDGs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

10 years left



The recent IPCC report gives us 10 years to get our act together. If we don't we can expect life to change dramatically. In 1972, almost half a century ago, Donella and Dana Meadows forecasted the changes that will happen using five inputs, calling it  Limits to Growth:

Population growth
Industrial production
Use of natural resources
Food production
Pollution & Waste

They used a simulation to predict what would happen at stages along the way. According to their predictions, in about 10 years sea level rises, deforestation, pollution impacts, resource constraints and other impacts that will change life drastically, will fall into place. It turns out that's what the IPCC says too.



It's looking pretty grim. Maybe playing around with happiness is a dumb idea. Shouldn't we be preparing for what looks like the inevitable? Collapse of our food system, floods and landslides, pandemics....

Why bother with happiness?

Because it turns out that happiness is a way to get us out of this mess, if we are able to make the changes the IPCC (and the Meadows) are calling for, and happiness will be the way to manage the catastrophes if - more like when - they come.



Why?

First - now: If we were to use wider measures of well-being, such as the Happiness Index, we would have the metrics to manage our way into sustainability and well-being. Measurements like the Happiness Index encompass ecological health and point the way for de-growth, rolling back consumption, and putting our health, each other, and our planet first.


Second - then: wider measures of well-being point the way for meeting needs in a resource constrained world, and in a world where others, including people, animals, and ecosystems, are hurting. The answers will be simple, most likely, and involve caring for each other, nurturing the earth, and being as loving as we can in each moment.

That is why happiness really is important now.

Written by Laura Musikanski



Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Air That You Breathe

Happiness Data Report for August: Air That You Breathe

We are all connected through the air we breathe. The air you breathe is the same air that your ancestors breathed and that future generations will breathe.  It is the same air your neighbor breathes, the same air breathed by seven billion people on our planet - and all other beings.  

Air knows no boarders, no boundaries, makes no distinctions.  

Thank goodness. 

We humans can't survive more than three minutes without air. Try holding your breathe, and you'll have a direct experience of how connected your well-being is to air.

What does air have to do with happiness?

One of the questions in the Happiness Index is: How satisfied are you with the air quality in your environment?

The map below (click here to interact with the data) shows darker blue where people have higher satisfaction with air quality, and lighter colors where there is lower satisfaction with air quality. (Where there is data, there is a dark grey circle with the color inside. Light grey is where there is no data yet). 

Overall, in 2017, people were fairly satisfied with the air quality in their environment. 
Air Quality  Satisfaction MapJ

Objective data (data that can be observed) can help give a balanced picture when compared to subjective data. 

Objective data is data that can be observed, like particulates in the air. 
Subjective data is gathered through surveys, like the Happiness Index.

The Real Time Air Quality Index provides objective data for air quality. In areas where people are fairly satisfied (or not dissatisfied) with air quality, the air quality (measured in terms of pollutants, pollen, ozone and other factors of air quality,) is only moderately good in many areas (yellow) and unhealthy or very unhealthy in other areas (red and purple respectively).   

Air Quality Index

Comparing the data suggests there may be a disconnect between how satisfied we are with our air quality and our actual air quality; and an even deeper disconnect with how we feel today about our air quality, the future of our air quality and our happiness. 

We can't say that for sure, because of many factors. But we can suggest that this is an area worth investigation.  

Why look at the differences between air quality measured in terms of pollutants and people's satisfaction with air quality? 

  • Because since the industrial revolution, overall air quality has gotten worse (even though since the 1970s, in some areas it is getting better), and we can't be certain that nature will bear every nation catching up so that it gets better in all areas. 
  • Because with the impacts of climate change such as water scarcity, forest fires and desertification in some areas, and longer growing seasons with high pollen counts in other areas, we can expect some major impacts on air quality. 
  • Because we humans are gifted and cursed with an ability to adapt and a preference for short term thinking over long term thinking. 
  • Because we often don't think of the connection between air quality and happiness until we can't hardly breathe. 
  • Because we often wait to take action until we reach a personal or societal crisis. 
  • Because it feels overwhelming. 

So what can you do right now to make a difference?

How You Can Take Action Today:

  • Share the Happiness Report Card and this month's report about air quality with your mayor, elected council members, city or town manager, governor and senator.  Ask to have a conversation with them about the Happiness Movement.  (You can find resources, including a white paper on the Happiness Movement here)
  • Ask your friends and colleagues to take the Happiness Index and coordinate conversations to discuss their happiness scores.
  • If you are a researcher, conduct an investigation into the connections between objective and survey-based data for air quality and happiness. (You can use the Happiness Index data; email info@happycounts.org).   

A Bit More On Data...

Looking at the differences in satisfaction with air quality between ages, the Happiness Index, data shows that except for very few 85-89 year olds, we were satisfied with our air quality in 2017. 

A lot more youth took the survey than adults, and a lot fewer older people took the survey than adults or youth. If this were a random sampling, the few people in the 85-89 year old bracket might be called outliers, and their data would not be included.  But our data comes from a convenience sampling, meaning everyone who takes the Happiness Index made the personal decision to do so. 

Air Quality Satisfaction by Age J 2

Looking at the differences between income levels, except for the 43 people whose household income is between 240,000-250,000USD a year (they were more satisfied), most everybody was pretty satisfied with the quality of their air. 

Other than that, the differences between the very wealthy and poor were small, but many more people on the low income spectrum took the survey than people in the wealthy income brackets.  

(A score of 5 means very satisfied, a score of 3 means neither satisfied or dissatisfied, and a score of 4 means satisfied.)

Air Quality by Income J

and...FYI:

Happiness Agoras: Stream, Participate, Play

Luis Gallardo's Happiness Agoras are open to everyone online for a low price of 39.99. Sign up for one week of inspirational sessions online the week of International Day of Happiness (March 21) in 2019. 

Not sure? Get a taste for free.  Sign up and stream the Journey To Agoras online classes. 

happiness agoras

With love from the Happiness Alliance

All Grassroots.  All nonprofit. Donate or Volunteer today. 

air that you breathe

Friday, July 27, 2018

Why I Created 5 Minutes to Less Stress

Why I Created 5 Minutes to Less Stress
By Alice Vo Edwards


As a volunteer for the Happiness Alliance and advocate for happiness and wellbeing, managing stress is something I know to be important. It's been repeated over and over again in studies as beneficial for everything from health to job satisfaction. Stress is a mind game - of course I want to get control of my mind and manage my stress! Why not? Yet with my own hectic life, I have found it nearly impossible to find time for regular stress-reduction classes outside the home, such as yoga, or meditation. 

*short video of why I created the class for those who don't like reading*

When I was a girl, a nearby neighbor would host yoga glasses in her home for $5 and we could just stop by. These days, most of us don't even know our neighbors, and prices for classes have gone up considerably.


Whether it be budget or time constraints or concerns that meditation or yoga takes too long (many people seem to think that these types of practices require a half our or more of focused time), I realized I was not alone in finding it difficult to balance work, family and self-care. I also realized that I was not the only person who wanted usable practices that did not require half an hour to an hour of my time, plus the drive time to go back and forth. Over time, I found a number of techniques and even developed one of my own that I call Responsive Tension Release(tm) that can all be done in 5 minutes or less. I've tested them with my kids, with friends and colleagues, and with a few groups of in-person classes, and have now made them all available online in an online course. 

To me, learning stress management techniques including meditation is the first step towards being able to be more of the "me" I want to be. With meditation, I am better able to keep from saying things I'll regret, or raising my voice, when I'm tired, frustrated, or angry. It also helps me handle the stress of public speaking and other stressful times in my life.

My hope is that the class will inspire others to be able to see that meditation and stress management is not impossible, hugely time consuming, or overly formal, ritualistic, or religious. Being able to practice the type of self-reflective behavior that meditation helps build in one is a valuable skillset that I wish everybody had - we'd all be happier and the world would be a better place for it. Hopefully, with this class, a few more people will gain it.

-----------------------

5 Minutes to Less Stress is an online course that includes 7 basic and easy stress management techniques that are great for people with busy lives and little formal training in stress management methods. I also share all the resources I've found to help me practice meditation regularly, while being able to mix it up and keep myself from getting into a boring routine. 

You can check it out at https://www.udemy.com/5-minutes-to-less-stress/ where using the coupon code LAUNCH2018 will get you a discounted price of $9.99 for the full course.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How Cats Make Us Healthier And Happier People

Guest Post by Emily Parker


Whether it's a vacation or getting off the couch to exercise more often, there are a lot of simple things you can do in your everyday life to start bringing you more happiness. I’m all for huge personal transformations, but I love it when the little things just increase your quality of life and happiness in a way that you feel each and every day.

But there’s one thing we can do to hugely increase our chances of a happier (and healthier) life that I don’t hear talked about nearly enough. There are studies backing it, millions of people enjoying the benefits right now, and it’s not all that difficult or costly.

That one thing, of course, is bringing a cat into your life.

For example, if you're in the market for great entertainment that will boost your mood, spend a few minutes watching your cat play. According to research studies, doing so can boost your mood just as much as if you were with a spouse or best friend, and it's also been shown to help people suffering from mild to moderate depression.

And if you find yourself going nonstop each day and getting more and more stressed out, take a moment to observe your kitty. Chances are if they're not playing or eating, they're curled up taking a nap. By following your kitty's example and taking a quick power nap, you'll feel refreshed and ready to take on the world yet again.

Owning a friendly feline can help you make new friends, too, and friends have a massive influence on our mood! Whether you strike up a conversation with someone who's also standing in the pet food aisle trying to decide what Fluffy wants for supper or start talking with a fellow cat lover in the waiting room of a vet's office, you'll be around others who share your love of cats. As a result, the foundation for a beautiful friendship has been laid.

If you’d like to learn more about the health and happiness benefits of adopting a cat, check out the infographic below, or see the original article here on Catological.com.