8 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Happiness

Posted by Harshad

8 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Happiness

8 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Happiness

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 07:01 AM PST

My earlier post, the pursuit of happiness (& how to be truly happy) was about living life by the moments rather than spending most of our time thinking about what we should achieve next. We can take charge of our happiness by choosing to engage in activities like physical exercise and performing acts of kindness to help us find happiness.

The good news is that there are also several other scientifically-proven activities which when done habitually, can help us in our quest for happiness. After looking through many of these suggestions which are supported by studies and experiments, I want to share the following 8 with you. Feel free to share your comments in the comments section below.

1. Practise Mindfulness

In a comprehensive research to study the level of happiness of 2250 participants, Harvard psychologists contacted the participants at random intervals during the day to find out the activity they were engaged in, their feelings and their thoughts.

The responses revealed that half of the time, the participants were not paying attention to what they were doing. Those who daydream, and thus are not concentrating at the task at hand, were reported to be less happy. It is this wandering of the mind that is causing them to be gloomy.

Rather than focusing at what was happening right at that instant – living in the moment – some of the sadder participants were thinking about the past or something that had yet to happen. The study is still ongoing, and you can participate here, if you have an iPhone.

Mindfulness living

Mindfulness living is about living consciously, and according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.”

The ability to concentrate well requires repeated practice. One way to do that is to practise mindfulness meditation: sitting down with our eyes closed and observing our physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions from a distant without judgment. Label them as an "itch", a "thought" or anger, for example, as they come and go in our consciousness.

When we can do this 20 minutes a day, often enough, we will start to realize that we are not our thoughts or emotions, and we will be less affected by them. That’s when we’re able to stay focused on what we do at any moment and become more present with our lives.

More: Apart from engaging in daily mindfulness meditation, here are 10 steps suggested by Reader’s Digest on how you can start living mindfully as well.

2. Have Sufficient Quality Sleep

Most of us are aware of the importance of sleep on our health. After all, it’s a fundamental "physiological" need under Maslow’s hierarchy. Yet, many of us are still stubbornly putting off going to bed early in the name of productivity. Some of us may actually consider "adequate sleep" as a luxury, thanks to our tight work schedules and project deadlines.

However, psychologist Norbert Schwarz from University of Michigan had found that getting just an extra hour of sleep every night will make you happier than earning a $60,000 raise for the year!

Considering how the lack of sleep can negatively affect our mood the following day, it perhaps makes more sense to get enough of it every day, become happier, and consequently increase our productivity at work.

But that doesn’t mean you need more of sleep. An analysis of the lifestyles of some 4,000 adults found that the happiest of the lot get an average of 6 hours 15 min of uninterrupted, quality sleep each night. According to another study by Cornell University, happy people tend to sleep better as well. It’s a loop: resolve to get more quality sleep, become happier, sleep even better!

More: To kick-start this awesome habit, check out this great list of 33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep by Dr. Mercola.

3. Buy Some Experience

In my last post, I wrote that money is better spent on acquiring life experiences rather than for material possessions. Well, another study from Cornell University reaffirmed this, by proposing that acquired experiences are less tangible (compared to physical pursuits) and hence, harder to subject to social comparison. The result is that our happiness level doesn’t adapt to such personal experiences as quickly as we habituate to purchased goods.

Aside from strengthening social relationships, the experience also becomes more and more memorable as time passes. Our minds naturally reinterpret our experiences retrospectively and holistically in a positive manner. For instance, each time we revisit our cherished memories of the last vacation trip we took with family or friends, the hassles and frustrations experienced during the trip are conveniently forgotten.

So, go ahead and plan your next trip on some tropical island now. There is already research showing that the anticipation itself will give you a boost in your happiness, as mentioned by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, authors of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. They even found one study which pointed out that not only does delayed pleasure increases your excitement, it can even make it more pleasurable when you’re finally experiencing it.

4. Cut Down on Traveling Time

Previously, I have also mentioned that certain events in life could permanently lower our happiness baseline. Chronic long commutes are one such event. Harvard psychologist professor Daniel Gilbert puts it succinctly: "You can’t adapt to commuting, because it’s entirely unpredictable. Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day." No wonder daily commute has been ranked last among all daily activities.

A telephone survey conducted on about 170,000 employed adults showed that a third of those who took over 90 minutes to travel to work are more likely to have high cholesterol and chronic physical symptoms such as back and neck pains.

40% of the same group were also found to experience worry for most of the day, as compared to just 28% of those who commute to work in less than 10 minutes a day.

Before accepting a new job offer, take into account how much time you need to take to get to work each day. If, however, you’re already stuck in one which requires you to drive for an hour or more each day, you might want to consider other available means of commute. In Portland, Oregon, it was found that bicycle commuters are the happiest lot, followed by people who walk to work. Lone drivers are the least happy of all.

5. Smile!

According to one of the earliest research on the effects of smiling on our mood conducted by psychologist Robert Zajonc, who had participants say out the vowel "e" to make them smile, and the German vowel "ü" to make them pout. Those who "smiled" reportedly felt good while those who "pout" felt worse!

Numerous similar studies followed, with some claiming that smiling relieves stress and anxiety. Others such as Christopher Barnes from Michigan State University found that city bus drivers who "smile for the sake of smiling" throughout the day had their mood worsened and withdrew from work. The effects were found to be especially true for women.

When we smile, there are some biological processes that somehow trick our brain into thinking we’re happy. For this reason, our moods are lifted reflexively. Of course, this is just a brief intervention which is only effective momentarily and definitely not something that can make you happier as a person in the long run. Nevertheless, if doing something as simple as smiling could help us feel a wee bit better about our lives and get other people to smile as well, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do it more!

More: Curious about the science behind smiling and how it makes us happier as well as other interesting tidbits? Check out this refreshing post by Leo Wildrich of Buffer.

6. Get a Pet

Most pet owners would agree that their pets have brought them joy and good memories. Amazingly, researcher Allen McConnell has even found that social support provided by pets is comparable to that from a fellow family member. McConnell also showed that among other benefits, pet owners tend to have greater self-esteem, are less depressed and less lonely – they even exercise more!

However, don’t go rushing to buy one from the pet store if you know you’re using it as a substitute for your less-than-perfect social life. Further observations made by McConnell indicated that the effects of pets on our health and happiness are stronger when we are already having a good social life. After all, having a pet will not change things much unless we build a positive relationship with it.

If we are already on good terms with people we care about, it probably proves that we have the necessary traits to have good relationships with pets as well. It’s a two-way street: The amount of happiness that they can bring into our lives depend very much on our commitment level.

7. Know & Spend Time With Happy People

Happiness is contagious. The Framingham Heart Study that followed 4,700 people over 20 years revealed that a person’s happiness level can influence up to three degrees of separation, which means our happiness is partially affected by our social network (not the Facebook kind) of up to the level of our friends’ friends’ friends!

Specifically, we are 15.3% more likely to be happier when we know another happy person directly (1st degree), followed by 9.8% and 5.6% for 2nd and 3rd degrees respectively. Moreover, it was also found that physical distance matters, particularly when a friend of ours who resides within a mile from us becomes happy, the probability that we are happy increases by 25%. Interestingly though, such effects are not reflected between co-workers.

Happy people are often the center of social networks that comprises of similarly happy people. The reasons why positive emotions trickle down from the happiest people to others are not determined in the study, but it’s suggested that this group of people could have a tendency to be more generous, friendlier and nicer as a whole, cascading positive feelings down the levels and inducing those affected to act in the same positive manner to others.

8) Have at Least 10 Good Friends

We will first need to have at least 10 good friends before we can reach the minimum "happy" level. Surveying over 1,700 people on their satisfaction with their lives and their friendships, Dr Richard Tunney from Nottingham University found that those with 5 friends or fewer were more likely to be unhappy than to be happy. Those with 5 to 10 friends were equally likely to be either.

The good news is that the happiness of the participants did not depend on whether the friends they had were childhood friends or those that came into their lives much later. This mean to say that we’re never too late to make new friends to become happier!

Making new friends isn’t all to it though. If taking care of our pets requires commitment and continuous effort, friendship would logically requires much, much more. As Dr Tunney puts it, "Whatever the reason, actively working on friendships in the same way as to maintain a marriage is a prerequisite to happiness."

Having too many friends actually poses the danger of having "surface friendships" since it will be quite hard for one to maintain close relationships with all of them. If you are somehow able to find the time and means to manage them, you’ll probably be like the happiest participants in the study who had dozens of friends!


20 Exceptional Furniture Designs For Your Inspiration

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 05:01 AM PST

Modern furniture designers tend to create vivid, multifunctional, and space-saving furniture pieces which can also be easily transformed into something else. For example, a bed that can be turned into a sofa, a chair, or a pouf depending on your needs.

We are a generation that loves to maximize both time and space, so why not get a desk which may be used not only for working, but for sleeping as well? In this post, I have put together 20 of the most interesting and exceptional furniture designs, most of which can be used indoors as well as outdoors. May they help you get some creative ideas for your home.

Rock on / Rock off: Exquisite Mood Rocking Bed by Joe Manus. A cool furniture piece that is great for sleeping and relaxing – indoors or outdoors. Made of eco-friendly materials, this unique bed is available in 4 sizes. It also comes with special bundles with rubber clamps for times when you just want to keep the bed from swinging.

Recycled Silk Chair, Ottoman & Stool by Meb Rure. Every year, millions of tons of fabric leftovers are sent to landfills. In light of the situation, Meb Rure presented this vibrant furniture collection made of silk fabric wastes. The eco-friendly set includes an armchair, a chair, and an ottoman, all of which combine comfortable sitting experience with a vivid modern look.

Contemporary Garden Sofa by Ora-Ïto. A furniture collection that’s inspired by the shapes of pagoda roofs and UFOs. The collection consists of a chair, table, and sofa, all of which are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. They are made of durable materials and are available in 3 colors: white, black, and red.

FAZ Modular Sofa by Ramon Esteve. A modularly designed sofa that allows you to make up arrangements of different shapes and sizes – both straight and angular. The coffee bean color also gives the sofa a modern and fresh look. It may be placed inside your house as well as outside.

Sweeties Comfort Furniture Series by Boggy Chan. A must-have delicious-looking furniture collection for cupcake fans. Each "cupcake" is equipped with a leg that allows for height adjustments, making it customizable for users of any age.

No Country for Old Men by Lanzavecchia + Wai. A genius idea of combining furniture and mobility aids for the elderly. It all started when an elderly woman was upset for not being able to bring her husband a cup of coffee to the TV as she used to. As a result, her caring grandson designed for her a mobile coffee table that comes with a pen cane and wheels.

Lamborghini Murcielago Desk by Design Epicentrum. Let’s face it: not everyone can afford a Lamborghini Murcielago. But if you still would still like to show off your enthusiasm for the car, you can consider getting this awesome desk that’s a perfect replica of Lamborghini Murcielago’s nose. It’s available in various colors, such as white, blue, and orange.

"We Are Family" Sofa for Six by Claus Molgaard, Ole Jensen. A cool multilayer sofa that seems to be inspired by the bed in The Princess and the Pea. This set includes 6 mattresses and pillows that are not attached to each other, so you can use them together or separately.

Multifunctional Hully by Michele Franzina, Venezia Homedesign. A cozy office furniture set that’s also multifunctional. You can easily turn a chair into a small desk thanks to tip top seat. The bright colors are conducive to the creative process too.

Bloc’d Sofa by Scott Jones. A highly customizable modular sofa that can seat at least 6 people. It can be transformed into many different arrangements thanks to its removable cube-shaped cushions.

Bookcase Staircase by Levitate. An extremely space-saving piece of furniture. This bookcase staircase is able to support more than 2,000 books. Plus, the steps are wide enough to serve as reading benches.

Nuvola di Luce by Thesia Progetti. A chair that also doubles as a source of uniform lighting for your room. And according to the manufacturer, it can last for more than 100 years even with daily usage! It comes with 3 colors to choose from: natural, black, and white.

U Stool by Clay Kippen, Zena Verda Pesta, Richard Clarkson. A creatively designed stool that enables you to exercise your abdominal muscles while sitting. It also helps to reduce the mechanical load on your body, thereby allowing you to sit comfortably for hours. It provides some storage space for books too.

Boxed by Tyrone Stoddart. A convenient and highly adaptable piece of furniture that you can use to do work on your laptop or even have a cup of coffee. It’s called "Boxed" as all the parts, including the stool and lamp, can be disassembled easily and condensed into a box for easy carrying.

Convertible Chair Lounge by Solovyov Design. Belarusian designers Maria and Igor Solovyov from Solovyov Design have the ability to create amazingly creative furniture. They seek to combine comfort, beauty and functionality while incorporating the latest fashion trends in their furniture designs.

1, 6 S.m. of Life Desk Convertible to Bed by Athanasia Leivaditou. A desk that can save heaps of space thanks to its ability to also work as a bed. Perfect for college students or those working from home.

Garden Unique – Bye Bye Wind by Marco Marotto. Have you ever had problems with the wind being a little too strong when dining with friends or family in your backyard? This set of table and chairs can help you put an end to those problems thanks to its unique design.

Boxetti Private by Rolands Landsbergs. A modular bedroom that includes a double bed, a bedside table, and a wardrobe. Best of all, it can be controlled with a remote control. The full Boxetti collection also includes a foldable kitchen, a living room, and a study desk.

All Involved | Ted Bed by Volen Valentinov. A creatively designed bed that can also work as an armchair or pouf. First presented at The World of Furniture exhibition in 2013, it is light, waterproof, and eco-friendly to boot.

Koala 45 by Stal Collectief. A very spacious hammock that can support up to 8 persons at a time. Works great as a bed and perfect for having casual conversations with friends.


A look Into: CSS4 Document Rule

Posted: 18 Feb 2014 02:01 AM PST

Many websites have a lot of pages, but all those pages are commonly styled with only one stylesheet. Serving only one stylesheet is a good practice to minimize HTTP requests allowing the pages to load more quickly in a browser.

However, there will be a bunch of style-rules contained in the stylesheet that are unnecessary for some pages. So wouldn’t it be great if we could apply a set of style-rules only for certain pages while still keeping it to one stylesheet?

This idea would be made possible with the new proposed standard CSS At-rule called @document. This rule was initially proposed as part of CSS3 but due to several issues, it was postponed and would likely be included in CSS Level 4.

Let’s see how it works, shall we?

Basic Usage

@document allows us to designate style-rules for only specific pages. As stated in the Proposal, it is primarily designed for User Stylesheet. So, users can do the following to customize their (favorite) websites:

 @document domain("facebook.com") { body { background-color: yellow; } a { color: red; } img { border-radius: 100%; } } @document domain("twitter.com") { body { background-color: red; } a { color: pink; } } 

You can visit UserStyles.org for some great examples of user stylesheets.

We, as web authors, can also utilize @document to control the styles across our website. Let’s say we want our style-rules to be applied on a particular page on our website. To do that, we can encapsulate the style-rules with @document like so:

 @document url("http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/about-us/") { h1 { font-size: 50em; color: green; } p { color: red; } a { color: blue; } } 

The difference between domain()(from the first example) and url() is that domain() will affect all the pages that are hosted on the specified domain, whereas url() will only apply the style-rules to the specified URL; the other URLs (or pages) are thus unaffected.

You can use url-prefix() to designate style-rules to a URL that begins with, for example, css.

 @document url-prefix("http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/category/") { h2 { font-family: "Georgia"; } div { background-color: blue; color: #fff; } } 

Using the regexp() function, we can go more in-depth with Regular Expression (Regex). The following example is derived from W3C, and the Regex matches the URL that begins with http://www.w3.org/TR/, followed by 4 numerical digits and ending with 8 numerical digits.

 @document regexp("http://www.w3.org/TR/\\d{4}/[^/]*-CSS2-\\d{8}/") { body { transform: rotate(90deg); } } 


Alright, we have seen some usage possibilities of the @document rule. But as mentioned, it is currently on hold for CSS4, and Firefox is the only browser that has implemented it with the @-moz-document prefix. Nonetheless, we will be keeping tabs on the development of the @document rule, and see how it goes in the future.


How To Publish Post To WordPress Via Email

Posted: 17 Feb 2014 11:01 PM PST

WordPress post and page editor is equipped with a WYSIWIG editor. We can write and format post as easy as we do it in a word processor application, such as Microsoft Word and Pages. But, WordPress also allows us to write and publish post through email.

There are some occasions where sending post by email can be very handful, e.g. when you accept contribution from others, but you do not want to give out an account for them. So, rather than diving through a bunch of email inboxes, this method allows you to find the post immediately in the WordPress back-end administration.

So, let’s see how it is done.

Required Setup

Posting by email in a self-hosted WordPress site is achievable using Jetpack. Ensure that you have installed it, and that the feature is activated, as follows.

Then, go to Profile > Your Profile page, and enable Post by Email. This action will generate a unique email address where you will send the post. Any users with the “Publish Post” privilege, such as Author and Editor, may be required to create their own unique email address as well.

Please be aware that anyone with the email address can publish post to your blog, so you ought to keep this email address a secret.

Alright, we are done with the requirement setup. And, now, let’s head over to our Email app.

Sending out post through email

Write the post content as you would write an email. You can write it in plain text or rich text format, and specify the title of the post in the email Subject. Send it to the unique email address that has been generated above.

Login to WordPress back-end, and you should find that the post has been published. Note that users with Contributors status won’t be able to publish posts immediately; the post that they send will be pending review.

The Shortcodes

Furthermore, we can use shortcodes for configuring the post, such as whether the post is “published” or it is a “draft”; specifying the post categories and tags; and naming the post URL slug. The following is a list of shortcodes that you might need to include:

  • [title Your post title] – you can also set the post title in this way.
  • [slug some-url-name] – name the post slug URL.
  • [category x,y,z] – specify the post categories. If the categories specified are not present, WordPress will create them for you.
  • [tags x,y,z] – specify the post tags.
  • [excerpt]some excerpt[/excerpt] – wrap the post excerpt.
  • [delay +1 hour] – delay the post publishing time. It will automatically put the post in schedule.
  • [comments on | off] – allows or disallows the post comments.
  • [status publish | pending | draft | private] – set the post publishing status.
  • [password secret-password] – set password for the post.
  • [more] – split the post, display only the first part of the post.
  • [nextpage] – split the post into pages.

For more shortcodes, check out this post.

There is no restriction on where to put the shortcodes. Here is an example.

Final Thought

Please note that this Post by Mail feature comes with limitations. At the time of the writing, assigning featured image thumbnail and send post to Custom Post Type is not possible.

In addition, I had some trouble when trying to insert images into the post through email attachment. The image is not uploaded and the src URL within the image is filled with random strings and numbers. To solve this, we can use an alternative: by uploading the image separately with the following format address media+[uniqename]@post.wordpress.com.

But if you ask me, Post by Mail is still very handful in certain situations.


Create Professional-Looking Graphics The Easy Way With Canva

Posted: 17 Feb 2014 09:01 PM PST

Having good-looking graphics is one of the best ways to attract readers to your blog or website. But coming up with professional-quality graphics on your own is easier said than done. Graphic design software is often expensive, complicated, or both, and if you’re already busy working on your blog then you probably won’t have the time to teach yourself how to use something like Adobe Photoshop.

Canva Landing Page

Well, worry no longer, as Canva is going to make your life a whole lot easier. Canva is a free web-based drag-and-drop graphic design app that helps you put together professional-quality infographics, posters, Facebook cover images and more without needing to be familiar with graphics editing software.

It offers a large variety of layouts, backgrounds, fonts and stock images which will help you put together a graphic that’ll turn your good blog post or website into a great one. Interested? Let’s take a quick look at what Canva offers.

Getting Started With Canva

The first step, as always, is to register. You can connect using your Facebook account or create a new account by filling in your email and desired password. Once you’re registered, you’ll have to go through a couple of tutorials. The first is a quick 23-second video on how to create designs in Canva, while the second is a series of 5 Starter Challenges, basic tutorials that will help you get up to speed with Canva.

Once you’re done with the introductory tutorials, you’ll be taken to the Your designs page. This is where you manage your current designs as well as create new designs. This is also where you can access four more tutorials if you need more help before starting work on your own design.

Canva Your Designs Page

To help you get started, Canva has a number of common document sizes for both print and online graphics that you can use. You can also use your own custom dimensions if none of the preset document sizes fit the bill.

Canva Features

Canva’s drag-and-drop design interface is simple and easy to understand. The design itself takes up most of the screen’s real estate, with a sidebar to the left with a number of tabs. These tabs are where you search for images and clip art, choose from preset layouts, add and edit text, select backgrounds as well as upload your own images.

Here’s a quick rundown of the graphic design features available in Canva. The heart of Canva is its large image library: Canva claims to have more than 1,000,000 images to choose from, ranging from clip art to hand-drawn images to high-quality stock photographs.

Note that while Canva itself is free, a lot of the stock photographs on Canva will cost $1 per image. Once you’ve found an image you like, you can just drag and drop it into your design.

Canva Image Tab

If you’re looking for a pre-made layout to help you get started, Canva’s Layouts tab is the place to look. Just click on one you like and it’ll be applied automatically. The layouts Canva shows you are based on the dimensions of your current project.

Canva Layouts Tab

The Text tab lets you add text to your designs. You can insert free-floating text or different styles of text boxes. There’s also a decent number of fonts to choose from, as well as the usual formatting options such as bold, italics and alignment settings.

Canva Text Tab

The Backgrounds tab is where you choose the background for your design. Canva lets you use either solid colours or images for the backgrounds. Like images, there’s a fair selection of backgrounds to choose from, although again, most of these background images will cost $1 per image.

Canva Backgrounds Tab

The final sidebar tab is the Uploads tab. Canva lets you upload your own images as well as import images from Facebook.

Canva Uploads Tab

Once you’re satisfied with your design, you can share it on Facebook and Twitter using the Share buttons at the top of the page. You can also generate a link to the design or download the design as either PNG or a PDF by clicking on Link & Publish at the top of the page. If you’ve used any of the paid content, this is also where you’ll be charged for the images.

Canva Link & Publish


All in all, Canva is an incredibly easy-to-use graphic design app that will let even a complete novice come up with eye-catching and professional-looking designs in no time. If you’re in need of graphics but don’t know your Magic Wand tool from your eyedropper tool, you definitely should give Canva a try.



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