(BPT) - Are you living your happiest life? How does your mood affect your health? Is happiness contagious? Researchers are finding these questions are worth asking, and multiple studies show happiness dramatically improves health, productivity, family bonds and even life expectancy. So it's no surprise that the impact happiness has on people has spawned an initiative to spread happiness throughout the world.
So what can you do to live your happiest life? Researchers say it starts with choosing happiness. Making a conscious choice to be happy positively affects a person's mood, and over time, can reset a person's default happiness level, according to two recent studies published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.
Here's a look at several ways to choose to be happy, including:
Savor happy moments, in the moment. An individual's brain is hardwired to remember bad experiences more than good ones as a basis for survival. When something good happens, stopping to savor that moment helps to solidify it in the brain and re-wire it for happiness, according to Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness.
Connect with happy people. To be happy, spend time with happy people. It may seem like common sense, but researchers from Harvard found over the course of a 20-year study, the happiness of one person can increase the happiness of others in their network by an astounding 25 percent.
'In my job, I see firsthand how easily happiness spreads from one person to the next,' says Courtney Gastelo, a bartender at RA Sushi, which has several locations across the U.S. 'That's why RA Sushi's Happy Hour is so popular - we bring our guests together in a fun atmosphere where they can relax and enjoy great food and drinks with their friends.'
Gastelo recommends not waiting for the weekend; invite friends out for sushi and enjoy Happy Hour any day of the week. Doing so will positively affect the mood of everyone involved, 'and science says it's good for humanity,' she says.
Choose experiences over things. The value of new life experiences also creates happiness. That's the finding of research from San Francisco State University, which shows that having a new life experience outweighs material purchases when it comes to long-term impact on happiness.
New life experiences don't have to be expensive trips to exotic locations; they can be as simple as taking a dance class, mastering a cooking skill, trying a new food or learning how to speak another language.
Exercise.Hitting the road or the weights can turn a bad day into a good one. Research from the University of Bristol shows exercising on workdays has an even bigger impact on mood. It's because exercising releases endorphins that have a powerful effect on happiness.
Going for a walk or hike outside has the added benefit of sunshine and fresh air, too. For an even more powerful happiness boost, researchers suggest finding an exercise buddy.