We all want to be happy, but we don’t always know how to be happy. And unfortunately, happiness isn’t exactly always “default setting” in our lives. That takes work to adjust. More often than not, the default is the opposite, with relationship struggles, health problems, mental health challenges, personal shortcomings, and more threatening to stifle whatever happy moments we can find.
At Design.org, we believe that happiness isn’t something you wait around for, hoping it will come your way someday. No, we believe that happiness is something you create. (Science agrees with us, by the way.) And luckily, we’ve come up with a few things—hacks, if you will—to help you create your own happiness and design a life you love.
We’ve already talked about some of these hacks, including gratitude journals, music playlists, and ways to be kinder to others. But today, I’d like to zero in on how we can use love to hack happiness.
The power of love
As I’ve studied happiness, I’ve learned about how fear and love stand at odds with each other. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a highly-acclaimed psychiatrist, claims that love and fear are actually the only two emotions that humans experience, with every other emotion (joy, pain, excitement, grief) being an extension of either love or fear.
Fear is a powerful motivator, and it’s one that people turn to often. How many people stay in jobs they hate because they’re afraid they wouldn’t be able to provide for their families? How many people put up with unhealthy relationships for far too long because they’re afraid they wouldn’t be able to find someone else? Fear is all too real, and it can keep us stuck in places we really don’t want to be.
Love vs. fear in relationships
There’s one other thing I’ve learned in my years of study: love is more powerful than fear. At least, as far as happiness is concerned. That’s because love exudes positive energy, pushing you towards something you care about and want, while fear is all about negative energy, pushing you get away from something you don’t want. The difference may seem subtle, but when it comes to positive versus negative energy, positive is going to make you happier.
In relationships, fear is going to breed jealousy, resentment, and distrust. Love is going to foster connection, gratitude, and openness. Which relationship would you rather have?
How to use love to hack your happiness
Love is the best way to have a strong relationship, but it’s also the best way to find happiness in general. Let’s break down some of the ways you can use love to hack your happiness.
Love inspires service. And service inspires happiness. Doing something nice for someone else doesn’t just help them—it helps you! In fact, being kind is linked to more energy, greater overall happiness, and even a longer lifespan, and it’s also correlated with less pain, anxiety, depression, and stress.
Being in a loving relationship gives you opportunities to serve all the time. Whether you take an extra turn doing the dishes or always make sure to fill their car up with gas, those little moments of service can give you a boost of happiness. Take a moment and think about what you could do, today, to serve your friend or partner. How would it make them feel? How would it make you feel?
Develop appreciation for immaterial things
Money can’t buy me love (right, Paul?) and it seems that it can’t buy happiness either. Even though consumerism has increased (and in some ways, doubled) over the last few decades, overall happiness has decreased.
Why? Because materialism, the love of “things,” breeds ingratitude, discontentment, and greed. Materialism can wreak havoc on your relationships, too (higher levels of materialism are associated with disatisfaction in marriage).
That said, being in a loving relationship is more likely to help you recognize that material things aren’t the best source of happiness. In this way, love can help you hack happiness as it helps you discover what really matters in life.
Talk through your feelings
One of the best things about a deep, real, loving relationship is that it gives you someone to talk to. Someone who “gets” you. Are you taking full advantage of that benefit?
I know there have been times in relationships when, for whatever reason, I’ve been more hesitant to open up. I’m worried I’ll be judged, or that my someone will misinterpret my feelings.
I do know this: bottling up emotions doesn’t make us happy. Quite the opposite, in fact. It makes us feel alone, unseen, and unloved. Having a relationship that is safe, where emotions and feelings can be expressed and appreciated, brings us true happiness and fulfillment.
That’s why I consider healthy communication a happiness hack: because when I allow my relationships to be a way to express my deepest, most genuine feelings, I feel closeness, connection, and overall happiness.
There are plenty of things that can wreak havoc on your happiness, but one of the worst is being too busy or overwhelmed. When we have too much on our plates, we’re more likely to become overly stressed. And too much stress can, over time, lead to more serious health problems, both mental and physical.
How can love help you through this? Well, having a friend or partner means having someone to share the load. Whether they take over some responsibilities around the house, or just provide emotional support, having someone there during the overwhelming times can make the difference between surviving and thriving in times of hardship. Even if it’s just letting them know you are there, when they are ready.
If you want to take full advantage of this hack, however, you’re probably going to need to ask for help sometimes, which can be hard. Recognize that your best partner wants to help you through hard times, and give them a chance to prove it. Ask your partner for what you need; in the end, it will make you both happier.
Happiness isn’t always simple. Sometimes, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve that will help you live a happier life. But if you remember to let the power of love into your life, and take full advantage of everything a healthy relationship has to offer, you’ll be well on your way to living a happy, fulfilled life.
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