Happiness, life satisfaction and the daily habits of the most successful people are topics which researchers love to study. And what they consistently find is that individuals who reach the end of their lives feeling fulfilled, grateful and devoid of regrets do so by being intentional with how they handled themselves and their relationships with others. Here are a handful of simple questions which can help you be honest with yourself about the directions you're taking in this world.
How will your life be different in a year? Think about what's not perfect in your world, whether it's a self-destructive habit, burdensome debt, loneliness or anything else. Considering that it takes 28 days to change an ingrained behavior, resolve now to invest one month in doing things differently.
What are you grateful for? Researchers have found that gratitude correlates with better mood and sleep, higher confidence, and lower fatigue and inflammation. Don't have anything to be thankful for? Start with electricity, running water and roof over your head.
What nice thing can you do for someone else today? Give someone your spot in line, buy a co-worker his favorite morning drink, or call your mother and mindfully listen to her tell you about her week. Even little things can make a big difference in someone's day. Plus, researchers have found that performing acts of kindness make people feel happier.
How much do you worry about what others think? You can't be present and your best self if you're constantly asking yourself questions such as: Did they think that I was smart? Did they think that I was successful? Did they think what I said was stupid? In truth, you can never really know what someone else thinks of you. So, instead of worrying about it, be your most confident self and concentrate on what you want to communicate, ask good questions and look people in the eyes.
What are you doing to invest in your relationships? After following the lives of 268 Harvard undergraduate males from the classes of 1938 to 1940 for decades, psychiatrist George Vaillant concluded something you probably already know: Love is the key to happiness.
Even if a man succeeded in work, amassed piles of money, and experienced good health, without loving relationships he wouldn't be happy. The longitudinal study showed happiness depends on two things: "One is love," he wrote. "The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."
What do you do for fun? If you have to think about this one, your work-life balance is probably askew. On your deathbed you will never say "I wish I would have worked more." If working too much isn't your problem you also will never say "I wish I would have watched more TV."
Are you comfortable in your own skin? Blogging for Tiny Buddha Melissa Dinwiddie tells the great story of having a miserable time during her high school class's senior trip to the beach, all because of she forgot a T-shirt, was worried her stomach wasn't flat enough and sweated all day under a sweatshirt.
Meanwhile, a friend laughingly discovered she had forgotten to shave one of her legs and announced it to the entire bus. Her friend--who had a fantastic day in spite of her one hairy leg--proved that the people who have the most fun are comfortable in their own skin.
Is anxiety something that dampens most of your days? Nearly one in five people has some kind of anxiety disorder, which is the most common mental illness in the U.S. If this is you, be honest and admit that 90 percent of what you worry about never comes to fruition. The other benefit to removing fear and anxiety from your life: You'll appear more confident, a character trait that breeds success.
What have been your biggest mistakes? Chances are, your mistakes taught you valuable lessons which strengthened your character. Take some inspiration from J.K. Rowling, who said "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default."
What will people say about you at your funeral? Think about the people you miss the most on this planet. Chances are, they were interested in other people's lives, generous and set a good example. Work now to be someone who makes a positive impression.
The writer is a freelance contributor at ----------------------Christina Des Marais