Want to Get Happier? Join a Group

Gretchen Rubin shares tips on happiness from her blog, the Happiness Project.

One thing is absolutely clear: a key to happiness is having close relationships with other people. Everyone, even introverts, are happier when they interact with other people. People enjoy activities more when others are involved. Having lots of close relationships makes it far more likely that people describe themselves as “very happy.”

Despite this, a study showed that Americans today have fewer friends than they’ve had in the past, and they have fewer contacts from clubs and their neighborhoods.

One way I’ve found to strengthen my relationships – and to achieve many other happiness resolutions, as well – is to form or join groups.

For example, following my resolutions to “Be Gretchen,” “Bring people together,” “Make time for fun,” and “Show up,” I started a children’s literature reading group, which has been a great source of happiness. I joined an existing book group when I moved to New York City, and that’s another major source.

Being part of a group brings you closer to other people. You have a common activity to pursue. You have a shared interest in a subject or activity. Often groups provide “an atmosphere of growth,” because you’re learning something new (in a painting class) or pursuing a worthwhile activity (volunteering at a soup kitchen) together.

Also, studies show that group membership helps people feel connected and gives a real boost to satisfaction and personal confidence. It’s a way to interact with people who share your values.

A group can be a way to enjoy an activity you find fun. Did anyone see the episode of The Office where the Pam, Toby, and what’s-his-name formed the “Finer Things Club” so they could enjoy discussing literature and eating off real china at work? Fun sounds a bit frivolous, but research shows that regularly having fun is a key factor in having a happy life. People who have fun are twenty times more likely to be happy.

Joining or forming a group is also particularly useful if you want to create accountability for yourself. People join Alcoholics Anonymous and Weight Watchers, for example, to keep themselves accountable.

You can form a group around any challenge. A reader emailed me that she’s part of a “goals group” which meets every two weeks so members can track their progress and support each other “with inspiration, motivation, and fun.” A friend of mine was in a goals group made up of people who wanted to switch professions. Talking about goals, getting encouragement and advice, and reporting back to the group makes it easier to work toward a goal.

Reprinted with permission from The Happiness Project

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