• There are steps you can take to increase your chances of happiness down the line.
  • Large decisions, like getting a new job, can improve your long-term happiness. Smaller habit changes — such as volunteering or scheduling a call with your parents — can have similar impacts as well.
  • Here are eight ways to improve your long-term happiness.

As more people work longer hours, causing burnout to officially become a clinical disease, the daily grind can have you feeling down.

Being happy is important for long-term health. Happiness has been linked to better immune systems and faster wound healing, both factors that lead to a longer lifespan.

Even if things seem down now, there are steps you can take to prime yourself for happiness down the line. Whether it be large decisions like getting a new job or purchasing a new home, small efforts like volunteering on the weekends can do wonders for your long-term happiness.

Here are eight scientifically proven ways to increase your happiness.

Don’t overwork yourself.

If you find yourself feeling lousy a lot of the time, it might be your job.

While a bad day or week on the job is normal, a hostile work environment can lead to depression, according to Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” Plus, overworking yourself is one of the biggest regrets dying people have about life.

If you find yourself constantly thinking about your job, having difficulty getting out of bed, and even becoming physically ill, it might be time to quit your job and find something that will lead to more happiness down the line.

Spend more time with your family.

Another top regret dying people have is not spending enough time with family and friends.

Studies back up the importance of having strong familial ties to long-term happiness. Around 93% of men who experienced happiness later in life had good relationships with a brother or sister, according to a study that tracked the lives of 268 men for 72 years.

If you’re struggling to balance your time, the act of scheduling blocks where you just focus on your family can make you less stressed and happier, time-management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of “Off the Clock,” told Business Insider correspondent Shana Lebowitz.

Try to settle down in a place close to where you work.

A shorter drive to work can make you happier, according to a studyout of the University of the West of England that looked at 26,000 employee commutes over five years.

The researches found every extra minute you spend commuting reduces job satisfaction and worsens your mental health. In fact, adding 20 minutes to your commute per day has the same effect on your job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut.

To increase your future happiness, try moving somewhere you know will be close to where you work.

Help others by doing volunteer work.

Helping others helps you.

In a 2013 review of 40 studies done in the last two decades, researchers found volunteering can make you happier, and can even prolong your life. People who volunteer say not only does it improve their mood, it helps them manage chronic illness and lowers stress, a Happify survey found. Finally, a 2017 study found when people help others, it activates regions in the brain that make you happy.

Keep in touch with your friends.

Maintaining friendships could be the key to a longer, happier life.

In an Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging, researchers found people with more friends outlive those with the fewest by 22%. It’s no wonder one of the biggest regrets dying people have is not keeping in touch with their friends.

While your friend group tends to shrink as you get older, you can bolster your social network by visiting the same places frequently (also known as “ becoming a regular“).

Practice gratitude.

Focusing on what you have instead of what you lack, leaves you feeling more satisfied in the long-run.

study from the University of California-Davis asked volunteers to keep a weekly record of things they were grateful for. In 10 weeks, they reported feeling more optimistic about their lives and even felt physically healthier.

Practicing gratitude can even make you more successful. Business Insider found highly successful individuals like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson all take a few minutes of time to focus on what they are thankful for.

Make small talk.

Being friendly makes you happier.

2014 study found people who made small talk with their barista left happier than those who stayed silent. They instructed participants to make brief but genuine conversation, while smiling and making eye contact.

Taking just a few minutes to talk to the barista left study subjects feeling happier than those who didn’t. “Humans are designed to have social interaction,” researcher Elizabeth Dunn previously told Business Insider. “These interactions are incredibly important for our overall well-being, and even the smallest ones can make a difference.”

Exercise often.

Exercising increases endorphins in your brain and improves your self image— both ways to make you happier. In fact, exercising can improve your happiness even more than having more money can, according to a study tracking the physical behavior and mental mood of 1.2 million Americans.

Strength training and aerobic training are particularly good at decreasing depression and improving long-term heart health, according to recent research— so pick up the dumbbells if you want to live a healthier and happier life down the road.

Originally published on Business Insider.

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