Happiness looks different for everyone. For you, maybe it’s being at peace with who you are. Or having a secure network of friends who accept you unconditionally. Or the freedom to pursue your deepest dreams.
Regardless of your version of true happiness, living a happier, more satisfied life is within reach. A few tweaks to your regular habits can help you get there.
Start by cultivating positivity in your life and living your life in a way that feels right to you. Additionally, spend time with positive people, connect with others, and support a healthy body and mind. However, keep in mind that mental illnesses like depression can make it hard to be happy without treatment from a mental health provider.
Creating a Positive Mindset
Express gratitude for the good things in your life. Being grateful for the things you have can change your life. It helps you focus on what’s going well so you’re less likely to feel depressed about your life. Take 1-2 minutes to savor positive moments. Additionally, thank people when they do nice things for you.
- Keep a gratitude journal or list 3-5 things you’re grateful for each day.
- Your gratitude list might include, “my cat,” “a job I love,” “a best friend I can call anytime,” “a cozy bed,” and “good food to eat.”
- When you’re feeling down, look back over your gratitude list to help you feel better.
Replace negative thoughts with positive self-talk. Negative thoughts can make it hard to feel happy, but you can change them. When you notice negative thoughts, challenge their accuracy. Then, replace the thought with a positive or neutral thought. Additionally, make positive statements to yourself throughout your day.
- Let’s say you catch yourself thinking, “I’m so ugly.” You might replace this thought with, “I can’t be ugly because everyone is beautiful in their own way,” or “I’m unique, and that makes me beautiful.”
- Use positive affirmations like, “I can do this,” “I’m enough,” or “If I try, I’m already successful.”
Compliment yourself at least once a day. Focus on what you’re doing well by giving yourself regular compliments. Point out your best features, celebrate your talents, and recognize your accomplishments. This will help you think positively about yourself.
- Say, “This outfit looks great on me,” “I did an amazing job in that presentation,” “I’m such a great writer,” or “I love that I’m so compassionate.”
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Everyone is on their own journey, so it’s unfair to you to measure your progress by looking at what others have accomplished. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Instead, compare yourself to where you were in the past. This will help you see how you’re progressing.
- For instance, don’t worry if all your friends seem to be further along in their careers. Your time will come. Instead, compare your progress to where you were last year.
Look for something positive when you’re facing an obstacle. Hardships and setbacks are part of life, and no one is immune from them. When you’re facing a problem, do your best to find a silver lining. This can help you feel better in the moment and may help you grow from your experiences.
- For instance, let’s say you’ve lost your job. This is a really difficult experience, but you might focus on it as an opportunity to switch careers.
Use mindfulness to help you focus on the present. Dwelling on your past and stressing about the future can negatively affect your mood. Being mindful can help you stay focused on the present so you avoid unnecessary overthinking. Here are some ways to be more mindful:
- Meditate for 10 minutes.
- Engage your 5 senses.
- Do just one thing at a time.
- Focus on how your feet move against the ground.
You tend to smile when you’re happy. But it’s actually a two-way street.
We smile because we’re happy, and smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier.
That doesn’t mean you have to go around with a fake smile plastered on your face all the time. But the next time you find yourself feeling low, crack a smile and see what happens. Or try starting each morning by smiling at yourself in the mirror.
Exercise isn’t just for your body. Regular exercise can help to reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness.
Even a small amount of physical activity can make a difference. You don’t have to train for a triathlon or scale a cliff — unless that’s what makes you happy, of course.
The trick is not to overexert. If you suddenly throw yourself into a strenuous routine, you’ll probably just end up frustrated (and sore).
Consider these exercise starters:
- Take a walk around the block every night after dinner.
- Sign up for a beginner’s class in yoga or tai chi.
- Start your day with 5 minutes of stretching. Here’s a set of stretches to get you started.
Remind yourself of any fun activities you once enjoyed, but that have fallen by the wayside. Or activities you always wanted to try, such as golf, bowling, or dancing.
3. Get plenty of sleep
No matter how much modern society steers us toward less sleep, we know that adequate sleep is vitalTrusted Source to good health, brain function, and emotional well-being.
Most adults need about 7 or 8 hours of sleep every night. If you find yourself fighting the urge to nap during the day or just generally feel like you’re in a fog, your body may be telling you it needs more rest.
Here are a few tips to help you build a better sleep routine:
- Write down how many hours of sleep you get each night and how rested you feel. After a week, you should have a better idea how you’re doing.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends.
- Reserve the hour before bed as quiet time. Take a bath, read, or do something relaxing. Avoid heavy eating and drinking.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
- Invest in some good bedding.
- If you have to take a nap, try to limit it to 20 minutes.
If you consistently have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor. You may have a sleep disorder requiring treatment.
4. Eat with mood in mind
You already know that food choices have an impact on your overall physical health. But some foods can also affect your state of mind.
- Carbohydrates release serotonin, a “feel good” hormone. Just keep simple carbs foods high in sugar and starch to a minimum, because that energy surge is short and you’ll crash. Complex carbs, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, are better.
- Lean meat, poultry, legumes, and dairy are high in protein. These foods release dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost energy and concentration.
- Highly processed or deep-fried foods tend to leave you feeling down. So will skipping meals.
Start by making one better food choice each day.
For example, swap a big, sweet breakfast pastry for some Greek yogurt with fruit. You’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth, and the protein will help you avoid a mid-morning energy crash. Try adding in a new food swap each week.
5. Breathe deeply
You’re tense, your shoulders are tight, and you feel as though you just might “lose it.” We all know that feeling.
Instinct may tell you to take a long, deep breath to calm yourself down.
Turns out, that instinct is a good
one. According to Harvard Health, deep breathing exercises can help
The next time you feel stressed or at your wit’s end, work through these steps:
- Close your eyes. Try to envision a happy memory or beautiful place.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose.
- Slowly breathe out through your mouth or nose.
- Repeat this process several times, until you start to feel yourself calm down.
If you’re having a hard time taking slow, deliberate breaths, try counting to 5 in your head with each inhale and exhale.
6. Be grateful
Simply being grateful can give your mood a big boost, among other benefits. For example, a recent two-part study found that practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness.
Start each day by acknowledging one thing you’re grateful for. You can do this while you’re brushing your teeth or just waiting for that snoozed alarm to go off.
As you go about your day, try to keep an eye out for pleasant things in your life. They can be big things, such as knowing that someone loves you or getting a well-deserved promotion.
But they can also be little things, such as a co-worker who offered you a cup of coffee or the neighbor who waved to you. Maybe even just the warmth of the sun on your skin.
With a little practice, you may even become more aware of all the positive things around you.
Being Your Best Self
Live according to your personal values. Ignoring your core beliefs can make you feel distressed or conflicted. Discover your personal values by listing the things that are important to you, identifying times you’ve felt truly happy, and deciding what you really want in life. Then, align your lifestyle with your values so that you can be the person you want to be.
- For instance, you might value helping others and being creative. To align with these values, you might choose a career in nursing and paint as a hobby. Additionally, you might make conscientious decisions so that you don’t hurt others.
Do at least one activity you enjoy every day. Having fun every day helps you enjoy your life more. Make a list of activities that make you feel happy. Then, schedule time every day to do something on your list. This can help you enjoy life more and can help you become your best self.
- For instance, engage in a hobby, hang out with your friends, play a board game, walk your pet, take a hot bath, read a book, see a movie, go to a concert, or try a new recipe.
- If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, try it! For instance, take a class to learn how to paint or watch online tutorials to learn how to dance.
Identify your strengths to help you have self confidence. It’s easier to feel happy if you’re proud of who you are, and recognizing your strengths can help. Make a list of your talents, skills, and knowledge. Then, review it often to help you remember how awesome you are.
- Your strengths might include things like solving math problems, writing, singing, or competing in athletics. Additionally, you might have people skills, analytical skills, or critical thinking skills. Similarly, you might be very creative or able to work collaboratively with people.
Work on improving your weaknesses so you can overcome them. Everyone has weaknesses, so don’t feel bad about yours. If your weaknesses bother you, try to improve them by learning new skills or trying something different. In time, you might be able to improve yourself.
- For instance, let’s say you have trouble with public speaking. You might join Toastmasters or take an improv class to get better at it.
- Similarly, you might be unhappy with your fitness level. To improve yourself, you might start a workout program.
Express your emotions so they don’t get bottled up. Your feelings are super important, so don’t try to hide them. Ignoring your emotions can actually make them become more intense. Instead, choose a healthy way to release your emotions. Here are some options:
- Talk to someone.
- Write in a journal.
- Do something creative.
Spend your money on experiences rather than things. Buying something you really want is fun, but it won’t lead to lasting happiness. Experiences bring you more joy than items, so use your spending money to pay for fun activities or trips. For more enjoyment, do things with people you care about.
- For instance, you might choose a game of mini golf over a new shirt.
- You should still buy items you need, like a computer for school or face wash to keep your skin clean. Don’t feel guilty for buying these types of items.