Happiness looks different for everyone. For you, maybe it’s being at peace with who you are. Or the freedom to pursue your deepest dreams. Happiness is a state of mind. Many don’t even realize learning how to be happy is something that can be intentionally practised. For them, it is what people feel in the immediate here and now.
- Smile: 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.
- Make being happy a choice you choose each day: The most important thing to realize about happiness is that it is not an outcome of current circumstances. Just the opposite, happiness is a choice. Is this easier on some days than others? Absolutely. But if you get caught in the trap of thinking your circumstances need to change before you can be happy, you’ll never, ever get there.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people: No matter how you choose to define happiness—short-term or long-term—comparison will rob you of it. Whether we compare our finances, our body type, our vacations, our talents, our house size or our shoe size, there are no winners in the game of comparison. But here’s the good news: Nobody is forcing you to play! You can stop any time you want. Be grateful for what you have, appreciate who you are, work hard every day to live your best life, and stop comparing yourself to others.
- Don’t waste your life pursuing unnecessary physical possessions: Possessions are necessary for life, but our society has seemed to confuse consumerism with happiness. Marketers work hard to convince us their products are not just needed for life, but that they are essential for happiness. Slowly but surely, we begin to believe their empty promises and waste our lives pursuing things that can never satisfy. We sacrifice time, money, energy, and focus chasing and accumulating things we do not need. Want to become a bit happier today? Go deciliter a closet or drawer and start to challenge consumerism in your life.
- Give a compliment: Research shows that performing acts of kindness can help you feel more satisfied. Giving a sincere compliment is a quick, easy way to brighten someone’s day while giving your own happiness a boost. Catch the person’s eye and say it with a smile so they know you mean it. You might be surprised by how good it makes you feel.
- 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 downturns out, that instinct is a good one. According to Harvard Health, deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Close your eyes. Try to assume a happy memory or a beautiful place. Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose. Slowly breathe out through your mouth or nose. Repeat this process many times, until you start to feel relax.
- Ditch your phone: Turn off all the electronics and put those earbuds away for at least one hour once a week. They’ll still be there for you later. If you still want them, that is. If you haven’t unplugged in a while, you might be surprised at the difference it makes. Let your mind wander free for a change. Read. Meditate. Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings. Be sociable. Or be alone. Just be.
- Develop healthy habits: Annie Dillard is credited for saying, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” And she is right. Our lives are filled with days, our days are filled with hours, and this present hour is filled with whatever you chose to fill it with. Spend time outside. Eat healthily. Exercise regularly. Quit smoking. Put down your cell phone. Work hard. Pray often. And get enough sleep.
- Keep a journal: A journal is a good way to organize your thoughts, analyze your feelings, and make plans. It can be as simple as jotting down a few thoughts before you go to bed. If putting certain things in writing makes you nervous, you can always shred it when you’ve finished. It’s the process that counts. Not sure what to do with all the feelings that end up on the page? Our guide to organizing your feelings can help.
- Weekly Plan: Feel like you’re flailing about? Try sitting down at the end of every week and making a basic list for the following week. Even if you don’t stick to the plan, blocking out time where you can do laundry, go grocery shopping, or tackle projects at work can help to quiet your mind. You can get a fancy planner, but even a sticky note on your computer or piece of scrap paper in your pocket can do the job.
You hear it all the time, including several times in this article, but your physical and mental health are closely intertwined.