20 WAYS TO BE HAPPIER
Everyone likes to feel happy but it’s easier said than done. We all have ups and downs and some days are better than others. If you’re feeling sad or unsettled and in need of a fresh perspective on your day, try these tips for 20 ways to be happier. Mindset and self-care tips to help you find happiness through simple, intentional living.
20 WAYS TO BE HAPPIER
In this article I’m sharing 20 ways to be happier. I think we often get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that we forget to make space and time for happiness. Perhaps we even feel guilty when we prioritise happiness and instead feel we should be doing, achieving and ticking things off those never-ending To Do lists.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to find ways to be happier in your every day, here are 20 simple suggestions. They won’t cost much (if anything) and with a little bit of time and consistency they could become an important and welcome component of your regular routine.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HAPPY?
If we’re looking for ways to be happier then I think it’s really important to first define what happiness is.
According to verywellmind.com, “Typically, happiness is an emotional state characterised by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfilment.”
1. Happiness is a long-term state of being
If you were asked whether you’re happy, how would you reply? Would you be thinking about the busy morning you’ve just had with the kids, how that meeting with your boss played out at work, or would you be thinking about your life more generally? Are you feeling settled, content and at peace in your life or out of sync and searching for something else?
Whilst joy is often a temporary emotion, happiness is more a long-term state of being.
2. Happiness is personal
Not only is feeling happy a long, rather than short-term frame of mind, happiness is also personal and subjective. My definition of happiness might be different to yours. After all, we’re all juggling our own unique set of challenges (kids, family, health, financial, work, emotional and more), responsibilities, priorities and values – many of which can also change over time.
Defining what it means to be happier can depend on who you ask.
3. Happiness requires an aerial perspective
Lastly, defining ‘happy’ depends on how you view happiness. You can either paint your own picture of happiness using a tiny, fine brush to define the small daily details or you can use big, sweeping strokes to give a broader, aerial perspective of how happy you are in life generally.
For me, happiness is not so much about whether I’ve met my latest work deadline, or cooked a meal the whole family will eat without fuss, or fitted into my favourite pair of jeans. These things might bring me short-term joy but for me, real happiness is about generally feeling content in life. At peace with who and where I am and satisfied that I’m living my days in alignment with my goals and dreams for life.
Sounds a bit airy-fairy and sugar-coated but, in reality, this definition is what gives my life meaning and that makes me happy!
That’s not to say that life doesn’t come with some ups and downs but if I’m generally feeling good about my life, painted in the broadest brushstrokes I can muster, then that’s what happiness means to me.
WHAT DETERMINES HOW HAPPY WE ARE?
I was listening to an audiobook the other day, The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz, and the author was explaining how happiness doesn’t increase with more money, choice and more consumption. Happiness levels in modern society are equal to, or lower than previous generations, so where are we going wrong?
I can’t speak for everyone, but for myself I know that I’m happier when I prioritise happiness. I have to work hard at it and I have to check in with my mind, body and heart regularly to make sure that my own happiness levels aren’t dipping. After all, it’s easy for the priorities of life around me to become more important than the priorities I have for myself.
So, if money can’t buy happiness and our busy, full and opportunity-rich lives are also not the key to being happier, then what determines how happy we are?
For me, the answer lies with Aristotle… “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
HAPPINESS DEPENDS UPON OURSELVES
Maybe it’s that happiness is not dependent on external factors, it comes from within. Yes, money and a stress-free job would help. So might close friends and a loving partner and nice holidays, but peace, contentment, satisfaction, fulfilment and meaning are achieved through what’s inside you and the actions, decisions and choices you make every day.
One of my favourite quotes is from Gretchen Rubin, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
When I don’t feel like exercise, journaling or making a healthy lunch, I remember her words.
I also remember these words when it comes to being happier. What things can I do regularly to be happier in my life?
They don’t need to be dependent on others or rely on external factors outside of my control. Instead, they’re to do with exploring our priorities, values, relationships, self-care, mindset and living a meaningful life – whatever that looks like to you.
Instead of measuring happiness in the moment, happiness is often a by-product that comes about when we work on all these other things.
Happiness depends on ourselves. Our actions and our reactions to what happens around us.
And briefly, to finish off my painting analogy from earlier, the canvas of your life might have a bumpy surface, full of peaks and troughs where paint collects. Depending on which brush you use, that paint can be too thick or too thin, but it’s easier to apply in broad, free and sweeping strokes than with a tiny, thin brush.
I love this analogy for exploring how happy I am in my own life. It reminds me not to get caught up in the tiny detail but to take a long-term, holistic and broader view of ways to be happy to paint a beautiful bigger picture – that start from the inside out.
20 WAYS TO BE HAPPIER
In this article I’d like to share 20 ways to be happier. They might not all work for you, and they might not work all the time, but I hope that they give you some ideas on how to invest in your self-care, mindset and personal growth as a foundation for building a happier life. Find time to slow down, be present, find meaning and show up for yourself and your life in the best way you can. Here are 20 ways to be happier in your every day.
1. Write a gratitude list
It’s difficult to feel down when you spend a moment appreciating how lucky you are! Check out these tips on how to write a gratitude list. Creating a regular gratitude practice can be such a powerful mindset tool in transforming negative thoughts to positive and can boost our mental wellbeing.
I love writing a diary or journaling because I love words and the power they give to the thoughts and actions that follow them. I can find clarity through seeing my jumbled thoughts take shape on paper. It helps me know what I’m really thinking and what, if anything, I need to do about it. Journaling is definitely a way of connecting with yourself and encouraging positive vibes when you’re feeling down for any reason. Here are some journal prompts for self-discovery if you’d like to explore your own feelings.
3. Change your scenery
Get some fresh air, give your body some exercise and notice the world around you and how beautiful it is. It doesn’t cost anything and walking is good for your body as well as your mind! Here are some other quick and simple self-care ideas that take 10 minutes or less. Walking, whether fast or slow, is a great way to change your scenery, not just your outer environment but also to give you space to think and change your internal perspective and scenery too.
4. Establish healthy daily routines
The little things that we do every day set the tone for how we feel and what we get done in the rest of life. By doing things little and often we can create structure and framework for our brains and our days. It could be keeping the home in order or getting fit and eating healthily. It might be carving out a little extra time each day to phone a friend, write in our journal or tackle that decluttering project. Think about your day and how it flows. Where can you save yourself time, stress and create a little more calm, peace and happiness? Try this article on 24 simple daily habits to make life easier for some ideas.
5. Live a life with less
Another plug for the simple life! Clutter costs us in so many ways. Living a life with less clutter allows you to focus on the things that are most important to you (and they’re usually ones that make you happier too!).
Less clutter in your home means a home that’s easier to manage. Less clutter in your schedule means more free time. What else could you have less of that could give you more in other ways?
Check out this post on how less is more and the benefits of simplifying life.
6. Deal with the biggest stress in your life
We feel unhappy sometimes because we have stuff going on that stresses us out or makes us feel bad. Find a way to deal with it by doing a brain dump. Seek clarity over exactly what’s causing you angst and come up with practical, realistic solutions that you can take action on instead of a fog of jumbled thoughts and worries that just stop you sleeping well at night.
7. Tackle the one thing on your To Do list that’s been bugging you
Stressed out by a task, errand or project that feels urgent, important or difficult to do in some way? Stop procrastinating and putting it off so you can turn your thoughts to happier ones. Tackle that one Most Important Task or that ‘big ugly frog’ as Mark Twain calls it. Get it done and out of the way. Goodbye!
For more tips on writing a simple, strategic To Do list that concentrates your mind and gets the right things done, check out these tips on how to write a great To Do list.
8. Listen to an inspirational podcast
Try pushing aside any negative thoughts for a while and fill your brain with motivating, encouraging and engaging information to make you feel more inspired, informed, positive and, hopefully, happier!
Side note: Robin Sharma’s book, The 5am Club, encourages us to think about our morning routines and spending a quiet hour working on ourselves before the day begins and our bodies and brains become distracted by the demands of the day. His 20/20/20 formula suggests that we spend 20 minutes doing each of the following – reflection, exercise and growth.
I love this idea and do a version of this myself each morning, including listening to a podcast (although not always 20 minutes of each). It’s a good way to incorporate three important aspects of self-care, mindset and personal growth into your day to help maintain your happiness levels!
9. Do something different
A change is as good as a break! Switch your routines around, forget about the housework for today, order takeaway instead of cooking, take a different route to work, head to the park with the kids instead of forcing yourself to hit the gym, try salad for lunch instead of a sandwich, switch your living room furniture around. Varying routine improves brain function so do something on a whim because you can and it makes you happy!
10. Be proud of yourself
We’re often harder on ourselves than we are on others. We say mean things to our inner self that we would never dream of saying to others. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion and stop being your own worst enemy! Write down your 5 biggest achievements in life and why you’re proud of them. You see, you ARE amazing! Does that make you feel happier?
11. Pay someone a compliment
Make someone else feel good and you’ll often feel better yourself. The joy is in the giving of the gift as much as in receiving it.
12. Define your priorities in life
Take the following areas of your life (family, relationships, home, work, leisure, spiritual, physical, financial, health and fitness), rate them in terms of importance to YOU and mark out of 10 how well you feel they’re going. Take 3 steps to improve the 3 areas which you’ve marked out as most important to you right now. For more ideas, try this article on how to define your priorities in life and why it matters.
13. Practice acceptance
This is where you’re at right now. Life changes and comes in seasons so your today might be different from your tomorrow. Accept what you have right now and appreciate it.
- You may have a demanding toddler and crave a little time for yourself, but that baby will grow up and won’t need you so much. Relish those precious times now.
- You might have a demanding job, but on the weekends it enables you to pay for sailing lessons or a break away.
- You might have overspent on a pair of shoes that you wore once and you’re guiltily reminded of them every time you open your wardrobe doors. Declutter those shoes without feeling wasteful.
Self-acceptance is vital to living your best, fullest and happiest life.
Journal prompt: What do you need to accept about yourself or your life right now? How can you use that acceptance and realisation going forward?
14. Live in the present moment
Have you seen the image of the dog sitting next to the man and the caption across the top asking who’s happier – the dog or the man? The dog is thinking about being right there with his owner, yet the man is thinking about a new car, a bigger house, more money.
It’s one of the most impactful images I’ve come across that teaches us to stop chasing dreams for sometime in the future and to live in the present moment instead.
More than that, it’s not always the big things that make us feel happier. The little things in life can bring us joy too.
15. Prioritise personal growth
Sometimes when we’re not feeling as happy as we’d like, it’s because there’s something ‘feeling off’ with our lives. Not only does it help to look at your priorities but it might be that you need to work on your own growth and self-development.
Think of ways to expand your mind, learn new things and experience new opportunities. Explore online classes, your local adult learning centre, the library, watch a documentary, take up a new hobby, learn a language, plan a holiday or day trip.
16. Seek support if you need it
We can’t be happy ALL the time as life throws so much at us and some challenges are tough to deal with. Feeling down from time to time helps us learn what we don’t like, as much as what we do, and this is just as valuable.
However, if feeling happy constantly evades you, seek out help from a professional who can help you find your way again. Here are some other ways to protect your mental health as well.
17. Celebrate the small wins
We don’t have to be doing stuff, achieving things or changing the world every day. You don’t even need to simplify your life every day! It’s enough to just get out of bed if that’s all you can manage. Listen to what you need. Your body will tell you when you’re too busy, but even those small victories in life can be worth celebrating.
18. Plan for change
People are a funny mixture. We get frustrated when things don’t change or move along, but we get unsettled when things change too much.
Plan for any changes that you’d like to make or you know are coming so that you can be ready and make the most of them when the time is right. You might like this article on 4 focus areas to make real changes in your life for some ideas.
19. Be authentic and guided by your values
Stay true to yourself. Know what makes you tick and what makes you feel like yourself. Stop trying to be like the next person or meet a certain set of criteria. Although we evolve and change as time passes, trust your gut and do what feels right to you. Be present in the here and now and listen to yourself. Stay true to the real you, not the person you feel you should be.
One way of doing this is to spend time identifying your values. What beliefs, ethics or goals are important to you? How do these motivate you to make choices and decisions and take action?
Some examples of values could be family, community, loyalty, independence, creativity, achievement but there are many, many more. Your unique combination of values can act as a kind of roadmap to guide you to living a life of meaning and fulfilment for YOU.
Journal prompt: Are you spending your time, energy, money and other resources on the things that matter most to you? If not, why?
20. Phone a friend
To differing degrees, human beings are social creatures and we thrive from building strong relationships. Chatting and laughing with someone who you trust can lift your heart and spirits. Friends help us talk through our worries, laugh at funny things that have happened to us, build our confidence and give us a kick up the **** when we need it.
One of the most interesting Ted Talks I’ve listened to is by Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. From the longest-running study on adult development, we learn that strong, close relationships are good for our bodies and brains and the cornerstone of a happy and healthy life.
MINDSET AND INTENTIONAL LIVING
Many of the ways to be happier that we’ve looked at in this article are to do with your mindset. How you think about things determines how you feel about them, and as we make many decisions based on our emotions, it’s quite important to understand why you feel how you do!
The other theme that weaves through my suggestions is intentional living. This is really just about deciding what you want from life and finding ways to make time and space for that to happen. Intentional living is about living on purpose rather than just drifting through life on auto-pilot.
I write a lot about intentional living but if you’re new to the idea and would like to learn more, you might enjoy this article on What Is Intentional Living? A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Meaningful Life.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WAYS TO BE HAPPIER
Being happy is a wonderful state of mind but unfortunately it’s not always permanent!
Life chucks things in our path to challenge and test us. Yet, even on those days when nothing’s going quite right, I hope these 20 ways to be happier will help you feel a little better. They might not all work for you but trust yourself, listen to what your body and mind needs and don’t be too hard on yourself!
I’d love to hear what YOU do to help yourself feel happier. Is happiness something you have to work at and prioritise? How do you balance your desire for happiness with the responsibilities and commitments of every day life? What changes or shifts have you made to find happiness in your every day? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Here are some more resources and articles to help you find ways to be happier in life, through self-care, mindset, simple and intentional living:
- How to Declutter Your Home and Life – Clearing clutter is often the first step to creating a simpler life, with more time, more ease and less stress. Decluttering isn’t always easy but this guide provides some helpful tips on how to declutter your home and life and make space for what matters most to you.
- Does Minimalism Make You Happier? Simplicity and Happiness – Minimalism has many benefits but does minimalism make you happier? Is there a relationship between simplicity and happiness? In this article I’m sharing my own personal perspective on whether minimalism can make us happier and, in some cases, why it can’t.
- Essential Mindsets to Help You Get More Out of Life – Making change or exploring something new starts within. In this article we look at some essential mindsets to help you get more out of life. If you’re exploring a simpler lifestyle, want to become clutter-free at home, in your schedule and in your heart, it all starts with your mindset.
- 10 Ways to Find Moments of Joy in Your Every Day – Life can feel tough sometimes. In this article I’m sharing 10 ways to find moments of joy in your every day. Little ways to bring happiness and comfort to your daily routine.
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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!