Life is so busy, hectic and filled with challenges. There are also myriad opportunities for personal enrichment, satisfaction, friendship, love, finding purpose and doing good for others. Still, while the desire for and pursuit of happiness can sometimes seem elusive or fleeting, there are effective ways to increase your happiness.
Find joy in the little things.
For most people, life consists of an accumulation of small moments. There are, of course, momentous events that occur in a person’s life that can precipitate a dramatic shift, changing direction, embarking on a new path. Still, everyday life goes on, populated with small, seemingly inconsequential moments. It is in the little things that you can find your joy and boost feelings of happiness. When you allow yourself to be joyful, it’s easier to find joy. While that may sound too good to be true, it works. Feel the deliciousness of descending into cool water in a lake on a hot day. Savor the aroma and taste of a favorite meal and enjoy the presence of loving family. These are the little things that are too often taken for granted, yet they are great contributors to happiness.
Start each day with a smile.
This is more than a simple suggestion. It’s backed by science. When you smile, you not only trigger smile muscles in others, according to research, you also benefit. Smiling activates neural brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness. It also feels good to smile, especially when you do it regularly.
Connect with others.
The power of social connection to boost happiness and well-being is another area explored by researchers. The construct of time, for example, motivates people to choose being with family and friends more than working – behaviors associated with greater happiness. Other research found that happiness is a “collective phenomenon,” with people’s happiness dependent on the happiness of those with whom they connect.
Do what you’re most passionate about.
If you get swept up in what you do for a living, barely noticing the passage of time, or can’t wait to get to your job or do things with your children or participate in an activity with friends, you’re engaging in what you find most passionate. Pursuing your passions is highly conducive to increased happiness and, contrary to a mistaken notion that to do so is selfish, when you do what you’re most passionate about, you’re helping develop your potential, broadening your horizons and contributing to higher self-esteem and overall well-being.
Reflect on your blessings and be grateful.
Everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Most of us have many, many blessings. A simple ritual of daily reflection is enough to center in on them and allows us to take a few moments to express personal gratitude for all that we have been given in life. Good health, loving family, satisfying relationships, an enjoyable career – the list is endless and highly personal. There’s also a scientific basis for the statement that gratitude helps increase happiness, demonstrating that it also helps protect you from negativity, stress, depression and anxiety.
Choose to be positive and see the best in every situation.
A positive attitude is scientifically proven to increase happiness and well-being. How can you develop a positive attitude and learn to see the best in everything? It does take practice and a willingness to confront your fears and reject their power to control you. If you’ve always seen life as a glass half-empty proposition, turn that assumption around and strive to see situations as a glass half-full. Other research has found that positive emotions can even counteract the effects of adversity.
Take steps to enrich your life.
Seeking knowledge, exploring unknown areas, pushing yourself to go beyond your current skill set or experience, striving to learn something new – these are steps each of us can take to not only enrich our life but also maximize personal joy and happiness.
Create goals and plans to achieve what you want most.
If you expect or desire to achieve a certain standard of living, aspire to earn a college degree, receive a promotion, buy a house, marry and have children or any other goal you find meaningful and purposeful, you must identify the goal first and then create action plans to help you achieve what you want.
Live in the moment.
Worry about the past or anxiety over the future are both counterproductive and a waste of time. Instead, to add to your happiness quotient, change your mindset so that you live in the present. Another way of saying this is to be present. When you focus on now, this moment, you are more aware of your surroundings, your breath, how you feel, what’s going on with your loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, other drivers and everything in your immediate environment. You’re alive and fully aware of it. Being present is a proactive way to increase your happiness and something anyone can do.
Be good to yourself.
Overeating, drinking too much, staying up all hours and other bad habits aren’t good for you physically or mentally. Instead, embark on a lifestyle that includes healthy behaviors: eat nutritious foods, cut down or cut out alcoholic intake, get sufficient and restful sleep, hydrate well, exercise regularly and take frequent breaks so that you give yourself breathing time between tasks. You’ll be healthier and happier because of being good to yourself.
Ask for help when you need it.
There are times when you know you’re overwhelmed and will not be able to finish what you started. In addition, you may run into unexpected problems or difficulties while you’re working at a task or pursuing a goal and don’t know what to do about it. There’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. In fact, it’s a sign of good mental health and a positive attitude that you’re comfortable doing so. Another person may have a suggestion that works or discussing what’s perplexing you may stimulate a solution you hadn’t realized before. Similarly, if you’re bogged down with financial problems, asking for assistance to overcome them will help you figure out a path to get past this difficulty. Asking for help allows you to get unstuck and move ahead toward your goals.
Let go of sadness and disappointment.
Why torment yourself with thoughts of how sad you are or how disappointed you feel because you didn’t immediately succeed in a task or goal, lost a friend or loved one, can’t pay your bills or don’t see a clear path to your future? Stewing in sadness and disappointment will only further erode your feelings of self-worth and chip away at your self-esteem, not to mention cause your happiness to plummet. Let go of those toxic feelings. Seek professional counseling if the problem worsens or doesn’t go away after two weeks. Remember, you deserve to be happy. To get there, ditch negative emotions and replace them with more uplifting ones.
There are many forms of mindfulness and meditation, sometimes called mindfulness meditation. Whichever style you prefer, when you find one that fits, make regular use of it. One example is loving kindness meditation — opening hearts to positive emotions. Research shows that it not only increases positive emotions, but also personal resources and well-being. This type of meditation has many other benefits, including increasing social connectedness.
Walk in nature.
The benefits of getting outside and walking in nature have long been documented as easy, convenient ways to increase happiness. For one thing, the physical act of exercise releases endorphins in your brain that elevate mood and make you feel better. Walking in nature also highlights other aspects of joyful, happy living such as a greater appreciation of natural beauty, thankfulness that you’re alive and healthy enough to be physically active, helping to tone your body and improve cardiovascular, lung and other vital bodily functions.
Laugh, and make time for play.
It’s almost impossible to see someone else laugh and not be affected by it. Indeed, laughter is not only contagious, it also constitutes a big part of play. What is playing? It is the act of doing what gives you pleasure, engaging in discovery, letting your creativity flow. Laughter can reduce levels of stress and inflammation and benefit heart functioning.
* * *
This article was originally published on Psych Central.
To automatically get my posts, sign up for my RSS feed.
Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more.