Everyone has a different view of what happiness is, but regardless of what your idea of happiness is, living a happier, more fulfilling life is attainable! It just requires a few adjustments to your daily habits and attitudes.
If you develop new habits and intentionally practice them regularly, you will be able to improve the quality of your life and overall well being.
So, why not ditch those bad habits and replace them with ones that will bring you more and more happiness everyday of your life!
Below are 20 steps to help you:
1. Choose Happiness
Happiness is a conscious decision. According to Elbert Hubbard, American writer, and philosopher, ‘happiness is a habit that we need to cultivate.’
2. Practice Gratitude
Research shows that having a grateful heart is good for your mental and physical health. Gratitude shifts people away from negative thinking, resentment, and bitterness.
In his book, “Authentic Happiness”, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligaman encourages readers to perform a daily “gratitude exercise”.
It involves listing a few things that make them grateful. This shifts people away from bitterness and despair and promotes happiness.
3. Foster Good Relationships
People who have one or more close friendships are happier. It doesn’t seem to matter if we have a large network of close relationships or not, what seems to make a difference is the quality of these relationships.
By close relationships, it means close friendships with people who care about you, relationships where you can express yourself freely.
Chris Peterson, founder of positive psychology states that “other people matter” in our overall well-being, so taking action to strengthen our relationships and build connections is important in fostering happiness.
4. Take Care Of Your Body
A short walk every day, a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, drink more water, and reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption are just a few simple steps towards improving your health.
Caring for your body also includes good self-care such as relaxation, leisure time, creativity, enjoying your hobbies. Relaxing reduces stress and muscle tension which can trigger other conditions.
Getting adequate sunshine is also good for the body – 20 mins of sunshine a day improves mood and wards off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
5. Be Positive
Having a positive attitude to life is essential in cultivating happiness. Do you see the glass half-full or half-empty? Half-full, I hope, but don’t worry if you don’t, this can change.
If you choose to see the positive in all situations, you will feel so much better. Every difficult experience can become an opportunity for growth. If you can learn to look at life this way, it’s actually very difficult to feel unhappy, as every obstacle becomes an interesting challenge for you.
The mind is powerful and drives all our actions and behaviours. Change your thoughts and you will change your life. You have the ability to create your own happiness by thinking happy thoughts.
You are in control of your thinking. For example, if you catch yourself thinking “I’m so stupid! you idiot” .. you could counteract this thought with “I am an intelligent, smart, creative person.” Catch your thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations that counteract the negative thought. Negativity leads to unhappiness.
6. Forgive Everyone
Yes, everyone! Why not forgive everyone in your life, as far back as you can remember. This might sound a bit extreme, but to be really free, it is good to let go of all grievances.
Letting go of past grievances frees us up so we can enjoy the present. Forgiving others will bring you freedom and joy. When we forgive we are letting the person off the hook, but that does not mean we have to approve of their wrong behaviour.
According to R T Kendall, we can achieve total forgiveness with anyone. We become fully aware of what someone has done and yet we still forgive them.
Forgiveness is essential for your personal growth and happiness. We cannot be truly happy if we’re harbouring old hurts or resentments.
Kendall says total forgiveness is possible, but it’s a choice, a conscious decision. Forgiving people who have hurt you deeply can be a long process, so go easy on yourself.
In the Bible, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18: 21-22)
Why forgive? Because it will make you happy and bring you peace. What others do with your forgiveness is their choice, but you do it so you can be happy and free!
Another important factor in forgiveness is learning to forgive ourselves for the things we have done to others and also forgiving ourselves for holding a grudge against others.
7. Be Comfortable With Who You Are
Like yourself! This is essential to living a happy life. Accept yourself and honour your uniqueness. There is no one like you in all the world. Self-acceptance is crucial to health and happiness. The relationship you have with yourself determines the health of your personality. The more you like and respect yourself the more you like and respect others.
Albert Ellis, a renowned psychologist described two choices with regard to self-acceptance; accepting ourselves conditionally (ie. only under certain conditions, for example when we succeed) or unconditionally (under all circumstances). The first choice, he says “is deadly”. If we don’t fulfill the conditions we set for ourselves, and so fail, we think of ourselves as a loser or good for nothing, rather than accepting failing as a normal part of life and learning from it.
Let your light shine, believe in yourself, and remind yourself that you have a lot to bring to the world and you are of great value. You were not a random accident, you were created for a purpose and God longs for you to live it.
8. Take Time Off To Relax And Recharge
Stop working so hard and give yourself a well-deserved break. Workaholism is so common nowadays that we’ve come to accept it as a quality to attain in life, but in fact, research has shown that workaholism is a form of escape, like many other addictions, although it hasn’t yet been named as a mental disorder.
Why do we think working ourselves to the bone is somehow noble and praiseworthy? There are some theories on this, but one of the main ones in the Western World comes from The Protestant Work Ethic.
The Protestant work ethic is what Western Capitalism is built upon. The teaching promotes hard work and self-denial as a way to salvation and shuns anything less than hard work as lazy, leading to eternal damnation!
Of course, this is a false teaching and is far from what Jesus actually speaks about in the bible.
As a Christian, I know the bible says some things about idleness and how it can destroy good people. The Bible always states that hard work brings great rewards, while laziness leads to ruin.
“Lazy hands make for poverty” (Proverbs 10:4)
But the message is clear, we are not to become slaves to our work, but to work with joy and ease.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was telling the people not to worry about food saying that even the birds are provided for by God. And then he went on to say.. “Consider the lilies.”
“And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Matthew 6:28
Jesus was simply saying that the birds and lilies do not labour or spin (spinning refers to spinning thread) and yet they are well provided for. The Lord provides for those who believe and trust in Him.
So, enjoy your work, but remember to keep a healthy balance between work and rest. Happiness is found in a balanced life.
9. Write It Down!
Journaling is a great way to relieve stress and to gain some perspective. By putting your thoughts down on paper you are giving your mind a rest. When life gets tough and starts to throw us some hard blows, we can often get confused in our thinking.
Writing it down gets it out of you. It releases the pent up emotions and frees you up. I always feel good after journaling! It’s a good way to manage your emotions and get to know yourself better.
Sometimes journaling becomes pages of frustration and anger, but often pearls of wisdom and revelations come from it too. You have to clear the junk away before the insights begin to flow.
If you haven’t tried journaling, give it a go for a few months. It’s a nice way to relax and cultivate a happier life.
If you haven’t left your hometown in a while, then think about travelling around your own country. It’s very easy to get stuck into a routine and not even think about venturing out a bit further.
The familiar brings comfort and a sense of safety, but it can also stifle us. Travelling to new places gets us in touch with our sense of adventure and it’s fun!
You will also learn so much about history, culture, food, not to mention seeing the breathtaking landscapes and wonders of the world!
11. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Travel is only one way to get out of your comfort zone, but there are many other ways to do this. It really depends on what your life is like today. Where do you live, with whom and what do you do with your time?
What is our comfort zone?
Your comfort zone is a way that you live that makes you feel safe and in control. It means security and familiarity are of great importance to you, as both of these things bring you a sense of personal power and safety.
People living in their comfort zone like to have knowledge of their environment, be it work, home, or community. When they know everything about their environment, it gives them more authority and responsibility, and with that comes respect, honour, and praise.
Although all these things are good in themself, the problem comes when the person is doing it out of a sense of fear. They are afraid to step out of the boat to see if they have something else within them that wants to live.
By stepping out of your comfort zone, you are showing that you believe in yourself and you also believe that there is more out there to be discovered.
When you take a leap of faith, you are stepping into the unknown and tapping into your God-given potential.
12. Live Simply
Simplifying your life is not as easy as it sounds. Most people today don’t even see it as a good thing. That’s because we’re living in a consumer society and the accumulation of possessions has become the norm.
But, what does the accumulation of stuff do for your soul? Do you really need all the things that you have? And why do you even have them?
Do you know that hoarding is actually bad for your physical health, not to mention your mental health?
In an article titled, Compulsive Hoarding Syndrome, it states that hoarders live with so much clutter that it may endanger their physical health.
‘Dirt, insects, and bacteria that form over time can cause sickness.’ (Davis & Watson, Science In The News).
So, maybe it’s time to start to declutter your life! You will feel a lot happier 😊
13. Learn Something New
Learning new things is a great way of finding more happiness in your life. The reason life gets dull and boring is that, although your comfort zone brings security and comfort, it also leaves you feeling a bit frustrated because you know deep down that you could be doing more with your life.
Sometimes we get stuck and don’t even notice it, but other times we just don’t want to bother! It’s just too much effort to change. If you are living with a feeling of inertia right now, but don’t know what to do about it. The first step is to start moving.
Yes, that’s how to do it. Take the first step and then the next and so on. For example, if you want to return to University as a mature student or start your own business, the first step could be to start researching what subjects you’d like to study or what business you would like to start.
14. Feel What You Feel
Unfortunately, our feelings and emotions can be a huge obstacle to us living a happy, healthy life. We have so many fears and apprehensions that they cause us to doubt ourselves and resist the very things we need in life. See my previous blog, discover the benefits of emotional expression by learning how to experience and express your emotions effectively.
How To Manage My Emotions?
Learning to manage your emotions is key to living a happy life. Most of us were not trained to manage our emotions well, but we must learn it if we are to mature and live happy fulfilling lives.
There are many ways to start learning this. We are living in an Information Age where it is possible to learn almost anything if you want to. The internet is full of resources that will help you to achieve your goals.
Also there are many self help books, courses, workshops, seminars and personal counsellors and coaches to help you.
But, here are a few simple steps to get you started :
- Take time everyday to reflect
- Check in with your feelings on a regular basis
- Write down any difficult emotions and share them with a friend or counsellor
- Feel what you feel and don’t judge it (it is what it is)
- Know that running from the feelings does not work long term
- Avoid addictive behaviours when your feelings are uncomfortable
- Meditate or pray
Sleep is good for your health and happiness
Make sure you get adequate sleep. Everyone is different, some people can function very well on 6 hours sleep a night, where as others need 8 – 10 hours per night.
Get to know your body clock and what works best for you. We need sleep for good mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Sleeping is a time when we process the day and allow the body to rest and recharge.
16. Plan Your Day
It is good to have a plan for each day, but you can be flexible with it too. Any form of rigidity isn’t good for us and it certainly doesn’t help our relationships as sometimes we need to be able to accommodate others unexpectedly.
Saying that, do try to keep to your plans as it will give you a good sense of accomplishment at the end of each day.
Writing down what needs to be done the following day often works quite well, but don’t have a list of 100 things to do or you’ll dread getting out of bed in the morning.
A rule of thumb is, have 3 important things that you need to accomplish each day and do your best to get them done. If you get them done, you’ll feel great!
People feel happy when they accomplish things, even the simple daily tasks will bring you a deep sense of joy and satisfaction.
We all know we spend far too much time on our computers and let’s face it, it’s part of daily life nowadays and we love the connectedness of it all! I can instantly chat with a friend on the other side of the world. Amazing!
But even so, do try to unplug from all your electronic devices for a period of time every day, depending on your use. For some 2 hours would be too much, but just learn to take a break and disconnect. It’s okay, you won’t die if you sit in silence for a short time each day.
For some sitting doing nothing is very difficult, so if that’s you, maybe go for a walk. When you move away from your work for a while, it gives you time to process all the information and new ideas come.
18. Be Authentic
‘Authenticity is the quality of being genuine or real.’ (Vocabulary.com)
Authenticity is highly valued, but what does it actually mean to be authentic? It generally means the authentic person is being true to themselves and is able to communicate this to others in a sensitive, mature way.
“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect and vulnerable. We have to believe that we are fundamentally worthy of love and acceptance, just as we are. I’ve learned that there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity.” (Brené Brown)
The characteristics of an authentic person:
They are usually honest, kind, trustworthy, open, true to themselves, humble, respectful, good listeners, and fair.
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde
19. Celebrate Small Victories
Don’t be hard on yourself, a job well done deserves a reward. If you’ve worked really hard on a project or task, celebrate! I don’t mean having a big party, but just doing something nice for yourself, like buying yourself something, going out for lunch or dinner, or whatever you consider being a treat.
Last but not least, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to pray, just find a way to connect with the living God (Jesus) who cares for you and hears your prayers. We are not alone, and as soon as we start to connect with our Creator, the more, peace, love, and joy we will have.
In this article, I haven’t spoken about joy, but joy is a virtue that comes from knowing God. Without God, maybe a nonbeliever has moments of joy, but the long-lasting joy that comes from knowing God is different from happiness.
It’s different because you can experience joy in the midst of sorrow, whereas happiness is dependent upon having good things happen.
Remember, happiness is in your hands. It’s a decision. You have the power to make happiness a constant way of being in your life. Some people choose to be miserable, they like to complain as maybe it feels good to whine, but that’s not a satisfying way to live.
Choose to be happy and take the steps towards becoming a happier person today!