1. Find joy in the present moment.
When we are unhappy, we tend to focus on things outside of our current state of being. When we look beyond the present circumstances happiness can be a simple feeling to find, even in difficult moments. Sure, the present moment might hold the piece of frustrating information that drained you emotionally, but if we go beyond that into the actual present second, and we move beyond situational things into our senses - we can find joy in our ability to feel the wind on our skin. We can find happiness in wiggling our toes. We can smile at the birds outside of our window.
2. Take time to have fun.
Life is too short. I know. People say this all the time. But do we really believe it? Do we actually live our lives as if our time is limited? Or are we completely okay with grinding day in and day out because our schedules have become a habit?
Life is really too short to stop yourself from having fun because of an endless list of obligations. Before the crazy list of all of the reasons why you can’t drop your responsibilities pop up in your mind, let me tell you I am no saying to just abandon your life. I’m simply saying that if you can squeeze in an episode (or 10) of binge watching some show you despise on Netflix, you have time to do something you actually enjoy. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It just needs to bring you joy. Go for a walk. Bake a cake. Put on your favorite song. Anything to get your mind off of the stress in your life . Anything to spread a little joy.
3. Read and watch things that inspire you.
Okay, if you’re going to watch something on Netflix for a million hours on the weekend, try to find something that lifts your spirit. It doesn’t have to be automatically identifiable as inspirational content, but it can be. I watched a documentary all about intuition on Netflix, and I love it so much I watched it another two times! It made me think. It sparked a lot of curiosity. And let me down a rabbit hole of research. But for me, that’s fun!
Maybe your version of fun is TED talks, maybe it’s romantic comedies, maybe it’s action movies, interviews, or stand up specials… Whatever it is, sometimes it’s nice to let someone else ignite that spark of curiosity and possibility in your heart.
4. Spend time outside.
I used to be very skeptical about any piece of advice that said sunshine makes you feel better. Until I got my dog, and had to walk him on a daily basis. Once I got over being frustrated that I had to change my schedule, I began to pay attention to how absolutely beautiful it is to spend more than an hour outside. So spend a little time outside. Go to different places - parks, beaches, hiking grounds, lakes, your balcony or backyard… and see which one makes you smile. Then do your best to go there on at least a weekly basis.
5. Find a way to move your body (that you enjoy).
Common advice will tell you that exercise makes your endorphins go crazy and you end up feeling like your feet don’t touch the ground. But that never happened to me when I went to the gym. It felt like a chore for the most part. Until I found the type of exercise I enjoyed.
When I started squatting and deadlifting, I didn’t despise the gym anymore. And when I added yoga to my life on a consistent basis, it was the first time in my life when I actually looked forward to physical activity. What I’m trying to say here is that exercise on it’s own might not cut it for your happiness plans. Test out different types of movement until you find something that actually resonates with who you are. That bit of joy makes all the difference.
6. Get out of your comfort zone.
Exploration is a huge part of finding new things that will bring about happiness in your life. Even if we go out of our comfort zone and end up doing something we ultimately don’t enjoy, the experience of doing something new brings an awareness and focus to your life that might have been lacking before. Get curious about the world around you. Become engaged. See what happens.
7. Reconnect with an old friend.
When you miss someone, you might become filled with all kinds of worries. You might decide you can’t contact them because it’s already been too long and it would feel weird to pop back into their life out of nowhere. You might decide that the last time you spoke you two were on bad terms so bringing up old wounds won’t help anyone.
Well, stewing in your own frustration and dissatisfaction with the present moment won’t exactly help anyone either. When you miss someone, call them. When you’re thinking about someone, tell them. Not because of what you want to happen. Not because you think they’ll be so excited to hear from you and your relationship will be rekindled. Reach out to that person simply because your heart is calling you to do it. Contact them for your own wellbeing. Talk to them because you’ll know you did what was in your power - to let them know how you felt.
8. Make time for the people you love.
Our lives can get so chaotic that we miss out on spending time with the people we’re already in relationships with. When was the last time you said more than hi and by to your spouse? Your sibling? Your parents? Your best friends? Make time to schedule a lunch date with someone you care about. Put it on your calendar. No excuses.
9. Make time to be with yourself.
If we don’t even have enough time to spend with the people we love, typically, we don’t take enough time to be with ourselves. You might be wondering how much sense this makes… considering we walk around this world as ourselves on a daily basis. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean when was the last time you took yourself on a date? When was the last time you did something completely alone, simply because you wanted to do it? No rushing. No timelines. No desired outcomes. Just pure joy with yourself.
Self-dates are amazing opportunities to explore what you really like to do. Most of the time we’re compromising - with spouses, children, parents, bosses… a little of what you want and a lot of what they want - just to keep the peace. It’s time to make your own peace! Just like we schedule time to be with other people, scheduling time to be with ourselves unconditionally can refill our soul-tanks quickly.
10. Be lazy (without guilt).
How often do we allow ourselves to simply exist without rushing and planning and executing? It might be time to redefine laziness as time for recharging so that you can actually take time to relax.
11. Write down your dreams and goals.
Dare to dream big! This is another one of those phrases I think we throw around to sound cool more than we live the meaning of the phrase. You are not limited to the life you’re experiencing at this moment. Whether you absolutely love your life right now or not, you have the ability to create new dreams and goals. You have the capacity to pursue them.
Things don’t have to stay the way they are right now. But they will, if you don’t allow yourself the space to dream. Play with it - what future plans would you like to make? What makes you excited? What have you always wanted to do that seemed just a little bit out of reach? How would your life change if you believed you could do it?
12. For each negative thought you have, call attention to the bright side.
I’m not saying that we should ignore every single negative thought we have. I actually think negativity serves a really important purpose. I’m simply saying that understanding a situation from a well-rounded perspective can be an amazing resource when trying to live a happier life. So what if your refrigerator just broke down? (Other than the fact that you now have another thing to add to your already long list of things to do, and half of your food spoiled, and now you need to find extra money to get a new fridge…) See? Acknowledging the frustrating aspects of the situation here… But, is there a bright side? It is fun to look at all of the new fridges out there? Is it nice to not have to cook for a little while? Is it exciting to save money? Are you learning how to make changes quickly? Is there now an opportunity to get help from someone you’ve been wanting to have a closer relationship with anyway?
Sometimes the happiness hides in places we never expected to find it. Believe me, when I used to hear this piece of advice, I’d get really upset. I used to feel like I was lying to myself. How can I say something is positive when it’s negative? I’m obviously just trying to trick myself into believing something so I’ll feel better. I felt like that for the first couple of months I was working on this happiness technique. Until I realized that something is only bad or good because we decide to label it that way. We can find evidence for nearly anything. If you want to feel crappy about something, you definitely can. But that also means an opportunity for a silver lining is right under your nose.
13. Meditate, (or do something to calm and center your mind) when you first wake up in the morning.
Aside from the fact that meditation is said to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve sleep quality, and reduce stress… it allows your brain to take a rest from the constant work we put it through. Don’t think you can sit in silence for more than 2 seconds? It’s okay. Try a walking meditation - where you’re simply moving through life being completely focused and mindful about the world around you. Not judging the world, not labeling anything as good or bad, but simply observing. Don’t think you can hack it on your own? Try out my favorite guided meditations! These often help me fall asleep so be careful… don’t listen to them while driving.
14. Question your assumptions.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself if things are really as frustrating as they seem? What’s really amazing is that right after I wrote that question down… I immediately had to question myself. I’ve been a little frustrated lately, and I JUST reminded myself to question my assumptions.
Look, worry and fear are a part of human nature. Those feelings are supposed to protect us from danger… but in our modern reality, worry and fear can do more harm than good. We might not feel fantastic about a particular situation, but sometimes questioning our assumptions can lead us to understand that things might not be as bad as we think they are. If I don’t end up asking myself “Are things really as frustrating as they seem?” I’ll swap it out for, “Is what I’m thinking actually 100% true?”
15. Recognize one thing you love about yourself before you go to bed each night.
Let’s face it, we can’t rely on other people to give us the compliments we think we deserve. Other people are too worried about doing their own thing. So give yourself the compliments you want to hear. Tell yourself you did an amazing job. Let yourself know you look amazing in that outfit. Tell yourself you’re proud of everything you’ve accomplished.
16. Give your full and complete focus to your current task.
Practicing mindfulness has changed my life. I’m not saying I never experience negative emotions. I’m definitely not saying I never worry about things. (See #14 again). But I will admit that I’m not debilitated by anxiety anymore. I’m not furious at life anymore. I’m not overly critical of myself anymore. (Although some days are better than others). I haven’t experienced anywhere near the level of stress and frustration I used to go through.
I will definitely contribute some of my peace to practicing mindfulness. Paying attention to the present moment. Notice what’s happening around you, and realize that your feelings are related to a particular understanding of your experience. Give your feelings the space to exist. Don’t judge them. Simply offer yourself space and time. Don’t worry about how this feeling will affect tomorrow. Just be there. Focus. Let that be enough.
17. Experience love (both giving and receiving).
I’ll be the first to admit that after getting off of the phone with my Mom, I feel like a brand new person. We’ve learned to develop an amazing relationship and I’m so, so thankful for her presence, wisdom, and interest. Our conversations energize me. I truly believe our conversations are an exchange of love that fuels the rest of my day. Love has a tendency to do that. It’s like the ultimate battery. When you exchange that type of strong energy with another person, your happiness tank fills way up.So who fills you up in your life? Make sure you show them love as much as they show it to you. Build an exchange. (Hi, Mom! Love you!)
18. Allow yourself feel sad without guilt, or wishing you felt better in the moment.
When we can’t find the silver lining (or simply aren’t ready to see it for ourselves yet) we still have the ability to simply let ourselves feel sad. Yes, this is a post about finding happiness but ultimately happiness comes from experiencing the fullness of life. Letting ourselves flow through our emotions as if we are watching them happen can free us from feeling trapped.
We don’t have to be upset that we are sad, we can just feel the weight of the situation until it lessens. Doing this really does make space for more peace and contentment in life. Don’t be upset with yourself for being human.
19. Stop depriving yourself!
Speaking of being human… I don’t think drastic depravation will get us anywhere positive. If you’re excited about something, happy about something, really interested in something let yourself experience it. Wear the outfit. Dye your hair. Take the class. Go on the date. And if the thing you’re interested in is a little more involved, find joy in learning about the thing first. Read about it. Listen to other people’s perspective. Do your research, and find joy in excavating the truth.
20. Get rid of things you don’t need / don’t use / don’t enjoy.
I had my own experience with minimalism. And although my version didn’t end up looking like what the “popular” version of minimalism is, getting rid of things that were no longer useful to me offered so much clarity. Getting rid of things that don’t serve a purpose in your life creates space for new amazing things that you love to enter!
21. Consider the big picture.
Take time to think about what you actually want to experience in life. What do you think your life purpose might be? Answer these questions for fun, not necessarily to remain locked into that particular mission. Be open to your perspective changing over time. Be excited that your perspective will probably change over time… this change means you’re growing and giving yourself space to become an even more amazing version of yourself!
22. Learn to say no when you want to. (And yes when you want to).
How often do you say yes to something because you believe you have to? Probably way too many times! Do you really have to go to that birthday party that you have absolutely no interest in? Do you really have to have small talk with the old classmate you ran into at the mall? Do you really need to go to the dinner or shave your legs tonight? Try giving yourself a new set of rules to play by. Not everything is written in stone.
23. Practice empathy and compassion.
One of the biggest reasons for stress and sadness is often related to our inability to see things from multiple perspectives. When we are upset with another person, we’re usually expecting a particular behavior from them. When we practice empathy, we understand things from their perspective. We can dig deeply into why they did something, why they said something… and we can begin to understand that their actions in the moment were the best they knew how to do. We can offer compassion - attempting to feel what that person felt, attempting to offer them love and support despite their behavior. We can understand that they’re suffering, and when we can do this, our anger, sadness, and frustration can dissipate.
24. Go on a happiness scavenger hunt.
When we can’t find a smudge of happiness in our own world, and there doesn’t seem to be any hope in our thought process, it might be time to take your happiness search outside. Look for all things happy. Happy people, happy babies, happy pets, happy plants, happy skies, happy rain, happy clothes, happy food… you name it!
The great thing about this process is that you get to define happy for yourself. No one else can tell you what happy food looks like. You get to pick. If it makes you happy, call it happy. It if puts a smile on someone else’s face (even if you think the food doesn’t look particularly happy), call it happy! Determine your own happiness criteria, and look for it in as many places as you can go. Maybe you don’t even go far. Maybe you only look out of your window. I bet that by the end of your scavenger hunt, you’ll be smiling!
25. Pay attention to your values.
Different strokes for different folks, right? Everyone will think that certain things are more important than others. Your values won’t always match up with the people around you. Coming to terms with that is a huge part of keeping your happy pants on. Standing firm in your values is also a huge part of those happy pants. The closer your life aligns with your list of values, the closer you are to being truly fulfilled. No one else’s values have to match up. Only yours.
Of course, I write these things to say that everything you do (especially the first couple of times you do it), will be more of an experiment than a fact.
You might try one of these things to find more happiness and discover that it really frustrates you. You might say no to something and really upset someone. You’ll have to come to terms with the outcomes. You’ll have to figure out what you’re okay with doing and what doesn’t sit well with you.
There will be some trial and error, but that’s also the beauty of discovering your happiness. It doesn’t look like everyone else’s happiness. And it shouldn’t. Your own happiness probably won’t even look like your own after a couple of years.
I'm not saying that implementing these practices will be easy. But there is a decision to be made. Would you rather practice happiness and trust? Do you want to allow the darkness to inspire light within you?
This is life! This is the process of existing! Only you can decide what happiness tactic you want to dive into. And only you can decide when to come up for air.
& yes, some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, which means I'd get commission if you purchase the item. But don't worry! I'm only suggesting these because I personally love them, and I genuinely think they'll be truly helpful to you.