Sometimes happiness can seem elusive. With our crazed lifestyles and busy schedules, it can be hard to remember to take some time out for yourself to breathe, relax, and tap into the things that make you feel good. If it seems like you’ve fallen off the happy wagon or if you’re doing okay but wouldn’t mind boosting your happiness even more, check out these 15 tips for increasing happiness in your life.
1. Be Mindful
Do you savor the experience of sitting down for a meal, paying attention to the colors, tastes, textures, smells and flavors? Or do you rush through dinner so quickly you can barely remember it once it’s over? What about your workouts? Do you hurry through them or do you stop to notice which muscles you’re working? If you run outside, are you even noticing the scenery? Purposely paying attention engages us in our lives and makes it likely that we’ll be happier, according to a Harvard study. Take a few minutes and really pay attention to your life.
2. Be Grateful
Taking the time to call your friend and thank her for her words of encouragement or writing a letter to your aunt thanking her for the birthday card can do wonders for your soul. In a University of California Davis study, practicing gratitude led to a 25 percent increase in happiness. What are you thankful for today? Think about it. Write it down in a notebook. Say thank you to someone. You’ll feel so much better.
3. Get Some Exercise
Daily exercise – even small amounts of exercise – can do wonders for your mood. In a study cited in the book The Happiness Advantage, study participants treated their depression with either medicine, exercise, or a combination. All three groups experienced increased happiness. A follow-up six months later found that 38 percent of those who used medicine alone slipped back into depression, whereas only 9 percent of those who used only exercise relapsed.
4. Be Playful
Have you ever noticed how happy kids look when they’re playing on the playground? You can bring that sense of play into your adult life. Try something new – take a trampoline aerobics or stand-up paddle-boarding class. Order something adventurous off the menu at a new restaurant. Play with your kids. Enjoy family game night. Playtime can boost creativity, help you find new solutions to problems, and make you feel more present in your life.
5. Flip The Way You Think About Setbacks
We’ve all heard about famous actors, directors, scientist, athletes, and politicians who failed before they succeeded. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and Steven Spielberg was rejected from film school. Clearly they didn’t let their defeats crush their drives. If you don’t get called back for a second interview or if a promotion goes to a coworker instead of you, think about what you can learn from the experience. Strive to do better next time. Make the decision to keep going instead of quitting. Think what would have happened if Michael Jordan or Steven Spielberg quit. Let defeat propel you to do better.
6. Give Time And Energy To Your Relationships
A common pitfall of modern life is getting so busy, we convince ourselves we don’t have time to hang out with the people who mean the most to us. How can we carve out time to meet up for Happy Hour when we have that big deadline looming? If we meet a friend for coffee, that big to-do list will still be waiting when we come back. Best to skip social time, right? Wrong. Relationships are good for our health and happiness. Make time for the people you care about. Shower your friends and family with love and you’ll feel more connected to them, which in turn will lead to increased happiness.
A 2012 study found children are happier giving than receiving. It’s true: giving back feels good. Whether you’re donating $5 to a cause you care about, spending an afternoon planting trees, or volunteering at a retirement center or school classroom once a week, performing acts of kindness will improve your sense of community, purpose and self-image.
8. Get Up And Leave The Office
To make yourself happier at work, make sure you’re not just sitting at your desk eight hours a day. Throughout the day, get up and get outside. Take a walk around the block. Remove yourself from the office and remind yourself there’s an entire world that exists beyond it.
Those comedies you love watching? They’re not a waste of your time. They’re important for your health. Laughing makes you happier, so laugh away.
10. Keep The Complaining To A Minimum
We all need to vent about things from time to time. But if you’re constantly complaining about things, you may get yourself stuck in a cycle of negativity. You also may start viewing yourself as a victim who has no control over the situations life hands out. Empower yourself by keeping the complaining to a minimum and finding positive things to focus on instead.
11. Find An Affirmation Or Mantra That Speaks To You
It may feel silly at first, but finding a positive phrase you can repeat to yourself daily can help to put you into a good head space. Think of happiness as a self-fulfilling prophecy and use your affirmation or mantra to inspire and motivate you. An example would be “I’m stronger every day” or “I feel happy with my life.”
12. Identify Your Strengths
Everyone is good at something and most people are good at many things. If you’re feeling stressed in your life, it may be time to reevaluate your skills and strengths. Are you creative? Maybe you should take up painting or find a craft project to occupy your time. Are you good at listening to others? Paying a visit to a friend and feeling valued may help you when you’re having a rough day. Think about what makes you a good worker, or daughter, or wife, or friend. Focus on the things that make you great and you’ll feel energized and empowered.
13. Work Toward A Goal
Sign up for a 5K. Commit yourself to a new project at work. Agree with your spouse that this will be the weekend you clean out your closets and take things to Goodwill. Taking the steps to work toward a goal makes you feel good about yourself. Feeling accomplished makes you feel happier.
14. Say "I Love You" Without Saying "I Love You"
If you’re in a loving relationship, you know how important it is to express your feelings of affection, admiration, respect and love. As important as it is to tell your partner how much he or she means to you, it’s equally important to show love with more than just your words. Is a hug the first thing you offer up when he walks in the door? When was the last time you made your partner her favorite meal? What did you do on your last date night? When was the last time you bought your spouse a card? Finding little ways to show your partner how much you care can lead to increased happiness for both of you.
15. Reward Yourself
Starting a new fitness routine? Treat yourself with a non-food reward (manicure, new outfit, massage) at the end of every week to recognize your hard work. If you’re having difficulty motivating yourself at work, incentivize yourself with bribery – there’s no shame in this! If you finish working on that report, let yourself go have fun at Happy Hour. If you make headway on that boring project your boss wanted you to work on, buy yourself a new workout outfit or pair of shoes. If you’re saving money, choose frugal rewards instead. Take a hot bath. Give yourself a DIY manicure. Allow yourself a two-hour block of time to sit alone and read. Whatever makes you happy, turn it into a reward and suddenly the hard work won’t seem so hard.