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Sometimes happiness feels like an elusive SOMETHING. You think you know what you need to be happy, but when you get it… you feel the same.
What is happiness? Well, happiness is different things to different people. For some people, living in their dream house with a shiny new car will be enough. For others, a non-stop life of traveling the globe. Children will make some people ridiculously happy and other people outrageously miserable.
But are those things happiness or are they dreams/goals/achievements? Is there a difference?
Happiness is a difficult concept for many people to understand because it’s not about results or goals, it’s about feelings.
Happiness is linked to positivity, excitement, motivation, inspiration, and more. This means that it’s important to work on feeling happy RIGHT NOW – with whatever you have (or don’t have). If you’re happy with what you have now, you’ll get up every day feeling positive and excited which will motivate and inspire you to achieve great things. If you’re not happy right now, you’ll wake up every day feeling negative and bitter which isn’t a very good way to motivate and inspire yourself.
So, how can you get happy now with whatever you have? Have you ever heard the phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff?” It’s kind of like that – happiness is all about the small stuff.
8 Ways To Improve Your Happiness
Try implementing these 8 things (one at a time would be best) to start increasing your happiness.
#1) Help Others
Helping others can be done in many ways. You don’t have to volunteer in the same way that someone else does.
Have extra time? Donate that (we call it volunteering). Have extra money? Donate a bit of it.
Choose a non-profit organization (or two or three). Decide how much you can donate (time or money) and set up a consistent schedule to do so.
Non-profits benefit greatly from anything you can give but the best thing for them is a consistent donation (of either time or money). They desperately need more hands and more cash that they can regularly count on.
Check out this list of reputable non-profits. You can also google your town and the type of charity you’d like to help for a list of local organizations.
#2) The Great Outdoors
Getting outside more can boost your happiness – especially if you’re getting outside to more natural environments.
You don’t have to spend hours and hours hiking through the wilderness (although if you have time and wilderness available to you, go for it!). Just a few minutes surrounded by a little greenery, breathing in some fresh (or fresh-ish if you live in a polluted city) air.
I grew up in a beach town (in Canada, so we only had beach access for half the year). For me, I like my outdoor time to be on, in, or near water. Lakes, ponds, the ocean, any water will do. Think about the type of nature that makes you happiest and try and get yourself to it a couple of times a week.
#3) Plan Something Fun
This doesn’t have to be a real plan that you follow through on, but it should be a plan that would be feasible for you.
Plan a week-long vacation, a day trip, a party, a movie-marathon, something you think would be fun.
Take your time making the plan, do a little bit at a time over the course of a couple of weeks.
Maybe when you’re done planning, you’ll find a way to follow through. But even if you don’t, the idea of the plan can be enough to boost happiness.
Remember though: you want to plan something that you could potentially do. If your plan is unrealistic, like a dream I won the lottery world tour, it could decrease your happiness instead of increasing it.
Exercise isn’t just about your physical health, it has a number of benefits for your mental health as well.
Exercise has been shown to help increase energy levels and reduce stress. Exercise has also been shown to increase body confidence (even without any real physical changes).
I know most of us (myself included) hate exercise. But we really shouldn’t.
I think part of the problem is that we perceive exercise as a punishment for poor food choices. But really exercise should be a celebration of our bodies.
That’s the attitude I’m trying to take at least. Try it out with me?
#5) Smile More
I have resting bitch face – people think I’m perpetually angry or irritated or whatever, but that’s just what my face looks like. So this one applies heavily to me.
Smiling (even when you aren’t happy) can trick yourself into thinking you are happy.
This is why telephone customer service agents are always being trained to smile while they talk. Smiling is enough to make them sound happy (and therefore helps keep customers happy).
Use big, real smiles as often as possible. Make sure that your eyes are narrowing or you’re not going to be making yourself happier.
#6) Keep Quality Company
Spending time with friends and family can make you happier, right now!
BUT it’s important that you keep in mind the quality of your friends and family. Not all people are positive influences on your life (and happiness).
Choose to increase the time you spend with positive, happy people in your life. Limit (or remove entirely) the negative, bitter, unhappy people from your life.
There are probably negative people in your life that you can’t (or don’t want to) remove completely from your life. Instead, spend time doing things with them that reduce their negative influence.
#7) Meditate & Practice Gratitude
I know, this sounds so woo-woo-ey. BUT meditation is a great way to clear your mind. Once your mind is clear you can focus on a couple of things you’re grateful for.
People who focus on the positive aspects of their lives are happier than people who don’t. It makes perfect sense.
This could be the easiest and most effective 5-10 minutes of your day. 5 minutes of meditation followed by a few minutes of gratitude.
If you’re reading to start meditating, check out these resources to get started:
Do I really need to explain how sleep can make you happier?
Remember that one time in the very distant past when you went to bed early AND slept in late? Was that not the happiest day of your life?!
But seriously. Study after study has shown the benefits of getting enough sleep such as reducing our sensitivity to negative emotions, decreased depression, and much more.
Work on Your Happiness with This 30-Day Happiness Challenge
Check out this challenge. Every day (for 30 days), you’re going to do one short and simple thing designed to help increase your happiness.
Each day has TWO options, but you only have to do one. You can do both BUT be careful not to make yourself stressed or uncomfortable. This is a HAPPINESS challenge, after all. If you really like both options, make it a 60-day challenge and do the second choice next month!
Day 1: Feel Good Moments
1. Create a playlist of songs that make you feel happy or bring back good memories. For the next month (and beyond), play it at least once a week.
2. Find some motivational/happy images. Set them as your lock screen and home screen on your phone, as your background and screensaver on your computer, print a couple out and hang them where you’ll see them. Pause and read them whenever you see them.
Day 2: A Quick Clean Up
1. Change your bed linens. There’s nothing as soothing as crawling into freshly washed bedding. The feel, the smell, the comfort. Mark it on your calendar and launder them weekly. It’ll make a difference!
2. Wash all your towels. Hand towels, bath towels, kitchen towels, washcloths, do them all. Throw in your oven mitts and bath mats, too!
Day 3: Brighten Up Your Surroundings
1. Buy some cheerful flowers and put a couple of vases in your home (and at your work, if able).
2. Wash your windows (inside and outside). This will bring more natural light into your home (AND car) which will help perk your mood up.
Day 4: A Moment of Silence
1. Try meditating. Start with just a couple of minutes! This is something you could try incorporating into your day regularly.
2. Use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ feature on your phone for the day. Setup the exceptions for anyone you might genuinely need to talk to (calls and texts from children/parents/bosses). Otherwise, leave the device alone for the day.
Day 5: Pay It Forward
1. Compliment someone for something they might be under-appreciated for. Try to avoid complimenting appearances today, instead go for compliments for actions)
2. Buy the person in line behind you a coffee.
Day 6: Go with It
1. Turn up the volume (on your happiness playlist if you made one) and dance for 10+ minutes (that’s probably about 3 songs).
2. Pick up a piece of paper and a pencil. Sketch something or free-write something (creative) for 10+ minutes.
Day 7: Solo Outdoors Time
1. Head outside today (if it’s winter or raining, sit by a window). Have a solo snack (or picnic) breathing in some fresh air and clearing your head.
2. Head outside today and go for a brisk 10+ minute walk. Ideally, you’ll find a park or other green space you can walk around.
Day 8: Experiment
1. Learn something new! Learn the Korean alphabet (or any new language), a (new to you) constellation, a (new to you) instrument, or anything else. Need more ideas? Check out this list of 101 new skills to learn.
2. Try something different. Try using your opposite hand for things throughout the day (brushing your teeth, eating, opening doors), try a new food, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk instead of drive, or anything!
Day 9: Get Moving
1. Try a new form of exercise: yoga, dance, kickboxing, weightlifting, running, anything that isn’t part of your regular workout.
2. Join a group exercise class (bonus points if it’s a new style of exercise for you): Zumba, Yoga, Muay Thai, Jazzercise, Spin, anything you can do with a group of other people.
Day 10: Write About It
1. Start a journal about your feelings. Write down what you feel and why you think you feel that way. Brainstorm possible solutions (to negative feelings) and possible ways to extend positive feelings.
2. Start a journal to track your habits and goals. Did you succeed or fail today? Why? What can you do better in the future?
Day 11: Things
1. Throw away 3+ things that you aren’t using.
2. Buy the upgraded version of something you use all the time. It doesn’t have to be an expensive upgrade (although it certainly can be). Like to cook/bake? Buy yourself an upgraded set of spatulas. Get a new case for your phone. Buy an ergonomic keyboard (I love mine).
Day 12: Make It
1. Make yourself a full, hot breakfast. For me, it would be Salmon Avocado Eggs Benedict (YUM!)
2. Cook a fancy dinner (ideally for someone else). Make everything from scratch. For me, it would be a coffee crusted roast beef with asparagus risotto. For dessert, I’d probably make a pie but it would depend on the day.
Day 13: Home is Where the Heart is
1. Clean an area of your home you usually overlook: under the bed, the top shelf of the closet, under the stairs, wherever!
2. Rearrange the furniture in one room of your house.
Day 14: Explore
1. Go somewhere you’ve never been before (in your town): a historical/tourist attraction, a museum, a park, even a neighborhood.
2. no second option. Just explore today!
Day 15: The Sun
1. Watch the sunrise.
2. Watch the sunset.
Day 16: Just Say NO
1. Say NO to processed sugar today.
2. Say NO to social media today.
Day 17: Reflect
1. Meditate for at least 10 minutes.
2. Spend at least 10 minutes practicing gratitude. Write down all the things you’re grateful for and why.
Day 18: Compliments
1. Give yourself 5+ compliments throughout the day.
2. Give out 10+ compliments to others throughout the day.
Day 19: Money
1. Don’t spend any money all day.
2. For every dollar you spend today, donate double (or more).
Day 20: Feel Good
1. Daydream for 10+ minutes. Fantasize about what you would do if you won the lottery or something else extreme and fantastic.
2. Find a baby (human or animal) to play with for a few minutes today.
Day 21: Be Extra
1. Get some extra exercise today. Do 10 squats every time you use the bathroom or take the stairs for at least 10 floors today. Something more than you would usually do.
2. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Not text, not Facebook, not Instagram, use your phone and genuinely reach out to them.
Day 22: Reach Out
1. Write someone a thank you note. Send it in the physical mail.
2. Write birthday cards to at least 5 people you care about. Set yourself reminders to mail them at the appropriate dates.
Day 23: Reminder Yourself
1. Set yourself a reminder to smile and laugh once an hour.
2. Do you smile naturally? Set yourself a reminder to stand up and stretch once an hour.
Day 24: Sleep
1. go to bed an hour early tonight.
2. stay in bed for an extra hour in the morning.
Day 25: Yoga
1. Do 10+ minutes of yoga first thing in the morning to wake yourself up.
2. Do 10+ minutes of yoga right before getting into bed.
Day 26: A New Day
1. Forgive yourself for something you regret from your past.
2. Forgive someone else for something they did to hurt you.
Day 27: Breath
1. Practice deep breathing.
2. No second option today. Focus on your breathing.
Day 28: Future Plans
1. Plan out your dream future. Choose one thing you can do (starting today) to begin getting that dream.
2. Choose one major goal for the next year and make a plan to accomplish it.
Day 29: Fix it
1. Apologize to someone you’ve wronged.
2. Repair or replace something you broke (bonus points if it belongs to someone else).
Day 30: Celebrate
1. Do something to celebrate because you’ve completed a 30-day happiness challenge!
2. No second option!
A Happier You is Within Reach
Congratulations! Regardless of what you’ve already accomplished you’re on the right track.
Happiness is important. Keep working on yours!
Ready for more? Check out How to Set SMARTER Goals next.
Did you complete the 30-day challenge? Let me know how it went in the comments below!