Finding happiness is such an elusive term. Everyone wishes to be happy, but no one quite knows how to go about that. The problem is, happiness means different things to different people and the more we chase it, the more out of reach it becomes.
“Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness”.Chuang-Tse
Everywhere we look nowadays there is someone promoting happiness. On social media, we scroll through our feeds to see these “influencers” with seemingly perfect happy lives. This is a double-edged sword, while yes, it is great for entertainment purposes, it is just that, entertainment. It’s important to know that this a false reality, these people are creating an illusion that simply does not exist in the real world. No one is actually a flawless size zero with a perfect partner who travels the world having wonderful experiences.
This is all photoshop, perfectly timed photos that actually took hours to capture, and probably a lot of struggle behind the scenes.
Think about it, the purpose of all these happiness-promisers, when you scratch behind the surface, is more likely about the profit rather than actual happiness. This is because happiness sells. Everyone wants to live the carefree life of a celebrity, but no one stops to question what is going on behind the scenes. Maybe this person is actually very lonely, maybe they starved themselves for days in order to get that perfect bikini photo. Until we walk in another’s shoes, we cannot know if they are actually happy or not. So, it does no good to compare yourself, in fact, it will only add to your unhappiness. As the wise Buddha once said; desire creates suffering.
People love quick fixes when it comes to happiness; getting a new car, losing ten pounds, meeting your soulmate. But, spoiler alert… none of this will make you truly happy. Only you can make yourself truly happy and even then, no one can be happy all the time, that is unrealistic. The good news is, there are scientifically proven ways you can increase your own personal happiness, that will last long term.
1.- Practice Gratitude
Being grateful for the things you have can change your life. We are always looking towards the future, so much that we forget to live in the present. Pausing to give thanks for what you have at this moment is so important. It helps you focus on all the wonderful things you have in your life. Wonderful things that some people could only dream of having. Take a minute to savor the positive and give thanks. Don’t forget a lot of people would probably love to have the life you have. There is always someone worse off. While having goals is great, never forget to appreciate all the things you once wished for.
2.- Take Chances
This sounds like a motivational poster, we know. But it is solid advice, it’s the best way to deal with any problem and overcome life’s greatest challenges. Never let your fear decide your future because usually, our fears are all in our own heads. Take small chances every day, they don’t have to be anything crazy. Just try doing something out of the ordinary, maybe it will work out, maybe it won’t. But good choices or bad, at least the choice was yours. Be your own biggest fan! Cheer yourself on, even when no one else is.
3.- Ignore Everyone Else
We are so quick to compare ourselves, the inner dialogue in our heads is constantly telling us that we aren’t good enough. Going back to school at 30 is great, getting married after 40 is wonderful, buying a house after 60 is still a win. There is no standard set of rules on how to live your life. You are not in competition with anyone else; plan to outdo your past, not other people. Everyone’s journey is different. We are all unique, and that’s what makes us beautiful.
4.- Practice Mindfulness
Dwelling on your past and stressing about the future can negatively affect your mood. Being mindful can help you stay focused on the present so you avoid unnecessary overthinking. Mindfulness can come in many forms; it is a great practice to incorporate into your everyday life. Here are some ways to be more mindful; meditate, sit in silence, eat mindfully, spend uninterrupted time in nature.
5.- Take Breaks from Social Media
Social media tends to have a negative effect on our happiness. It’s simply human nature to compare ourselves to others and by seeing a constant stream of beautiful people living these fabulous lives, it’s easy to feel down about our own lives. By choosing to take breaks or changing the way we use social media — we can boost our happiness. Social media can cause “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out” because it makes it seem like everyone else is doing something better. Keep in mind that what you see on social media is often exaggerated, and you’re only seeing people’s best moments. Moments are usually a false reality. Taking breaks from social media gives your mind a chance to rest, especially if you are feeling down on yourself.
6.- Live According to your Personal Values
We have all heard the phrase “all the cool kids are doing it” but we aren’t in high school anymore, it’s time to decide what we want in this life. Everyone wants to be liked, but it’s impossible to be liked all the time and often we compromise ourselves to please others. But, ignoring your core beliefs can make you feel conflicted and detached from your true self. Discover your personal values by listing the things that are important to you, and deciding what you really want in life. Then, align your lifestyle with your values so that you can be the person you want to be.
7.- Take Control of Your Thoughts
Negative thoughts are rough, sometimes they can even manifest into a physical feeling. But here’s the thing, you are the only person who can control your thoughts and even change the patterns. When we get angry about something, it’s easy to let that anger fester, perhaps yell, snap at people, and so on. While it might feel good to throw a little temper tantrum sometimes, in reality, you are only hurting yourself. You most likely aren’t changing the outcome of the situation. Your thoughts really do shape your reality.
Adjusting the way you think is probably one of the biggest contributors to your happiness. It may sound dumb; think happy thoughts to be happy. But it honestly is the truth. Next time you get upset about something, take moment to reflect on the inner dialogue running through your head. You talk to yourself more than anyone else, make sure the conversation is a good one.
8.- Learn to Let go
There’s a famous saying that goes; “holding onto anger is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.” Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance. When we dwell on grudges and hold resentment, we don’t change what has happened. We only hurt ourselves. Remember, you don’t forgive people because you’re weak. You forgive them because you’re strong. Find happiness being cool-headed.
9.- Help Others
The closest thing to practice self-care is to help others. We are all in this together and we should treat each other with kindness. This is the quickest scientifically proven way to happiness, when we help others we feel good about ourselves. There are many different ways to help, it can be anything from volunteering at your local animal shelter to joining a community cleanup project. Think of it as food for the soul. Find what works best for you and you will not only find joy but a community of your own as well. Volunteering can lead you to find happiness.
10.- Stand up for Yourself
When we let people walk all over us, we’re unhappy. But when we advocate for our own needs assertively and express ourselves, we feel more in control of our lives. Learning how to express yourself can help you overcome interpersonal challenges, which can make you unhappy.
11.- Find your Purpose
We all want to feel like we made some sort of positive impact in this world, but sometimes we are uncertain of the type of impact we want to make. Explore exactly what gives you a sense of purpose and how you want to pursue this purpose to give your life a greater sense of meaning.
12.- Do at least one thing you enjoy Every day
Having fun every day helps you enjoy your life more. Make a list of activities that make you feel happy. Then, schedule time every day to do something on your list. This can be anything from reading to cooking dinner. Not only does it help you hone a skill, but it also gives you something to look forward to every day. This can help you enjoy life more and can help you become your best self.
13.- Value Experiences over Material Objects
Buying something you really want is fun, but it won’t lead to lasting happiness. This is probably the most common mistake people make. Of course, money solves some problems but only to a certain point. Experiences bring you more joy than items, so use your spending money to pay for fun activities or trips. Don’t let yourself grow old wishing you had experienced life differently. Never forget, you can’t take material objects with you when you die.
14.- Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive
When you notice negative thoughts, challenge their accuracy. Then, replace the thought with a positive or neutral thought. Additionally, make positive statements to yourself throughout your day. Congratulate yourself on small wins, notice the positive instead of focusing on the negative. Find happiness by switching the way you think.
15.- Express your Emotions
Your feelings are super important, so don’t try to hide them. Ignoring your emotions can actually make them become more intense. Instead, choose a healthy way to release your emotions. Try journaling, meditating, talking to a loved one, or talking to a professional. There is no right or wrong way to express emotions, find whatever works for you.
16.- Build a Support System
Find happiness networking! Surround yourself with positive people. Hanging out with positive people can boost your mood. Identify the people in your life who make you feel uplifted, then spend more time with them. Another important thing to identify is toxic relationships. Be careful of people who seem to drain you and make you feel low after spending time with them.
Humans need community, so being around others helps you feel happier. Try to find your group. This could be anything from friends, volunteers, religious gatherings, or social clubs. Focus on connecting with the people around you and build a strong community so you have people to talk to if you need advice.
17.- Get enough Sleep
Lack of sleep is the worst and many of us tend to overlook this. Losing a few hours here and there might not seem like a big deal, but it adds up! Make sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Feeling tired can have a negative effect on your mood and can decrease brain activity. Listen to your body, if you need more sleep it will tell you. Try to create a sleep schedule and follow it the best you can. Most of us find happiness in resting our bodies.
18.- Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
There is an old saying “you are what you eat“. Everything you put into your body can either harm or help it, so make a wise choice.
Nutrients give you energy, so eating well helps you feel your best. Eat fresh produce and cut out processed foods. Of course, it’s only normal to indulge from time to time, but try to keep it limited to the occasional snack. It is easy to find happiness this way!
19.- Exercise Daily
Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel happy. Sometimes when we feel low, exercise is the last thing we want to do, but it really does help! Additionally, exercise gives you energy and helps you feel your best. Choose an exercise that you enjoy so that it’s easy to do it every day. Find happiness with something as simple as walking 20 minutes a day. It can make a huge difference!
20.- Spend time with Animals
Hanging out with a pet has been shown to release oxytocin in the brain which is a direct link to happiness. Animals love unconditionally and there is something beautiful to be said for that. If you are feeling low try spending some time with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, go spend some time in nature or try volunteering at a local animal shelter. You are bound to find happiness with a pet companion.