There’s an unfortunate reason why happiness is often elusive — our brains simply aren’t wired that way. Instead, our brains have evolved to survive, to protect ourselves, to keep us safe. Sure, we have moments of elation and periods of contentment and bliss. But many of us are plagued with persistent negative emotions — we are just plain stuck in the “blahs.”
How do we find more joy in our life? Like anything else, it takes practice to cultivate ongoing happiness. In a sense, we have to reset our baseline. It won’t happen overnight, but here are the top 20 things you can do every day to discover the secrets of being happier.
1. Focus on the positive.
To find long-term happiness, you need to retrain your brain from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. Try these things: Spend one to two minutes looking for positives in your life. Do this three times a day for 45 days, and your brain will start doing it automatically.
Choose a positive mantra for the day — something you will repeat to yourself, such as “Today is beautiful” or “I feel grateful for all I have.” And when things go south, take a moment to try and see it from a positive light. Never underestimate the importance of recognizing the silver linings in life.
2. Celebrate little victories.
Life is full of ups and downs, but in between we have a lot of little victories that go unnoticed. Take a moment to celebrate these small wins.
Did you check off all the things on your to-do list that you’ve been procrastinating on? Yay! Did you finally clear out a thousand emails that have been filling up your inbox? Woohoo! Take pleasure in these little achievements. They add up!
3. Find your work–life balance.
Work takes up a lot of our day, but it shouldn’t be the only thing we do. It’s important to pursue activities and interests beyond our job. Do you have a hobby? Are you spending time with friends and loved ones? Are you getting exercise? Creating balance in your life will reduce stress and give you other outlets to express yourself and have fun.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness mediation works by bringing your awareness and attention to the present moment. It’s about being nonjudgmental and accepting how you are feeling. Practicing mindfulness means being present, aware and curious. Accepting what we are going through decreases stress and helps us see situations for what they are. Through mindfulness, we can find peace and affirmation in ourselves.
5. Be creative.
You may think of artists as being moody and depressed, but studies show that engaging in creative activities on a regular basis actually makes you happier. Those who spend time using their imagination and being creative have more enthusiasm and are more likely to have feelings of long-term happiness and well-being. Such creative activities can include writing, painting, drawing and musical performance.
6. Accept imperfection.
Many of us strive for perfection — we desire to push ourselves to be our best. But in order to be truly happy, you must embrace the imperfection that is part of life. Perfection is impossible, and holding ourselves and others to these standards is futile. We will always end up feeling let down. Accept that life is imperfect and recognize that there is beauty and grace in that imperfection.
7. Do what you love.
It’s pretty hard to maintain happiness if you hate your job. Don’t waste the best years of your life in a joyless job, even if it’s paying the bills. What are you interested in? What are you truly passionate about? Focus on building a career in an area that motivates you and will provide you with a high level of satisfaction, and your happiness factor will go up exponentially.
8. Spend wisely.
It’s tempting to believe that the more money you have, the happier you’ll be. But the reality is, it’s how you spend your money that helps you feel happier. The key is to do it wisely. Spending money on experiences — travel, dining, concerts and so on — can make us happier because we are sharing those experiences with others. Happiness connected to material possessions fades, but experiences help us define our purpose and passions in life.
9. Live in the moment.
Our thoughts and feelings often revolve around the past or the future. Reality is what you are experiencing in this very moment; what you are going through right now. Sometimes we want to escape that reality. But when we stay in the present, we are fully engaged in our lives. Endeavor to live in the moment, and you’ll begin to have a deeper appreciation for your life.
10. Cultivate gratitude.
Find ways to cultivate gratitude on a daily basis. Giving thanks and being grateful for all you have will make you happier and more content. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what you have received in life. Those gifts may be tangible or intangible. When you spend time each day acknowledging all that is good in life, you’ll see there is more good than you realize, and you’ll find that sadness, anxiety and depression are diminished.