Happiness is a place we build in the mind, heart and soul
Most of us can write a long list of all the things we want in our lives, believing that each time we tick something off the list, we’ll get a little happier. Meanwhile, some of the happiest people on earth are those who have close to nothing in material possessions.
This is because happiness is a place we build in the mind, heart and soul, meaning we get to spend as much time there as we choose - once we figure out how to get there.
To experience positive emotions, such as joy, excitement and peace more often, as well as deeper feelings of meaning, satisfaction, and a genuine life purpose, work your way through this list of 20 ways to increase your happiness.
It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but a great place to begin!
1. Stop comparing yourself to others
Regardless of your goals, the only two people you should ever compare yourself to, is the person you were in the past, and the person you want to be in the future. Any other comparison is nothing but detrimental, because you are you and they are them.
Each of us are on our own unique journey, with no option to swap.
It’s ok to admire the progress of others and take inspiration from their success, but the sooner we start focusing on how we can grow, free of comparison to others, the sooner we’ll truly be happy.
2. Be present in each moment
Our responses to events in our lives have a far greater impact on our happiness than the events themselves.
Going through tough times can actually be good for us - if we respond to the situation in a positive and constructive way. Remaining mentally present throughout each moment of adversity will leave us more resilient and motivated to make positive changes in our lives.
However, if we allow negative thought cycles to take over, we’ll have no room to grow. Negative thoughts are created by us, and when we recognise them for what they are, we have the power to destroy them.
If we don’t keep them in check though, negative thoughts will wear us down and we’ll eventually begin to believe they are truths. Committing to a daily mediation practice is a fantastic way to cultivate a peaceful and present mind.
3. Discover, or rediscover your passion(s)
What do you love to do? If you already know what your passion is, do more of it! It’s so important to make time for the things you love, and if you’re an especially busy person - schedule it!
This is your life and it won’t go on forever. If you’re yet to discover what your passions are, now is the time to find out - try new things, go on adventures and be open to discover what you love the most. Your passions will be calling out to you, you just have to make sure you’re listening.
4. Get enough sleep
We need to get enough, good quality sleep each night just so our bodies can function optimally and maintain good health and wellbeing.
Since good health and wellbeing is one of the basic fundamentals of a happy life, ensuring a great night’s sleep - every night - is a great way to increase your happiness. An exhausted person is never a happy person!
5. Buy experiences, not things
Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy experiences that will enrich your life and help you discover your passions and life’s purpose.
Rather than rushing to purchase the latest tech gadget or latest fashion ‘must haves,’ ask yourself whether these things will genuinely add value to your life, in the way that a new experience can.
Whether the experiences you buy are in the form of travel, education, or personal development, you’ll have much bigger return on your investment.
Don’t take life too seriously! Not only does laughter signal happiness, it actually produces more of it. More accurately, the physical act of laughter produces endorphins, which are the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.
You’ve probably heard, and even experienced, that laughter is contagious - and there are some interesting reasons for this.
So - spend more time with that funny friend who always leaves you in stitches.
7. Spend time with positive people
Not only should you spend more time with people who make you laugh, but you should ensure your social circles are groups of positive, people who support your happiness.
Positive people don’t pretend nothing bad ever happens, but rather, they look for positive ways to overcome difficult situations.
These kinds of people encourage each other, accept each other, and don’t spend their time judging others or complaining about everything that goes wrong in their lives. You may find you need to change your tribe to protect your vibe.
8. Don’t watch (or read) the news
When was the last time you saw a positive news headline? If you’re paying the news any serious attention, now is the time to stop.
Not only is the mainstream news incredibly sensationalist and misleading, it’s always depressing and scary, and does very little to actually keep you up to date with what’s going on in the world. If it’s news to you that the news hinders our happiness, check out this article.
9. Prioritise self care
There seems to be some mixed messages floating around in the wellness world about what ‘self-care’ actually means. It will manifest in many different ways for each individual, but practicing self-care simply requires us to have as much compassion for ourselves, as we would for a friend, family member or partner.
Treat yourself with the same love you give to others, rather than berating and tearing yourself down from the inside. How can we truly be happy when we’re our own worst enemy?
10. Don’t try to please everyone
When we worry too much about what everyone else wants, we lose sight of our own desires and goals. It totally throws us off our path!
Trying to please everyone can leave us very unhappy, exhausted and lonely. On the other hand, focusing on pleasing yourself will attract the right people into your life, replenish your energy and enable you to thrive.
Instead of trying to please everyone, practice small acts of kindness.
11. Move Your Body
We must never forget the strong link between physical and mental health. Not only does exercise keep us in good physical shape, moving our bodies improves our mental health as well - it’s a scientifically proven pathway to happiness.
Like laughter, movement releases the same ‘feel-good’ chemicals, so if you’re feeling down, an easy 20 minutes of walking can turn a frown upside down.
12. Nourish your body
There’s so much truth behind the old saying, ‘you are what you eat.’ More accurately, though - you feel what you eat. Physically and mentally, the way we feel is a reflection of what we consume.
Happiness comes from nourishing our bodies with a plant-based, whole foods diet, and drinking plenty of water. For those who think that nourishing our bodies is all about kale smoothies and kimchi on raw juice pulp crackers - think again!
13. Focus on the positives
Energy flows where our attention goes, so a large part of our potential happiness is under our personal control. Happiness implies a positive mindset in the present and an optimistic outlook for the future, so focus your attention on all the good things in yourself, others, and your situation.
14. Write a list of your unique skills and gifts
We each have a unique set of skills and gifts to offer. Take some time to consider what yours may be and write them down.
We can often be so bombarded with external information and endless competition, that we lose sight of ourselves and forget that our unique experience of life can provide value to others. Write a list!
15. Use your unique skills and gifts
Now that you have your list of unique skills and gifts, think about how you can start using them in your day-to-day life. When we get to use our skills to help others or contribute to something we really care about, we enjoy a deep sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.
Since you’re writing down your unique skills and gifts, you may as well enjoy the benefits of a regular journaling practice.
Getting our thoughts down on paper (or on a screen…), is a great way to rid our minds of all the unnecessary clutter and make more room for happiness.
For even more happiness gains, each journal entry should include 3 things you’re grateful for, as well as a daily mantra. These can be really personalised, but if you need some ideas to start - here are 22 powerful daily mantras.
17. Take small steps towards a goal
If you expect to achieve big goals in a short time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. As long as you’re taking a small step each day towards your goal, you’ll feel a sense of satisfaction, pride and purpose - as if you’ve already made it.
Getting a little dose of these feelings each day is all it takes to ensure you’ll eventually reach your goal.
Enjoy each little step and you’ll arrive at your destination before you know it.
18. Feel your feelings
Recent research suggests that psychological flexibility is the key to greater happiness and overall wellbeing.
What this means, is that we should never try to numb negative emotions as we experience them, as being open to all kinds of emotional experiences leads to a more meaningful existence. Instead, we should strive for a happy life, rather than trying to feel happy all the time - which is totally unrealistic!
Experiencing bouts of stress, sadness and anxiety in the short term does not mean we won’t be happy in the long term, because happiness is something we can continue to work on and improve over time. Sometimes… all we need is a good cry - and that’s ok.
19. Know your values and live by them
What really matters to you?
If money didn’t exist, what would you be doing with your time?
Perhaps you value your health and fitness? Or maybe it’s education, or the arts, or animal rights? Maybe it’s all of the above or something completely different?
Regardless of what your personal values are, there is no greater sense of fulfilment, balance, and confidence, that comes from living in alignment with your own values.
If there is anything standing in the way of you doing this, whether it’s a job, relationship or any other situation - your ability to experience true happiness depends on your decision to make the necessary changes.
20. Make your surroundings beautiful
Although happiness is created on the inside, we can help it along by making our surroundings beautiful.
Frequently spending time in the beauty of nature, whether it’s the beach, a forest, or your own garden, is one of the easiest ways to increase our happiness.
At home, we can choose uplifting scents and music, and fill our space with life and colour, by growing indoor plants and displaying the art we love. A clean and fresh living space is a great place to spend time while we work on our happiness from within.
Remember that happiness is a flexible and evolving state, which you create in your mind. This means you have the power to protect it, expand it, and strengthen it.
You may find you’re already ticking off many of the points above, but each of us will have a few areas we can improve on when it comes to increasing our happiness.
Perhaps one of these points stood out to you more than the others, because you know this is what’s letting you down in your pursuit of happiness. This is a great realisation!