When I felt at my lowest, happiness seemed unattainable. At the time, I wanted to know how can I be a little happier. Yet, I didn’t know how to reach joy consistently in my life.
Happiness research shows the shortcut for feeling just a little happier happens through small steps. I see this play out in my life, where I reached sustainable happiness and made a big impact through tiny steps.
Happiness compounds. And this is key to remember whenever you ask, “How can I be happy with my life?” So, I’ll repeat this again because it’s crucial – happiness compounds. It happens a little bit at a time.
With that, here are small steps you can choose from to begin feeling happier one day at a time.
The goal is to choose one or two that you can do easily. And through the feelings of positivity that you receive from these, your mind will seek to do more, and you will choose one or two more. So, make it your long-term goals to choose yourself over and over by doing the little things that create your own happiness.
37 Good Things Happy People Do to Increase Happiness
1. Accept Your Emotions
A study from the University of California, Berkeley, revealed that people who accepted negative emotions like sadness and anger rather than resisting them were likelier to report better psychological health.
You can practice this by noticing where in your body you feel emotional discomfort – perhaps a tight chest or a churning stomach. Then, focus on that physical sensation without trying to change it. This acceptance can help you process your emotions more effectively and increase your happiness.
2. Connect with Your Spiritual Self
Embracing spirituality can bring a deep sense of purpose and happiness. I’m not speaking of religion here but of spirituality.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, people who attended religious services at least once a week had significantly lower risks of depression and suicide. This doesn’t mean you need to join a religion, though.
Instead, you can cultivate your spirituality by meditating, spending time in nature, or exploring philosophical questions about the universe and your place in it.
Whatever you choose, connecting with something greater than yourself can bring peace and purpose.
3. Don’t Struggle by Yourself
Isolation can exacerbate feelings of sadness and anxiety. A 2016 study from Brigham Young University demonstrated that social isolation and loneliness can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Reach out to your best friends, social support group, or family members when feeling down. And if that’s not an option, consider joining a support group.
By sharing your struggles, you’re not only lifting the weight off your shoulders but also opening up the possibility of receiving advice, empathy, and support.
4. Consider supplements
While it’s not a solution for everyone, supplements can be a good thing to help manage emotional health issues. But, of course, always consult with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.
Some supplements support your body’s ability to increase serotonin, a neurotransmitter that mediates satisfaction, happiness, and optimism.
Supplements are often most effective when combined with other strategies, such as therapy or lifestyle changes.
5. Practice Self-Care
Self-care isn’t just a trendy buzzword; it’s an essential component of mental health and should be part of your everyday life.
According to a study published in Health Psychology Review, engaging in self-care activities can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and increase life satisfaction.
Consider what self-care means to you and the healthy methods you’ll use to have good emotional experiences vis self-care. It might mean getting a massage, taking a long bath, or spending time in a park.
The key is to find activities that help you relax and recharge and then make them a regular part of your routine.
6. Feel All of Your Emotions
It’s essential to acknowledge and sit with all your emotions.
A study from the University of Toronto found that people who avoided or suppressed negative feelings were likelier to experience mood disorders later in life.
Instead of pushing away emotions like sadness or anger, allow yourself to feel them fully.
Acknowledging these feelings without judgment makes you more likely to move through them and emerge on the other side, feeling happier and more at peace.
7. Use Your Imagination
Your imagination can be a powerful tool for boosting happiness.
Research from the University of Lancaster showed that imagining a positive future can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Try spending a few minutes each day envisioning a future where you’re content, successful, and fulfilled.
Imagination is not about denying your current situation but encouraging hope and positivity through your thoughts.
8. Speak to Yourself as a Child
Use gentle, kind language towards yourself. Research from the University of Exeter found that self-compassion can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Try to speak to yourself as you would a child.
Be gentle, understanding, and supportive. If you make a mistake, remember it’s part of being human. This shift in self-talk can lead to increased happiness and improved self-esteem.
9. Prioritize Your Sleep
Sleep is crucial for our overall well-being. For example, a study from Harvard Medical School found that poor sleep can increase the risk of developing mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.
Make sure you’re getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night. In this article, you can learn 31 ways to get good sleep and sleep your way to happiness.
Establish a regular sleep schedule, create a restful environment, and consider sleep-promoting activities like reading or a warm bath before bed.
A good night’s rest can significantly improve your mood and energy levels.
9. Ask Yourself Why You’re Feeling Down
Understanding the root cause of your emotions can be a decisive step toward managing them.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that people who regularly practiced self-reflection reported less stress and anxiety.
So when you’re feeling down, take a moment to ask yourself why.
Be open to the answers and use them as starting points for addressing the issues at hand.
By understanding your feelings, you can better navigate them and work towards a happier state of mind.
10. Organize and Clean Up the House
Cleaning and organizing your house can profoundly impact your mental well-being.
Research from the Mayo Clinic has shown that a cluttered environment can create chronic stress and make focusing more challenging.
Extra stuff can trigger feelings of anxiety and even increase the stress hormone cortisol level. But remember, more stuff doesn’t necessarily equate to more happiness.
In fact, having too many options can lead to shorter attention spans and reduced focus.
11. Dress in Clothes that Feel Good
Have you ever noticed feeling a bit brighter when you put on your favorite outfit? There’s a science behind this. A study by Northwestern University found that what we wear can influence our psychological processes, a phenomenon termed “enclothed cognition.”
Wear clothes that make you feel confident and watch your mood rise with your self-esteem.
12. Use Essential Oils
Essential oils have been found to have therapeutic effects, with evidence showing that various types can offer a wide range of health benefits.
For instance, the lavender essential oil has been demonstrated to potentially prevent and even treat symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A simple way and safe way to use essential oils like lavender is using a diffuser in your home.
13. Go Outside
A study from UCLA Health confirmed that being in natural light improves mood and increases happiness.
The research found that each additional hour spent outside in natural light was linked to a corresponding decrease in the risk of developing long-term depression.
They also saw reduced use of antidepressants and self-reported improvements in mood and general feelings of happiness. And these results were independent of other variables such as lifestyle and social or economic status.
14. Observe Your Brain
Our brains often chatter with worries, doubts, and negative thoughts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a type of talk therapy, teaches us to challenge these negative thoughts and replace them with healthier ones. Cognitive reframing can help significantly with this process as you use tricks of the mind to shift your mindset.
When your brain tries pulling you down, acknowledge the idea and let it pass.
15. Choose Yourself and Your Happiness
Happiness is a choice, one that we can make every day.
A study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who tried to be happier experienced elevated moods.
Remind yourself daily of your decision to be satisfied – write it on a sticky note, set a reminder on your phone, or say it out loud.
16. Help Another Person
Being of service to others is one of the most fulfilling things you can do.
It doesn’t have to be grand gestures; simple acts of kindness can make a huge difference.
For example, hold the door open for someone, give a sincere compliment, or volunteer your time for a cause you believe in.
Helpful actions don’t just make the other person feel good—they can lift your mood too. Regularly helping others can instill a sense of purpose and connection, leading to sustainable happiness.
17. Experiences Over Things
Focus on accumulating experiences rather than material possessions.
An experience could mean opting for getaways instead of a new car or enjoying a meal with friends instead of buying that new pair of shoes.
Numerous studies show that experiences provide long-lasting happiness because they create cherished memories and deepen our connections with others.
Plus, anticipating an experience, such as a trip or concert, can also provide enjoyment, adding to its overall joy.
18. Practice Gratitude
Keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you’re grateful for daily.
Regularly recognizing what you’re thankful for can help shift your mindset and make you more optimistic.
As you practice gratitude consistently, your perception of life becomes more favorable, contributing to your overall happiness.
19. Learn New Things
Keep your mind sharp and your spirit happy by continually learning new things.
Learning could involve picking up a new hobby, learning a new language, or even returning to school.
Learning boosts your confidence and provides a sense of accomplishment and purpose, leading to greater satisfaction with life.
Additionally, learning often involves overcoming challenges and stepping out of your comfort zone, which can lead to personal growth and increased happiness.
20. Enjoy Getting Older
As we age, we tend to gain wisdom and perspective, which often leads to increased happiness.
The happiest people are the older generations.
As you age, you learn to let go of the small things and focus more on what truly matters.
So, embracing your age, valuing your experiences, and looking forward to the wisdom that will come with each passing year is something to get excited about.
Each stage of life brings new ways that can contribute to a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
21. Smile to Yourself and Others
Practice smiling genuinely, where your whole face, especially your eyes, is involved. This type of smile, Duchenne, has been linked to positive feelings.
Try to incorporate genuine smiles into your daily interactions.
Even if you’re not feeling pleased, smiling can often trick your brain into a happier state. It’s a simple yet effective way to uplift your mood.
22. Eat Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains chemicals known as flavonoids that can boost mood by releasing endorphins in the brain.
Try to incorporate a small piece of dark chocolate into your daily diet.
Choose high-quality dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa because these types usually contain more flavonoids.
Remember to enjoy it mindfully, savoring each bite to maximize your happiness.
23. Wake Up Earlier
Start your day with a pleasant morning routine that sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.
Waking up earlier gives you a quiet, peaceful start to your day.
You could use this time to engage in activities that nourish your body and mind, like reading, meditating, or exercising. Over time, this habit can lead to more positive attitudes and higher happiness levels.
24. Care for Your Stress
There’s a normal amount of stress, and then there’s stress that blocks your happiness. So you want to identify the stress causes in your life and find ways to minimize them.
I had to eliminate certain things in my life to reduce stress. And I used deep breath and meditation and nature to maintain a more peaceful mind.
Determine what causes you the most stress and establish a good management plan to keep low stress.
Also, remember to create good habits by taking regular breaks and engaging in activities that help you relax. Over time, this can lead to less stress and higher happiness levels.
25. Start a Meditation Practice
Meditating regularly can help improve mindfulness and reduce stress.
Start with a few minutes each day, focusing on your breath and letting go of distracting thoughts.
You could use guided meditations available online to help you get started. I often speak of mediation in the Alchemy of the Human Experience podcast. Listening to a few episodes is a good way to familiarize yourself with meditation.
Over time, regular meditation can lead to increased calm, better focus, and greater happiness.
28. Put Down Your Phone
Limiting social media use can reduce feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Try to designate specific times of the day for social media and stick to this schedule.
In addition, make sure to engage in offline activities you enjoy, like reading, cooking, or spending time in nature. Doing so can lead to improved mental health and increased happiness.
29. Take a Walk
Regular walking can benefit your mood, mind, and body and give you a fresh perspective with just a few minutes of fresh air.
Try incorporating walks into your daily routine, perhaps during lunch breaks or after dinner.
Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells around you as you walk.
Walking can serve as active meditation, leading to increased mindfulness and happiness. It can turn a bad day into a good emotional experience.
30. Avoid Gossip
Gossip can lead to stress and negativity.
Try to steer clear of conversations that involve gossip. If you are in a situation where gossip is happening, gently change the subject or excuse yourself from the conversation.
Be part of as many positive discussions that uplift others and yourself. Unlike gossip, these conversations can create a more positive mindset and happiness.
31. Limit Alcohol in Your Life
Too much alcohol can amplify feelings of anger and depression.
Try to limit your alcohol consumption and opt for non-alcoholic beverages when possible.
Remember, physical health directly affects your mental well-being, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle can increase happiness.
32. Spend Time Star Gazing
Experiencing a sense of awe, such as looking at the stars, can lead to greater satisfaction and less stress.
Take time to appreciate the natural world around you.
An easy way to do this is during a night walk, camping trip, or simply looking out your window. These moments of awe can provide a new perspective, reminding you of the grandeur of the universe and the beauty of life, leading to increased happiness.
33. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Disputing negative thoughts can help improve your mental outlook.
When a negative review arises, challenge it.
Ask yourself if it’s based on facts or just your interpretation. Then, try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Over time, this can lead to a more optimistic mindset and greater happiness.
34. Protect Your Eyes
Be selective about the news you read, the TV shows you watch, and what media you expose your eyes to.
For example, I became much happier when I stopped reading the news in this difficult world.
Allow your eyes to see and read only information you must know for work, education, and pleasure.
By doing this, you control the negativity that enters your thoughts.
35. Choose Your Friends Wisely
Good, close friends can enhance your happiness, but bad friends can cause harm to your mental and physical health.
Research shows that adults only need 1-3 quality friendships to increase happiness.
Build strong relationships with positive people who make you feel good.
36. Journal Your Thoughts
Journaling can be therapeutic and calming. It also helps you to process thoughts on paper instead of spinning them around in your mind.
The easiest way to start journaling is by writing your thoughts and asking yourself, as you write, what you need to do to be happier.
You’ll be surprised as how often you will have your own solutions simply by journaling.
37. Commit to Yourself
Becoming happier also means choosing yourself more. It means saying no to others to say yes to yourself.
Make yourself a project. Invest time and effort, a day at a time, a step at a time, towards your mental and emotional wellness.
Over time, you will become happier.
How can I be happy with my life?
Happiness research shows that becoming happier in your life happens through deliberate positive changes you make.
Of course, the meaning of happiness differs per person, but you’ll give yourself useful indicators as you practice happiness steps.
The path to creating your happiest life and your own concept of happiness starts by choosing yourself.
The best way to begin is by choosing only some of the things. You do not need to do it all. Instead, create a to-do list where you’ll add 1-3 from the list above and begin, then the next day, do it again.
Some of these on the list, you’ll do for the first time, and some you are familiar with. But, the more you do these, the fewer bad experiences and many more good days.
Your past negativity becomes a faint memory, and instead, you create essential discoveries about yourself that make you happier and happier.
You will give yourself reassuring lessons and fresh perspectives through the feelings you’ll experience via the steps to happiness.
I went from having clinical depression regularly to living a life of sustainable happiness, and so can you.
Happiness is yours. It will become your natural state and come to you