13 Practical & Proven Ways to Be Happier

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Do you consider yourself a happy person? Or does happiness feel like an elusive state that you can never quite reach?

Regardless of what you believe happiness looks like or your current level of happiness (or unhappiness), living a happier and more bliss-filled life is possible. It all starts with a few little adjustments to your thinking and daily habits.

Is Happiness a Choice?

Let’s take mindset, for starters. While navigating through this journey called life, how you think will either help or hinder your level of happiness.

No doubt you’ve already endured some challenges on your life journey thus far. Perhaps experiences you weren’t expecting, which made you really ponder who you are, what you’re doing here, and why these things happened to you.

No matter what hardships you’ve endured, you’ve probably noticed that there are two different kinds of people in the world – those who resolve to be happy no matter what life throws at them, and those who just always seem to be unhappy (or even downright miserable).

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Which begs the question, if we all go through trying times… “Is happiness a choice?” Put another way, have chronically unhappy people simply failed to make the choice to be happy?

The Best Way to Be Happy

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage believes that happiness can be a choice, and it is also something that can be practiced. Achor believes that feeling unhappy can be the result of lack of movement, or deeply-rooted apathy, in one’s life.

He states that if you want to create more happiness in your life, it’s important to change something; to create some sort of movement.

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For instance, if you’re unhappy in a relationship, start a conversation with the other person involved and see if something can be shifted. Or, if you’re unhappy in your work, try speaking with your manager, or change jobs. Movement is better than stasis (staying the same) where happiness is concerned, according to Achor.

Another happiness expert tells us that happiness doesn’t just happen; we have to work at it. Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness, explains that happiness is about finding opportunities to grow as individuals, about opening our eyes to the ways we can improve our happiness quotient.

13 Ways to Be Happy

#1 – Keep a gratitude journal.

Write down a few things (at least three) for which you feel grateful every day. Studies at UC Berkeley [1] tell us that while the results might not be felt right away, keeping your mind focused on being grateful for what you have rather than chasing things you don’t have eventually improves mental health over time.

#2 – Smile more.

Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. And research [2] shows us that when we smile, we not only trigger “smile muscles” in other people, we also benefit. Smiling activates brain circuits associated with well-being and happiness.

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#3 – Brighten someone else’s day.

Send a positive message to someone, praising them or thanking them for something they’ve done. Research at UC Berkeley [3] found that those who wrote gratitude letters to others expressing appreciation reported significantly better mental health than those in the study who did not.

#4 – Change your mindset.

If you find yourself dwelling on things that make you unhappy, change your thinking. Put yourself in charge, rather than your brain. Mentally stop yourself and say “NO! I choose to no longer think those thoughts.”

Find a way to look at the situation differently, in a more positive light. If you need help with this, you might choose counseling or some other mind-body technique such as Emotional Freedom Technique (aka Tapping).

Living with constant negative emotions like disappointment, grief, anger, and holding grudges can be toxic, not to mention damaging to your health. They can hold you back and keep you from feeling happy about anything. Ditch these toxic emotions as soon as you can. By doing so, you’re rewiring your brain for more positive thinking, which leads to increased levels of happiness.

#5 – Do exercise you enjoy, together with music you love.

Vigorous exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good hormones that generate positive feelings and inhibit pain.

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Combining music from a playlist you love with exercise is a powerful happiness generator. Don’t like to exercise? Only a few minutes of high-intensity exercise can make a huge difference. Try a rebounder, a mini-trampoline, which can be utilized in any kind of weather.

Or go for a walk in nature. Japanese scientists have found that walking in nature (i.e., forest bathing) improves endorphin levels and oxygenates the brain. It also gives us a greater appreciation of natural beauty and engenders feelings of thankfulness for being alive and healthy enough to be physically active.

#6 – Drink plenty of filtered water.

Believe it or not, just being mildly dehydrated can lead to feelings of stress and depression [4].

#7 – Take time for meditation.

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A study from the University of Sydney [5] linked meditation to improved well-being and better mental health. The study demonstrated that those who meditate regularly are healthier and happier than non-meditators.

Meditation, from the moment you begin doing it, rewires your brain and makes a number of beneficial changes in both body and brain. Meditation decreases stress, improves focus, concentration and productivity. Other benefits include a strengthened immune system, lower blood pressure, better digestion, less fatigue, and regression of disease.

#8 – Try aromatherapy.

Essential oils may not seem like an obvious choice when endeavoring to improve your levels of happiness. But many essential oils have been proven in dozens of studies to increase clarity of thought, improve concentration, reduce depression, and to promote feelings of relaxation and peace.

#9 – Listen to music you love.

A study done at the University of Missouri [6] found that listening to music that you love activates pleasurable neurotransmitters in the brain that make you feel good.

#10 – Create goals and plans to achieve what you most want out of life.

gratitude journal

If you’re not actively moving towards goals that are important to you, it’s quite possible that your level of perceived happiness will plummet. It’s important, however, to not only set goals but to think about the steps that you will need to take in order to achieve those goals.

Taking active steps to create new healthy habits can have an amazing effect on your happiness quotient!

#11 – Endeavor to live in the moment.

When we worry about the past or feel anxious about the future, we’re not living in the moment. This can be difficult to train yourself to do, but when you find yourself dwelling on something that happened in the past, or worrying about something in the future, stop yourself. Anchor yourself to this moment by taking a slow, deep breath and feeling appreciation for something you are experiencing right now.

Something as simple as being grateful for the food in your belly and the roof over your head (things that many on the planet do not have) can be incredibly powerful. Be present and fully alive to this moment. It’s the only thing that’s guaranteed – the present moment.

#12 – Be good to yourself and your body.

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When you’re staying up all hours, drinking too much, eating too much of the wrong kinds of food, and other bad habits, it’s not only hard on your body, it’s hard on your brain.

Instead, choose healthy behaviors like eating nourishing foods, avoiding alcohol, getting more sleep, taking more time for exercise, and taking frequent rest breaks when you need them.

#13 – Ask for help when you need it.

It’s no good feeling overwhelmed and stressed out if getting help is an option. There’s also no shame in asking for help when you truly need it. It is, in fact, a sign of good mental health and confidence. And that simple request for help can get you unstuck, get things moving in the right direction, and indirectly improve your levels of happiness.

Happiness and health go hand-in-hand. Try some of these proven ways to be happy and share your tips for what you do to stay happy in the comments section below.


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Article Summary

  • Living a happier and more bliss-filled life is possible. It all starts with a few little adjustments to your thinking and daily habits.

  • Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage believes that happiness can be a choice, and it is also something that can be practiced.

  • If you want to create more happiness in your life, it’s important to change something; to create some sort of movement.

  • 13 Ways to Be Happy:

    1. Keep a gratitude journal
    2. Smile more
    3. Brighten someone else’s day
    4. Change your mindset
    5. Do exercise you enjoy, together with music you love
    6. Drink plenty of filtered water
    7. Take time for meditation
    8. Try aromatherapy
    9. Listen to music you love
    10. Create goals and plans to achieve what you most want out of life
    11. Endeavor to live in the moment
    12. Be good to yourself and your body
    13. Ask for help when you need it

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