1. Change Your Perspective
There are plenty of reasons to not be happy. Someone cut you off on the way to work. You got a ticket. You made a bad grade or got a less than stellar performance review, etc. The interesting thing about not feeling happy when these things happen is that you aren’t in control. You have chosen to let external forces dictate how you feel about life. When you learn that you have control over these things, simply by changing your perspective, the whole world changes. For example, take the “someone cut you off on the way to work” scenario. By making an excuse for that person, such as that they are rushing to get their pregnant wife to the hospital (or some other emergency), you excuse their wrongdoing and are not negatively affected by it. Hopefully they make it to the hospital in time and bring a beautiful child into the world.
2. Get Some Sunlight
Sunlight makes us happy. UV rays hit the skin and the body begins to produce vitamin D ( vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression, among other things). When the sunlight hits your eyes it signals to your brain to slow down secretion of melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep), and increases secretion of serotonin (a hormone associated with happiness and wakefulness). What does all of this mean? Getting more sun will make you happier. If you aren’t getting at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on your skin per day, it’s a good idea to try and get out more. Take a walk during lunch, sit outside for a few minutes instead of watching TV. Make time for it.
3. Make a Life List
Life lists are awesome. They are the theme park of life planning. Think about the things you want to experience and accomplish before you die. While it may sound like a morbid pursuit, it’s actually pretty life changing and inspirational. Especially when you make plans to start checking things off your life list.
4. Learn a New Hobby
Hobbies are fun ways to experience happiness. Whether you love to cook, play games, paint, or anything else, the joy of learning a new hobby is one of the most enjoyable endeavors you can embark upon. When starting a new hobby, focus on the joy of just experiencing something new. There is something magical about being a “newbie,” because with every experience there is something to be gained.
5. Focus on Appreciation and Gratefulness
Learning to show appreciation and to be grateful for what you have is, in itself, a reward. People who express appreciation and take time be grateful are happier and have more positive outlooks on life. Start with a simple experiment. Every night before you go to bed, write down something that happened throughout the day that you are grateful for. It won’t take long before that habit changes your entire perspective.
6. Meditate Regularly
While meditation often gets the reputation of being spiritual and strange to those who don’t partake, it has benefits for practically everyone who gives it a real chance. I don’t see meditation as spiritual. I see it as therapeutic. I sit quietly for 5-10 minutes per day (I don’t time it‒I just do it), and focus on me. Sometimes I close my eyes; sometimes I don’t. But I focus on my breathing, I take stock on how I feel (physically and mentally), and I visualize what my day is going to look like. It’s almost like a pre-game ritual. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
Fear is one of the big zappers of happiness. Fear leads us to worry, causing stress and a focus on negativity. One way to stop fear is to begin welcoming it into your life. Obviously you don’t want to jump into the deep end on this one, but start small and start tackling your fears. You’ll find yourself stronger, more confident, and happier with every fear tackled.
8. Smile More
Where I live, it’s a common occurrence to exchange smiles with anyone you come into contact with. I’ve traveled enough to know this isn’t a common practice everywhere, but I think it should be. Smiling is easy to do, feels good, tells your brain you’re happy, and can be the one happy thing the receiver of your smile sees that day. You can brighten up the lives of people around you with just a flash of your pearly whites. With that kind of power comes great responsibility. Use it, and use it often!
9. Exercise Regularly
There are numerous benefits to exercise. I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that. Stress relief, health benefits, etc. But my personal favorite benefit is the release of endorphins. They are natural pain and stress relievers, and they make you feel great. I didn’t believe in the endorphin rush, or Runner’s High, as it’s commonly referred, until I started running. Now I can’t get enough.
10. Embrace Your Negativity
Some people swallow and repress the negative thoughts and feelings they have, thinking this will somehow make them happier. Unfortunately, it always seems to come back, manifesting in stress, physical pain, or otherwise. The truth about the negativity is that it’s necessary to understand and accept that sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you will be stressed. Sometimes things will happen that you have no control over. Understanding and accepting this will reduce the stress you feel from repression, allowing you to get back to the things that make you happy.
11. Challenge Yourself
One of the greatest things you can do in life is to set the bar high and then achieve. By challenging yourself in ways that are achievable, but require work, you continue to work hard and improve yourself, often times leading to the outcome of being satisfied not with the accomplishment, but with the progress that you’ve made simply by having the goal. Set challenging goals, and then create realistic plans to achieve them. Every achievement becomes another step on the staircase towards your greatest, happiest self.
12. Volunteer Your Time
There is no quicker way to feel happy than to help someone else, especially someone in need of help. Volunteering your time is addicting, not just because you’re helping people in need, but because you feel good doing it. It’s a humbling way to honor humanity and be grateful for the blessings that you’ve received. There’s tons of reasons for the good feelings associated with volunteering, but suffice it to say it’s a no-brainer for both quick and long-term happiness.
13. Posture and Breathing
Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and take a deep breath. Do it a few more times. Feel that? Posture and breathing have a profound affect on your outlook on life. In just a few moments, hunching and taking weak, shallow breaths can sap the life right out of you. Focus on sitting up with your shoulder back and taking deep breaths as often as possible, and you’ll be happier throughout the day.