I doubt there’s anyone anywhere who doesn’t want to live a happier life. Of course, happiness is a relative subject, and what makes one happy might not make another, but the concept in itself is straightforward. However, if the way people interpret happiness is not consistent, how can there be a set of things that could lead to a happier life in general? It turns out that scientific research shows us that there are several things that everyone can do to increase the chances to approach that ideal “happy life.”
What Does a Happy Life Mean?
There’s no such thing as absolute happiness; I think we can all agree to that. In the now cliched words of Einstein, it’s all relative. My joy could be your sadness and vice-versa. Just look at our two-party political system, and you’ll get the idea.
On the other hand, there are, of course, a few things we all agree contribute to our happiness, and we can get a glimpse of that in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, depicted below as a pyramid. We look at this from the bottoms up, starting with the critical requirements for survival to luxuries.
I believe that only the first level applies universally. Those basic needs are not a good barometer for happiness because they will not equate to a lack of joy but something much direr.
Everything that goes above and beyond those basic needs, though, is highly relative. Security, safety, intimate relationships-they all mean different things to different people. And other folks interpret them differently based on their system of values and beliefs.
It might sound like it’s impossible to come up with a list of things that make you happier. However, I believe that there are a few things that you should do or stop doing that will significantly increase the probability of living a happier life in the long run.
But before we get to that, let me ask you one more thing. Should you even strive to be happy? Does it matter?
Why Happiness Matters
It’s a silly question in a way, but a valid one, nonetheless.
I believe Aristotle addressed this best when he said that “happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.”
A 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal reveals that happiness is contagious. The article concludes that “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.”
So, your happiness is just a cog in the world’s overall happiness. Despite what you may have been told, searching for joy does not constitute selfish behavior. It’s a responsibility you have, and you are an active participant in the world’s happiness.
Happiness is also a motivator. We know that happy people are more likely to succeed. Success will indeed drive satisfaction, but research has shown that the reverse is also true—people who lead a happy life are more likely to succeed. So, happiness is not an end goal; it’s an essential way of life that leads to success, accomplishment, and fulfillment.
Therefore, figuring out a few things that you can do or not do to feel happier overall is a critical step toward accomplishing more in life.
People who feel happy are more likely to work on their self-growth and personal development, exercise, and maintain healthy diets because of their superior self-discipline and desire for betterment.
Secrets to Living a Happier Life
Now let’s move to the meat of things. Here are several ideas that you can apply starting today to increase the happiness in your life. Ideally, you would’ve started these early in your adolescence. If you haven’t, you can start right now.
Have a plan for your happiness
As I said above, happiness is your responsibility. That means that you must create a plan to achieve it. To do this, you must follow a straightforward path that looks like this:
- Understand who you are and where you stand
- Create a vision for where you want to go
- Execute the plan
To learn more about defining this entire path for yourself, you can check my Self-Growth Journey program. It’s a free tool available to you today.
Even if you don’t use my method, one way or another, your happiness will stay elusive until you define where you are today, where and why do you want to go, and how you are going to get there. A lack of clarity and direction will cast a shadow on your life’s happiness.
Work on pursuing healthy relationships
You don’t live your life in a vacuum. Because we all live in society, our strength is amplified and reflected by the quality of our relationships. When you surround yourself with people you care about and actively work on those relationships, you create a platform where your happiness can flourish.
The least you can do is take stock of those unhealthy and damaging relationships in your life and clear them out. Cut them out of your life. For as long as they are there, they will continue to act as a drain to your happiness.
Your growth is never complete; you are forever a work in progress. That means that you should never stop learning, growing, improving, and seeking to be better. You will never be perfect-perfection doesn’t exist-nor will you ever attain some high-level Nirvana. But your willingness to grow and the deliberate actions to grow will give you the edge you need to feel happy.
As adults, we should never stop improving our skills, expanding our strengths, and learning how to work around our weaknesses. It’s not only in our purview; it’s our duty. We owe it to ourselves.
Best practices for a happier life
Now let’s switch the gear to a set of practices that you can employ to increase your life’s happiness. These are mindset shifts, and you can work on all of them simultaneously or slowly implement them over time.
Every situation in your life has a light side and a dark side, a right side and a wrong side. Looking only at one of those sides doesn’t change the situation, but focusing your energy through that prism will change your attitude and how you perceive the situation.
By concentrating on the opportunity in every case, relationship, or activity, you learn how to let go of negativity and develop a superior ability to find creative solutions and not be bogged down by problems. Although merely thinking positively won’t fix the problem, it will give you the peace and motivation you need to pursue a solution.
Forgive and let go of resentment
Keeping a grudge poisons your heart and soul and keeps you stuck in a dark place. Yes, people have wronged you, sometimes on purpose. You cannot do anything about that except protect yourself in the future from similar situations and removing those people from your life.
But forgiving and letting of resentment means taking the power away from those people and situations and reclaiming control. When you let go, you gain freedom.
Find places in your life where you hold grudges and let those go. Forgiveness is a critical key to deep personal happiness.
When you manage your image and have multiple identities depending on who you are interacting with, you lose your sense of self. When you lie and pretend, you deceive others, but, most importantly, you deceive yourself and, soon enough, you won’t know who you are anymore.
By being honest, telling the truth, admitting when you are wrong or when you don’t know something, and taking responsibility for your actions, including your mistakes, you dial up your authenticity.
When you are yourself all the time and everywhere, you allow happiness to come in naturally, versus managing it or pretending to be happy.
Work on your self-confidence
Self-confidence is not a gift that is engraved into your DNA. It’s also not something that you get from others when they pat you on the back. Self-confidence comes from your small victories and successes.
Create platforms in your life to boost your self-confidence through small wins. Practice those baby steps, and your self-confidence will flourish, allowing you to tackle even bigger challenges.
Maintain work-life balance
Your work, hobbies, family, and friends represent different areas of your life. Sometimes, work mixes with one of them when you run a business with your family or is the same as your hobby. However, you must always be aware of the balance between all of them.
Work provides you with the financial freedom you need to survive. Through your family and friends, you create an emotionally sensitive environment. They both need to coexist in space and time and in the amount of energy you put in each one.
Although balance by itself should not be an ultimate goal because sometimes lack of balance is needed to allow passions to manifest, it’s essential to keep an eye on it. Long-term unbalance might lead to long-term unhappiness, so you need to be aware of where you are and what is truly important to you.
The ability to push through difficult times and challenges is part of your happiness. You must actively work on your resilience and self-discipline to tackle those problems when they come. That means being pro-active by creating practice grounds for your resilience.
Waking up earlier, exercising despite not feeling like it, starting an uncomfortable conversation-they all prepare you for those unexpected times when you need to tap into your resilience. Make sure you build these into your plan and celebrate those small victories every time.
Your mind needs planning, training, and rest. It’s no different than a muscle. By practicing mindfulness, you are forcing your mind to focus on the present moment. It pulls you away from the shadows of your past and shields you from the unpredictability of the future. Mindfulness helps you be aware of how you feel without judgment.
You are curious, aware, and open to what is happening in your life today. That removes any hiding or concealing of feelings and takes that pressure away, relieving stress and finding peace.
Remember that although happiness is internally created, it has nothing to do with being selfish or self-centered. Joy multiplies when it’s spread. By being aware of what your actions do and how they affect others, you are conscious of your place in the world.
When you are kind to those around you and show your love and care, you build long-lasting happiness for the people you love and yourself. Kindness breeds happiness and fulfillment, and introducing that practice into your daily routine is one of the best ways to be a happier person.
Engage your creativity
I know that many people, perhaps even you, don’t consider themselves creative. However, studies have shown that we all have a seed of creativity. Don’t equate being creative to making a living from creating art. Instead, look at creativity as a release valve for your mind. It’s a gateway for you to let some of that stuff go and train your creative thinking muscles.
There are many ways to fire up your creativity and apply it in your life, but the best way is to pick one and start. It could be writing, journaling, painting, drawing, or crocheting. Whatever it is, creating something will bring those small victories in your life.
Do what you love
If you study the ancient Japanese idea of Ikigai, you’ll see that there’s a profound connection between what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for. By identifying those pieces early in your life, you can plan your career in a way that meets at the center of those elements.
When you focus on building a career or running a business where you feel part of the mission, contribute to others’ wellbeing, and create wealth for yourself and your family, you lead a happier life.
Sadly, most children won’t receive any education about managing their finances, understanding taxes, and saving money. That leads to adults having the wrong view about how to manage their life and what money means.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that having more money makes you happier just by its sheer existence. It’s not true. More money might give you more opportunities, but as an end-goal, money won’t increase your happiness.
When you spend wisely and save for your family’s future, you will feel happier. Also, when you spend money on creating experiences with the people you love, happiness is long-lasting. Those memories will last forever, while the happiness generated by material possessions is short-lived.
Gratitude is one of the most effective ways to increase happiness in your life. It’s counterintuitive because it feels like it has nothing to do with you, but the fact that you show grateful appreciation for what life has given you profoundly affects your happiness. It doesn’t matter in which form you received gifts from life (material, relationship, advice, etc.); being grateful for them on a daily basis will cultivate that mindset.
When you are grateful for everything that you have, no matter how small, you are opening your heart and soul to the world.
Generosity fosters happiness. Give to others in need, but not only when they ask for it. Actively seek places where you can contribute your time, energy, or money. Do it wholeheartedly and selflessly and with no strings attached. When you give back, you humbly accept that you are a part of a society that needs you.
Helping others not only makes you happier, but it also makes you feel more fulfilled.
Engage with nature
As more time passes for humanity, we build our sanctuaries in the forms of cities and towns and commute between them in our metal boxes. Our eyes are glued to our screens, and headphones permanently cover our ears. We isolate ourselves from nature, and we start to lose the connection with it, which is so vital for our serenity and wellbeing.
Being deliberate in finding ways to spend more time with nature will feed that need we all have. We came from nature, and we have an unbroken bond with it. Nature refuels us and gives us peace. Stroll through a forest, hike a mountain, or take a barefoot walk through the warm sand. Let nature feed you once in a while.
Being humble doesn’t mean being weak or not being assertive. Humbleness is a mindset, a way in which you approach all situations. Instead of entering a stage with a know-it-all attitude, try your best to approach it with a student’s mindset. That means that you can assert your opinions but be okay with a push-back. Be open-minded to learning new things.
When you are humble, you accept yourself as you are with your strengths and weaknesses, you acknowledge your mistakes, and take responsibility for your actions. You become open to others’ points of view and ideas, gain perspective, and improve your wisdom. In turn, this will dial up the happiness in your life.
4.16 Feel the fear and keep going
When you feel afraid, you tend to freeze and go into fight or flight mode. Fear has helped you survive, but it shouldn’t prevent you from taking action that you’ve determined already as the right thing to do. The regret of what might have been is a massive dent in your life’s happiness, and you want to prevent that at all costs.
That means you need to acknowledge that fear exists, figure out ways to mitigate the risks, and take action anyway. That will sharpen your courage, and if you fail, you will learn from that failure and be better and bolder next time.
Things to Stop Doing
Now that you understand some of the things you can do to increase happiness in your life let us focus on several things that I believe you have to stop doing to achieve the same result. Both work in tandem together, and it’s best to apply them at the same time.
Looking for perfection
Nothing was, is, or will ever be perfect. If perfectionism is holding you back, you need to figure out ways to let it go. Change your mindset and learn how to be more biased to action instead of polishing everything to perfection. 80% is good enough. The more you can let things go without perfection, the more you accept your own imperfection and come to terms with it.
Trying to control everything
The only things in your control are your thoughts, words, attitudes, behavior, and actions. And all those concepts are positively related. Outside of that, you don’t control anything, including the people in your life and the environment. When you stop trying to control the things that are not yours to control and focus on what you can control, you will take a massive burden off your shoulders and allow a happier life to develop.
While helping others and giving back is a great way to increase the happiness in your life, trying to please everyone all the time is a surefire way to erode your joy. When you act in good faith and stay true to your values, people will respect you more than if you blindly try to please them by being unauthentic or saying yes to unrealistic expectations. Help people the right way, but learn how to say no when you have to. Most importantly, learn how to be yourself.
We are all born in the same world and in a similar way. None of us deserve more or less from life, and life doesn’t owe any of us anything. We build our future through hard work and resilience. When you believe you are entitled to something, you lose control of precisely that thing. Instead, let go of entitlement focus on what you can do to build your life the way you want it. Doing so will make you happier. Entitlement will always lead to frustration and anxiety, and, ultimately, lack of fulfillment.
Comparing yourself to anyone
There is nobody else in the world like you, and you are like nobody else. Besides, your environment is different; the opportunities you have and the challenges you’ve taken are different, too. Comparing yourself to anybody makes no sense whatsoever, and it only breeds envy in your life.
The only person you should compare yourself to is yourself from the past. Have you improved and grown? If yes, then it’s a win. Next, focus on how you will grow more into the future. Instead of comparing yourself to others, use their success and strategies as examples. In other words, look for mentors, not for people you wish you’d be. It’s a subtle yet significant distinction.
Having expectations instead of high standards
This one goes hand in hand with not being entitled. Expectations are things you expect to happen with little or no effort on your part. They usually involve things you want others to do, behaviors you want them to adopt, or how the world should work around you.
Instead of focusing on expectations, aim to have high standards instead and then work hard toward living up to those standards. It all comes from within, and it’s in your power. You will live a happier and fulfilled life if you work toward those high standards instead of expecting everything to go your way.
Live and Maintain A Happier Life
Are you going to live a happier life only if you do all those things above? Absolutely not. As I said at the beginning of the article, these ideas are designed to improve the likelihood of finding yourself living happier. Some of these ideas will apply to you, and some won’t.
From these thoughts, you may identify other things that apply exclusively to your life and your situation. The whole thing revolves around the idea that happiness matters and that you have a responsibility to work toward it.
Happiness matters to you, and it matters to the world. But happiness is not an end goal. Instead, it’s a journey. It’s a process.
It’s the little things you do every day to feel happy and help others be happy.
The strategies I presented in this article will improve your chances for leading a happier life, but you must do the work.
So, what is the first thing you’ll implement in your life today?
Other Resources on Living a Happier Life
- 20 Secrets to Living a Happier Life
- 10 Skills You Need to Live a Happy Life
- How to Be Happy: 25 Habits to Add to Your Routine
- 15 Simple Ways to Live a Happy Life
- 16 Things to Let Go to Live a Truly Happy Life
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- How would you rate the happiness in your life today?
- What are the things that make you must happy and how do you trigger them?
- What are some things you’ve stopped doing that brought more happiness in your life?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!