How to Be Happy: 10 Simple but Profound Daily Habits to Increase Happiness
No one would turn down the offer for more happiness, am I right? Happiness is one thing we cannot get enough of. We want happiness in all magnitudes and in all areas of our lives, including physical well being, emotional connections, financial abundance, steamy romance, loving and supportive family and friends — all leading to the overarching ideal of what we picture as Happiness with a capital H.
However, the question of how exactly to gain a happy life for yourself doesn’t have a clear cut answer. Although it has led to the production of innumerable books, poems, documentations, scientific research and psychological studies throughout human history. In the end, the key to personal happiness remains somewhat of a mystery, leaving us wondering if there is a magical formula to a semi-permanent and lasting positive mood for us mere mortals here on earth.
Life satisfaction: The mind-body connection
Not until more recent years did Western cultures begin to widely recognize the significance of our body, mind, and spirit connections and what that means for our mental health and overall happiness.
Continued studies in psychology and neuroscience also confirms our environment and our thoughts have a direct linkage to our brain chemistry, responsible for signaling different sensations in our bodies.
This quick read in Psychology Today summarizes how our physical experience triggers the neurotransmitters in our nervous system and affects our mental health. In other words, our thoughts can affect hormone secretion which regulate our feelings and sensations.
Mental health through fitness
In short, how we take care of our physical body takes care of our mind which dictates our mood; and how we take care of our mental and emotional health takes care of our physical well being and our overall happiness.
Taking care of this intricate balance forms the very foundation we build upon to gain everything we strive for, so we can achieve ultimate life satisfaction, one filled with positive emotions and a positive attitude.
But how many people can truly say they are happy? According to an article from Greater Good Magazine by University of California, Berkeley, the 2019 World Happiness Report finds that people are feeling worse than ever before. Not only has a positive outlook been harder to achieve, but negative emotions are rising around the world, indicating a widening happiness gap.
While this alarming news is something to be concerned with, the good news is, many of us with greater self-awareness now realize that happiness isn’t just something that happens to us, it is something we can create and maintain by positive habits.
Fortunately, not all new habits have to cause drastic changes in your daily life. Sometimes, the simplest micro habits can make an impact for your overall happiness subtly but effectively. This can be true in many ways, whether you practice gratitude, upgrade your sleep routine, or find yourself enjoying the journey instead of always focusing on the destination.
“When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running.”― JAMES CLEAR, AUTHOR OF ATOMIC HABITS
What is happiness anyway?
What truly constitutes the state of happiness? And how can we be sure it isn’t temporary, like many external pursuits can be? Consider this definition of happiness: Happiness is a feeling of contentment, that life is just as it should be. Perfect happiness, enlightenment, comes when you have all of your needs satisfied.
Since the feeling of happiness and fulfillment is highly individualized, what makes one person happy doesn’t necessarily do the same for the other, I thought I would curate a list of habits that focuses on providing building blocks to support positive thoughts. This includes a heightened awareness and clarity of our surroundings and our personal journeys, greater self awareness, stress reduction, gratitude, and compassion, so you can achieve lasting happiness for exactly the way you’d like it.
1. Begin your morning with an affirmation
It is important to set the tone for the rest of your day with a positive intention. Sometimes we can carry over the remnants of a grumpy mood from the day before or just from how we slept overnight. A loving and motivating affirmation will help you snap into a brand new day of possibilities. It is a way of practicing gratitude as a way of finding ways to be happier.
Set aside a quiet minute first thing in the morning. Take a deep breath and say the affirmation out loud and let the intention sink in. This can be done before you even get out of bed. Depending on what you are currently working on, here are a few examples of affirmations:
- I am here to receive love, support, and guidance with an open heart and an open mind.
- I look forward to exploring all the opportunities this new day has to offer.
- I am safe. I have everything I need. I have nothing to fear.
2. Move your body to avoid negative emotions
Physical exercise is essential to our mental health as well as physical health. You are probably already familiar with the benefits of spending time doing physical exercise in general, and the increase of endorphin production in the body and the release of other feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. You can move through stress, anxiety, or depression by staying physically active.
Getting your body moving and warmed up first thing in the morning can also do wonders for your energy and mood on a daily basis. It doesn’t need to be an hour long workout or a 3-mile run. Just a quick 10-15 minute warm up routine or few sequences of vinyasas are sufficient to get the blood flowing and gently wake up your system.
Moving your body throughout the day is also important so that blood continues to flow throughout the body delivering oxygen wherever it needs. Avoid sitting for a long period of time. At your lunch break, get up to turn your head, stretch, and change your position frequently throughout the day. This will not only relieve muscle fatigue but will also prevent brain fog, scatteredness, and promote better focus and concentration.
Helpful tip: Create an alert twice a day on your calendar (Mine are set at 11am and 3pm) for a break to stretch, walk, or a quick solo dance session 🙂
3. Smile for more happiness
How often do you find yourself smiling? When you walk past the mirror, do you catch yourself smiling or frowning? We’re not talking about a fake smile here, but a genuine, happy smile that screams “I’m living my best life!”
Neuroscience researchers found that the pleasure we get from smiling is equivalent to eating 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $25,000. Seriously! The simple act of smiling is kind of like a rainbow that appears over anyone’s cloudy day.
The reason this is so has to do with the fact that our smile is directly linked to the brain, signaling us to do so when we receive stimuli of pleasure, amusement, or excitement. The reaction is autonomic and we simply can’t help ourselves.
When we smile, even if it’s a bit forced sometimes, we signal back to the brain that we are experiencing more joy within ourselves, prompting the release of feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine. This is one instance of the “fake it till you make it” hypothesis I wouldn’t object — A smile will always do well to carry you through a happier life.
4. Stay in the present
Wise words from Lao Tzu states: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”
We often get into trouble when we allow our mind to wander off worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, or still jousting over what had happened last week that really bothered us.
If we are able to reel ourselves back to the present moment, we will see that there is only what’s in front of us, nothing more, nothing less. It’s what we make of the present moment that truly matters. Our past is gone, and our future depends on the choices we make in the present moment.
Helpful tip: If you catch yourself drifting off into a space other than the now, simply bring your attention back to the present moment. Take a deep breath and feel yourself grounded and centered where you are. Repeat as necessary. You may even think about starting a gratitude journal to center yourself and bring yourself back to the present.
The popularity of meditation has exploded world wide because of its undeniable health benefits and contribution to overall happiness and success of each individual. Just a few minutes each day can reduce stress, relieve pain, increase focus and concentration, boost clarity, not to mention enhance intuition and connection to a higher purpose.
All of which are factors contributing to deep, fulfilling, lifelong happiness. Many successful athletes, entrepreneurs, and public figures are known to meditate on a daily basis to help guide their careers and personal choices.
Make meditation an important ritual of your day and you will find yourself more calm, peaceful, with a bigger capacity to give and receive happiness. If you have trouble getting started with meditation, this article from Soulove may bust a few myths about meditation and help you get started, especially if you have an overactive mind.
6. Use positive language
Much like our thoughts, our spoken words have a big influence on our happiness and our self esteem. When we express ourselves through our words, we output an energy associated with those words into the universe. And the universe, whether you see it or not, always responds. Some may call this The Law of Attraction.
When thoughts become words, spoken out loud, creating sound, a measurable vibration released into your space, you can often feel or see an immediate reaction. That reaction can take the form of a smile, a friend’s comment, an uncomfortable silence, or more subtly, an inner joy, or a knot in your stomach.
The Law of Attraction suggests we attract what we think and say most often, that we bring in what we put out, therefore, keeping our words positive will attract more positivity and happiness into our lives. A more practical explanation would be, positive words are truly important factors, and always lift up the atmosphere and make everyone around you feel happy. And that happiness will undoubtedly be returned to you one day, if not immediately.
7. Eat on time
One of the often overlooked habits that cause us more stress than our culture realizes is starving ourselves. This unhealthy habit has been glamourized by the beauty industry as well as pop culture in the past few decades.
We associate food with being overweight and associate skipping meals as being health conscious or hard working. Starving ourselves, however, can cause stress in parts of our body, and affect our brain function as well.
Eating on time and not allowing yourself to starve are good habits, and can invariably affect your overall mood and concentration. (The term “hangry” was not without validity). Having an established routine of eating at a certain time is a good way to manage your day with a fundamental activity we must all engage in.
This simple routine will serve as an anchor to your busy day and set expectations of when you can take a break and enjoy some food.
8. Connect with nature
Sure, spending money or getting a massage can be great, but have you tried immersing yourself in the healing energy of mother earth? It is an undisputed way to refresh your senses and destress from your daily grind.
The wonderful feelings we experience from connecting with nature aren’t just because we’ve stepped away from our work environment or the majestic sights we often come across when in nature. They are backed by scientific reasoning in that we recharge by exposing ourselves to negative icons only found in natural elements. High concentrations of negative icons can be found in areas of mountains, ocean, waterfalls, lake, streams, dirt/earth, etc.
We are typically surrounded by positive ions in our modern daily lives. Exposure to excess can have poor health consequences. When our environment and body are out of balance we experience fatigue, allergies, infections, and in severe cases, diseases. Positive icons are mostly concentrated indoors and are associated with household electronics, fluorescent lighting, metal, plastics, carpet, air pollution, etc.
Here are a few quick and simple ways to spend some time with nature everyday:
- Gardening — potting repotting plants; pruning and trimming; harvesting
- Walking bare feet in a grassy park
- Walking bare feet on a sandy beach, or swimming in a lake
- Hiking in a nature trail
- Breathe deeply where there is fresh air
9. Let go
When our days are bombarded with productivity, scheduling, and deadlines, a few things are bound to go unplanned, and misunderstandings and conflicts can happen. It’s important to realize that many things are outside of our control, but the one thing we can control is how we respond to them.
Having a tool to successfully release feelings of anger, disappointment, and hurt is helpful when it comes to our overall happiness. It gives us the confidence we need to face any challenges in life without feeling like they can tear us down.
Here is a quick and simple energy meditation to help you diffuse those feelings and bring you back to neutrality:
Sit in a quiet space, eyes closed. Allow yourself to feel the uncomfortable feelings of anger or hurt in full. Identify each of those feelings with a color or shape (anything that comes to mind is okay. There is no wrong answer.) Put those colored shapes into a balloon and release it into the air when you are ready. Say goodbye to the balloon and watch it float farther and farther away until it pops and disappears.
10. Give gratitude
Giving gratitude is one of the most important practices to welcome more happiness into our lives. This includes expressing gratitude to those who have helped you as well as acknowledging your own accomplishments in personal growth.
Ending your day with gratitude is a mindful practice of how much there is to be grateful for despite the turn of events that can sometimes bring us down.
Each night before bed, spend time writing down at least three things you are grateful for during the day. Even if it was just the smallest joy such as a hummingbird coming to visit your porch, habits like these can lead to increased happiness. Read the list outloud to yourself and end the session with a smile. This simple ritual will help focus more of what you want into your life and allow for what you don’t want to dissipate into the background.
Consistent practice of the simple habits above will in time become a regular routine in your daily life that helps you focus on the present moment and keeps the negative thoughts away. Even if you don’t see a difference immediately, you will notice subtle shifts in your clarity, focus, mood, self confidence, even health and energy level after consistent practice.
True happiness isn’t about what to do to instigate a feel-good moment but to remove all obstacles between you and all the gifts life has to offer.