10 simple habits that will make you truly happy in life, according to psychology

What does it really mean to be truly happy? This is a question that has been on the minds of many a philosopher, poet, and just about everyone at some point. 

We often find ourselves chasing after big milestones—landing that dream job, buying a house, or finding the perfect partner—thinking these achievements will unlock the door to everlasting joy. 

But true happiness might actually be found in the smaller, everyday habits that we tend to overlook. It’s about finding a sense of contentment and fulfillment in your everyday life.

Fortunately, we have a lot of happiness research to draw on if we want to cultivate the right happy-making habits. 

And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today – the 10 simple habits that will make you truly happy in life, according to psychology. 

1) Practice mindfulness

First up, a key habit to cultivate for a happier life is mindfulness. This is about being fully present in the moment and engaged with your current activity. 

The research is clear on this: higher mindfulness equals higher levels of happiness.

By focusing on the here and now, you can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress that often come from worrying about the past or future. 

Practicing mindfulness allows you to savor life’s simple pleasures and brings a sense of calm and contentment to your everyday routine.

2) Cultivate gratitude

Similarly, gratitude has a profound influence on our sense of happiness. It’s fascinating how much of an impact a simple act of recognizing the positives in our lives can have on our overall mood and satisfaction. 

This phenomenon, known as the “gratitude effect,” suggests that focusing on the good rather than dwelling on the negatives can significantly elevate our happiness levels.

I’ve seen how powerful it is firsthand. Last year, during a particularly challenging period, I felt as though every day was a battle against dissatisfaction and comparison. It was as if I was seeing my life through a lens that only highlighted what was missing or could be better.

Then, I stumbled upon a podcast discussing the gratitude effect and its impact on mental health. Out of curiosity more than conviction, I decided to experiment with this concept. 

Every night, before going to sleep, I would reflect on my day and mentally list three things I was grateful for. It could be as simple as a delicious meal, a kind message from a friend, or even just the absence of traffic on my way to work.

This small nightly ritual gradually transformed my perspective. I started to notice a shift in my outlook; I found joy in moments I had previously overlooked and felt a growing sense of contentment with my life as it was, not as I thought it should be. 

This experience was a powerful testament to the idea that happiness often stems from recognizing and valuing the beauty in our everyday experiences. 

3) Engage in regular physical activity

Exercise is a proven mood booster. Regular physical activity releases endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones, improving your mood and energy levels. 

And you know what? According to a study, this turns out to be true across every age and stage of our lives. 

So whether it’s a brisk walk, yoga, or a high-intensity workout, find an exercise routine that you enjoy and make it a part of your daily habit for a happier life.

4) Help others

blend of intelligence and empathy 10 simple habits that will make you truly happy in life, according to psychology

Another surefire happiness habit is helping others. It might sound counterintuitive, but according to the Mental Health Foundation, kindness and helping others benefit us in many ways: 

  • It improves our self-esteem
  • It creates a sense of belonging 
  • It helps us have a more positive outlook in life
  • It promotes changes in the brain that area actually linked to happiness

So, the more you do for others, the more you actually do for yourself, too! 

5) Accept imperfections

We all have flaws, we all make mistakes, and we all have bad days. It’s okay to not always be okay. 

Now, we all know this in our heads. But in our hearts or spirits, it’s a different matter. Despite knowing the folly and futility of perfectionism, we still tend to be too harsh on ourselves. We still struggle with accepting our flaws. 

But accept it we must, if we want to be happy in life. Otherwise, we trap ourselves in a vicious cycle of self-criticism and disappointment, constantly feeling like we’re falling short. 

This relentless pursuit of an unattainable ideal not only saps our joy but also blinds us to the beauty and richness of our genuine selves. 

Embracing our imperfections, on the other hand, offers us freedom—the freedom to be authentic, to grow, and to find happiness not in perfection, but in reality.

Want to have more of this in your life? Start with these tips: 

  • Practice self-compassion
  • Set realistic goals
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Let go of the need to control
  • Seek support when you need it

And above all…

6) Practice self-care

Just last month, I found myself running on empty, juggling work deadlines, personal commitments, and an ever-growing to-do list. 

The more I pushed myself, the more drained I felt, until one weekend, I decided to hit pause. I turned off my phone, took a long walk in the park, indulged in my favorite book, and ended the day with a relaxing bath. 

It was a simple act of self-care, but its impact was profound. Not only did I feel more rejuvenated, but my mood significantly improved, making me wonder why I hadn’t prioritized this sooner.

This experience underscores a vital lesson about happiness: self-care isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. 

The reality is, we often neglect our own needs, mistaking self-sacrifice for virtue. Yet, psychology tells us that self-care is essential for maintaining our mental health and overall happiness. 

By taking the time to care for ourselves, we’re not being selfish; we’re ensuring that we’re in the best possible state to tackle life’s challenges and to care for others.

Show yourself the same kindness and care you would give to a loved one. When you’re kind to yourself, you cultivate inner peace and happiness.

7) Connect with others

Another note to keep in mind is that we’re social creatures by nature. We crave connections and meaningful relationships. 

In fact, research shows that social connections are actually the biggest and most consistent predictor of a happy life. 

That’s why spending quality time with family, catching up with old friends, or even forming connections with new people can significantly improve your happiness

So, reach out, connect, and cherish your relationships. It’s one of the most fulfilling aspects of life.

8) Laugh more

happy couples from unhappy ones 10 simple habits that will make you truly happy in life, according to psychology

Following on from that, what better way is there to connect with others than through laughter? 

HelpGuide.org cites so many reasons why laughter can make life so much happier, and as it turns out, longer: 

  • It triggers the release of endorphins
  • It boosts immunity and improves health
  • It lowers stress hormones and decreases pain
  • It eases anxiety and tension
  • It makes us more resilient
  • It strengthens relationships and defuses conflict

I could go on some more, but you get the picture. Not taking life too seriously can bring a lot of joy and light-heartedness into your daily routine. It’s one of the simplest, yet most effective ways to lift your spirits and brighten your day.

9) Stop the comparison game

In this era of social media, where everyone’s life appears picture-perfect, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. 

But remember, you’re only seeing a highlight reel, not the full story. Comparing yourself to others only breeds discontent and robs you of your joy. So cut it out! 

Focus on your own progress, celebrate your own victories, no matter how small. Your journey is unique and so are you. Happiness lies in embracing and appreciating your own path.

10) Choose happiness

Choosing happiness sounds like a simple concept, yet it’s one of the most profound decisions we can make in our lives. 

It’s the realization that, despite the chaos and challenges life throws our way, we hold the power to influence our own well-being through our attitudes and actions. 

This isn’t about denying the hardships or painting over them with a broad brush of positivity. 

Rather, it’s about acknowledging our ability to find joy amidst adversity, to focus on the elements of our lives that we can control and derive happiness from them.

I learned the importance of this choice during a particularly tough year. Faced with personal loss and professional setbacks, I found myself at a crossroads. I could either let these challenges define my outlook or I could look for light in the darkness. 

It was then that I began to practice gratitude more intentionally, focusing on what I did have rather than what I’d lost. I also made it a point to surround myself with positive influences—people who uplifted me, activities that brought me joy, and environments that inspired peace. 

This shift didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t always easy, but gradually, the choice to seek happiness became more and more of a habit for me.

What I’m pointing out here is that happiness is not a passive state of being; it’s an active pursuit. It’s about making conscious decisions every day that align with our well-being and happiness. 

This choice doesn’t mean that we won’t face hard times or feel a range of emotions. But it does mean that we acknowledge our agency in how we respond to life’s ups and downs. 

Picture of Roselle Umlas

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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