Happiness: it’s that thing that seems to be within our grasp only to quickly fade away.
But it’s not as complicated as it seems, and you can actually greatly increase your happiness right now by starting daily habits that will boost your mood.
Studies show the following daily activities and habits have a significant impact on happiness and well-being, taking you from “blah” to “bright” in much less time than you might think.
Let’s dive in!
1) Morning meditation (yes, really!)
Meditating each morning is a great way to start the day. It doesn’t even have to be for long, and only five or ten minutes is a wonderful practice.
Mindfulness meditation is increasingly recommended by many mental health practitioners because of its various beneficial effects.
You simply sit in a quiet place and breathe in and out, focusing on observing your breath. You note thoughts and feelings that come and go without identifying with them as “good,” or “bad.”
2) Being generous to others with time and money
Generosity is usually thought of as something that “good people” do because they just have such a kind heart.
But being generous can actually be done out of self-interest, too.
Why? It makes you happier.
“We’ve found in our research that giving money to others actually makes people happier,” notes Harvard Business School Professor and author Michael Norton.
It’s not just about spending money, either.
As Norton has found in his research, spending your time and emotional energy on other people also leads to significant overall improved happiness.
This ties into other research about spending habits.
3) Dodging false myths about happiness and ownership
Author Sonja Lyubomirsky cites various reputed studies in her book “The Myths of Happiness” where she debunks many of the false beliefs society has about being happy.
Right near the top is the idea that having more possessions and material success will bring you that inner glow. But it just isn’t so, notes Lyubomirksy.
In fact, materialism often makes us feel depressed and empty inside, and “threatens satisfaction with our relationships, harms the environment, makes us less friendly, sympathetic, and empathetic, and makes us less inclined to help others and contribute to our communities,” according to Lyubomirsky’s research.
4) Spending time with kindred spirits
When you spend time with other happy people, it’s far more likely that you’re going to feel happy.
What’s even better is to spend time with folks who are kindred spirits, folks you can relate to at a deeper level.
This means people who understand the ideas you have and present interesting ideas of their own. It means people you “vibe” with at a level far beyond the superficial.
This also ties into the next point…
5) Finding ways to talk and connect with others
Even when you don’t find kindred spirits around every corner, there’s usually a way to connect with people around you.
The more social you are, even on a low-key level, the more you end up experiencing greater levels of well-being and happiness.
Studies show that happy people find ways to connect with others and have conversations.
Researcher Christopher Peterson notes that “happier participants spent more time talking to others, a finding not surprising given the social basis of happiness.”
6) Treating others with respect and empathy
Kindness to other people is about far more than just “being nice.”
It’s extremely good for our mental health and boosts our level of self-esteem and well-being.
When you treat others with consideration, you shift your perspective from one of waiting to get things (passive) to one of giving (active).
This is empowering and makes you feel much more satisfied and engaged with your life.
Studies back this up.
In fact, studies out of the University of California and the universities of Cambridge and Plymouth in the United Kingdom have all found being kind to other people makes us feel good.
On the subject of being kind, we get to gratitude.
7) Expressing thanks to other people in your life
Research done at the University of California demonstrates that expressing gratitude to others has a significant bump on happiness.
Writing thank you cards, sending short texts or emails or even just giving compliments are all examples of this.
It may seem a bit silly at first, but as you begin expressing thanks and noting positive aspects of other people, you will feel the momentum building.
People will also begin feeling much better around you:
Everybody likes to be appreciated and valued.
8) Getting out into the great outdoors
With more and more time spent behind screens, getting out into the great outdoors is one of the single best things you can do for your overall happiness.
Nature makes us calmer and has a definite and observable positive effect on mental health.
Research lead David Strayer of the University of Utah says his findings back this up and have discovered that being out in nature makes us not only physically but also mentally healthier and happier.
As he notes:
“We’re seeing changes in the brain and body that suggest we’re physically and mentally healthier when we’re interacting with nature.”
9) Rewarding yourself at various points of the day
Giving yourself rewards is actually a great way to set benchmarks throughout your day.
As happiness expert and author Gretchen Rubin notes:
“Studies show that people who received a small treat, such as a gift or even the possibility of watching a fun video, gained self-control. It’s a secret of adulthood: if I give more of myself, I can demand more of myself.”
When you know that something good is coming, you can put up with a bit more of some tough work or boring circumstances.
This relates to the next point:
10) Engaging in meaningful self-care
We can all find healthy ways to engage in self-care that make a real difference in our lives.
This includes eating well, getting exercise, buying comfortable clothes that fit and taking a nice long bubble bath now and then.
It means having times that are just for you when you put on your headphones and listen to music that heals your soul…
Self-care really means whatever you want it to, but it’s a crucial component of being a happy person.
11) Focusing on growth instead of on past regrets
It’s crucial to cultivate a growth mindset.
What does this mean?
It means that you don’t let past regrets consume your mind and emotions and instead focus on your action plan for the future.
What do you want to do next? What do you want to learn and improve at? What are your strengths?
Speaking of strengths…
12) Using your strengths on a daily basis
What are you good at?
Using your strengths to do things every day makes a huge difference in your overall happiness.
As “Happiness Advantage” author Shawn Achor notes:
“When 577 volunteers were encouraged to pick one of their strengths and use it in a new way each day for a week, they were significantly happier and less depressed than the control groups.”
These benefits lasted six months later and even longer.
Do what you’re good at as much as possible and you will become significantly happier. Science backs it up.
13) Leaving your excuses for the birds
We all have excuses, but they don’t do any good.
Numerous studies confirm the power of confirmation bias (first named by Peter Wason in 1960).
If you believe you can’t succeed because you have dyslexia, you’ll notice a lot of confirmation of that and filter people’s actions and words through that belief.
If you believe that you’re ugly and that means you shouldn’t bother trying to ask anyone out, you’ll see evidence for this around you everywhere.
Confirmation bias can also be flipped to a positive direction, but the danger is when it feeds into excuses and leads to inaction and unhappiness in life.
14) Sleeping well!
Getting enough sleep is absolutely vital to having a happier life.
It’s just a fact that quality sleep is crucial for your overall wellbeing and happiness.
When you sleep fitfully or not enough, you end up with less energy, a worse mood and overall feelings of not being ready for the day, hopelessness and irritability.
Make sure you have a comfortable mattress and are warm enough (but not too warm) and that you don’t use devices right before bed.
Getting a good sleep is vital to your health and happiness!