Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
The problem is that our brains just aren’t wired this way. Instead, our brains are more concerned with surviving. Even worse, we get preoccupied by what-is, like “If I made more money I could be happier.” As a result, being content and happy with the life you have becomes elusive.
Thankfully, happiness is within reach by doing the 25 ways to be happy with the life you have.
1. Retrain your brain into a positive powerhouse.
If you want to find long-term happiness with the life you have, then you first need to retrain your brain into a positive powerhouse.
Considering that we have around 70,000 thoughts per day, this is definitely no easy task. But, here a couple of pointers on how to make this possible:
Observe your thoughts.
By observing your thoughts you have a starting point on fixing a problem.
Choose a mantra for the day.
A mantra such as, “Today is a beautiful day,” can chase away many sad. thoughts.
Use an app.
An app like the I Can Do It 2013 calendar to access daily affirmations.
For example, don’t beat yourself over a bad review or the fact you didn’t get everything crossed off you to-do-list. Instead, use that review to improve a specific area of your business or use that adrenaline to be more productive tomorrow.
Make a gratitude list.
which I’ll discuss more in detail later in this article.
2. Do what you love.
What are you most passionate about? Is it hiking, playing basketball, writing, or teaching kids how to code? Whatever it is, make the time in your schedule to do what you love. When you do, you’ll notice that your days will be more enjoyable.
And, doesn’t that sound more appealing then spending day-in and-out doing something that you dread?
3. Be busy, but not rushed.
This actually makes sense, but research proves that feeling “rushed” can lead to stress and unhappiness. At the same, being just busy enough can make people happy since it prevents boredom. It also means that they’re productive and able to manage their time effectively.
If you’re struggling with achieving this balance, then follow this rule from Derek Sivers, “When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing. Absolutely. Hell yeah.’— then say, ‘no.’”
4. Accept what is and let go of what you cannot control.
Want be happy? Then you need to start accepting your life as it is and letting go of the things that you can’t control.
I know this is easier said than done. In order to make sense of everything going on — your brain has to assign meanings. But, why waste your time on external factors that you have absolutely no control over?
This doesn’t mean that you should become less empathetic or keep-up with current events. It just means focusing on what you have control.
I’ll give you an example. I have friend who gets furious whenever he sees someone we went to college with going on vacation. This college-friend apparently had to move back home and can’t afford his own place. So, that’s the source of the frustration.
They can travel the world, but not afford rent. However, this situation has nothing to do with my friend. It doesn’t impact his life what our college friend does with theirs.
My friend shouldn’t get anger over something he has no control over. Instead — he should be spending his time on things that make him happy.
5. Get a little help from your friends.
David Niven, Ph.D., writes in 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, that, “Having more close friendships was associated with a 19 percent greater life satisfaction and a 23 percent greater sense of optimism.”
It’s even been found that having a better social life can be worth as much as an additional $131,232 a year in terms of life satisfaction!
Stop working too much and start spending more time with your nearest and dearest. It could be something as small as grabbing lunch to going camping for the weekend.
If you believe that you need to expand your social circle, start attending local meetups through Meetup. Befriend your neighbors, spend a couple of days working in a co-working space, or become a mentor.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others.
I feel like people have always compared themselves to others. In fact, the term “keeping up with the Joneses” has been around forever — like since the caveman. But the term was coined in about 1913. Thanks to social media, this has become more prevalent.
I’ve logged into Facebook or LinkedIn to update my status or network professionally, only to see friends, family, or colleagues on exotic vacations, getting published in a major publication, and posting pics of their sweet new home or ride. I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I get a little jelly.
The thing is, just because someone else is successful, doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.
For example, a friend may be on a beautiful beach for a week. But, you can’t stand the beach. So, why compare yourself to that situation? A colleague may have purchased a new home, but they’re working 60 hours a week at a job they can’t stand to afford that home.
Meanwhile, you’re starting your own business and following your dreams in exchange for the beautiful new home.
7. Celebrate small wins.
Between the daily grind and being hyper-focused on the bigger picture, it’s easy to lose sight of the the small victories you achieve throughout the day.
For example, did you clear your inbox and cross everything off your to-do-list? Give yourself a well deserved pat-on-the-back. That’s something that not all of us can achieve. And, that means you’ve successfully been able to manage your time.
Eventually, taking pleasure in these small victories can add up to something much larger.
8. Help others.
Think about the times that you helped a friend work their way out of a problem, volunteered, or gave a co-worker a hand in finishing a project. I bet it felt pretty awesome, right?
The fact is, we’re hardwired to help others. So, take the time to be of service to someone else. It could be as small as answering a question to helping an elderly neighbor with their groceries to spending your weekends volunteering at a local non-profit.
When help others, you’ll feel much more fulfilled and appreciative of you what already have in life.
9. Treat yo’ self.
In the words of Tom Haverford, “Three words for you. Treat yo’ self.”
Tom and Donna may get carried away on “Parks and Recreation,” but there is evidence that some material possessions can make you happy. The catch? These items need to match your personality. For example, if you’re an introvert, you’ll have less buyer’s remorse if you spend your money on books instead of at the local pub.
10. Tell your life’s story.
“People who wrote about the history of their lives were 11 percent more likely to feel happy with their lives and 17 percent more likely to feel optimistic about the future,” writes Niven in 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life.
I’ve been able to do this by getting to know where my family has come from and then visiting that area. After my visit, I wrote about my experience in a travel blog. If you don’t want to blog about yourself, you could simply have conversations with your parents and children about your family’s history.
Outside of your family’s history, when hanging out with your friends — you can exchange stores or the adventures, and even misadventures, that you’ve experienced in your life.
11. Maintain a work-life balance.
While work does eat-up a lot of your time, it shouldn’t be the only thing that you do. Unplug and step away from work so that you can spend time with your friends and family. Pursue your passions and hobbies. Make the time to take care of your health.
Exercise can reduce stress and release endorphins. Whether if it’s going for a 30-minute run or playing soccer with your friends, get off your keister and get your sweat-on!
13. Practice mindfulness.
Start every morning by meditating and practicing mindfulness. Choncé Maddox writes that doing mindfulness “is an effective solution to go from a good or an average day to a great day. Instead of waking up and thinking about what hurts, what you have to do, or what you didn’t do yesterday, begin your day with an attitude of gratitude.”
Start by reflecting on everything that you’re grateful and sitting quietly. Make sure that you’re completely engaging all of your “attention on your thoughts, feelings, senses and the surrounding environment. Next, visualize everything you want in your life as if you had it today.”
Doing this mindfulness daily will “allow you to make better and well thought-out decisions since you’ll realize what you’re working for and why you’re doing it.”
14. Set goals.
Did you know that people with goals are almost 20 percent more satisfied with their lives? The problem is that most people don’t actually achieve the goals that they’re set.
However, Choncé Maddox writes in a previous Calendar article that you can finally reach your goals by:
- Reflecting on your past progress to determine what contributed to your success or failure.
- Set just 1-3 SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
- Determine “why” you want to meet a specific goal.
- Have a Plan B and Plan C in case you face setbacks.
- Break your goal up into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Track you progress and hold yourself accountable.
15. Embrace imperfection.
Perfection is impossible. No matter how hard you work or the time spent making revisions, whatever you’re working will never be perfect. So, stop obsessing with perfection. Do your best and move on to something else.
Also, accept these imperfections and praise yourself for your efforts. It’s like what Leonard Cohen once said, “There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”
16. Plan and spend money on experiences.
Research shows that planning future activities, like a vacation, can make people happy. Even planning a nice dinner a week in advance can have the same effect. The reason? You not only enjoy the meal, you also spend prior the week savoring the the meal.
Additionally, spending your hard-earned money on experiences, as opposed to material possessions, can make you happier because experiences can be shared with others, are recalled more often, are unique, and improve over time.
17. Continue learning.
Dr. Niven found that, “People over forty who could identify at least one change in their viewpoints or behavior in recent months were 8 percent more likely to feel hopeful about the future and 5 percent more likely to say they were generally in a good mood.”
Even more interesting, “People over the age of fifty who said they continued to learn about topics that interested them were 18 percent more likely to feel satisfied with their lives and 43 percent more likely to feel vital.”
In other words, never stop learning. It could be learning a new skill, like how to code or speaking a new language. Reading the news daily or listening to a podcast to learn a new piece of information. You could also get out of your comfort zone and try out a new cuisine or activity that you’re never done.
Doing any of the suggestions listed above will help you grow personally and potentially professionally.
18. Listen to your favorite tunes.
It may sound too good to be true, but listening to music can help you concentrate, lift your spirits — and even improve your overall health.
Research from the University of Missouri has found that listening to upbeat much can positively affect our well-being. The reason? Happy and upbeat music releases dopamine.
What’s more, studies have discovered that listening to your favorite music can reduce chronic pain, help you sleep, and improve mental functions like verbal IQ. For an additional emotional boost, start playing an instrument or joining a choir.
19. Get outside.
It’s been proven time and time again that if you want to boost your mental and physical well-being you need to spend more time outside.
This is because going outside can restore mental energy, improve short-term memory, reduce stress and inflammation, boost your immune system, and inspire creative thinking.
20. Keep things in perspective.
How was your day? Did you cross items off your to-do-list? There weren’t any car or traffic problems on your way to work? Is everyone in your family healthy and happy? Was there drama at work?
As opposed to focusing on the bad things that happen during your day, think about the bad things that didn’t happen.You’ll notice that life isn’t all that bad.
If you do experience a setback, don’t let it ruin your day, week, month, or even year. Look at it as an opportunity to that lemon into lemonade.
21. Label negative feelings.
We all experience negative feelings, like anger and anxiety, throughout the day. Instead of letting these feelings consume you, label them. Doing so shifts activity from the emotional part of the brain to the thinking part. This not only eases your pain, it also puts you back in control.
To get get started, name your emotion and put it into words. While this won’t make the emotion completely disappear — it helps you “cool down” so that you won’t react impulsively. Just imagine the repercussions if you’re angry and lash out to your partner, boss, or client.
With a level-head, you’ll be better suited to manage these negative emotions and find ways to resolve them.
During the day, take micro-breaks from work and reminisce. Research shows that indulging in nostalgia, for example, is psychologically positive.
“Nostalgia is a special kind of reminiscence,” says Fred Bryant, professor of psychology at Loyola University. “I’m convinced it is a form of mental time travel, to be able to go into our past — and bring those feelings into our present.”
“We don’t necessarily reconstruct the exact feelings we had in the past,” adds Bryant. “For most of us it’s more about how it feels to think about those times – there might be a wonderful sense of fulfillment, or love, and that is quite different from what one felt originally.”
Need something to spark your memories? Place photos of your travels or of your friends and family in places where you can see them throughout the day.
23. Eliminate toxic people in your life.
Whether if it’s business partner, client, investor, employees, or a long-time friend. If these people make you unhappy, it’s time to remove them from your personal or professional life.
Tara Mackey, author of Cured by Nature and founder of The Organic Life, explains that toxic people “distract us from our positive or productive habits.” They’re the people who mock you for wanting to become a better person or chase your dreams. Those swimming in negativity — they’ll attempt to drag you down with them.
Of course, it’s not always easy to detox from these people, but here’s how you can get started:
Identify the toxicity.
If you feel that someone is weighing you down, more than bringing you up, it’s time to move on from the relationship.
Negative people tend not to go away that easily. Don’t give into them. If you can’t completely remove them from your life, keep the appropriate distance from them.
If you decide to sever all ties with someone, then block their number, remove them from your social channels, and don’t emails just to check-in.
Don’t be too nice.
You don’t have to be cruel or rude. But, you definitely shouldn’t go out of your way to accommodate them.
Remember, it’s not your job to save them.
It’s one thing to be there for a friend or colleague when they need you. But, negative people expect you to be there 24/7 for them. Remember, it’s not your job to solve all of their problems for them.
Move on, for good.
Negative people will try and weasel their way back into your life. Don’t fall for it. When it’s done, it’s done. If it’s a family member, for example, set boundaries, like seeing them only during the holidays.
Instead of wasting your time with negative people, spend that time with those who are supportive and make you happy.
24. Accept yourself for who you are right now.
It’s easy to beat yourself up. Maybe you don’t like your body or how much money you’re making. When you start having these thoughts, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole of negativity.
Instead of worrying about what you don’t like about yourself, start accepting you are. Think about your strengths and what you do have in life to be grateful for. Ask yourself if you’re happy with what you’re doing — if you’re an entrepreneur you may not be making a fortune, but you’re doing what makes you happy.
Give yourself since compliments. Stop worrying about what others think. And, always do your best and be proud of your efforts.
25. End each day feeling grateful.
It’s not uncommon for us to focus only on what we want or what we don’t have. As a result, we often overlook all of the amazing things that we do have in our lives.
One of the simplest ways to change this is by ending each day feeling grateful.
Personally, I end my days by jotting down three to five awesome things that I’m thankful for in a gratitude journal. It could be anything from, “I’m thankful that my best friend drove me to the airport,” to “I love that I can spend my work breaks on the beach,” to “That chicken salad for lunch was the best I ever ate.”
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, backs this claim up. According to his work, keeping a gratitude journal and regularly writing brief reflections on the moments that we’re thankful for can increase our well-being and life satisfaction.