• Ivy L. James

7 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

It's easy to get bogged down by all the negativity and problems in the world. There's so much going on, all the time. However, happiness doesn't have to be based on what's happening around you. (In fact, if you're hoping the world will make you happy by itself, you're going to be in fluctuation your whole life!)


Instead of crossing your fingers that life will make you happy, you can take steps to increase your happiness yourself.


Disclaimer: This is about improving general happiness, not fixing depression. None of this is intended to substitute for medical treatment of clinical depression.


7 ways to increase your happiness:

  1. Decide you're going to be happy.

  2. Look for the positive things you normally overlook.

  3. Do something good for someone else.

  4. Let yourself be a novice.

  5. Talk positively about others and about situations.

  6. Go for a walk in nature.

  7. Forgive yourself and others.


1. Decide you're going to be happy.

The first step to being happier is the choice to search it out. Yes, it's a choice. It won't magically come your way.


If you let yourself be swayed by whatever comes your way, the negative will outweigh the positivenot because there's necessarily more or worse negative than positive, but because the human brain is wired to emphasize the bad. You know how it's easier to remember criticism than compliments? Thanks for nothing, brain.


Instead, decide that no matter what happens, you're going to maintain a positive outlook.


If our happiness doesn't depend on circumstances, we can be happy all the time.


2. Look for the positive things you normally overlook.

It's easy to focus on the negative. But surprise! You can change your emotional mindset by changing what you focus on.


Look for the positive things you might otherwise overlook. No matter how bad your situation is, I'm willing to bet something good is happening to you somewhere.


Negative Brain says, "My savings account isn't big enough to buy a house. My dog barks all the time. We don't have a dishwasher. How can I be happy when X, Y, and Z are still problems?"


Positive Brain says, "Well, my savings account is enough to provide for emergencies. My dog consistently comes when called. Someone else dries and puts away the dishes after I wash them. I have running water and food on the table. I can be happy with that."


You can also intentionally look for positive things happening around you. Your friend got a promotion—that's awesome! Someone's walking their dog—aww, yay, puppy! The world may be a hot mess, but there are always good things going on too.


3. Do something good for someone else.

Negativity typically stems from over-focusing on the self and one's own problems. An excellent way to get out of that habit is to do an act of kindness for someone else.


Yes, right when you were hoping to treat yourself, doing something nice for someone else is what improves your attitude. I don't make the rules.


For example, it's easy for me to get cranky when I do the dishes. Negative Brain complains, "Why didn't anyone else do these? Why do I have to be the one to stand here for an hour scrubbing other people's dirty dishes?" Way to make myself more upset about the whole thing, right?


Instead, I try to frame doing the dishes as an act of kindness. Positive Brain says, "I'm doing these dishes so my girlfriend doesn't feel stressed when she gets home from work." This makes me happier because I'm making her life better, even if she doesn't know it.


4. Let yourself be a novice.

When you're a kid, you just try things without feeling like you have to be the best at it right away. Art, music, sportsit's all for fun. There's no pressure to be a genius.


And if a kid handed you their scribbles, you wouldn't tell them it looked like garbage. You'd thank them and encourage them!


Grant yourself that generosity. It's okay if you're not amazing at new skills!


If you're learning a new skill (or just not The Best at what you do), be kind to yourself. Treat yourself you'd treat a friend or a child who was learning it.


Allowing yourself the freedom to be bad at things will help improve your outlook.


5. Talk positively about others and about situations.

Salt water can't come out of a freshwater fountain, and vice versa. Negative people talk negatively. Positive people talk positively.


What comes out of your mouth reflects what's on your mind.


Not only does it show what you're thinking about, but you can take it in reverse to change what you're thinking about.

If you make the choice to talk about happy things, you'll become happier.


If you catch yourself in a down mood and talking negatively, back up and consciously choose to talk about good things instead.

  • You can't stand your Chatty Cathy coworker? Acknowledge a virtue of hers and then pull a "You know what that reminds me of? [insert something else]"

  • Your car has a problem? Mention your favorite thing about your car, schedule an appointment with the mechanic, and move on.

  • Your job is overwhelming today? Appreciate that you have that income, consider how you might improve the situation, and switch the subject to something pleasant.

This isn't the same as ignoring problems or pretending bad things don't exist. You have to acknowledge problems to solve them. However, there's a difference between saying "hey, here's a thing I need to fix" and whining on and on about said thing.


The longer you complain about something, the more down in the dumps you'll get. No thanks. Talk about things you're grateful for and things you like, and you'll be happier for it.


6. Go for a walk in nature.

Yes, I said it. Go take a walk. The fresh oxygen, the vitamin D from the sun, and the dopamine from the exercise will help refresh you. But the "nature" part is important.


Going for a walk in nature (like forest bathing) is a wonderful way to refresh your mind. A mindful 2-hour stroll among the trees or along the beach is vital to restoring energy, relieving stress, and increasing happiness. You're connecting with nature, experiencing it through the senses, not just going for a hike.


Slow down, appreciate the earth, and feel your happiness rise.


7. Forgive yourself and others.

Grudges and bitterness will sour your outlook on life, no matter whether you're angry with someone else or with yourself.


Forgiveness isn't about someone groveling or making restitution. Some people will never apologize for hurting you at all. Instead, forgiveness is about taking that weight off yourself.


Don't hold a grudge against someone for hurting you. Forgive them (yes, it's easier said than done), stop dwelling on the pain and resentment, and you'll make your own life better.


If it's yourself you're mad at, take a step back and treat yourself like you would a friend who'd made the same mistake.


For example, say you hurt someone else's feelings in the past. You've apologized (you did apologize, right?), but now you live with the guilt that you hurt them. If this were your friend, you might tell them, "Yes, you made a mistake, and no, you can't take it back. All you can do is apologize, move forward, and try not to do it again. Dwelling won't make it any better. You're not a bad person just because you made a mistake. You're not perfect, and that's okay."


Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made. You might need to say out loud, "I forgive you." You might need to say it more than once. But if you can genuinely forgive yourself, you'll lead a much happier life.


TL;DR

Here are 7 ways to become happier:

  1. Decide you're going to be happy.

  2. Look for the positive things you normally overlook.

  3. Do something good for someone else.

  4. Let yourself be a novice.

  5. Talk positively about others and about situations.

  6. Go for a walk in nature.

  7. Forgive yourself and others.

Now go forth and be a happier person!


I believe in you!

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