I love the written word, and the ability to catch an idea, moment, or experience, and share it with others. I write on a range of topics.
Whatever else we dream of in life, most of us want to be happy. But how is happiness defined? Sometimes we may seem to have everything we need and yet still feel that real happiness evades us. Or perhaps life just feels like a struggle and that true happiness is unattainable. But does being happy really bear any relation to material or professional success? Is our happiness dependent on another person, or can we find it within? Here are 10 tips that could help you to achieve a higher level of personal happiness in your life:
1. Put Things Into Perspective
A bit of perspective can really make a difference to how you feel. Sometimes, that sense of perspective comes along of its own accord, for instance, you might be feeling completely dissatisfied with life, and then come across something awful in the news that suddenly causes you to feel fortunate and thankful. Think about it: It is not your circumstances that have changed, but the way in which you are perceiving your life. Suddenly you feel an enormous sense of gratitude that you hadn't focused on before.
With practice, it is possible to train yourself to focus more consistently on the fortunate aspects of life, even without an external signal. Even though we are not always in control of what happens to us, we still have some control over the thoughts that we allow to circulate in our minds. Instead of focusing on one 'bad' scenario, we can choose to embrace what is good about our lives, from the people we love, to something as simple as a flower blooming outside, a pleasant chat with a neighbour, or even a cuddle with a pet.
In order to train your mind to focus on the positive instead of the negative, try tip #2.
2. Replace Every Negative Thought With a Positive One
Sometimes, what we think can become a habit, and that includes negative thoughts. Some people are natural optimists—they tend to see the good even when the going gets tough. We all have bad days, but sometimes negative thinking patterns take hold on a more permanent basis, and that can begin to spoil our enjoyment of life. Sometimes, we might even find we are waking in the morning with a feeling of doom, rather than enthusiasm or gratitude for the day ahead.
Whilst it might not be possible to change your situation, it is definitely possible to change your thoughts. In fact, we are more in control of our thoughts that we might realise. You can choose what you focus on; it's completely up to you. If you find yourself focusing on the 'bad' things in life, make a conscious decision to swap those thoughts for something positive. Try to feel gratitude for what you have, rather than what you don't have. This could include things like your children or grandchildren, a loving partner, good health, your home, a pet who greets you at the door every day, the ability to partake in a hobby or interest you are passionate about, economic stability, friendly work colleagues, the community around you, a beautiful day, even the food on your plate—the list is limitless.
If we practice feeling gratitude on a regular basis, we open ourselves to feeling more positive about life in general. We can start to accept that most people's lives are a mixture of good and the not-so-good, and by placing greater focus on the positive aspects we will be a step nearer to happiness.
To encourage yourself to think positively on a day-to-day basis, try downloading one of the 'positive' daily quotes apps that deliver inspiring words to your phone every day. I always find it helps to alter my mood even when I'm not feeling my best.
3. Change Something
Even though happiness ultimately comes from within, making changes to your life can enable you to feel more fulfilled, thus leading to a more positive outlook in general. For instance, if you don't like your job, perhaps you find it personally unrewarding and even downright depressing, you have two options:
- Find a different job (perhaps completing a course of study or training beforehand).
- Do something fulfilling outside of work, so that your needs are met elsewhere. This could be in the form of a hobby that you are passionate about, volunteering for a cause, or anything else that helps you to feel 'whole'.
Many people complain about their lives and yet never try to do anything about it. Sometimes it feels easier just to plod along with the status quo, complaining about what we don't like, but not seeking out the things that we do. But small changes can make big differences, in terms of how we feel about our lives—so if something is missing from your life, change it.
4. Keep It Simple
Happiness is a feeling. I can remember sitting in a local park on a summer's morning, watching my son contentedly play, when a transient moment of complete happiness washed over me. It was more of a physical feeling than a thought or something I did. Was it true happiness? I can only say that, in those few seconds, I felt complete tranquillity, as though all was wonderful in my world.
It was a very ordinary day and we were in a park near our home, that we have visited a great many times before. The feeling of happiness was not associated with money, or achievement, or anything that I had to make a special effort to acquire. It was more of an acceptance; an appreciation of the simple beauty of life, nature and the world we live in.
Many of the most valuable things in life are free. When we get to a certain time in life, we often realise that a great many of our best memories—the sort that really touch our hearts and make us feel nostalgic and sentimental—consist of 'ordinary' moments that cost us nothing at all. A touching moment, something funny, a special day out, a shared activity—all of these are examples of the things we look back on with fondness in years to come. In comparison, many of the things we spend a lot of money on quickly lose that novelty feeling and bring us no lasting happiness at all.
Engaging in simple activities that we are passionate about, with people we care about, can lead to a happier and more rewarding life overall. Even something as simple as placing a new plant or a vase of flowers somewhere we will often see it can instantly lift our mood.
5. Give Something
Giving something, or doing something for others, without expecting anything in return can bring about a feeling of happiness. Little surprises, acts of kindness, tokens of appreciation and just generally injecting positive energy into someone else's day has a kind of rebound effect, by which it makes the giver feel good as well.
It doesn't have to cost a lot, or even anything at all, but giving something can really brighten life up, adding meaning and value. Giving is rewarding. A bunch of flowers, a baked cake, a thoughtful gesture, a note inside a card, even your time can strengthen bonds, thus increasing feelings of happiness.
Once I was in the supermarket with my son when I realised I had forgotten my bank card. I only had a handful of items, but I didn't have enough cash to pay for them all. The lady behind me noticed, and insisted on paying for my shopping. I declined at first, but she was adamant. I asked her for her details so that I could pay her back later. She refused.
"I want to do it, because I can," she insisted.
That kind gesture left me feeling positive for the rest of the day. I know the lady could afford it, and I, in turn, could have paid her back, but the very act of doing something kind for someone else had made us both feel good. It was a spontaneous moment that really lit up the afternoon, and which made me feel that life, and humanity, can indeed be beautiful.
6. Focus on the Present
We all have to consider the future, otherwise, we'd probably never go anywhere. However, the best place to stand is with both feet firmly in the present. The present moment is, after all, the only moment that actually exists. Everything else has either gone before, therefore is unchangeable, or is unknown. If we are always worrying about the future, we miss out on real life. Real life happens now.
Even if you are experiencing a period of difficulty, focusing on the present can help you to deal with those problems and enjoy life to a greater extent. Dwelling on negative events all the time will magnify them, especially when there is nothing you can do about it in that moment. Although it is important to face issues, if you let them overwhelm you then you risk allowing negativity to dominate.
Focus on the people around you, right here, right now. Or, if you are alone, phone someone for a chat or send someone a message. Walk outside and revel in the beauty of nature; speak to a stranger in a queue; smile a lot; do something that inspires you.
Above all, value what you have, right here, today.
7. Take a Step Back From Consumerism
There is a lot of truth in that old saying, "money can't buy happiness". In reality, it's probably a bit more complicated than that—after all, money can buy you opportunities, freedom from financial stress, and more choice over where to live and what you can do.
However, we live in a very consumerist society, and constantly 'wanting' something brings with it a stress of its own. If we live for the next purchase—new car; new home; new kitchen; new clothes—we are never truly satisfied with our lives or ourselves in the present moment (see Tip #6). And that means we are never truly happy; that happiness is always a step away, or that it is short-lived.
When we rely on consumer spending to make us feel 'happy', we are not experiencing true happiness and contentment at all. What's more, it's a sign that we are not truly happy being ourselves, either, since we are always looking to change something about either ourselves or our lives through consumerism.
We all need to buy things, but consumerism can become a trap if you rely on spending to make yourself feel 'happy', or to make your life 'better'. Try to adopt a different mentality. Try to limit what you buy to the necessities, and look for happiness in other ways, such as by spending quality time with people.
Many of the most valuable things in life are free. When we get to a certain time in life and look back, we often realise that a great many of our best memories—the sort that really touch our hearts and make us feel nostalgic and sentimental—consist of 'ordinary' moments that cost us nothing at all. A special moment, an inexpensive day out, a celebratory meal - all of these are examples of the things we look back on with fondness and joy. In comparison, many of the things we spend a lot of money on quickly lose that novelty feeling and have little lasting value in terms of emotional satisfaction.
8. Grow Something
Connecting with nature can have an uplifting effect on mood. Even if outside space is limited, using pots or planters to add greenery or colour to almost any area can transform it into a place of serenity and beauty. At the same time, getting involved in gardening can improve serotonin levels in the brain, decrease anxiety and generally help you to feel better, thus increasing inner happiness.
Nurturing a garden, no matter how small, adds purpose to your life, calms your mind and soothes your soul. What's more, just getting outside in the fresh air is good for your mental health.
If you choose, you can combine gardening and socialising by joining one of the many volunteer gardening/community allotment projects that have become quite widespread.
9. Take Some 'Me' Time
Everyone should put themselves first, at least sometimes. 'Me time' helps us to re-energise; it soothes our mental state. Not only that, but indulging in activities that we are really passionate about—perhaps an artistic pursuit, a sport, walking in nature, or even just getting lost in a good book—can improve our levels of happiness.
We are all individuals and as such we are all inspired by different things. Sometimes we get too caught up with our 'responsibilities'—being a parent, being a partner, being an employee or employer—that we 'forget' to nurture that inner part of ourselves. We are multi-faceted, and when we neglect certain areas of our lives our overall sense of fulfillment and satisfaction can suffer.
Positive expression—really getting involved in something we love—can be really beneficial when it comes to how happy we feel our lives are. If you feel that your life is unbalanced and that you have neglected your own passions and interests, then take steps to create a better equilibrium could result in a happier you.
10. Spend Time With People
We human beings are naturally social creatures. When you are feeling low, connecting with someone else can help you to feel happier, sometimes almost instantly. Whether spending quality time with your family or friends, chatting with your neighbours or even conversing with someone you hardly know, social bonding can have a very positive impact on mood. What's more, several studies have indicated that people with strong social ties can live longer than those who experience isolated, lonely lives (study by Brigham Young University, 2017, based on the research of 218 previous studies).
Spending time with other people can make us feel valued. Not only that, but we laugh more when we are in the company of friends and family, which instantly makes us feel good. Laughing reduces stress and gives the immune system a boost.
Be proactive—arrange a meet-up with a friend you haven't seen for ages. Plan a day out as a family (it's too easy to co-exist in the same house without spending any real, quality time together). If you're single, consider a vacation with a friend, or a company that specialises in single person group trips—you never know, you might make new friends for life!
But spending time with other people doesn't have to be complicated or expensive— just hanging out together, doing nothing in particular, can improve our sense of well-being, and, in turn, our happiness.
Nicole K on June 14, 2019:
I really appreciate your advise here! I agree with you on all of it, especially about taking a step back from consumerism, growing something, and balancing time spent with family and friends vs. time spent alone or doing activities you enjoy. I'm actually staying up a little later right now (while the rest of the family is asleep) to do just what you're describing--write a bit on HubPages and comment on a few hubs! I might even read a little bit of a novel I started awhile back. We are also growing a garden right now, and it is so peaceful to be outside tending to it, even if all I'm doing is pulling a few weeds! Just being outside in nature and enjoying it has a calming effect. Thank you again for your meaningful article. God bless!
Polly C (author) from UK on October 10, 2018:
@ Ann - Thank you for your lovely comment, you made me feel happy and positive too! I love the story about the student on the bus, it's another example of how small acts can be so uplifting, and in this case it affected all the other passengers and brightened their days as well!
Thanks for reading :)
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 09, 2018:
Numbers 3 and 6 are most appealing to me, although each of these tips is very meaningful. Thanks for your insight.
Ann Carr from SW England on October 08, 2018:
What a brilliant list of positive things! Even 'glass half full' people need a boost now and then and any of these can do the trick.
I was on the bus the other day when an elderly couple paid for a young student's fare as he couldn't use his student card on that particular bus; it wasn't much but it saved him from wasting time. They didn't want any payback either and he was generous with his thanks. It made everyone smile.
Even one smile to someone whilst out walking can spread a good feeling, and often it's passed on because it makes us feel good.
Just reading your hub has made me feel optimistic about everything (not that I was in a negative place anyway). Thank you.