I would think of it this way:
Happiness is not becoming (it’s not a finite state of being), but it is a process of getting happier with each new day.
If you think of it this way, you’re much more likely to treat happiness not as an end goal but as a habit.
The good news? Everyone can develop habits, even this one. It’s not anything out of reach. It’s not just for the chosen few, for people who belong to a “happy club” or for those who are somehow advanced in feeling elated and carefree their whole lives. Not even close.
But it is a skill, and like with any other skill, you can work on it. You can build it, day by day, to make it stronger, so that it can serve you to lead a better, more fulfilling and certainly a more enjoyable life.
So make a commitment to becoming happier, starting today.
Becoming happier means:
- Starting small (much easier than setting huge expectations: “I have to snap out of this unhappiness right now!”)
- Making progress (so that you’re doing something to improve your mood today compared to yesterday: “Today I will do ___ differently!”)
- Being proactive (showing that you’re committed to making a positive change in your life: “I want to work on being happier so that I can start feeling better!”)
Here are 5 small habits that you can practice daily to become happier:
Be kind to yourself.
Maybe you’re getting over a difficult and traumatic event, or maybe you’re still in the middle of it. It’s not an easy feeling, not knowing what to do next. Maybe you don’t necessarily have to do anything right now. You can just be patient with yourself, which can take the edge off things a bit. Use this time to reflect on what happened, and find out whatever you can learn from the situation. Try to avoid self-blame or blaming others. Use the time to practice a little self-compassion, be kind to yourself, give yourself some time to heal and get better.
Say thank you.
Practicing gratitude rewires our brain to think about positive things, the things that we have going for us, instead of the things we do not have and that can leave us feeling frustrated and unhappy. Everyone has at least something going for them, it’s just that these things are often neglected or taken for granted. Create a gratitude journal and write in it for 5 minutes each morning; list 3 things you are grateful for. It can be the simplest of things, such as having a warm bed to sleep in, a roof over your head, a family that loves you, a career or a job that improves the quality of life to people around you, food in your fridge, a dog or cat that you have as your pet, having an education that allows you to read and write, etc.
Visualize having a good day.
This is a simple technique that helps to train your brain to anticipate what happens next and to focus on a positive outcome to your day. All you need is 5 minutes. Think about the work you need to do, and picture yourself accomplishing what’s on your list and having enough time to do it. Make an estimate of how much time you’ll need for the important things, and plan what you’ll do if you run into a problem (have a plan B). Finally, imagine doing an activity that will make you happy: running into a friend, having an interesting conversation, watching a soccer game, making the time to play guitar, going on a bike ride, or eating an ice cream cone.
Find any excuse to smile and laugh.
When you smile and laugh, you give yourself an endorphin boost. Endorphins (also known as happy hormones) have many benefits, from reducing stress levels to making you feel happier and acting as a natural painkiller. You can even make yourself smile for no specific reason, and still get the same benefits. According to a facial feedback hypothesis, our brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake smiles, and it interprets the position of your facial muscles in the same way, which helps it release more endorphins.
Do something that really makes you feel good.
If you’re an avid reader, make the time to read a novel for 30 minutes before going to sleep. If you like to be physically active, schedule in a bike ride or a run in the late afternoon when you’re done with work. If you love music, learn how to play guitar or drums or a harmonica. If you love to write, make it a priority to write one page every single day, either early in the morning before getting ready or later at night when everyone’s asleep, it’s quiet and you have the time to organize your thoughts while enjoying a cup of tea and listening to some relaxing music.
Here are 2 book recommendations for more ideas on becoming happier:
- by Tal Ben-Shahar: practical suggestions on how to implement positive psychology in your daily life, for example in school, the workplace, and in your personal relationships.
- by Tal Ben-Shahar: this is a guided journal (think of it as a happiness workbook) with exercises to inspire happiness, gratitude, and positivity in your daily life.