Key Points: So, how to be happy? Although many people seem to have a different notion about what they think will make them happy, the feeling of happiness is universal. When you are happy, you feel aligned with the universe. You feel like nothing can go wrong, you are confident about yourself and your life, and you simply feel good. But how to be happy? The key is to get into the right mindset. Read on to find out more.
1. Realize that Happiness Comes From Inside Yourself
Realize and accept that happiness starts within yourself. You are its only source. Nobody else but you can make yourself happy. Walking the path of joy is a choice, no matter the external circumstances of your life.
No expensive car, no highly paid job, no jewelry will bring you happiness unless you have manifested it from inside yourself. Ask yourself why you would like to have an expensive car. Would you like to have it because the car makes you feel better? Or would you like to have it so that other people can admire you for it because that makes you feel better? Why would you want other people to approve of you? Your worth does not depend on the things you own or on what other people think of you.
You are the only person who can assign worth to yourself, not your neighbours, not your boss and not your partner, only you. Even a relationship with your soulmate will not make you happy if happiness does not come from within yourself and you do not value yourself. Such a relationship will fail unless you learn to accept and love yourself.
Relying on external validation cannot make you happy. It is nobody else’s responsibility but your own. And vice versa, your responsibility is not to make other people happy by living your life the way they think is right for you. Realize and tell yourself that you are good enough. Sit in front of a mirror, tell it yourself every day and do what feels right for you. That which resonates with you is not always what your family or society expects you to do. People will always judge you, no matter what you do, so follow your heart and free yourself from other people’s opinions. Why become a lawyer just because it is a family tradition? It might make your family happy, but you will be miserable. And what happens when you are unhappy? You attract even more negative events. When you are in a bad mood, it is much more likely to get involved in an argument with someone else because you are sending out negative vibrations.
So, free yourself of these restraints, be brave, and follow your calling without worrying about others so much. You will feel free and much more confident, which again will boost your level of happiness.
2. Embrace Your Uniqueness
You are unique, and nobody else can compare to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Nobody is as good at being you as you are, so all you have to do is be the best version of yourself.
Learn to love your body. It is the home of your spirit and your mind, and you should treat it well. You don’t look like the models in magazines? So what? They don’t look like that either when you remove the Photoshop manipulations and the tons of makeup. Everybody feels insecure about their looks. Just make sure you feel good on the inside, and you will reflect that on the outside.
Comparing yourself to others diminishes your own happiness. This is true for looks, but also when it comes to paychecks and material things. Instead, focus on what you have and how well it serves you. Does your neighbour have a much more luxurious car than you? Well, if yours still takes you from A to B, that is all that matters, right?
Don’t compare yourself to others in any aspect of life. You were born the way you are because the universe has a unique purpose for you, and you were born with the right skill sets to fulfill that purpose. Listen to yourself to discover that purpose, and if you find out you need a new skill to follow your path, acquire it. Don’t envy people who have already mastered that skill. Chances are they have put an incredible amount of practice into it or have studied it for hours and hours to become this good at it. But: If they can do it, you can do it, too. Just take the first step and become a master yourself.
But don’t beat yourself up if something you work on does not turn out perfect at the first attempt. Get into the so-called “Beta Mindset” and look at whatever you create – be it for yourself or at work for your boss or a client – as a first draft. It is not the final, perfect version, but it can turn into it by revising it, improving it, and listening to other’s input on the topic. Criticism can be a good thing because it can spark new ideas you did not think of before.
3. Don’t Chase Happiness
Happiness is not a goal you can reach in the future. If you tell yourself, “Once I have this new job, I will be happy,” you face two possible scenarios: You either do not get the job and are unhappy about it, or you get the job, and then you realize that it does not make you happy either. You might not get along with your co-workers or your boss, it might take away too much of your free and family time so that tensions arise there, or at some point, you realize that there is a better-paid position out there and that you cannot be happy before you have this job.
Find happiness in the present moment, don’t project happiness into the future. You can only feel happy here and now. The more you keep projecting it into the future and chasing after it, the unhappier you will become because you can never reach it. What you desire is not static, and thus you will never be happy from jumping from one fulfilled desire to the next as there will always be a new desire to chase after. This does not mean that you should not have goals you want to reach, not by far. You need a vision in life and a purpose, and this purpose will guide you towards your goals. Just don’t let your happiness depend upon reaching them.
Enjoy the process of life and find happiness in every single moment, even if your current situation might seem desperate. Take out a notebook and write down what this current situation can teach you. How can you learn from it? How can it make you help reach your goal? You are stronger than you think, and you can handle much more than you might realize.
So, find joy in the small things life offers you, as well as in the big ones.
4. Let Go of the Past
Living in the past is, in one way, not different from projecting your happiness into the future. Living in the past takes away so much from the life that is happening right now. If you only keep hanging on to happy moments from the past, it will cause you to get stuck. You cannot live your life to the fullest when you live in nostalgia and keep reminding yourself of better days long gone. That does, of course, not mean you should forget about the good things that have already happened to you. They can be helpful and serve as a source of strength in moments when life gets tough. Just don’t fall into a pattern of ignoring the problems in the now by dreaming of the past. Use these happy memories as an inspiration and a reminder that life is not always hard, but happiness exists. It exists right now – all you need to do is recognize it.
Constantly revisiting bad memories is not helpful, either. If you keep revisiting painful events or moments that made you feel ashamed or evoke any other negative feeling, your mind and body react to them as if they were happening now. You feel anxiety, stress, or sadness, your throat feels tight, your pulse races, and you might get stuck in a loop of overthinking what you could have done differently. When that happens, breathe deeply and focus on something positive to break that circle. Remind yourself of the present moment. The situation you were thinking of is in the past.
Meditation is a highly effective tool. It can help you with so many aspects of life. It sharpens your focus on the here and now and on the tasks you have to get done. You will experience less stress, also when under pressure, when you meditate regularly.1Several studies have come to the conclusion that meditation has very positive effects on how we react to stress. Check out the following sources for more information: Mindfulness meditation: A research-proven way to reduce stress | American Psychological Association [Accessed 13th August 2021], Researchers study how mindfulness-based meditation seems to change the brain in depressed patients | Harvard Gazette [Accessed 13th August 2021], Meditation: Process and effects – Scientific Study by Hari Sharma | National Center for Biotechnology Information [Accessed 13th August 2021] Sitting in silence with your own mind strengthens the connection you have with yourself. You get to know yourself better, and you consciously observe which thoughts pop into your mind. Notice them, but do not label them as either good or bad, and send them on without concerning yourself anymore with them during your meditation session. Meditation strengthens your self-awareness, builds up your emotional resilience, and has many more positive effects. You will notice how much easier it becomes to live in the moment and appreciate even the small details of life once meditation becomes a daily habit.
6. Be Grateful
We humans seem to have a tendency to take the good things in life for granted. Sometimes we don’t even notice them but keep focusing on the negative things instead. Once you realize that the more you have to be grateful for, the happier you’ll be, then you have made a considerable step towards a better, truly fulfilled life. You can find something to be grateful for every day and in any situation, even if you might not believe it right now. Even the Corona crisis has its positive aspects: It offers the chance to spend more quality time with your family, which might not have always been possible before. Or you might have used the additional time off from work to plant a garden on your balcony, such as I have, and are now happy and grateful every time you take a look out the window and see the plants growing and thriving.
There are several ways to get into the habit of being grateful. For example, you can write down three positive things that happened during your day every night before you go to bed.
7. Let Go of Grudges and Resentment
Getting upset is easy for most of us. And why shouldn’t you get upset when a co-worker takes credit for your work and then someone takes your right of way on the way home? You shouldn’t because the only one you are hurting with it is yourself. When you focus on how other people annoy you, you put valuable energy into these thoughts that you could use in more productive and positive ways. When your thoughts keep circling about how someone wronged you, it will not only cost you sleep – and enough sleep is essential for feeling healthy and happy – but you also victimize yourself. You give another person power over yourself, and that certainly doesn’t make you happy. So let go of the small things which aren’t worth your time and energy. And what about the bigger things? Talk to the people who caused the situation if you can’t let it go. Resolve the conflict, but don’t carry it around with you and let it drag you down. And: Learn to forgive. Once you forgive someone, it also lifts a burden from yourself. Also, forgiving yourself for things you think you should have done differently in the past helps you to live a happier life.
8. Don't Gossip
Talking about people who are not present is often part of day-to-day conversations and part of sharing information. And that is absolutely okay. The problem starts when you talk negatively about someone behind their back. Gossip is full of negative vibrations. Not only does it harm the person who is being gossipped about once they find out about it, but it also shifts your own focus to places where it has no business of being if you want to be happy. If you cannot tell what you have to say directly to the person you talk about, better keep it to yourself completely. It will make you feel better for sure, especially if you don’t have to face a stressful conversation with the person you gossipped about.
9. Allow Yourself to Feel Bad
Being happy will become much easier when you realize that you do not have to be happy all the time. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, and be honest with others about it as well. Do not just say “I’m fine” when you are actually not. Acknowledge your negative feelings, and find out why you feel that way. Don’t suppress these emotions but work with them. Let them show you what it is that makes you feel bad and thus don’t want. Let them guide you towards the direction of contrast, the one of what you do want.
Always keep in mind that you have a choice, though. You can choose to stay in your negative emotional state, or you can choose to head in the direction of happiness. Ask yourself what it is that would make you feel better, and do that. Don’t let your anger or pain mislead you, though. You might be tempted to think that, for example, taking revenge on someone would make you feel better. You might think it will, and for a short time, it might actually really do it, but you will only feel worse afterward. So think deeply and make your decisions wisely.
10. Spend Less Time With Technology
Technology can be a good thing. It keeps your vegetables refrigerated and keeps them fresh longer, it allows you to stay in touch with your family even from thousands of kilometres or miles away, and with the internet, you have almost all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. It is priceless that we have such possibilities, but some technologies, especially the internet, can also be a threat to your well-being. Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on social media, checking other people’s feeds, and comparing your own life to theirs? And does comparing it make you feel any better? Or does it make you feel worse? Instead of browsing other people’s feeds, dedicate the energy and time to working on your own life. Think about your own vision and what you can do to achieve it.
Also, remind yourself that it is nicer to talk to someone in person instead of texting them. If you cannot meet them in person, give them a call. Our society has made it seem perfectly normal to communicate primarily in written form, but humans are social animals. Don’t forget about that aspect.
Something else that can be overwhelming is the news. Whether it is on social media, on TV, or the radio does not really matter. The media have made it a habit to preferably broadcasting everything that is going wrong in the world. They claim to be neutral and unbiased, but what they present you and how they present it to you is by no means objective. Whether some TV stations have their own agenda of actively manipulating their viewers, I cannot say. But it is indisputable that bad news draws a lot of viewers and thus a lot of money. In any case, watching them doesn’t make you feel better. It makes you feel worse, so try to stay away from it as much as you can if you are looking for more ways how to be happy.
11. (Re-)Connect with Nature
When was the last time you went for a walk in the forest? For those who live in cities, staying or getting back in touch with nature might be especially difficult. We are a part of nature, even if we tend to forget or ignore it. Nature has become something distant and unfamiliar for many of us. This might also be why many people cannot relate to the necessity of environmental protection and animal rights. If you don’t experience nature, how can you relate to it? And yet, having a deep connection to nature is essential for our happiness. Did you know that it is even scientifically proven that the terpenes emitted by trees have a positive effect on our immune system and our emotional stability? We are meant to live among trees, not among high-rise buildings, so get out into nature as often as you can, and do everything possible to sustain and protect it!
12. Put Happiness on Your Plate
Eating is very closely related to connecting to nature. What you put onto your plate and into your mouth has a tremendous impact on your mood and happiness. Pay attention to how the things you eat make you feel. Does too much sugar make you feel depressed, and does it fog your mind? Does eating meat make you sad or even angry? A plant-based diet is not only healthy, ethical, and environmentally friendly, but it also makes you happy. Plants are full of so many beneficial phytonutrients. Science has only started to analyze the smallest part of them, and their effects on your health and your emotions are compelling. Meat, as well as too much sugar and salt, make you sick and unhappy. A vegan diet is not only going to cleanse your body but also your mind.
13. Move Your Body
Most of us don’t move our bodies as much as we should. Evolution has brought us from Homo erectus via Homo sapiens to “Homo sedens,” the sitting human. We are stuck in our office chairs for hours each day, and when we get out of them, we feel mentally so drained that we lack the energy to exercise. But don’t let this system ruin your health. Your physical health is crucial because spirit, mind, and body need to be in balance. Your mind cannot function properly when your body isn’t in good shape. This is where we have to overcome our inner resistance and work on ourselves.
This is one of the parts which has been especially hard for me to learn. I used to have quite a low energy level. My mind obsessed over work at night, making me lose sleep. During the days, I was too tired to exercise – ready to fall asleep while walking. But that only made it worse because the less you move your body, the lower your energy level gets. And the less you exercise, the less you can eat to not put on weight. But there comes the point where you cannot eat any less, and you still put on weight. So you get a multiple unhappiness whammy: The excess weight makes you unhappy. The lack of exercise makes you even more tired all the time. You cannot eat enough food to supply your body with all the nutrients it needs (besides calories), which also causes chemical imbalances in your brain that make you unhappy without realizing it. And being hungry all the time certainly doesn’t add to your happiness.
So I finally made a resolution to take up yoga.2Check out “Yoga with Adriene” – she has great routines for doing yoga at home on her YouTube channel. Yoga doesn’t have to be but can be a phenomenal workout as you can adjust its level of intensity. So instead of skipping it for a day, telling yourself you are too tired, you can simply do a more mindful session instead of a power workout. This way you, can create a habit of daily exercise you can stick with instead of giving it up after three days because it puts too much strain on you.
Another beneficial aspect of yoga is that besides engaging the body, it also focuses on your mind, and you can even add a spiritual touch to it, but the latter is absolutely optional. It is a holistic workout. It does not stress you out mentally – something many other types of exercise do to me. Seek out the kind of exercise that resonates with you. If you need the adrenaline that you get from running, put on your shoes, and run. If you need more fluid movements, try swimming. Just make sure you find something that resonates with you instead of stresses you out.
14. Break Out of Your Routines
Do you do almost the same things every day? Do you get up, maybe have breakfast or not, go to work, get lunch from that fast-food restaurant across the street, return to your desk, go home, maybe cook or get take-out, watch TV and then go to bed? Does your typical day look like this or similar? We can get stuck in routines, and one day starts to blend into the next, and when we try to remember what we did three weeks ago, we can’t remember because it is all a big blur. Periods of times in which we do the same thing without a lot of variation every day seem shorter in retrospective than they really were. Time flies by without you even realizing it. You probably know the feeling when somebody at work says, “okay, let’s do it as you suggested in your e-mail three weeks ago,” and you think, “seriously, that was three weeks ago and not last week?” That is what happens when you don’t break out of your routines. Try to incorporate variation into your daily routines. Make a short weekend trip with your partner or invite friends to cook together or play a board game. I would also suggest travelling whenever you can, but this is a double-edged sword. Travelling is beneficial to your personal growth, but bad for the environment considering all the emissions planes blow into our atmosphere. Try to find eco-friendly ways of travelling whenever possible.
15. Less is More - Try Minimalism
We tend to buy too many things we don’t need. The advertising industry is very good at making us believe we need this new watch or that new iPhone. I used to work in this industry, so trust me, good marketers know how to plant the seed of an idea in your mind and let it grow into a desire for the latest trending product. And how many different types of wine glasses do you really need? The more things you have, the more they burden you. We clutter our living space with too much stuff, and we waste our resources on things we don’t need. Before you buy something the next time, think about whether you really need it. Do you need a new TV now just because there is better technology out – again? Or does the one you have still work just fine? And what about all the clothes you buy but never wear? And other things you keep that only take up space? Go through your stuff and figure out what you could give away – to charity, for example. Cluttered environments clutter your mind and can even make you depressed. So, if you ask yourself how to be happy, clearing out your space helps to clear out your mind and boosts happiness.
16. Stop Limiting Yourself
When we grow up, we listen to our parents, our teachers, and our friends. We trust them and believe what they tell us about the world and ourselves. Unfortunately, we neither question it when they tell us that we can’t do this or aren’t suited to do that. We believe them when they advise us to do something else instead because they surely know what is good for us. But even if their intentions are good, they limit us in our life choices. Their limiting beliefs become our own, and we lose trust in ourselves. How can they or you know that becoming an astronaut is something you can’t achieve if you don’t try it? Just because there are not that many astronauts and the chances of being selected are little? Well, if everyone gave up on their dream of becoming an astronaut, there wouldn’t be any astronauts at all. We are limitless beings, only locking ourselves up by the belief systems we and society have created. Break free of these beliefs, and you will be much happier with who you are.
17. Minimize Stress
Stress is one of the worst things to keep you from being happy. Society expects us to be productive, to make money for our boss, and if you don’t work yourself to exhaustion, you are not giving it your best – so the common opinion. Work is not the only factor causing stress, but it is an important one. Stress makes us sick and depressed and goes against everything we are supposed to be – happy. Try to avoid stressful situations whenever you can. Change your job if it wears you out. Nobody benefits from you getting burned out – not your boss, not your family and certainly not you. If you can’t avoid stress, then at least modify the way you respond to it. Implement breathing exercises into your day, take breaks to close your eyes and find stillness within yourself. Even a few minutes of meditation during a stressful time is an effective tool for lowering your stress level.
18. Learn to Say No
Being nice to other people is being nice to yourself, but you don’t have to please everybody and make yourself unhappy in the process. If somebody asks something of you that does not resonate with you, dare to say no. Don’t do things that conflict with your authenticity. Saying no to things you are not comfortable with strengthens your confidence, and it leaves you more time to do the things you really care about. Your time is precious, so don’t waste it. If the people in your life are not used to you saying “no,” they might be surprised at first, but they will also respect you for standing up for your values and priorities.
19. Don’t Believe Everything You Think
Do you sometimes catch yourself wondering whether you should not wear this or that because of what people might think of you? Or do you worry about something you might have done without being aware of it because you feel somebody is acting differently around you? Actually, you have no way of knowing what other people really think of you. Most people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t even have time to think about others. Don’t put your energy into thinking up scenarios of what could be if you don’t know for sure what is going on. The other person might simply have a bad day or might have had an argument with someone else. It might not have anything to do with you at all. Let go of such thoughts.
The same applies to thoughts you have about yourself, like those limiting beliefs you read about earlier. Thinking “I will never get this job” or “I will never earn more than what I earn now” are false truths. They are valid as long as you believe in them. But as soon as you change your attitude towards thinking, “I deserve this job, and I will do my best to get it,” this becomes true instead, and your false truths dissolve. With this new perspective, you are suddenly free to act in a way that brings you closer to your goal. The mindset of “I will never get this job” closes all these possibilities towards what you want because you deny their existence. So scan your thoughts and check whether something you believe to be true is really true or if it is something your mind has constructed.
20. How to be Happy? Accept that Life is Not a Straight Line
For many people, it seems to be vital to get straight from A to B. They consider taking a detour as a waste of time. They want to reach their goal now, not sometime in the future. But life is a journey, not a destination. This is something we tend to forget in our productivity-driven, success-oriented society. We are here to experience life, not to check off a to-do list. Everything you have done in your life has given you something valuable, something to learn from – something you can use as a tool to reach your goals. Maybe along your journey, an unwanted detour even makes you realize that you were heading towards the wrong destination, and it offers you the chance to change adjust your course. You might attend university and study something you think you are drawn to. Then, after a few semesters, you realize that it is something completely different you are passionate about, and you might feel as if you wasted your time. But during this time, you might have met people who are now essential in your life or people who know people who know people who can help you with your true passion. You might have also acquired some handy skills necessary to reach your true goal. People change, and their perspectives and views change over time, and that is a good thing. It means we are growing and developing as human beings. Life isn’t a straight line, so why not enjoy life’s scenic path?
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