If there’s one purpose most people share, it’s the search for happiness. Whether that means more joyful moments — where your heart feels lighter and your cares are momentarily forgotten — or deeper contentment knowing that your life is on track and you’re in the right situation, the good news is that happiness is a habit that we can cultivate each day.
It can be hard to process difficult feelings, and we all have a tendency to want to pretend everything is ok. This can be useful in some situations, but acknowledging how we really feel can be the first step towards healing. If we pay attention without judgment, we may realize that all feelings are temporary. Negative emotions can also be a useful indicator that something needs to change in our lives.
A quick remedy when you’re feeling low is to take stock of all the positives in your life. Notice anything that makes you feel glad — even if it’s just the smell of the earth after a rainfall, or a good book on your shelf. Perhaps a neighbor took the time to smile at you, or something you’d been dreading turned out much better than you hoped. Sometimes we can’t do much to change our present situation, but we can change our perspective.
Have you ever noticed how you feel after eating fast food? Its high salt, sugar, and fat content and low nutritional value can lower your mood and damage your health. As a general rule, it’s much better to base your diet around fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and to drink plenty of water. Save the treats for when you're really craving something delicious, not just when you don't feel like cooking.
Complement nutritious food with regular exercise that releases endorphins, helping you to feel happier in a matter of minutes and even improving your state of mind for the rest of the day.
The natural world can create a feeling of peace and wholeness that invigorates and refreshes us for whatever life brings. This can be true whether we’re gazing up at the trees in our local park, standing on a mountain, or taking a stroll along a beach. This is how our ancestors would have spent much of their time — as a part of nature. Being with animals can also have a calming effect. Try cuddling up with a pet or spending time around horses.
Any creative outlet can help you to feel happier. Think back to what you enjoyed doing when you were younger. Did you spend hours painting or practicing the guitar? Do you secretly love singing along to the radio? Is there a novel locked inside you that you're itching to write? Do you feel the urge to dance like nobody is looking? All of these art forms can provide us with a way to transform adversity, so permit yourself to explore those that feel right for you.
If you want to experience more joy, one of the most reliable methods is to make connections with people who evoke positive feelings. Perhaps there’s a cause you’ve been meaning to take up, or a charity you’ve always wanted to volunteer for. Having a shared sense of purpose means you’ll meet like-minded individuals. Being with people who understand you, and feeling that you're making a difference together, can be truly life-affirming.
Sometimes the best way to feel better about our lives is to curl up with a good book and enjoy a little escapism. This approach lets you can choose exactly the non-fiction book or novel to suit your mood. If you’re struggling, you might choose the biography of someone who overcame hardship to achieve their goals. If you simply find yourself wanting to be elsewhere, try a novel set in a completely different time or world.
The breath is the only tool you need to learn to meditate. Studies show that keeping a regular meditation practice can have a lasting effect, helping us cope better with life’s natural ebb and flow. Choose a quiet moment in your day and simply observe the breath flowing in and out of your lungs. If you feel distracted, just note each thought and let it pass, returning your focus to the breath.
Some people find it easier to meditate when the body is in motion. If this is the case for you, try yoga or tai chi, both of which can help release tension.
Just listening is where friends and family can come through for you if you feel comfortable sharing with them. Alternatively, a good therapist can help us process our experiences and find ways through our problems.
Notice how you talk to yourself: do you have a fierce internal critic who constantly puts you down? Can you observe your thoughts enough to challenge it and break free of its assumptions? An old adage but a good one to consider: would you treat a good friend the way you sometimes treat yourself?
When it comes to happiness, technology is a double-edged sword. It can help us make valuable connections, but can also lead to feelings of envy and alienation, cause headaches, and even rob us of sleep. Aim for balance. Try to limit your technology use to things that contribute positively to your life, and remember to switch all devices off at least an hour before you go to bed so you can get the seven to eight hours sleep you need.