10 Ways to Increase Your Happiness Now
Written by Melissa Kessler, MA, PCC
Are you finding it increasingly difficult to remain positive, optimistic and happy during these challenging times where our activities and social interactions are severely limited? Many people believe that happiness is external – something to be achieved or acquired. They think, “I’ll be happy when… Covid 19 is over, I get that promotion, I move into the new house, I find the perfect partner, etc.” However, it’s not what happens around you or to you that creates happiness, but rather what happens within you. Happiness is an internal process. You are in control of a large portion of your happiness.
In the book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky says that only 10% of our overall happiness comes from our life circumstances such as our income, health, type of job, marital status, etc. Our genetically determined happiness set point makes up about 50% of our overall happiness, and cannot be changed. Some people have higher or lower set points than others. People who have lower than average happiness set points may suffer from chronic depression. The good news is that we can control 40% of our overall happiness level through intentional activity – behaviors of our choosing. I increase these behaviors during difficult times because I know it takes conscious effort and work to boost my mood and happiness level.
Here are 10 ways you can increase your happiness right now through intentional activities.
- Practice gratitude. I mention gratitude a lot because it is so critical to improving health and increasing happiness. Research has shown that gratitude is the quickest and most effective feeling for shifting you into a positive emotional state, and even more effective for creating flow than any relaxation or breathing technique. As Tony Robbins mentioned in his morning ritual video Gratitude is the Antidote, it’s impossible to feel grateful and angry or fearful at the same time. According to Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, the one thing that people who can fully lean into joy have in common is that they practice gratitude. Gratitude is an actual practice. Happiness is the result of practicing gratitude, and not the other way around. You can read my newsletter on the Secret to Happiness and Well-Being for ways to practice gratitude.
- Avoid rumination. Most of our stress is caused by mental rumination. This is when you think about something negative over and over again, usually fears about the future or regrets about the past. Rumination serves no purpose other than to rob you of your current happiness. Ask yourself, “Will thinking about this make it better?” The answer will always be no, because negative thoughts never make a situation better.
- Focus on the present. One of the best ways to avoid rumination is to practice presence. When we ruminate, we are in our heads thinking about the past or the future instead of being present in the moment. It’s not what’s happening now that creates negative emotions, but rather our thoughts about it. For tips on practicing presence, read my newsletter on the Power of Presence.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others. There will always be people who have more (money, success, good looks, etc.) than you, so comparison is a game that cannot be won. Comparison only serves to lower your self-image and self-acceptance. The book Emotional Agility by Susan David talks about a study that showed those who spent the least amount of time comparing themselves to others reported the least amount of self-blame, guilt and regret.
- Practice kindness. It is just as helpful, if not more helpful, to the person showing kindness as it is to the person receiving kindness. Even observing acts of kindness has beneficial effects. So smile at strangers, write thank-you notes, pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you, and you’ll be amazed at how good you feel.
- Nurture social relationships. Social connection is essential for resilience and a fulfilling life. People who have strong social connections are less likely to show symptoms of illness. So take the time to reach out to people and nurture the relationships that matter most to you. You’ll be glad that you did.
- Learn to forgive. Holding on to past hurts or betrayals only serve to hurt you, not the person you are holding a grudge against. It’s like lugging around a heavy bag of rocks. Why not just let it go? You’ll feel much lighter. If you struggle to let it go, read my newsletter on Letting Go of Past Painful Events.
- Increase flow experiences. We’ve all experienced being in the “flow” where you get absorbed into an activity, are fully present and engaged, and are unaware of time. It could be through a hobby like painting, playing a musical instrument, engaging in an extreme sport, or whatever it is for you. The more time you spend being in “flow,” the happier you will be.
- Work toward a goal. There’s nothing like the challenge of striving toward a goal and working to better yourself. Goals give us something to aim for and look forward to. However, don’t let the achievement of the goal overshadow your enjoyment of the process on the way to the finish line. Enjoy each step of the journey, and be sure to reward each milestone accomplishment. It will make it that much more satisfying and rewarding.
- Take care of yourself. We are multi-dimensional human beings consisting of mind, body, emotion and spirit – and they are all connected. When you neglect any of these areas, it affects the others. When you take care of yourself physically, you feel better mentally and emotionally. My newsletter Strengthen Your Immune System and Resilience talks about ways to care for yourself in all four areas.
As an added happiness boost, you might also try activities like reading helpful books and articles, listening to inspiring podcasts, watching motivational TED talks, listening to uplifting music, and watching movies and TV shows that are positive instead of those that depict violence to help you foster a positive emotional state. Every morning, I listen to music or podcasts that put me in a good mood to ensure that I start my day off right. I realize that I am in control of my mood regardless of what is happening around me, or what side of the bed I wake up on. May you choose to engage in activities that will increase your happiness and live each and every day to the fullest.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama
“Happiness is a state of mind. It’s just according to the way you look at things” – Walt Disney
“For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
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