The year 2020 has left many of us wondering how the f*ck we’re ever going to feel truly happy and settled again.
But it has also forced us to rethink what happy even means. The pandemic has stripped many, many folks worldwide of the ability to go to parties, clubs, and celebrations, as well as their jobs or the ability to hang with their friends and family.
We’re not trying to go all “Big Yellow Taxi” on you, but sometimes, you have no idea what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. If you were leaning on your social life to convince yourself that you were happy, we could reframe these changes into a new approach.
Allow us to suggest 11 ways that you can boost your happiness.
If you feel like you keep finding shots at happiness that slip through your fingers, or struggle to glimpse the light through the darkness, maybe a change in mindset will help.
1. Connect with yourself
Slow down and get quiet enough to listen to your inner guide, and spend less time listening to other people’s opinions or the loud, critical voice inside your mind (which often manifests as racing thoughts or 3 a.m. panic).
One of the best practices for cultivating the ability to hear your inner guiding system is meditation.
If finding the time to sit quietly is not realistic at the moment, an even simpler life-changing practice is to make daily mundane activities, such as brushing our teeth or standing in line at the grocery store, a time for quiet reflection.
In these moments, ask for guidance and listen for clear answers.
When we flex our spiritual muscle and connect with ourselves, it gives us access to an inner abundance of wisdom and knowledge (you’ll recognize it as a quiet, calm, knowing voice).
This internal source of wisdom will always guide us to our best right actions.
2. Set an intention to be happy
Despite what we may have been taught, happiness is as simple as just choosing to be happy.
When we truly realize that happiness is a choice, we instantly empower ourselves in any situation, whether it’s a relationship, job, or pattern of thinking that’s been creating judgments, worry, doubt, fear, or confusion.
The moment we make this choice, we not only strengthen our capacity to feel happy, but also open ourselves up to limitless possibilities where there was seemingly no solution. This mindset makes life less of a struggle.
This needs to become a lifelong practice because our thoughts have a tendency to veer back into fear and worry.
One of the simplest and most profound ways we can foster kinder perceptions each day is to practice setting an intention every morning when we wake up.
This intention can be very simple: Just say to yourself, I choose happiness. Oh, and feel it too. That’s pretty important.
Though we can’t choose to make ourselves experience the feeling of happiness at will, what we can do is choose to engage in behaviors or activities that create opportunities for joy (i.e., choosing to take a walk, read a book, connect with loved ones, etc.). Feelings can then follow actions.
Don’t balk just yet — we’re not at all talking about giving up on yourself.
The truth is that most of us don’t truly understand the word “surrender.” It’s the opposite of how many people operate, which is by attempting to control outcomes and situations to make things happen.
In contrast, surrender happens when you release the need to control things, and instead choose to place a higher level of trust and faith in the process of life.
When we surrender our plans, we allow an even bigger and better outcome to take place. There can be a sense of deep peace in the act, though that does not negate the reality that surrender is often scary and uncertain too.
When we are not fearfully boxing ourselves in, we can say YES to limitless opportunities for joy to enter our lives.
A change in mindset is the key to finding your happy, but a mindset only comes with active practice every day.
Here are some things you can put into motion right now to start building happiness.
4. Be open — and kind — to others
With flaring political tensions, a decreasing level of face-to-face contact, and the ability to watch 19,000 TV series at once via streaming, it’s more tempting than ever to shut out the whole world.
But it’s not only other people that need you — you also need them. And putting energy into your circle of friends or family, be it. Helping with chores, communicating openly, or even just having a chat over Zoom from time to time, will also circle back to you in the form of contentment.
A 2006 study on kindness and happiness found four extremely telling outcomes:
- People who rated themselves as happy also ranked highly in their ability to recognize and perform acts of kindness.
- Happy people have a higher number of happy memories in daily life.
- Counting the number of kind things a person did that week increased their happiness.
- People who identified as happy engaged in even more acts of kindness after counting their previous kindnesses.
So, being kind, even to strangers or acquaintances, doesn’t only make you happy in the moment — it also feeds your happiness when you think back on those moments and inspires you to engage in more kindness. In short, it’s super sustainable.
5. Feed your passions
If you can bend your employment toward your passions, then even better. But if you’re one of the many people who work for money and switch off their employment brain at 5 p.m., that’s also absolutely fine.
Make sure that amid all the responsibilities, expectations, and life goals, you put aside time for your hobbies, pastimes, and passions. They are the true building blocks of “you,” and giving them their dues will make you more well-rounded — and happy.
Plus, doing what you love is good for you. The National Institute on Aging, for example, maintains that engaging in your hobbies reduces your risk of developing a number of health problems as you get older, including dementia and depression.
6. Find stability
Especially in 2020, this is not a given. In any other year, your monthly wage may not have stretched that far past your rent. In the current year, you might be facing unemployment, rent debt, health issues, or a litany of other horrors.
While we wholeheartedly cosign following your passions, do so in a way that doesn’t kick your platform from under you.
A regular job may well not be what you’re after, but staring down the barrel of the month’s final days, wondering whether you’ll scrape through, is a one-way ticket to Anxiety Town. And we’re not here for it.
It’s not only about making more money (because high paying jobs can be hard to find), but being resourceful and staying cautious about how you spend it. (We compiled some amazing money-saving tips here.)
Knowing your basics are covered allows you to splurge on that weighted D&D dice set guilt-free. But remember to be kind to yourself when circumstances get in the way — modern living is not always easy, and you don’t need to add self-loathing to your list of problems.
7. Stay true to your values
This is the bedrock of your happiness.
Let’s say your world view is one that gravitates toward wealth redistribution, slowing global warming, and ensuring fair wages for everyone, yet you find yourself banking six figures a year working for an exploitative company.
You may be able to travel loads, buy whatever you want, and spoil your loved ones. But you may also be working counter to your core beliefs and, eventually, might come to a painful fork in the road.
8. Set small goals every day
Of course, it feels good to reach your goals. But trying to break a world record every day is just going to wear you out.
If you set small, achievable targets every day — doing the laundry, completing that jigsaw that’s been sitting there, or checking off another session of that online course, for example — you’ll find that, as time goes by, you’ve gotten a load of stress off your plate and had fun along the way.
Plus, you might have another skill or show progression in other ways. And you’ll be proud of yourself — which translates to another form of happiness.
9. Embrace conversation
Social introverts can enjoy the world just as much as your life-of-the-party types. But conversation glues us together — it’s just that some people limit their conversations to those they hold dearest.
As long as you’re talking to people, you’re coloring life from a pallet that includes humor, compassion, and storytelling.
So, next time you’re talking to someone, grin with your whole face and inspire a funny or good-natured chit-chat. Ask a few open questions. Question how they feel about stuff.
And if you live with social anxiety, everyday conversations are no picnic. But opening up conversations with people you love is just as nourishing. They allow you to gain the good feelings and vent the stresses and pressures you feel.
10. Stay on top of your health
Throughout this piece, we’ve maintained that happiness is a state of mind — and it definitely is. But your body is its safety net, and health conditions may pose an obstacle to happiness sometimes.
We’d love to suggest that smiling through the pain is a realistic option, but back on planet Earth, it’s just not that easy. It’s nearly impossible to frolic in fields when you’re hobbled with chronic back pain and laid out by clinical depression.
Get in touch with your body, whether it’s through meditation or a health journal.
- Do I hurt anywhere?
- Am I feeling run down or sniffly?
- Have I been experiencing a lot of stress or anxiety?
- Are there any rashes, blemishes, or changing moles on my body?
We’re not saying you should become a hypochondriac or worry on a constant basis, but managing health conditions at their onsets can drastically reduce their impact on your body, which may positively affect your happiness as well.
Some health conditions, like genetic or degenerative conditions may stick around or get worse. It’s important to work with healthcare providers to help you build a lifestyle to manage your condition and address some points on this list, so you can be as happy as possible.
11. Exercise and eat right
To follow on from the whole “keeping an eye on your health” thing, it’s not only about spotting health concerns as they come up — it’s about keeping your body in prime condition and giving you the best shot at avoiding a whole heap of concerns.
But it’s not just doctor’s orders. A research review showed that despite the burn, exercise feels good and helps keep your mind sharp and content. And trying to eat fresh, healthy food tastes and smells really good and flushes your body with nutrients that keep you full of energy and perked up.
Avoid depriving yourself of sofa days or treats — fixating on your weight is a route to disordered eating that will erode your general happiness. But make sure workouts and healthy noms are key parts of your week.
You’ll thank yourself for it.
When it comes to happiness, the good news is that we can dig for it in other places.
We’ve bought into the myth that happiness is something we achieve when everything in our life finally looks the way we think it should.
But the relationship, ring, job, country house, wardrobe, vacations, beauty products, or weight loss alone don’t create lasting happiness. So, if we hit all these #goals and still feel like we’re missing something, happiness becomes this ghost that we desire but don’t know how to achieve.
The truth is that happiness is not always circumstantial. And this is really good news. It means we don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect, nor do we have to control anything outside ourselves to feel a certain way.
Becoming aware of this truth is a total game-changer because it means we can choose happiness at this moment. And something beautiful happens when we do this: When we feel happy first, our outward experience begins to shift in incredible ways.
On the other hand, happiness can be circumstantial in some ways because, as noted above, when we choose to live according to our values and pursue activities that bring us joy and pleasure, then our feelings will follow. If we wait for our feelings, we may not ever get to choosing happiness.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we will be happy as soon as everything in our lives is exactly the way we want it to be.
But the solution to happiness doesn’t involve working harder to control these external situations to make them “right.”
When we make things happen for ourselves, but feel like we need them to be complete, these changes won’t be sustainable.
We might even realize these outward things don’t make us happy after all.
In reality, self-love is the baseline of happiness. When we live from a place of self-love, we can achieve sustainable happiness because our internal feelings of abundance will reflect back to us in the form of beautiful relationships, purpose-driven work, and financial freedom.
In short, self-love puts us on the fast track to healing. Our work is to clear out our fearful perceptions and shift them back to a loving perspective on life, which reveals our perfection and wholeness.
We don’t need to be fixed and nothing is wrong with us. These are just the stories we’ve been telling ourselves. Letting go of our limiting beliefs can help us experience freedom, happiness, and our highest potential.
By connecting with ourselves, setting intentions to be happy, and accepting that there are only a few parts of life we can control, it’s possible to breathe and prime ourselves to edge toward happiness.
But a mindset only becomes sustainable through positive steps. These might include regular exercise, small acts of kindness for others, and setting daily, achievable goals.
You deserve to be happy, whoever you are.