Happiness. Something that seems like a simple enough concept to understand–an emotional state of well-being–is actually far more elusive.
We spend our whole lives trying to figure out how to find happiness, trying to pursue that state of true, blissful well-being. It isn’t always easy, and when you’re out there looking to find what happiness is, you are for more likely to discover what it isn’t. It’s been often said for instance, that money won’t buy you happiness, that material things won’t make you happy, and that happiness doesn’t come packaged up in a bow for you to unwrap when you are feeling low. On top of it all, happiness changes from person to person, and what makes one person happy won’t make everyone feel the same way. Despite all of these twists and turns on the path to optimism and joy, the reward is very worth the journey. There are lots of steps that you can take if you’re looking for happiness, all you have to do is lace up your shoes and come along.
1. A Happy Body For A Happy You
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
When we’re depressed or unhappy, many of us have the tendency to wallow; maybe don some comfy sweatpants, pull out some junk food, shut all of the blinds and eat our weight in our favorite comfort food.
While all of these things might feel very satisfying in the moment, they are very likely to have the opposite effect after the moment passes, and can ultimately make you feel worse or at the very least, keep you in a down-in-the-dumps rut. Instead, if you’re wondering how to find happiness, exercise and sleep are the first two keys to having a happy body, and there’s a lot of science that backs that up.
Exercise, for instance, does two things for you; it increases the production of antibodies, which boosts your immune system and can keep you from getting sick, one of the leading causes of a good old case of the blues. On the other hand, it also ups the production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that are responsible for euphoria–chemical happiness. The best part? You don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. Even short bursts of activity, like a brisk walk or a quick exercise routine that you can do in 20 minutes or less will do the trick.
Sleeping, on the other hand, is the other piece in your happy body puzzle. Not only will a solid eight hours of slumber help heal and repair your body, it’s been shown that there is a connection between sufficient sleep and a person’s sensitivity to negative emotions and stimuli. People who consistently get eight hours of sleep are less likely to let minor annoyances and negative interactions get under our skin.
2. Love Yourself
“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”
At one time or another, we all wonder if we are good enough. It’s a natural introspection, and too many times, we invent reasons to confirm our suspicions that we are not. It’s important to remember, when you are exploring how to find happiness, that the answer could lie within yourself.
Think of it this way: we often rely on others to fulfill us. We want to be loved and appreciated, it is what makes us human. However, the only person whose actions and emotions you can control entirely is you! Simple positive self talk, telling yourself out loud “You are a good person!” can help you get to a happier place.
Another reason people get down in the dumps is after they’ve experienced a breakup, and hey, we’ve all been there at one point or another, right? It can be easy to feel lonely, and to succumb to self-criticism. Learning to love yourself without a significant other can help you work through the nastier parts of being single–and you may even learn to enjoy your newfound status!
3. Love Another
“Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.”
-Robert Green Ingersoll
Sometimes, learning how to find happiness can be as simple as turning your positive emotions outward, onto others. Spending more time with the people we love, like our friends and our family can keep your spirits buffeted and a smile on your face. If you live far away from the people you care about, this can be especially important; even a phone call or video chat can help you feel a little sunnier.
On top of that, it’s a rare person who can stay blue when a furry friend enters the mix. Pets have immense psychological benefits–from quelling loneliness to fulfilling our need to nurture another being, studies have shown again and again that our furry friends can help us look on the bright side and keep us smiling! Of course, bringing a new pet like a dog into your home takes some preparation, but it’s definitely worth it!
4. Get Outside
“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”
― Henry David Thoreau
How often do you get outside? A lot of us get up in the morning, and then go straight from our homes to our cars to the office, and then back again. It turns out, that old adage about taking time to smell the roses has some real value; as long as the roses are outside, that is.
Even 20 minutes outdoors can relieve stress, quell fears, boost optimism, and brighten your mood. Besides that, outside time can sharpen our memory recall and get our creative juices flowing. Talk about how to find happiness! It makes sense to make a habit of stepping out of doors and into the fresh air at least once a day. Try going for a short stroll on your lunch break, or swapping a trip to the water cooler for a walk on office grounds. The American Meteorological Society has studied the beneficial effects of the outdoor environment on an individual’s mood, and it turns out the optimal temperature for outside happiness is 57° F. So expect to feel extra good in sweater weather!
5. Explore New Professional Options
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”
-Theodore Isaac Rubin
We all dread going into work every once in a while, and no one loves that Monday morning wake up call, but if you consistently loathe the idea of going into the office, it may be time to look into other professional options. After all, you spend an astounding 2,080 hours a year at work and that’s a lot of time to spend on something you don’t love doing.
Switching careers can be a terrifying prospect, but it can also be incredibly thrilling! Making a long term plan to make your career change a reality can start boosting your mood immediately, just by giving you something to anticipate.
If you don’t have a beef with your job, but still find yourself slogging to the office every day, it could be that your commute is to blame, especially if you live in a place with erratic or gridlocked traffic patterns. Shortening your commute by moving closer to your place of employment has also been shown to increase happiness.
6. Practice Happiness
“A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose. ”
Have you ever heard the term “fake it ’til you make it?” It sounds a little crass, sure, but there is some real value to “putting on a happy face”. Studies done on embodied cognition show that people who smile more–even when they don’t feel like it–end the day on a more positive note than those that don’t. Why?
There’s a few reasons why practicing a grin can show you how to find happiness. The first is that if you give a genuine smile, that is, with your eyes engaged, people will pick up on your perceived mood and reflect it back to you. Another reason is that your face is sending the message to your brain: “See, brain? I’m happy!” and your brain responds with a flood of endorphins, which will ultimately put a completely un-faked smile on your face.
7. Clear The Clutter
“A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?”
We often get caught up in the pursuit of things instead of happiness. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we’ll know how to find happiness “If only…”. “If only I had a nicer car.” “If only I had a bigger house.” “If only I could afford nicer clothing, better things.” It doesn’t take long to realize that this is a race that you won’t win. After all, there is something bigger, better, or more expensive out there for you to strive for, and once you get it, you may not find the fulfillment or happiness that you thought you would.
In reality, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that by paring down what we own and breaking out of the cycle of “more, more, more!” can kickstart that feeling of well being. By learning to appreciate and value what you already own, you won’t feel the need to pile more stuff on top of it. By eliminating clutter and material junk, you can reduce your stress level, which will ultimately lead to happiness and boost your self-confidence. There’s no better reason to get organized than that!
Happiness is a multifaceted, objective, elusive thing. Learning how to find happiness will be different for each person, including you! Abraham Maslow developed his “hierarchy of needs” to illustrate how a person’s needs must be met in order to facilitate “self-actualization”, or in simpler terms, happiness. Learning about this psychological take on the pursuit of happiness can help you get to the blissful state that you are looking for. It’s also important to recognize that there is a huge difference between a case of the blues and clinical depression. Although asking for help can be a hard conversation to initiate, it’s important to know when to do it.
While it would be great if there was some magic wand that you could wave that would show you how to find happiness, the truth is that you have to get up and make your own happiness, well, happen! As the Dalai Lama once said, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”