You lead a busy life.
There’s always work to do. Bills to pay. Meetings to attend. Kids to take to soccer practice.
It’s no surprise you barely have time to recognize whether or not you’re actually happy.
Sure, you might have a loving family, beautiful house, great job, and a new car. But, surprisingly, those things only account for about 10% of your overall happiness. While 50% of it is genetically determined, 40% of your happiness depends directly on yourself.
In other words, most of your happiness comes from the way in which you approach the world, and your life in general. Your happy place is a state of mind – and it’s up to you to bring it with you wherever you go.
Get Into Shape
The foundation of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs refers to a person’s physiological necessities. If you’re not eating well, drinking enough water, getting the nutrients you need, or getting enough sleep, you simply won’t have the energy to be happy.
Exercise is also a great way to improve your happiness by improving your health. Exercising regularly helps regulate your body’s cortisol levels, resulting in stress reduction. Furthermore, physical activity increases your endorphin levels, as well – reducing feelings of pain and anxiety.
As an added bonus, the better you feel about yourself physically, the better you’ll feel about yourself mentally. Whether your regular exercise results in lost weight, larger muscles, or higher stamina, you’ll undoubtedly feel more confident and able as your physical stature improves.
Engage In Your Hobbies
This sounds pretty obvious, right? Doing what you love will make you happy simply because you love doing it.
While that may be true, we too often go through the motions of our favorite activities without actually engaging with them.
When we’re out on the golf course, we’re really thinking of all the work we have to do when we get home.
When we’re out fishing, we’re constantly checking our phones to make sure we have service in case there’s an emergency.
When we sit down to read a book, we can barely concentrate on the words on the page because we know there are a million other things we should be doing.
By getting distracted so easily, we prevent ourselves from getting into a flow state. Instead of truly experiencing our favorite pastimes for what they are, we passively live through them, knowing the “real world” awaits once we’re finished.
By focusing only on one activity at a time, we optimize our chances of reaching a Zen-like state in which we are truly at peace with the world, and ourselves.
Expand Your Horizons
Along with engaging in your hobbies, you should always be on the lookout for new experiences, as well.
Not only might you discover a new pastime you really enjoy, but you might meet new friends who will change the course of your entire life. As mentioned, the majority of your happiness won’t come from other people – but the point here is, by engaging in enjoyable hobbies with others, the whole group shares their happiness with each other.
You also might make connections that change not only your life, but the lives of many others, as well. There are plenty of opportunities for you to give back to your community and support those who may be less fortunate than you are. Perhaps one of the most noble and rewarding undertakings a person can engage in is a selfless act that benefits those who he may never actually meet.
Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff
You’ve likely heard the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” before. And there’s definitely merit to that motto: Don’t let the annoyances in life that don’t really matter negatively affect you.
But when it comes to the small beauties in life, you should pay attention to as many of them as possible.
Remember what it was like to be a kid during the first snowfall of the year? Many of us have locked that child-like sense of wonder away somewhere in our minds, choosing to adopt a “strictly business” persona instead.
You should never be afraid to let your guard down and appreciate the smell of fresh-growing flowers, or the sound of birds singing to their mate.
These phenomena may not seem as magical as they did when you were a child, but if you let go for a moment, you can hope to regain that feeling of amazement that has eluded you over the years.
Live in the Moment
This sounds like the ultimate cliche, but it’s a little more than the run-of-the-mill yearbook quote.
The fact is, every moment we live on Earth is fleeting. Happiness isn’t something that, once attained, will never go away. Ironically, the sooner you accept this, the more generally happy you’ll be.
It’s human nature to never want good feelings to go away. But think about it: If feelings of elation never went away, how would you know when you were feeling good? You’d likely pass by some of the more incredible moments in your life simply because you weren’t aware of how incredible they were.
On the other hand, if you always expect to be happy, you’ll be even more devastated when things go wrong. Instead of realizing that – like the good times – bad moments are just as fleeting, you’ll feel as if you’ll never get out of the spiral you’ve gotten caught in. Though happiness and good times are fleeting, depression can stick around for much longer – if you let it.
Adopting a sense of learned optimism will allow you to appreciate each moment you live through – good or bad – knowing that each passing moment builds upon who you are as a person.
Featured photo credit: Flickr / Happiness / Kirstin via farm8.staticflickr.com