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50 Soft Skills for Lifelong Happiness and Success

50 Soft Skills for Lifelong Happiness and Success

I’m sure you’ve looked at some of your friends and thought: “How do they manage to be so happy all the time?” Perpetual happiness and consistent success appear to be the hallmarks of certain individuals. They get the best jobs. They are lucky in love. And they are always upbeat and smiling.

Perhaps you look on them with envy? It’s understandable. But as you’ll soon see, you can leave envy behind – and start to build your own happiness and success.

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You Probably Weren’t Taught Soft Skills at School

Have you come across the term ‘soft skills’ before? Most likely not. To be honest, it’s something that is rarely taught in schools. However, to be truly happy and successful you need to develop a wide-range of soft skills.

If you’re wondering what soft skills are, then think about skills related to your attitude, disposition and personality. (How you choose to communicate with others, for example.)

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Schools typically fail to develop our soft skills. For instance, you may know how to write a 1000-word essay on WW2, but do you know how to demonstrate your trustworthiness to a vulnerable, frightened person?

Why Soft Skills Are so Important

Soft skills can make a huge difference to your life. Without them, you’ll struggle to find work, partners and happiness. Soft skills really do matter.

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To give you a concrete example, think about a time when you interviewed for a job – but were unsuccessful. You may have been turned down because you lacked experience or qualifications, but it’s also possible that you lost the job due to having inadequate soft skills.

Situations such as interviews, require a variety of soft skills from the interviewee. These include: being a good listener, emphasizing with the interviewer, and demonstrating a positive attitude.

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To Be Happy and Successful, Develop These 50 Soft Skills

Happy and successful people are likely to have most (if not all) of the 50 soft skills listed below:

  1. The ability to listen. Through listening, you can learn from others. You’ll also gain more friends – as most people love to talk about themselves or their lives.
  2. Willingness to accept feedback. Whether good or bad, feedback is vital for your success. For example, by taking criticism on board, you may be able to make positive changes.
  3. Having a flexible approach. Flexibility is not taught in schools, but is required in all areas of life. Just think how many times you’ve had to adjust your plans to match a partner’s requirements?
  4. Assertive when needed. You may not be a naturally assertive person. However, you should definitely learn to be assertive when the situation requires it. For instance, if you need to ask a shopkeeper for a refund.
  5. Can focus on a task or problem. In today’s technology-drowned world, attention spans have dropped to all-time lows. Break out of this, and develop a powerful ability to focus on what needs doing. This will put you streets ahead of the average person.
  6. Understands the power of team working. Being able to work harmoniously in a team is a vital skill. Whether you work in a factory, office or shop, it’s inevitable that you’ll be part of a team. You must learn how to get on with others, and if you’re a team leader, you must also know how to motivate and inspire your team.
  7. Knows when to be competitive. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t class myself as a competitive person. However, I’ve learned that from time-to-time that being competitive is essential to success. In my case, I’ve had to regularly compete with other freelance writers for work. In your case, you may find yourself having to compete with colleagues to attain a higher position within your company.
  8. Confident in all situations. Successful people seem to ooze confidence. You’ll need to do the same if you want to match their success. If you lack confidence now, then try building it by completing small goals (which you can enlarge as your confidence grows).
  9. Understands how to resolve conflict. It’s sad to admit it, but conflict is everywhere. You probably argue with your partner, and fall-out with colleagues at work. For happiness’ sake, develop conflict resolution skills. This can be as simple as knowing when to walk away from a confrontation.
  10. Has a courteous and good-mannered personality. In my experience, many people are unaware of how they come across to others. For example, they may appear arrogant and aloof when they are simply trying to show self-confidence. To be courteous and good-mannered is to return to a relaxed, natural state. Put any pretensions aside, and let your inner charm shine for all to see.
  11. Enjoys providing great service. Whether dealing with customers or colleagues, be sure to put great service at the heart of all your interactions. By doing this, you’ll increase your chances of success, and also boost your personal happiness. Try it and see.
  12. Can deal with the stress of difficult circumstances. You’ve just lost a job that you’ve dedicated the last 10 years of your life to. Do you crumble from the shock – or do you quickly pick yourself up and look for opportunities? Sure, there are difficult circumstances to deal with in life. Nevertheless, always focus on the positive, and refuse to be dragged down by negative thoughts and emotions.
  13. Is quick at making decisions. I remember reading a self-help book that stated: “Winners make decisions quickly, losers make them slowly.” There’s definitely something to this. If you take days and weeks making decisions, you’ll often find yourself left behind by those who make decisions quickly. (And also act on these decisions quickly.)
  14. Is 100% trustworthy. Trust is vitally important in life. We’re bombarded daily by news stories of people being mugged, cheated and even killed. These relentless stories seep into our subconscious, and make us wary of everyone we come into contact with. To help counteract this, you must be 100% trustworthy at all times. By doing this, you’ll quickly gain the confidence of others, and soon develop a reputation for being honest and reliable.
  15. Has an eagerness to learn. Where would we be without learning? From our birth to adulthood, we constantly learned new things. However, as we aged further, many of us stopped learning. To stay young, happy and satisfied, re-ignite your enthusiasm for learning.
  16. Knows when to delegate tasks. Are you someone who likes to do everything yourself? If yes, you may find that you often run out of time and energy. If you have family members or colleagues whom you’re able to delegate tasks to, then use this option when needed. However, for this to work successfully, be sure to match delegated tasks to individuals with the relevant skills.
  17. Communicates clearly and effectively. Communication is at the heart of all personal and business interactions. It’s critical that you learn how to write and speak well. And of course, communication is not a one-way street. You must also be a good listener.
  18. Is fired-up with an abundance of energy. Have you noticed how famous celebrities seem to be super-energetic? They are lively, vivacious and charismatic. If you have low energy levels, you’re unlikely to be attracting success. Try boosting your energy through healthy eating, exercise and meditation.
  19. Has great interpersonal relationship skills. Happy people know how to interact harmoniously with others. They are comfortable communicating with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. They also know how to partake in constructive conversations and meetings. The best way to learn interpersonal skills, is to listen and watch others who are naturally great at this skill.
  20. When needed, can follow instructions. You may want to always do your own thing, but to be successful in life, sometimes you need to follow directions and instructions from others. For example, your manager may usually let you do your work in your own way, but occasionally, he may need to give you specific instructions on completing a task.
  21. When needed, can think ‘outside of the box’. I definitely don’t remember this skill being taught at my school. However, being able to think beyond a set of specific rules, regulations or limits can be a very valuable skill. It’s often the way that ‘game-changing’ ideas first come into play.
  22. Has a warm, approachable and friendly personality. Without a friendly personality, you’re unlikely to find many new friends, or exciting opportunities. As an example, if two people with the exact same skills and experience applied for a job, but one was friendly and the other was not, who do you think would get the job?
  23. Knows how to tell compelling stories. Stories are the lifeblood of society. You may recall the bedtime stories that your parents read to you when you were a child. From there, you most likely became addicted to reading novels and watching movies. Storytelling is global and timeless. Everyone loves stories. To succeed in life, learn how to be a great storyteller.
  24. Is endowed with a super-positive mental attitude. Negativity will get you nowhere. Life has so many ups and downs, that if you focus on the negative, you’ll quickly lose sight of what’s possible. Positive people constantly seek out opportunities. For sure, be realistic. But also carry a super-positive mental attitude with you at all times.
  25. Is highly-organized at all times. Do you class yourself as an organized person? If yes, do others also see you that way? Being highly-organized is not just desirable – it’s essential! Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder or write your first novel, being organized can make the difference between success and failure.
  26. Has persuasive powers. No, this isn’t some kind of superhero power! On the contrary, it’s an ability that many people have developed. Think of politicians and preachers. They have learned the art of communicating in a persuasive and convincing manner. Whatever your role in life, if you learn to communicate persuasively, you’ll likely go far.
  27. Is creative and innovative. Bill Gates, Michael Jackson and Elon Musk all excelled in their fields because they were creative and innovative. It allowed them to stand out from their competitors. You can do the same. Start by looking for ways to do things differently.
  28. Understands the power of non-verbal communications. If you’ve watched a nature program recently, you’ve likely seen how some animals communicate. For example, a wolf can control a cub just by using a specific look in its eyes. As for us humans… While we have the ability to speak, it’s estimated that 55% of our face-to-face communicationsactually takes place through body language.[1] In other words, our body language is the primary factor in the effectiveness of our communications with others.
  29. Has fantastic planning and goal-setting abilities. Without goals, we are simply drifting with the tide. If you desire success and achievement, then make sure that you have specific goals – and a plan to reach them. If you’ve never tried goal-setting before, start small, and build your way up to bigger and bigger goals.
  30. Thrives on problem solving. Take a look around. Problems are everywhere! Luckily, if you develop a strong problem solving capability, you’ll soon find yourself in demand. Many people run from problems. So, this leaves plenty of opportunities and work for those who thrive on finding solutions to problems.
  31. Knows how to make other people laugh. Can you imagine if humor didn’t exist? We’d be stuck in a dreary, lifeless world where everything was serious. I’m sure with your friends and family you have a great sense of humor. However, how about at work, or when you meet strangers? In these situations, perhaps you retreat into your shell. Break free, and add humor to all of your interactions (where appropriate). Your popularity will soar, and your personal happiness will climb too.
  32. Is always punctual. Think about how frustrating it is when buses or trains are running late. It often leads to people becoming stressed or angry. You should see your own timekeeping in a similar light. If you’re constantly late for meetings, people may not tell you, but they’re likely to be angry or fed up with you. Timekeeping is about respect for others. So, please be punctual!
  33. Is a master at reading body language. As we’ve seen in point 28, body language counts for approximately 55% of all face-to-face communications. Of course, that percentage is just an average. An expert body language reader will be able to take even more information from someone – just by observing their body language. It’s a very useful skill to have, as sometimes body language contradicts what someone is saying with words.
  34. Loves researching. You don’t have to be a scientist to benefit from research. It may be something as simple as researching the best laptop to buy. Successful people typically love researching. But it’s not just random research. They’re driven to research by a want to reach a certain goal or aim.
  35. Values and respects others. This is a soft skill that unfortunately, seems to be going out of fashion at present. Too many people have become self-centered, and put their desires above the needs of other people. Please don’t fall into this trap. Instead, make sure you value and respect all those you come into contact with. Interestingly, by respecting others, you’ll find they respect you more in return.
  36. Knows how to ‘stay on task’. “Wait, I just need to check my Facebook page….” You know how it goes. You start doing something, but within minutes, you get distracted by other people or breaking news, etc. I’ll be honest with you, it’s very easy to be distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. One thing that might help, though: turn off your cell phone, to avoid being interrupted by calls or messages.
  37. Keeps up-to-date with trends. Stagnant people aren’t interested in keeping up with the latest trends. They’ve given up on life, and no longer care what the world may have to offer. Don’t be like these people. Instead, have a keen eye on trends in the workplace, technology and health, etc. You’ll be a more interesting person to talk to, and you’ll also be able to make better decisions about your future.
  38. Expertly manages their time. Time management is more than just arriving to work early. It’s about knowing how to prioritize tasks, when to take breaks, and being able to plan projects. Time management is a hugely important skill that you should definitely learn (if you haven’t already). It can make your life easier and more productive.
  39. Adapts quickly and easily to change. Heraclitus famously said: “The only thing that is constant is change.” Wise words. And in my experience, 100% accurate. Life is constantly evolving and changing, and if we pretend otherwise, we will find ourselves relentlessly unprepared. Happy and successful people know that life is forever changing. They’ve learned how to adapt quickly and easily to most changes that they encounter. You should do the same.
  40. Has learned the art of troubleshooting. The Cambridge Dictionary describes troubleshooting as follows: “Discovering why something does not work effectively and making suggestions about how to improve it.” Well said! This is a skill that you may need to work on. Firstly, you must find the motivation to really want to improve something. Once you have that, delve deep into the issue, and seek solutions.
  41. Understands the importance of being well-groomed. Imagine a lawyer turning up to court in a pair of faded blue jeans and a ripped T-Shirt. It’s likely the judge would have the lawyer removed from the courtroom! It’s an improbable scenario, but hopefully, it drives home the point that you must be appropriately dressed. Jeans and T-shirt are probably okay if you’re working for a Silicon Valley startup, but if you’re interviewing for a position at a local accountancy firm – you may want to stick to wearing a suit and tie.
  42. Strives for the ideal work-life balance. Happiness is not dependent on money. In fact, those who become obsessed with earning money, are often far from happy. As with most things in this world, balance is the key. Sure, you want to work hard and earn money. But just ensure that you leave enough time (and energy) to enjoy the rewards.
  43. Sees the best in others. If you’re honest with yourself, do you have this trait? Most of us don’t. However, it’s a fantastic skill to have. Seeing the best in others means that you can help them develop to the best of their potential. It also means that you can quickly build rapport and trust with other people.
  44. Knows the value of multi-tasking. If you work in an office environment, then you’re sure to recognize this scenario: You’re typing away at your computer, then your desk phone rings. You answer, but as you’re speaking to the caller, someone comes up to your desk and asks you a question. Situations like this can be overwhelming and frustrating. However, as they will always occur from time-to-time, you need to build a strategy of dealing with them. Multi-tasking can be taught, and I’d highly recommend that you learn to do it.
  45. Leads through example. Great leaders teach through example. They’re also willing to do any task that they may ask others to do. You can adopt this approach too. For example, instead of asking your team to work in a specific way, let them see how efficiently you work, and they’ll naturally want to copy that.
  46. Continually seeks to improve. The Japanese call this kaizen – the strategy of seeking continuous improvement. This could be about a business process, or the way an athlete prepares for a race. Whatever the circumstance, there’s almost certainly room to improve some part of the process. If you develop a mindset of constantly looking for ways to improve things, you’ll rapidly find yourself climbing the ladder of success.
  47. Is always persistent. Perseverance is another word for this. To reach the heights of success, you’ll definitely need to demonstrate this trait. Consider for a moment, that you’re attempting to start your first business. From an initial spark of inspiration, you’ll have hundreds of steps to complete before your business can be in operation. Any of these steps could be problematic, and without persistence your business may fail even before it gets through the starting gates.
  48. Can be patient when needed. Things don’t always go to plan, and delays can often creep into projects. Experienced professionals are well aware of this, and have developed patience to see themselves through these delays. You should do the same. Instead of getting frustrated and angry with delays, let patience work its magic. You’ll develop poise and calmness. And you can also use any downtime to work on other goals or projects.
  49. Keeps their emotions in check. In life, it’s normal to express emotions in certain circumstances (the death of a loved one, for example). However, if you’ve set your heart on success, then you’ll need to keep your emotions in check when you’re in ‘professional mode’. For instance, let’s say that your manager has just told you off for coming in a few minutes late to work. Your instinct might be to become angry, and argue with them. While this might make you feel good, it’s highly unlikely to help your chances of being promoted at work!
  50. Has a highly-developed sense of intuition. Many top business leaders admit to making some of their decisions based on ‘gut feeling’. In other words, they’ve developed their intuitive side to the point where they’re willing to trust its promptings. You can do the same. Tapping into your intuition can be boosted by: letting your subconscious work on a decision while you sleep, practicing meditation, or going for a walk in the park. These techniques allow your intuition to come to the surface. (Usually its hidden behind your constant mental chatter.)

As you can see, soft skills are an essential part of happiness and success. Develop the ones you already have, and adopt the ones you’re missing. Do this, and watch your happiness and success climb to new heights.

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

Freelance Writer helping businesses and people to thrive.

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Last Updated on September 12, 2018

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is. You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

1. Do what brings you meaning

We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do. Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

What you can do right now:

In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

  • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
  • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
  • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down. For example, I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

Recommended reading:

Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

“Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[1] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

What you can do right now:

Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

  • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
  • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
  • Choose your meals in advance.
  • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
  • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
  • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
    • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
    • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
    • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[2]

All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

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    Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

    Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

    Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

    • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
    • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
    • Being turned down
    • Asking someone out
    • Waiting for the doctor to call back
    • Getting laid off
    • Laying off people

    Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

    What you can do right now:

    Practice vulnerability.

    Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

    Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[3]

    Recommended reading:

    I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

    4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

    Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

    Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[4] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

    While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

    “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

    By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

    What you can do right now:

    Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:

    • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
    • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
    • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
    • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

    Recommended reading:

    Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

    5. Help yourself by helping others

    The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

    “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

    Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

    Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel great and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[5]

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    “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

    What you can do right now:

    Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

    Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

    6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

    Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new. Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

      Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

      Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[6]

      What you can do right now:

      • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
      • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[7]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[8]

      7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

      I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

      While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[9]

      “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

      What you can do right now:

      Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

      • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
      • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
      • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

      8. Meditate regularly

      Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

      Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

      These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

      What you can do right now:

      Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

      “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

      9. Change your attitude to gratitude

      This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

      The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[10]

      Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

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      When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[11] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

      What you can do right now:

      • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
      • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
      • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

      10. Create better habits

      One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

      The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

        For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

        If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

        What you can do right now:

        Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

        Recommended reading:

        The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

        11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

        There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

        You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

        You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

        Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[12]

        “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

        Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

        What you can do right now:

        Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

        Speaking to a friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

        Recommended reading:

        Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

        12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

        Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

        “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

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        “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

        “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

        Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self. The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

        Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

        Here’s the video:

        People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

        What you can do right now:

        Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

        • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
        • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
        • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
        • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
        • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

        13. Give yourself time to be sad

        Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

        It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[13]

        Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

        “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

        What you can do right now:

        Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are. This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

        The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

        The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

        Recommended reading:

        Happiness marks the spot

          Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

          As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

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