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5 Apps to Make You Feel Truly Happy Even If Life Is Hard Sometimes

5 Apps to Make You Feel Truly Happy Even If Life Is Hard Sometimes

Fact: Life is stressful. Another Fact: It does not have to be.

In a sad statistic, only 1 out of 3 Americans can say they feel truly happy [1]. This means the other two are either depressed or general ‘meh.’ These unhappy feelings are certainly valid in difficult economical times. It gets harder and harder to find work every day, and the bills and payments associated with adulthood don’t slow down just because your paychecks do. People also feel unhappy when a relationship ends or becomes challenging. There are plenty of explanations as to why we are all so bummed out.

We live in a crazy world full of obligations, responsibilities and time frames forever-shortening with the advancements of Technology. Picking up your beloved cell phone can be a great distraction throughout the day, but did you know there are certain apps that can help you to feel happier and less stressed?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans can say they own a smart phone [2], so read on to find out how you can make your phone work for you.

Why our recommendations can be trusted.

Social media and content platforms can be tricky to navigate. Often times, influencers across the web are paid to advertise a product. This doesn’t automatically mean they wouldn’t use the product otherwise, but the line blurs. The apps that will be featured in this article have either been used by us here at lifehack.org, or we have researched the app and paid close attention to the reviews. This isn’t a sponsored ad, so don’t worry about getting conned out of $0.99. Besides, I prefer free apps myself.

I became interested in happiness-inducing apps as soon as I realized they existed, but I was also well-aware I needed them. Have you ever noticed how anxious you can feel after scrolling through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? It’s so common to come across a picture of your ex with their new partner, or see a friend you’ve been arguing with getting coffee with your frenemy. Sure, it seems petty, but that doesn’t make it any less true; it’s hard to not be bothered by things when they’re directly in your face. So I’ve found apps you can install to split your time between chaos and stress and meditation and bliss.

If you go to the app store and search ‘happiness,’ you will be inundated with thousands of apps. So where do you start? We’re going to list out our top five happy apps that we have used and love, and the highest rated. These apps will be rated on their uniqueness, price, usability and appearance.

Headspace

I’ve used this app and I really enjoy it. It’s short meditations which is great for beginners who don’t yet know how to quiet their mind. There are levels to ensure you slow down and truly do one at a time, but each guided meditation session lasts only 10 minutes. The narrators voice is calming and steady which helps keep you focused.

     Uniqueness: 8/10

    My favorite unique feature is the SOS option. If you just had a stressful argument with a coworker or partner, you can go to the SOS screen and choose a topic to get you back on track quickly.

     Price: 10/10

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    This is a free app!

     Usability: 9/10

    I think this app is super user-friendly when it comes to navigating and also accessing in general. Because the meditations are short, it’s easy to carve out ten minutes of the day to listen and be still. Sometimes I’ll listen before bed to drift off to sleep easily. And as a side note, it has an incredible 5 star review on iTunes.

     Appearance: 10/10

    This app is clean, attractive and fun. The colors are vibrant without being loud, and the animation is adorable. The app is happy to look at, and makes you feel happy!

    Happify

    This app offers activities and games to help with stress. It’s a new app and only has a handful of reviews, but they’re five stars so far! I’ve got this app on my phone and it’s such an interesting approach. You don’t just sign in and start, you fill out a questionnaire and it finds the right tracks for you. It provides customized games and activities that focus on happiness and positivity. It’s easy, customized and fun!

       Uniqueness: 10/10

      I appreciate how personal this app is. It helps me feel like it’s really focused on my happiness and not ‘general’ happiness.

       Price: 10/10

      It’s free!

       Usability: 8/10

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      It does require some reading and tutorials. None of it is complicated, but you can’t just download and know what to do right away.

       Appearance: 7/10

      Some of the graphics aren’t super impressive, but ultimately it’s a colorful app that’s easy to read.

      Happier

      This app aims to do exactly what it sounds like: make you happier! This app connects with Apple Watch, and you can allow the app to randomly send you happy quotes. The app also serves as a gratitude journal. More so, you can take expert-led, short courses to discover new ways to find joy. You can keep your account info private or share your gratitude with other users.

         Uniqueness: 7/10

        This is such a neat app. It takes all the best elements of social media (sharing happy photos and positive interactions) and adds meditation, boy, community and more.

         Usability: 6/10

        You can connect with Facebook to quickly create an account, and I find that super convenient. It also allows you to invite contacts to grow your own little community of real life friends and family.

         Price: 10/10

        It’s free!

         Appearance

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        This app also uses lots of bright orange to keep everything positive. The graphics are nice and the lines are clean.

        Stigma

        This is a great app if you are more concerned with documenting your mental health rather than meditating or finding courses. This app allows you to track your mood and anxiety which can really help to pin-point what triggers your unhappiness.

           Uniqueness: 10/10

          I think this app deserves such a high score because it takes a unique approach to your own daily experiences.

           Usability: 10/10

          Easy to understand and easy to reflect upon.

           Price: 10/10

          It’s free!

           Appearance

          Clean lines, calming colors, easy-to-read font.

          10% Happier

          Honestly, this one has to make the list because I think it’s so funny. This app is specifically targeted at “fidgety skeptics” and boasts “no robes, no crystals.” Everyone should have access to meditation and happiness, not just the metaphysical yogis. The 5 star rating clearly proves people agree.

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             Uniqueness: 10/10

            This app is 100% unique in its approach to mediation and making this app attainable to everyone.

             Usability: 10/10

            It doesn’t get simpler than this.

             Price: 10/10

            It’s free!

             Appearance: 6/10

            It’s not the cutest app, but it serves its purpose.

            Have you tried any of these apps? Do you have an app not featured on this list that you swear by? We want to hear about it!

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            Heather Poole

            Technical writer

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            1 How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now 2 How Self Doubt Keeps You Stuck and How to Overcome It 3 How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life 4 How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits 5 15 Telltale Signs of Narcissistic Behavior (And How to Deal With It)

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            Last Updated on October 16, 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. You just want to be happy.

            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.

            Nancy is one of the many who’ve been there. Take a look at her story and find out why finding your meaning to live is so important.

            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[1] 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.

            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.”[2] 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.[3]

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            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.

              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.[4]

              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.[5] 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:[6]

              • 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 good and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[7]

              “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.[8]

                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.[9]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.[10]

                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.[11]

                “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.[12]

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                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.

                When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[13] 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.

                  Also take a look at this detailed guide to try to hack your habit loop and build lasting habits for a better self:

                  How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop 

                  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.[14]

                  “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 close 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.[15]

                  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.

                  If you find yourself feeling unhappy about where you are, you don’t have to stay that way. You can in fact restart your life to be happy again:

                  How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

                  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

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