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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are

10 Secrets to Living a Happy Life No Matter How Old You Are

We’re all familiar with the term “the pursuit of happiness.”

The question is:

How, exactly, do you pursue a happy life? Especially on a daily basis? What is happiness in the first place?

We all have those moments of sudden revelation when the world grows a little bit brighter, but how do you integrate those in your daily grind?

A good place to start is by defining what the term “happiness” means for you. There are many, and we’re talking many, different definitions of the word. It can come from actions, from what you think, from gratitude, and so on.

If you break it down scientifically, you might find some interesting revelations. For instance, did you know that married people are 10 percent happier than unmarried people? What about the fact that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees Fahrenheit?

Perhaps the simplest definition of them all is the fact that happiness, at its root, is a choice. It’s actionable.

It’s something we can pursue because we choose it.

This naturally implies that happiness is something that lies in our own power. It’s not something that happens to us. We must seize it, carpe diem style.

And that’s why we’re here, right? Let’s break down some key ways that we can actively pursue happiness, from following our passions to letting go of expectations and everything in between.

Here are 10 secrets to actively pursuing happiness in your life. They work for all ages, and you’ll find that some are outwardly focused while others are more about improving ourselves.

However, regardless of the specific “happiness hack” you opt to try, remember that all of these only work if you’re open to them working in the first place.

In other words, choose that happiness.

1. Use the Power of Community

The concept of community as it relates to happiness is as old as time. Humans have always found comfort in the company of others.

But the deep-down truth about communal happiness is that it’s not really about what we’re getting out of community; it’s about what we’re putting into it. Community is a concept that only works when the whole is taken into account, rather than each individual in isolation.

For example, one study of metropolitan areas in the U.S. during the recent economic crisis showed that areas with the most civilian-focused social capital tended to yield the highest rates of happiness. In other words, areas with the most functioning and connected communities were the most content during hard times. [1]

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What does this mean for our day-to-day happiness, though?

It means we need to share our pursuit of happiness with others. It’s critical that we find areas in our community where we can plug in and get involved.

Help in your church. Find a local food bank or animal shelter. Volunteer as a crossing guard at a school. Coach a sports team. There are so many ways to volunteer within the greater fabric of our societies.

However, you go about it, plugging into the world around you and helping wherever you can is one of the absolute most powerful ways to stoke the fires of happiness and contentment within a person.

2. Be Grateful

Before you skip ahead to the next hack, hear us out.

This isn’t a command. It’s encouragement.

The truth is, gratefulness is hard to come by without a little effort. And that shouldn’t be surprising. Isn’t it always that way with the things that matter?

But trust us, the fight for gratitude is well worth the effort.

Studies have shown a “robust association” between being gratefulness and a person’s well-being (e.g. their happiness). The simple act of having a grateful attitude can help combat nasty things like stress and depression, help us appreciate the relationships that we often don’t cherish enough, and even give little hidden gifts like a better sleep.[2]

So, how do we go about garnering gratitude?

One of the easiest ways to practice gratitude is to take time to write down things you’re grateful for.

Now, we’re not talking about a one-off list here. If you’re looking for real change, challenge yourself to sit down once a day and hand-write a list of three to five things that you’re grateful for. Handwriting is much more personal and can help us dwell a bit longer on each subject rather than simply typing them out.

Don’t worry if it’s hard to get started. When we’re struggling to be grateful, it can be hard to see all of the reasons we should be happy.

Chances are, though, once you get things rolling, you’ll be writing more than five things per day.

Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life to get you started.

3. Volunteer

It’s easy to roll our eyes when we hear about volunteering. After all, isn’t it just sucking away more of our valuable time?

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The answer is a resounding no.

Not only does volunteering fulfill that community calling that we already touched on, but it also opens doors for us to learn new skills. This is often quite as powerful motivation as a paycheck and can have much longer benefits to our lives and happiness, opening new doors and allowing us to network with other like-minded individuals.[3]

While we already discussed the importance of plugging into our communities, when it comes to volunteering, seriously consider where you try to join in the fun.

Try to find a nonprofit effort nearby that directly aligns with your own passions, giving you the chance to pour yourself into something that you genuinely care about.

If you can’t do that, look for something that will challenge you, helping round out your personality and skill set in the process.

4. Spend Time with Friends and Family

Never, ever underestimate the power of friends and family. These are the people that you can count on to be by your side through thick and thin, in the highs and the lows, in the sad moments and the happy ones.

A friend represents a relationship that is worthy of attention and which, if tended, can yield genuine happiness in our lives.

Family takes that same concept of friendship and cranks it up to eleven. The bond between family members is a powerful one. When strained or broken, it can be a huge cause of distress and depression in our lives.

Take the time to reach out to your loved ones in meaningful ways. It’s as simple as that.

You don’t need to buy them things or go above and beyond a normal, loving gesture. A simple hug, kiss, phone call, text, note, or other acknowledgment that you’re thinking of them can do wonders in bringing family and friends together, fostering the happiness that we all share in the process.

5. Unplug

We’ve talked quite a bit thus far about “plugging in,” but in this case, we’re looking at the opposite side of the equation.

Study after study shows that happiness isn’t something you can purchase or find online. In fact, our constant attention to our devices and our “online lifestyles” induces anything but happiness.[4]

On the contrary, it’s important that we take the time to turn off those devices, sign out of those social media accounts, and focus on the loved ones that are right in front of us.

If you’re anything like so many of us who struggle to balance tech in our lives, it might be a good idea to have a “rest” day when you don’t use any screens. You may even establish hours of the morning and night that you refuse to touch your devices.

That’s only half the battle, though. Once the tech is off, that’s precisely when you can start to make meaningful efforts to connect and bond with our friends and family, volunteer, and so on.

You may want to try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

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6. Let Go of Expectations

Whether we’re aware of it or not, a ridiculous number of our actions are done with set expectations in mind. If we put any amount of blood, sweat, or tears into something, we typically expect to see fairly specific results from the effort.

Detaching from these expectations without detaching from the person or event completely is a difficult process to master. But it’s not impossible.

In fact, some teach that the idea of “detachment” is often quite misunderstood. Rather than disconnecting or letting go, we must bring ourselves to love more completely. This can be done, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, by intentionally loving others by “looking and listening deeply so that we know what to do and what not to do to make others happy.”[5]

This intentional love is meant to find what others need, not what we want to give them.

So, the next time you go to help someone you love, don’t do so by giving them what you think they need (something that often comes with a hefty dose of set expectations). Look for the genuine needs of others and try to meet them.

The happiness that this produces is well worth the effort.

7. Play Like a Kid Again

It’s a fallacy that fun ends in our childhood. It’s true, however, that adults of all ages have a plethora of responsibilities, cares, and concerns that must be attended to.

But there’s a difference between taking care of our responsibilities and letting those responsibilities hamstring our ability to have fun.

The simple innocence of a child at play is magical. From matchbox cars and shadow puppets to dancing like you’ve never danced before, plain, unadulterated fun can be an incredible source of happiness right from our first years out of the womb through our teenage years.[6]

Challenge yourself to find one childlike activity to participate in. Try to release your inhibitions and get into it. Let yourself have fun.

Chances are, you’ll find yourself smiling in no time.

8. Make It a Game

Everyone and their mother knows that exercise is good for fending off depression, which naturally also makes it a good way to help promote happiness.

But, honestly, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get up off the couch and go for a walk.

One way that we can help turn the whole exercising and health part of our daily routines into something more attention-grabbing is to turn it into a game.

Did you know that, according to App Developer Economics 2016, there were a whopping 259,000 health and lifestyle apps available in that year — which were collectively downloaded over three billion times?[7]

So what? The point is there are a ton of different ways to track your progress, set yourself challenges, and see what others are doing to get moving.

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From a seven-minute workout app to a calorie or carb counter (and thousands of other options), pick an app today and start making a plan.

9. Never Stop Learning

Pursuing a hobby is an excellent option that enables us to pursue our passions and learn new things at the same time.

Some hobbies, like rock climbing, mountain biking, and yoga, can even deal with two birds with one stone, providing a learning experience and helping you get fit at the same time.[8]

Of course, there are countless other options as well, depending on your own personal interests.

Take some time right now to list off things that you like. Not hobbies themselves, mind you, but actual things that pique your interest — especially ones that you’ve never been able to pursue.

Now take that list and see what hobbies line up with your interests.

Once you’ve got a match, dive in and start challenging yourself to learn something new!

10. Seek Professional Help (Whenever Necessary)

Sometimes happiness really can be elusive, no matter what methods we apply.

If you’re genuinely finding it hard to shake your sluggish, unhappy mindset, you may be dealing with something more serious. There’s nothing unusual about this. It’s estimated that over one out of every four adults in the United States suffer from depression, not to mention other mental health struggles.[9]

If this is the case for you, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. It’s important to understand that this isn’t an admission of defeat, but rather a wise move aimed at finding true happiness in the long run.

Reaching out for professional help can be an important first step in finding true happiness.

Afraid to ask for help? Change your outlook to aim high!

Dive In Today

Remember, happiness is a choice.

It’s important that we don’t just skim over lists like these and move on without putting something into action.

If you’re ready to pursue happiness in your own life, do it now. Pick one or two elements off of the list and start to apply them today. As you master each thing, come back and find something else to apply.

Before you know it, you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.

More About Leading a Happy Life

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dan Matthews, CPRP

A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress 15 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Worrying About Everything How to Be More Positive: 15 Habits to Take Up How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the present when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or planning for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of learning how to live in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present in the moment can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them is extremely difficult. How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions when you are living in the moment. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

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3 Steps to Start Living in the Moment

Follow these simple steps for more balance and clarity.

1. Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, you need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

2. Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

If you find that you’re easily distracted, you can begin to tackle this with lifehack’s Free Guide: End Distraction and Find Your Focus.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So, how do most people cope with painful emotions? By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born until the time we die, our body and mind are actively performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy, which does nothing to help us learn how be present.

3. Practice Mindfulness

How can we start living in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

What Is Mindfulness?

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day, and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here are some breathing exercises you can try to learn to help you: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking, but are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So, how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness as you start living in the moment. 

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. 

    More About Living in the Moment

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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