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Last Updated on July 27, 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.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

“Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

1. Make a Gratitude List

In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

2. Write in a Journal

Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

3. Meditate

Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

4. Do Child’s Pose

Yoga Outlet says:

“Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

     

    Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

    5. Try Positive Self-Talk

    Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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    When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

    Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

    When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

    When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

    Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

    6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

    Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

    You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

    It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

    Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

    If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

    7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

    “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

    If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

    You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

    When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

    If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

    Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

    Final Thoughts

    If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

    Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

    You can invest in yourself via self-care.

    You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

    More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

    Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

    Reference

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