Being happy is a goal that we all want to reach, but we all have different ideas about what it is and how to get it. It is easy to think of happiness as a result, but being happy and feeling good should also be a way of living, since it is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It is true that sometimes, circumstances may not be the most favorable to feel good, however, there are certain actions that we can put into practice to improve our attitude to life.
In this article you’ll find 10 small actions that help you to be happier and feel good every day. Start changing your interior and exterior today!
Once they gave me a greeting card that had the following sentence:
«Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you pay attention to other things, it will come and rest on your shoulder»
After reading it, many questions came up to my mind, and maybe to yours too:
Why do we have to wait for happiness to knock on our door? How do we know if it is already here? What if it never happens?
In fact, do you know what percentage of people are REALLY happy?
Not those people who say: “Oh, I feel good (only on the outside).” I refer to those people who feel that their lives are full and meaningful.
That is to say that 1 in 5 people feel completely happy.
The obligatory question is: how can I become one of those happy people?
It’s much easier than you think and here you will discover how.
There are many actions that depend only on you and what you can do TODAY to improve your attitude and satisfaction with life.
We can also convert these actions into daily habits, so almost without realizing it, we become a happy and joyful person in a natural way.
But, before telling you what these small actions are about, it is important to explain the true definition of happiness.
What is happiness?
Happiness is a complex and difficult word to define, especially since the path to happiness is different for each one of us.
I am not a psychologist, but I took on the task of investigating the subject in depth for the last few years.
It is true that some of the factors that affect happiness may be beyond our control (such as genetics or certain circumstances). But there are always actions that we can take from our everyday life to amplify our good feelings.
Happiness consists of taking small decisions every day, which translate into actions to live happier.
According to experts, acting in a manner that is consistent with our values and personal goals, allows us to take these small actions towards our happiness and, thus, have a combination of positive rather than negative emotions.
It is true that some days you may feel better than others (maybe the weather affects you or you fee tired). But if for the majority of the days in a year you decide to feel good and happy, you are on the right track.
What can I do to decide to be happy?
Happy people realize that happiness becomes a habit. They are not victims of circumstances. Nor do they pursue that “happiness” in any person or material good.
Although it sounds impossible, you can take control to smile more times a day and be more satisfied with life.
Happiness is the decision to choose attitudes and behaviors that make us feel better every day
These small actions are divided into two parts:
- Those that improve our perception and relationship with the outside world
- Those that come from within us and depend on our attitude towards life
Try to introduce any (or all) of these actions into your routine. This way you’ll make sure you feel better and be happier inside and out!
Actions to be happy from the outside in
1.- Get in touch with Nature
Do you remember that beautiful day when you went for a walk? Surely you felt better after doing it.
It is proven that living near green spaces or having contact with nature, is associated with better mental health. Simply because the connection with other living beings has a positive impact on your sense of well-being.
The stimulus is so strong that just looking at some images of nature can stimulate parts of the brain that are associated with happiness.
In addition, spending time in the open air exposes us to sunlight, which helps us to better absorb vitamin D. It has been seen that low levels of this vitamin is associated with greater depression.
Go for more walks and do not forget to use sunscreen!
What you can do today:
- Get off two stops before the subway or park the car farther so you can spend more time outdoors.
- Organize an excursion in the field or a picnic in the park at the weekend and live with nature, you will notice the difference right away.
2.- Take care of your body by exercising
If you think that exercising is just about building your muscles, you’re wrong.
It has been proven that the habit of exercise promotes long-term happiness.
In addition, physical activity has multiple benefits for your health in general, and for your mental health in particular. These are just some wonders that exercise does for you:
- Nobody is very happy when they get sick. That’s why exercise helps our bodies produce antibodies and proteins that fight diseases
- Releases certain chemicals, called “endorphins”, that improve your mood and promote feelings of euphoria
- Combat depression and stress
What you can do today:
- If you do not practice exercise, start with very little, and keep increasing until you feel comfortable.
- It is ok to combine 2 strategies: nature and exercise – walk in the park for a few minutes!
- If you already exercise, try a new sport, a yoga class, zumba or some martial art, you will see that your attitude improves.
3.- Do something good for someone
Doing something for others is a powerful way to increase our own happiness and also improve the mood of others.
This does not mean just giving money to someone who is asking for it on the street. Giving something to others can be as simple as a single kind word (a good morning before ordering a coffee, thanks to the bus driver). It can also be paying a little of attention to the needs of others, such as picking up the neighbor’s mail or giving up the seat in the subway.
Scientific studies show that helping others increases satisfaction with life, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves mood and reduces stress.
It has been proven that giving a little of your free time to volunteer, also increases your perception of well-being.
What you can do today:
- Aim to fulfill a small good action every day to help someone
- If you have the possibility and a little time, participate in a volunteer program. It can be in a kennel, an orphanage, planting trees, etc. There are thousands of institutions that need your help.
4.- Learn or try something new
When was the last time you learned something new?
If you remember your childhood, you know that as a child you learn every day. It may not be something significant and important, but there is always something new to discover.
Learning affects our well-being in many positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us keep our minds curious. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps increase our confidence.
The best part is that learning something new and being happy is a two-way road: learning something improves your perception of well-being, and this perception helps you learn more things.
Learning a new skill, even a small one, such as a first aid technique or a word in another language, improves your intellectual capacity and your daily motivation.
Learning also means discovering or trying new things. They do not have to be very big and ambitious things (although they could be), the goal is to reinvent your routine making room for new things.
What you can do today (some ideas):
- Take a different route to work
- Read a different newspaper or a new book
- Visit a store that you do not know (even if you do not buy anything)
- Be a tourist in your own city
- Try a meal from another country or cook a new recipe
- Practice a game you did not know (even a popular mobile app counts)
5.- Talk more and cultivate relationships
Booking more time for the people you care about and increasing your social connections generates a sense of satisfaction and well-being.
For some reason when we enter “routine” mode, work, school, children, obligations, duties … we forget to do those things that make us happy. Like those deep talks with your lifelong friends.
Our relationships with other people are key to our happiness. The social connection is part of a healthy lifestyle. Close relationships with friends and family provide love, purpose and increase our feelings of self-esteem.
Conversing with people around us (listening and being heard) leads us to a greater sense of well-being, stronger relationships and a better experience with our surroundings.
Studies show that people with strong relationships are happier, healthier and even live longer. In addition, meaningful conversations make you happier.
If you have trusted people close to you, like your family or friends, do not just talk about the weather or the score of the last football game. It’s better to have deeper conversations and develop a space where you can talk about your opinions, thoughts and emotions.
Nothing compares to talking to someone in person, but if this can’t be done, we now have many ways to communicate and most of these methods are free!
What you can do today:
- Say hello to your neighbors with a smile
- Dare to meet new people
- Phone your parents and relatives
- Visit your family (even if it’s not Christmas)
- Make an effort and book an afternoon with your friends
Actions to be happy from the inside out
You know how to be happier and feel better with what’s around you. Now you need to build habits that allow you to improve from the inside out.
6.- Get better sleep
We know that sleep helps the body recover from the day and repair itself. It also helps us eat better and be more productive.
But, it turns out that it is also important for our happiness.
When we are tired, we react worse to any situation and, we become much more sensitive to negative emotions.
We see everything in a more pessimistic way and our mind gets full of bad memories and negative thoughts.
This happens because negative stimuli are processed in a part of the brain called the amygdala. While positive or neutral memories are processed by another area called hippocampus.
The lack of sleep impacts the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that people with lack of sleep fail to remember fond memories.
In one experiment, the sleep deprived participants tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 80% of words with a negative connotation, such as “cancer” or “disease”. But they could only remember less than 30% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, such as “sun”, “smile” or “tree”.
Also when you do not get enough sleep, the levels of the hormone cortisol, known for its relationship with stress, increase.
How long and how deep you sleep will affect your mood when you wake up, which can make a big difference in your day.
What you can do today:
- Make an effort to go to bed an hour earlier than you usually do
- Create a ritual that will help you sleep better and awaken in a good mood starting tonight.
7.- Plan and visualize your goals
It has been scientifically proven that feeling good about the future is important for our happiness.
Having goals is a compass that gives you direction. They also bring a sense of achievement and satisfaction when we reach them.
We all need goals to motivate us and these must be challenging enough to thrill us, but at the same time, your goals must be achievable.
If we try to plan something far from our reality at this moment, we will only feel unnecessary anxiety and stress. If we do not achieve it on time, we will feel defeated, and that will not contribute to strengthen our self-esteem.
When we think about the future we are all guessing to a certain extent, so it is important to keep your feet on the ground. A too optimistic perspective can be useless and even counterproductive.
Having unrealistic expectations can lead to disappointment, a sense of failure and a more pessimistic view of the future. But if we take a realistic, but at the same time optimistic, view of the results, the probability of success will increase.
Planning and having more realistic and achievable goals can contribute to happiness in several ways. Scientific research shows that simply planning these objectives generates a feeling of positivity in the day to day living, for example when planning a future vacation.
In another study, it was shown that the simple act of thinking of a rewarding experience (like watching a movie you like, or the afternoon with friends) raises your levels of endorphins by 27% and reduces your stress levels. Endorphins are substances in your brain responsible for the feeling of euphoria and joy.
Therefore, having achievable goals and planning it realistically is a way to be happy in the present tense. The goals can be long-term, short-term or even day-to-day goals.
For example: A long-term goal could be to become a doctor or win a competition. A short-term goal could be to organize a party or join a football game over the weekend. On the other hand, a very short-term goal may be to cook something different or to meet an old friend this afternoon.
What you can do today (some ideas):
- Write your long-term goals. What do you want to achieve in a few years?
- Plan a trip for the future (even if you do not have a specific date yet)
- Search for upcoming releases of some movies and schedule a movie getaway
- Plan ahead your next weekend, what would you like to do?
- Invest your money in experiences and not in material things, since it has been seen that it contributes more to your happiness in the short and long term
8.- Be grateful for the little things
This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I have personally found that it can make a great improvement in your sense of daily happiness.
Sometimes we get carried away by the day-to-day life and forget to appreciate what we have, or maybe we want more and more material things in the believe they will make us happier.
We all have said something like: “When I have a house with a pool I will be happy” or “When I get a better job, I will be fully satisfied”
And then … you have the house and the work and you’re still not happy.
Stop and observe everything you already have and be grateful for it. Being grateful is one of the best ways to assess our present and feel more satisfied with what we are and what we have.
In an experiment, participants wrote each day about what made them feel grateful, and moods improved hugely in the first days of this simple practice. The results suggest that a conscious approach to be grateful can have emotional and interpersonal benefits.
In another study it was demonstrated that being or not being grateful directly affects your perception of happiness.
What you can do today:
- Before going to sleep think or write 3 things for which you are grateful. They can be very important things like your family, friends or a baby on the way, but, they can also be quite common things like eating your favorite ice cream, your bed, the coins in your piggy bank or the simple fact of having air in your lungs
9.- Remember something funny and smile
Did you ever laugh just by remembering something funny that happened in the past?
This happens because our thoughts define our mood at that particular moment in such a way that an image or a pleasant memory triggers a positive reaction.
Once the smiling muscles contract, a positive feedback loop begins that reinforces our feeling of joy.
Therefore, it is important to smile every day. You may think it is difficult, and even useless. Smiling alone can make us feel better, but this effect is more effective when we also get some positive thoughts.
A new study suggests that a false smile can negatively impact your mood. The difference between a smile and a fake smile were examined as a result of pleasant memories or a better perception of the current situation. Participants, who smiled as a result of cultivating deep positive thoughts (such as a vacation, or your child’s festival) tended to improve their mood better than those with the fake smile.
In short: our brain feels good and tells us that we have to smile, we smile and tell our brain that it feels good and so on.
What you can do today:
- Think of something nice, remember a joke, or some funny situation that stimulates your smile.
- Think of a situation when you felt good, what made you feel good?
- Listen to music with the intention of feeling good. Research shows that listening to music with the goal and the desire to be happier can actually lead to greater happiness than simply listening to music for the sake of listening to music.
10.- Learn to control your thoughts
Learning to control your thoughts is a skill that helps to improve your inner happiness. An effective way to train this super power is by meditating.
Meditation is often considered as an important habit to improve concentration and decrease stress, but, it turns out, it is also useful to improve your happiness
New research in neuroscience has found that those who habitually meditate, literally modify their brain structure
In one study, 16 people were examined with brain scans before and after an eight-week course of meditation and mindfulness. The parts of the brains associated with compassion, self-awareness and happiness grew, and the parts associated with stress decreased in size.
But do not worry, you do not have to become a monk and lock yourself in a temple to achieve it. You can start meditating just to relax (and doing nothing in the meantime), or to give your mind a break.
Sometimes the simple act of overthinking what we have to do, generates an anticipated negative sensation. Therefore, relaxing your mind a few minutes a day is an excellent strategy to calm anxiety and avoid negative feelings during the day.
Meditating requires practice, but it is a very powerful activity. It literally resets your mind and relaxes you. It has proven to be an effective way to be happy and feel better.
Spend a few minutes to meditate every day, it is really a life investment. I’ve been practicing for a few months and I’ve noticed incredible results. And you can also experience them.
What you can do today
- Take a few minutes to close your eyes, relax and breathe deeply.
- Follow your breath and try to be in the present.
Important note: If you have a serious depression problem, please consult a professional who will evaluate you closely.
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