Obviously, like everyone else, I want to be happy in my life. I am always looking for ways that will make me or you happy. But there’s another reason to wish to be more lighthearted and content. Happiness is definitely a result, but happiness is also a driver.
There are several small things you can do that will make a big impact on your overall well-being. While people can be genetically disposed toward happiness, it’s more likely that these people have discovered more of the things that make you happy in life and utilize them to their advantage.
The good news is that you can increase your own happiness quotient by doing these 10 things that make people happy.
1. Start With a Good Dose of Gratitude
I realized that every time I am consciously aware of what I am thankful for, my happiness level changes. That is why that is one thing that can make me or you happy.
When you wake up each morning, spend time recalling all the things for which you feel grateful. Before you go to bed, you can keep a gratitude journal. Write down 3 to 5 things that you felt grateful for that day and why. Use all five senses to vividly imagine these things to help your brain latch on to all that goodness.
In a recent study from psychologists at UC Davis, researchers had 3 groups of volunteers keep weekly journals focused on a single topic. While one group wrote about major events that had happened that week, the second group wrote about hassles they’d experienced, and the last group wrote about things they were grateful for.
Ten weeks later, those in the gratitude-journal group reported feeling more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives than those in any other groups and reported fewer physical symptoms of discomfort, from runny noses to headaches.
Related: 9 How to develop an attitude of gratitude
2. Make Sure You’re Giving Back
Giving back is a great thing that can make you happy. A few years ago, I started to find ways to give back to my community by running marathons. Sometimes people think giving back necessarily means money, but you can impact life by being part of something bigger than you. And I can assure you that it can make you happy.
You can give a portion of your income to your favorite charity or organization. There’s something about giving that allows you to receive more in return besides just the act of giving to help others. When you give, you’re sending a message to the Universe that you know everything will be alright.
According to a study published in 2010, “people experienced happier moods when they gave more money away—but only if they had a choice about how much to give.”
By giving, you’ll be taken care of, too. You see it from those with very little to those who have millions: you have to give to get, and by doing that, your happiness increases. You’ll feel better as well when you accomplish your goals.
3. Get Enough Exercise
Among the things that make you happy, few are as well researched as exercise. When you take time out for exercise, you’re doing your body good in more ways than one.
First, you’re doing what it was designed to do: physical exertion. Humans were made to move around, and the body works best when it does what it was meant to do.
Furthermore, as you exercise, you release a ton of feel-good hormones. These hormones can help increase happiness levels, as well as lower stress.
One study found that “Exercisers were more satisfied with their life and happier than non-exercisers at all ages.” And the good news is that it takes as little as 30 minutes to gain the amazing benefits of exercise.
4. Smile more.
“A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood. They withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts. Such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.”
Believe me, smiling more can make you happy. I am not someone who likes to smile too much, but I smile with all my teeth out when I do.
“Smiling makes us feel good, which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.”
A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:
“Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).”
I started to meditate during this pandemic to allow my mind to be at rest with everything going on around me. It made me feel more happy than ever.
Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity, and attention span and helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness.
Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down. It’s often been proved to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. According to Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:
“Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.”
The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through meditation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that we feel and think today isn’t permanent.
6. Avoid Regrets
We all make mistakes in life–that’s part of the human condition. However, with a little forethought, you can try to avoid making big mistakes and focus more on the happy things in life.
Even then, they still happen. That’s when it’s best to learn to forgive–yourself and others–because everyone else is just trying to get through life the best they can, too. They’ll make mistakes, but the trick is moving on from them.
The less you think about things that are in your past, the happier you will be. Obviously, it is not easy, but with diligence and focus, you can.
7. Sleep more.
Among the things that make people happy, sleep is one of the easiest and most natural. Ever notice how cranky you are in the afternoon when you’ve only had 5 or 6 hours of sleep? Many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation, leading to higher levels of stress and edginess.
Research has shown that simply getting enough sleep “improves memory, increases people’s ability to concentrate, strengthens the immune system, and decreases people’s risk of being killed in accidents.”
After a good night of sleep, you can tackle your daily tasks in a more calm, alert way. It’s so much better than experiencing that awful sluggish feeling in that oh-so-important meeting with your boss. Your body will thank you, too.
8. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
This is definitely easier said than done, but if you can condition your mind to focus on the good you are doing and the good things in your life, you’re not going to be tempted to focus on how others are doing.
Research on the effects of social media use has found that upward comparisons on social media are associated with lower self-esteem.
Here are some tips to help you stop comparing yourself to others.
9. Follow Your Passion
It is important to follow your passion and do what makes you happy. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Do what you love, and the money will follow?” Doing things that you love to do–and even better, getting paid for it–are good ways to boost your happiness levels.
When work feels like play, you’re more likely to enjoy other aspects of your life more, too.
10. Volunteer Your Time
When you give your time or talent, your focus shifts from your life to that of others.
This can help you realize that your own problems may not be that bad. You invariably forge new relationships and experience an uplift in your spirit.
Furthermore, volunteering can give you a sense of purpose and keep you active during downtime in your life. It will also increase self-confidence as you begin to feel better about yourself and your place in the world.
Happiness comes from all the small things and habits you do every day. If you want to start living a happy life, practice these 10 happy things and fit them into your daily routine!