Do you sometimes feel as though you’re just coasting through life without real happiness? People in difficult circumstances (poor health, financial worries, marital problems) might think that happiness is out of their grasp. It might surprise you to find that even people who seem to have everything going well for them can feel like happiness is just out of reach. No matter what your situation is, take a look at these 6 simple ways to increase happiness. Put them into effect and watch your contentment levels rise.
1. Spend Time Helping Others
When you’re focused on helping others, your mind is often far away from your own troubles. In addition, it can make you happy to see other people’s happiness, and volunteering to help other people can raise your self-esteem. You might build friendships with the people you help or with others who are involved with the same cause, you can become more optimistic, and helping others can even help you feel more empowered.
In addition, helping other people can make you more thankful for what you have, and gratefulness is a key factor to happiness. Whether you are helping homeless pets, homeless people, people in hospitals, children in school, or people who can’t do handy work around their house, it can give you a sense of gratefulness for the skills, health, and home that you have. If you’re struggling with happiness, look for needs in your community that you can help meet.
2. Keep Yourself Productive (But Not Too Busy)
When you are sedentary and bored, it gives you more time to focus on your troubles. By keeping your mind and body busy, however, particularly if you are being productive, you can enjoy the satisfaction that comes with a job well done and increase happiness. You might think that you’re too busy now and that your routine makes you unhappy, but there’s a lot to be said for finding a balance between boredom and busyness.
One trick to balancing boredom and busyness is to consider all of the nonessential things you already do. If they don’t make you happy and aren’t needed for your job, home, or family, then see if you can find a way to end your obligation. Once you do that, you might find that you have more time to devote to activities that you would find more fulfilling.
3. Cultivate Meaningful Relationships
It can be difficult to find the time and energy to connect with friends and family, especially if you are busy with work, school, children, and all of the other tasks that most people have to do. Try to make time to spend on cultivating meaningful relationships, though. Even having just a few friends can make you feel more satisfied with life. You can share laughter, support one another through difficult situations, and bounce ideas off of each other.
If you’re having trouble making friends, consider joining a community organization, a church, or a volunteer project. You can also make friends through other friends. Even something like taking an aerobics class, joining a book club, or taking your dog to obedience school will put you in contact with people with whom you have something in common. Don’t overlook your own family members, either; as an adult, your siblings or cousins could become your closest friends.
4. Enjoy Small Pleasures
While it’s unlikely that you will find big events to celebrate each day, every day or week should involve some small pleasures. Take the time not only to seek out these little things but also take the time to enjoy them. Even taking 15 minutes to enjoy a sunset or a few minutes to walk in a park on a nice day can make you feel satisfied and content.
You can also set aside a bit of extra money for splurging on little things that will make you happy. It might be an ice cream cone, a new pair of inexpensive sunglasses, or a bright nail polish. Any that will make you smile and only costs a few dollars can go a long way toward brightening your day and your attitude. If you have a bit more money to spend, try spending it on experiences or on things that will improve your day-to-day living and make you more comfortable as you go about your daily routine.
5. Get Enough Exercise and Sleep
If you aren’t taking care of your physical needs, it’s difficult to be positive and happy.
Make sure that you are getting enough sleep. While this can be a challenge during certain seasons of life (for example, if you have small children, when women go through menopause, and if you are dealing with anxiety that keeps you up at night), it’s worth the effort to catch up on your sleep whenever you can. Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, depression, and anxiety over time.
Exercise is another physical need that is closely linked to mental health. A lack of exercise can be associated with anxiety and depression, and there’s evidence that getting enough exercise can markedly improve mild and moderate anxiety and depression. Try to get in the 30 minutes per day recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and watch your happiness factor rise.
Finally, to increase happiness, follow the advice you’ve probably heard before: Fake it ‘til you make it. Smiling, even if you don’t really feel like smiling sends a message to your brain that you are, in fact, happy. Part of the phenomenon could be that when you smile at others, they naturally smile back at you, which raises your happiness quotient. If you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps, find something that should make you smile. If it doesn’t work, smile anyway!
Take Action and Start to Increase Happiness Today
Finding happiness is a matter of attitude more than circumstance. By taking good physical care of yourself, surrounding yourself with those who love and appreciate you, helping others, looking for small pleasures, and, when all else fails, smiling even if you don’t really want to, you will find that your smiles are becoming more authentic and that you are feeling better. If you find that it’s really impossible for you to increase happiness, see your doctor; he or she can refer you for counseling, which can help you find the joy you have been lacking.