Happiness. It’s a simple thing…right? But if being happy was so simple, then why would there be over 127 million web pages that talk about how to be happy? That’s how many pages came up when I searched the term, “how to be happy” for this article. Why am I searching that phrase? Because it’s International Day of Happiness and I had to find an excuse to post all of these happy and adorable photos I found.
So, in celebration of International Day of Happiness, I decided to share my thoughts on how to be happy and include these awesome photos from around the web as a way to celebrate this important and auspicious day.
Why Happiness Matters
Did you know that being happy is linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease? It’s also linked to lowered risk of disabilities associated with aging, and can even help you to live a longer life!
Now that you know why happiness matters, let’s get into how to be happy.
This lizard photo was actually the reason why I started this whole post. I actually searched “happiest photo ever” and these are some of the photos that came up in Google images. You really can find everything online.
How to Be Happy #1: Focus on what matters.
Look, food matters. Shelter matters. Making sure the bills get paid? That matters. But whether or not you have the most current iPhone or the fanciest car? Not so important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, those things are nice, but nobody ever lay on their deathbed saying, “I wish I’d had a nicer car,” or “I wish I had spent more time looking at my phone.”
In fact, happiness is related to income level, but only to a certain extent. The research shows that happiness and income are correlated up to a household income of about $75,000, then the correlation decreases. That suggests that money really doesn’t buy happiness after all.
How to Be Happy #2: Do something for someone else.
One of the surest ways to feel good is to do something nice for someone else. Altruism always comes with the loveliest of payoffs – it makes you feel good. So do something nice for someone else. Spend some time volunteering and helping those who need the most help. Give of yourself and you will find yourself focusing on good things.
How to Be Happy #3: Be grateful.
Speaking of focusing on good things…I recently started a new thing: I created a Google Form with a single question: “What 3 things are you most grateful for this morning?” Then, I created an IFTTT recipe to send me an email every morning at 7 AM, with a link to my Google Form and a reminder for me to go fill out that form. Not only does this activity set me up to approach each day with gratitude, but whenever I’m feeling down, all I have to do is look in my Google Drive and there’s a huge database that’s been created by my daily gratitude exercise, just filled with things I’m grateful for. All it takes is a quick scan over the many entries and I remember how lucky I really am.
How to Be Happy #4: Exercise.
Endorphins. Everybody talks about them, but most people say they haven’t experienced them. Why? Probably because it’s only when you really push yourself that endorphins kick in. But no worries: the mental health benefits of exercise are well-documented, so all you really have to do is get your heart rate up a few times a week and you’ll be happier and smarter!
For what it’s worth, I am, by nature, a sedentary person. Given the option, I would happily curl up in a blanket reading a book all day, every day. But for my body and health, I know that’s a terrible idea, so I exercise. I used to hate it, but then I found a great program with lots of variety that keeps me interested and exercising pretty much every day. And I am so much happier. So move more. You’ll smile more. 🙂
How to Be Happy #5: Meditate.
I love meditation. Love it. My husband hates it. I couldn’t get him to meditate if I paid him to do it. And I used to dislike it myself. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I suffer from anxiety, and I used to think if I tried to meditate, all the hobgoblins in my mind would come out and get me. What I’ve learned, though, is that meditation actually calms my fears down. Meditation helps quiet my mind so that I can relax and be calmer…and yes, happier.
How to Be Happy #6: Smile. And Laugh.
Did you know that when you smile, your brain releases the “feel good” chemical, dopamine? In fact, that’s the science behind the “fake it till you make it” idea, putting on a happy face will actually help you feel happier because your brain says, “Ooh, smiling! That means happy! Release the dopamine!” and you actually feel happier.
And don’t forget, “laughter is the best medicine.” While scientific evidence to support this adage is somewhat low, the few studies that have studied the health benefits of laughter do look promising.
How to Be Happy #7: Go outside.
We know that Vitamin D is typically low in people who suffer from depression. So go outside, get some sunshine without sunscreen. I’m not telling you to go outside and tan, but if you can get a little sunshine for about 15 minutes a day, your Vitamin D levels will rise and you’ll feel happier. Plus, there’s quite a bit of research starting to pile up that suggests that being outside in nature tends to make us happier, too.
How to Be Happy #8: Seek out positive people.
People who are sarcastic and snarky, sure they’re funny, but…are they happy? I used to have a friend I thought was hilarious…until I realized that every joke she made was really just a negative, unkind comment about someone else. Once I saw through the jokes, I started to notice other things that indicated how very unhappy she really was.
I tend to spend most of my time with positive people who are encouraging and supportive. Happiness is infectious – it’s hard to spend time around people who are positive without starting to feel more positive yourself.
How to Be Happy #9: Look for the silver lining.
They say there’s a silver lining in every cloud, and I’m always looking for it. I don’t actually think there’s something good in every single act, however horrific and sad it might be. But if something bad happens, if I can’t see any good in the act itself, I look for the lesson or the compassion and empathy that is good. Sometimes bad things bring out the good in people, and that means there’s a silver lining. It’s not always easy to find, but it’s always there.
How to Be Happy #10: Stop trying so hard.
I know there are plenty of coaches and “gurus” out there who are telling you that your life isn’t enough. They tell you to try harder, be bigger, play a bigger game, strive for bigger goals…but sometimes we get so caught up with our goals and ambitions and what we want out of life that we don’t stop to feel satisfied with ourselves for what we’ve already created…and that can lead to profound unhappiness.So remember to spend a little time being satisfied with what you have, who you are, and what you’ve accomplished. You can still work toward your goals and strive for something better, but if you consider that to be icing on the cake, rather than letting the gurus and coaches tell you that you’re not enough (while simultaneously telling you that you need to work on your self worth), you’ll be happier.
How to Be Happy #11: Hug someone.
Hugging is the best medicine. It’s better than laughter and it’s better than Xanax. Hugging lowers your blood pressure, decreases fears, and is a natural stress reliever. It’s just good for you and it makes you feel good. So go out and celebrate International Day of Happiness by hugging someone. I mean, not a random stranger, necessarily, but someone you know.