You put effort into your job, into your family, and into your health, so why not put a little effort into your happiness?
I’d say it’s about time. 🙂
I’ve listed five strategies to improve your happiness below. These will help you live intentionally, which will result in more happiness. (I know because they work for me!)
1. Distinguish between short-term happiness and long-term happiness
To really be happy, you need to distinguish between short-term and long-term happiness. They are not the same. Short-term happiness is based on pleasure. For example, if you get your favorite dessert at a restaurant, you may find yourself really happy eating it. Or if you run into an old friend unexpectedly at the store, you may experience happiness.
Long-term happiness is based on fulfillment. For example, if it’s important to you that you raise a family and build your own business, then these would bring you fulfillment in the long run.
See the difference? One is a fleeting emotion based on your immediate environment. The other is deeper and based on your values.
It’s important to distinguish between the two so you don’t unreasonably expect to have the short-term emotion of happiness all the time. Instead, focus on long-term happiness, or personal fulfillment, which is based on your values and finding meaning and purpose in your life.
2. Decide what fulfills you
The second step to becoming happier is to decide what fulfills you. You can only be happy if you know what makes you happy. So, it’s time to get serious about your values and goals. I recommend creating visions and goals for each area for your life. This is what I do using my Goal Setting Action Plan (feel free to download and use it, too).
Ask yourself, what would make you happy (fulfilled) long-term (at the end of your life) in the main eight life categories (health, relationships, finances, career, spirituality/religion, environment, recreation/play, and service/volunteer).
Write the answers down. Always write the answers down! There’s something about putting this stuff in writing that really takes it up a notch – it makes everything clearer and feel more real. (What I do is buy a journal that I use for the year. Anything I’m working on that needs to be written down, like this stuff, for example, I write in that journal. Then I get a new one the next year.) It’s really cool to have this stuff to look back on, too. But I digress… ☺
Knowing what you want out of your life will help you cut out the BS – you’ll be able to focus and pursue your life with meaning. You will be able to feel like you are in alignment with your purpose, and therefore, you will be happier.
3. Practice inner-peace
People who are generally happy are at peace with themselves. They find a way to be happy even when things around them aren’t going their way.
This is really hard sometimes (errrr maybe all the time). But that’s why it’s a goal, right?!
What this means is that you are a forgiver. You are happy even if people do you wrong. You feel peaceful when stuff around you is chaotic. You are grounded in yourself and know that even when bad things happen, you can still be happy.
You know people like this. They’re the people who just seem to always be happy. It doesn’t matter whether they’re rich or poor, old or young, in good health or in bad health – some people are just really freaking happy. They have an inner-peace.
This best trick I have for you to get this started is to use The Five Minute Journal. I use it every day, and I’m kind of obsessed with it. With a simple structured format based on positive psychology research, you will start and end each day with gratitude. It does cost money, but for me, it’s worth it. You can download a free PDF to get started: The Five Minute Journal Quick Start PDF.
4. Have one activity you rely on to get you out of a funk
No matter how peaceful you are, there are going to be tough times in your life. For some people, it may feel like those tough times are most of the time, and for others, it may be few and far between. Either way, you need a coping mechanism.
So, in an effort to combat when you’re feeling down or stressed, choose an activity now that you can use to get you out of your funk. A few suggestions are 1) exercise, 2) sleep, 3) journaling, 4) reading, or 5) listening to podcasts.
The key is to be proactive and decide what your “thing” is now. So, next time you’re stressed or upset, you can acknowledge that feeling and go do whatever your “thing” is. Sulking isn’t going to change your mood. Don’t fake it and suppress how you feel, either. Instead, go do something to get yourself out of the funk. For me, it’s exercising, sleeping, or listening to a podcast (side note – if you haven’t given podcasts a chance, I highly recommend them).
5. Find something bigger than yourself to contribute to
Finally, find something bigger than yourself to contribute to. You can limit your happiness when you focus on yourself too much. Generally, people who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier.
If you’re only focusing on yourself, you can turn your problems into something bigger than they really are. Focusing on something bigger than yourself will give you perspective and allow you to be more fulfilled.
Examples of finding something bigger than yourself are: 1) having a spiritual or religious practice that you participate in, 2) contributing time or money to a charity you believe in, or 3) living generously by volunteering your time or skills.
Think about which religious or spiritual activities, charities, or causes bring you the most purpose and happiness. Then, put your time into that effort. You will be happier because you will find meaning and purpose beyond yourself. Giving back can play a huge part in making you happy.
A Final Note!
I think we can all be a little happier sometimes. This list above is a great way to get started.
To recap (if you want the short list), the five strategies to improve your happiness are:
- Distinguish between short-term happiness (fleeting emotion) and long-term happiness (values-based fulfillment)
- Decide what fulfills you (intentionally know what you want out of life)
- Practice inner-peace (use The Five Minute Journal)
- Have one activity you rely on to get you out of a funk (e.g.: exercising, sleeping)
- Find something bigger than yourself to contribute to (volunteer)
And with that, cheers to being a little bit happier!