You want to be happy with yourself and your life. Who doesn’t?
Maybe you’re here because you’re unhappy right now, and you’re seeking some ideas to improve your happiness.
There’s good reason to look for ways to be happy.
A growing body of research tells us happiness isn’t just a lovely feeling — it’s also quite beneficial for you.
It’s been linked to a load of life benefits including a higher income, a stronger immune system, and even a boost in creativity.
Psychologists Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia conducted a happiness study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries.
They discovered that people all over the world rate happiness as more important than other highly desirable personal outcomes like meaning in life, becoming rich, and getting into heaven.
People who are happy with themselves also make for a stronger, healthier, more productive society.
Being Happy is in Your Control
True happiness isn’t just that burst of joy that comes with getting a promotion, getting engaged, or winning the lottery.
Sustained happiness with yourself involves contentment and peace of mind, the feelings you want in between those big bursts.
We all have a happiness set point, a baseline degree of happiness determined by genetics. Some people are naturally more optimistic than others.
But beyond that set point, a great deal of being a happier person is in our control, according to happiness researcher and author Sonja Lyubomirsky.
In fact, 40% of being happy with ourselves is determined by our choices and habits.
That’s great news because 40% gives you a lot to work with — even if you’re a more pessimistic person.
If you want to be happy always (or at least as often as your set point allows), you need to adopt some proven happiness habits.
How to Be Happy Always: 50 Happy Habits to Adopt
1. Dwell in the present.
Constantly reliving the pain of the past keeps you mired in negativity, guilt, anger, and sadness. Keep your mind focused on the present moment and all the good available to you right now.
It’s not easy to stay focused in the moment all the time, but the more you do, the happier you’ll be. With practice, being present becomes easier and more natural.
2. Move around.
Exercise and movement boost endorphins, provide energy and build self-esteem — all happiness-fostering outcomes.
And of course, exercise contributes to good health which is the number one contributor to happiness.
Go for a walk every day. Ride your bike. Play tennis. Do something that gets you off the couch and moving around.
3. Don’t Isolate yourself.
People who are happy with themselves aren’t alone. They enjoy time with family, friends, and work associates. They make a point of connecting and interacting with others. Isolation breeds loneliness and depression.
4. Don’t focus on the negative.
Whether you try to make yourself happy or not, bad things will happen in life. But after a time of grief or frustration, happy people don’t continue to focus on the negative. They consciously move past negative situations and thoughts and intentionally focus on the positive.
5. Get out debt.
Money difficulties (and the resulting anxiety and stress that go along with them) poison feelings of happiness. It’s hard to make yourself happy when you owe a lot of money. People who are happy with themselves spend less than they earn and pay off their debts.
6. Put experiences above material things.
Material things afford only a short burst of happiness, but this quickly fades. Experiences, however, provide a richer level of satisfaction that lingers through connections and memories.
7. Be forgiving.
We all get angry or frustrated with other people, but staying angry and holding a grudge is like dropping a cold, wet blanket over our joy.
As we dwell on our anger or how we’ve been wronged, we allow no room for happy feelings. Forgiveness and letting go of other’s offenses is the only way to stay happy.
8. Stay grateful.
Expressing gratitude is one of the top happiness-producing actions we can form. When you forget to be grateful for all that you have right now, you deny yourself a well-spring of joyful feelings.
People who are happy with themselves make a point of counting their blessings.
9. Don’t expect others to make you happy.
We often believe happiness results from having others behave the way we want them to behave. We think they can make us happy by saying certain things, meeting all of our needs, or giving us what we want.
But of course, other people can’t make us happy, and thinking they can only adds to our unhappiness.
10. Continue growing and learning.
When we stop expanding and improving ourselves through personal growth and learning, we remain stuck in the status quo.
We paralyze ourselves so we aren’t able to experience new adventures, ideas, people, and self-awareness. This leads to stagnation and depression.
11. Serve and help others.
Helping our family, friends, and even strangers is a huge key to happiness. Service to others gives us a feeling of deeper purpose and meaning in life.
It boosts our feelings of connection and self-esteem. When you avoid serving, you cut yourself off from a deep longing of the soul.
12. Prioritize being fit.
Being overweight drags down your self-esteem and confidence. It can make some people feel unattractive and even unlovable. And of course, it’s bad for your health, which is a huge contributor to happiness. A great beginner’s exercise for health and fitness is rebounding on a mini-trampoline.
13. Stay balanced.
When your life is out-of-balance, essential parts of who you are and what you value aren’t getting the attention they need or deserve. Your work, relationships, and lifestyle all need to work in harmony so you can feel whole and emotionally and mentally healthy.
14. Avoid gossip.
Talking bad about other people is an insidious bad habit that is hurtful to others and yourself. You demean and diminish yourself when you take pleasure in the pain, difficulties, or destructive behavior of others. When you are happy and confident, you don’t need to gossip.
15. Don’t focus on physical flaws.
We all have imperfect faces and bodies, and most people tend to focus more on those imperfections than on what makes them attractive.
People who are happy with themselves do what they can to improve their appearance, but after that they let it go. If you focus on your physical flaws, you diminish your self-esteem and undermine the real person you are on the inside.
16. Spend time in nature.
If your time outside consists of walking from your house or office to your car, then you’re limiting a vital experience of contentment and joy. People who are truly happy with themselves find almost spiritual pleasure in time spent outside in beautiful, natural settings.
17. Reframe failure or mistakes.
Failing is part of life. It is necessary for learning and success. We all feel bad about a mistake or failure, but people who are happy with themselves know how to learn from these events and then let them go.
18. Don’t judge others.
Being judgmental of others brings out negative and controlling feelings and thoughts. Judgment can make you feel angry, superior, and self-satisfied — but none of these emotions are compatible with happiness.
19. Aim high.
People who learn to make themselves happy don’t buy into the old stories and limiting beliefs they may once have had about themselves.
They are able to re-write their stories by setting ambitious goals and striving to achieve them. They derive as much pleasure from working toward their goals as they do in reaching them.
20. Live authentically.
It’s hard to be happy when you aren’t living your truth, when you are trying to be someone else, or please others at the expense of your true self.
People who are happy with themselves give up people-pleasing and embrace their authenticity.
21. Manage stress.
Life can get busy and overwhelming, and sometimes we get addicted to the adrenaline-fueled lifestyle of busy schedules and full to-do lists.
But this adrenaline addiction does a number on your health, peace of mind, and relationships — all of which are necessary for happiness. Ask yourself what you most feel stressed about, and take action to relieve it.
22. Get regular check-ups and well-care.
When we’re too afraid or too busy to go to the doctor, we’re creating a subtle layer of stress and potentially harming our health. Taking care of our bodies is part of loving ourselves, and self-love is imperative for a happy life.
23. Put relationships before work.
One of the top five regrets of the dying is not spending enough time with the people they care about. We are social creatures, wired to connect and interact with others.
When you prioritize work above your loved ones, you deny yourself and them the kind of connection you and they deserve.
24. Practice smiling more
Just the physical act of smiling, even when you don’t feel happy, will boost the happy chemicals in your brain. When you rarely smile, you’re sending signals to your mind that you are unhappy. Pull those cheek muscles up and smile. You’ll feel better for it.
25. Laugh at yourself.
When you take yourself too seriously and can’t laugh at yourself, you appear and feel grouchy and unpleasant. The ability to laugh at yourself is attractive and authentic and makes you feel light and confident.
26. Make time for fun.
People who are happy with themselves want to enjoy life. They want to have fun and share that fun with others. But you have to make time for fun. You have to prioritize it and give yourself permission to enjoy life.
27. Appreciate your spouse or partner.
Your primary love relationship is the most important relationship of your life. If you don’t take care of that relationship, you are bound to be unhappy. People with happy marriages are happier with themselves in general.
28. Keep your space uncluttered
Your physical space is a reflection of your state of mind. Feeling cluttered and out-of-control diminishes your joy by adding stress, distractions, and overwhelm. You may want to check out my bestselling book 10-Minute Declutter.
29. Practice self-awareness and self-reflection.
Those who seek to know themselves and work on self-improvement will experience happiness and contentment on a much deeper level. The self-aware life opens many new pathways to joy.
30. Remember to apologize.
If you’ve hurt or offended someone and forget to apologize, it will be a thorn in your side until you remedy the situation. Your well-being is compromised until you say, “I’m sorry.” When you’ve made someone else unhappy with a hurtful action or comment, it’s hard to be happy with yourself.
31. Create personal boundaries.
Letting others take advantage of you and cross your boundaries eventually shreds your self-esteem and peace of mind. As long as you tolerate these offenses, you’ll feel unsettled, resentful, and angry. Create and enforce your boundaries to avoid these feelings and boost your self-esteem.
32. Find your life passion.
A huge part of living a fulfilled and happy life is finding your life passion — the thing you are meant to do. You may have many passions and interests, but if you don’t seek them, you won’t find them, and you’ll forever feel restless and uninspired.
33. Honor your integrity and values.
When your actions don’t match your values or integrity, you will have a range of negative emotions — from guilt and shame to anxiety and depression. Define what integrity means to you, and identify your most essential values. Look at where your life doesn’t match your integrity and values and make changes to align them.
34. Stretch yourself and take reasonable risks.
People often don’t stretch or take risks because they don’t like the discomfort of uncertainty. But people who are happy with themselves embrace new adventures and are curious about trying new things.
They have the confidence to step out of their comfort zones, knowing a big payoff is possible.
35. Don’t leave issues unresolved.
Unresolved issues nag at you like a bad rash. They stay in the back of your mind, creating anxiety as you continue to procrastinate. Facing these problems head-on shortens the time of discomfort and negative feelings and gives you a sense of peace.
36. Seek emotional intimacy.
Emotional intimacy with another person requires vulnerability and exposing yourself to possible pain. But the fullness of a close relationship lies within the depths of emotional intimacy. A relationship can’t survive disconnection and emotional distance.
37. Stop complaining.
Frequent complaining is a sign of inner turmoil and dissatisfaction with life. Verbalizing negative thoughts only gives more power to the thoughts and pushes you further from contentment.
38. Let go of negative people.
When you allow negative people to remain in your life, you allow them to steal your joy and peace of mind. We hold on to these people out of obligation or guilt, two emotions that don’t align with happiness.
39. Save money.
Life presents us with surprises and opportunities, and you want to prepare for both. You need to save money so you can easily manage difficulties and seize positive options. Feeling financially secure adds to your happiness and well-being.
40. Limit consumption — food, alcohol, medications, etc.
Everything in moderation, right? When you over-eat, drink until intoxicated, take mind-altering drugs regularly, you can’t fully experience your reality and feel authentic joy. Nor can you be fully available for the people you love. Plus, over-consuming harms your health.
41. Maintain your friendships.
People move, we lose touch, and life gets in the way of our valued friendships. But the people who are happiest with themselves are surrounded by friends. You must nurture friendships to keep them, so take the time to connect with the people you care about — no matter how far away they are.
42. Leave a miserable job.
We spend nearly half of our waking hours on the job. If you’re miserable at your job, you’re miserable most of the time. Life is too short to give up so much daily enjoyment.
43. Don’t allow sex to get boring.
Let’s face it — for most of us, sex is a big part of a happy life. Routine sex becomes mundane and leaves you feeling disenchanted. Exciting, fun, creative, adventurous sex reignites passion and intense joy. Don’t let your sex life become boring.
44. Boost your self-confidence.
We all have times when our confidence takes a hit, but happy people understand the skills of self-confidence and how to bolster it when they’re feeling off. Confidence is a necessary component of a satisfying life.
45. Accept support or help.
Even the most joyful people have difficult times when they need support. When you refuse help or don’t ask for support when you need it, you delay healing and resolution, allowing negative emotions to fester longer than they need to.
46. Work on being optimistic.
Pessimism is a bad habit that undermines the possibility of happiness. Seeing the glass half empty and looking on the dark side of things keeps you mired in frustration and simmering anger. People who are happy with themselves mindfully practice keeping a positive attitude.
47. Speak truthfully.
We all have our particular truth — our beliefs, opinions, and ideas. And we should feel safe and free to express them in a kind and healthy way. When you fear speaking your truth, you’re not authentic, and your low confidence keeps you contained and insecure. It’s hard to breed happiness when you feel this way.
48. Practice vulnerability.
Those who have a big secret or major lie will never feel happy until they come clean. You may not be able to express your secret to your family or friends, but you can talk with a counselor or clergy person to help you decide how to proceed. An honest, open life is the foundation for happiness.
49. Live a life of adventure.
Travel is one of those life experiences that you should prioritize over material things. It broadens your perspectives, exposes you to new cultures and people, and allows you to disconnect from your life responsibilities and stresses. If you don’t travel, you limit your opportunities for fun and enjoyment.
50. Listen to your intuition.
Each of us has a built-in advisor and decision-maker. We just have to tune in. When combined with our intellect and judgment, intuition is a powerful resource that helps us make the best choices, develop positive habits, and disconnect from negative forces in our lives.
Our intuition can often give us the answer to the question, “Will this make me happy?”
51. Practice spirituality.
Happiness research shows that those who have religious or spiritual beliefs are happier than those who don’t, regardless of their beliefs. Our spiritual beliefs offer a sense of meaning and purpose that provides a sense of well-being and even bliss.
You don’t have to believe in a higher power to be spiritual. You can practice spirituality through meditation, time in nature, or other soul-enriching pursuits.
Have you learned some new ways to be happy?
Science has provided many answers to the question, “How can I be happier?” The key is putting these proven steps into action and practicing them daily.
Try to identify the actions listed above that can make the biggest improvement in your overall happiness. Focus on one or two for several months, and keep a journal documenting how you are feeling.
Simply the knowledge that you are taking control of your moods by applying these tips on being happy will give you a sense of purpose and contentment. May every step you take be a microcosm of the happiness you seek.