Ok I am going to count down from 5 and let us see if you can do it… ready?
5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
Ok so are you happy now? I hope you are, but if not, we have some work to do!
Of course, no one can spend 100% of their life being happy, laughing, and generally being content with everything, but there are actions we can take that can increase our happiness and make us into happier people.
As with most things, setting some measurable goals will help you ensure you are doing the work you need to be doing in order to make a real change.
If you have been visiting MakeYourBestSelf for a while now, you will know that I have spent a good amount of time writing about goals setting, what makes good goals, how to make better goals, and why you should make goals, but today I want to cover goals and actions that can be used specifically for increasing your happiness.
All of these goals and actions can increase your happiness, so make sure to start incorporating these goals into your own plans to make a better life for yourself, some may work for you, and others may not, it will take a little bit of experimentation on your part to figure out what works, but I am confident you will find something of great use from this list!
I have written a little bit about happiness in the past here (freedom vs security) and (why synthetic happiness is just as good as real happiness), and really there are three main types of happiness that occur in life.
- Happiness from actually experiencing something that makes you happy (winning an award, spending time with loved ones, traveling the world, or even eating your favorite meal)
- Happiness from the anticipation of experiencing something that will make you happy (working towards running your first marathon, planning your first trip out of the country, looking for jobs after you first graduate college, or looking at the ultrasound of your first child)
- Happiness from be grateful for or remembering something that made you happy (looking at pictures of a great life moment, remembering loved ones, remembering great times, or being grateful for the fact that you have your health)
Genuine happiness occurs organically and takes no effort- in other words- it is easy and also whimsical, while synthetic happiness is a product of choice- which means- you create it by choosing to do things that make you happy, by remember things that made you happy, or by looking towards the future with anticipation.
Both genuine and synthetic happiness have the exact same effect, except that through choice you can choose to create happiness upon command, not by simply choosing to be happy, but by focusing your attention and energy onto things that make you happy, you can effectively be happier.
Before we begin, please realize that it will take some implementation on your part to make these goals work, and you will need to customize them into your own life and make sure that you can measure their progress. I will give you some great goals and actions that you can take, but if you don’t hold yourself accountable to do them, they won’t work for very long.
“Appreciate more in life” is a great goal to increase your happiness, but if you want to really produce more happiness in your life, you will need a measurable goal that calls you into action each day, for example: “Every morning I wake up I will write a short list of what I am grateful for”, “Each time I am feeling sad, I will remind myself of what good things are happening in my life”, or “Say thank you each time someone does something for me.”
Appreciation is a surefire way to change the way you are feeling about life; choosing to appreciate your life is actually a perspective shift, and it effectively removes sadness, because you can only view things through one standpoint at a time.
You can view things negatively, out of fear, and feel sadness or anxiety, but choosing to view things through a lens of appreciation will instantly boost your happiness and change your frame of mind.
example goals: Make a list each morning of what you are grateful for. Whenever you experience anxiety or any form of sadness, try thinking of something you can be grateful for instead. At least 1 time per week, really think about all of the things you take for granted in life: children, friends, a home, a car, or even food, some people must go without these things, be grateful for what you do have!
Exercise produces powerful mind altering hormones that can boost your mood, energy levels, self confidence and self image, and ultimately your happiness. Most people who consider themselves very happy spend a good amount of time taking care of themselves, and exercise is a vital component to happiness.
You may not think much your health now, but if you lose it, it will be all that is on your mind, so make the long term investment into yourself now and get active while you still can.
example goals: Join a gym and get enrolled in personal training, group fitness classes, or just get a partner to workout with. Choose more active hobbies: join a dance class, take martial arts, take up hiking, buy a mountain bike, whatever you enjoy that will get you doing more. Exercise at least 5 days per week for a minimum of 30 minutes per day (link).
The food you eat has a big impact on how you feel and how happy you feel. Unhealthy foods leave you feeling sluggish, self conscious, and guilty, while healthy foods can leave you feeling proud, energized, and more confident.
Diet and exercise are double boosts for happiness, because not only do they produce physical and immediate benefits, but they also produce mental benefits like feelings of accomplishment, increased feelings of self worth, and increased confidence.
example goals: Dedicate one evening per week to meal prepping at least 10 meals for the week (or break this up into two different nights throughout the week). Find an accountability partner and speak with them each day about what you both ate for the day. Keep a food journal that tracks everything that you eat each day and then review it at the end of the day, and again at the end of each week.
Positive thinking is a skill that can be developed with a little bit of effort and persistence, and it can make a huge difference in your life.
Positive thinking involves a lot of different techniques to reprogram negative emotions and thoughts into positive or beneficial ones; just a little bit of reading into how to think positively can help you alot. Try these posts here (links) if you want to read more about different types of positive thinking.
example goals: Replace 95% of negative thoughts with positive and productive thoughts. Read at least 1 book per month that deals specifically with developing positive thinking and do all of the exercises in the book. Enroll in a positive thinking self improvement program or join a positive thinking group.
- Memento Mori (remember to die).
Memento Mori is a cool latin term I first read about over at art of manliness, and it basically means remember that you have to die. It doesn’t matter who you are, what problems you have, orhow much success you have, we are ALL going to die.
Remembering that you will someday die- and that it could be at any moment- is a powerful reminder that each moment is precious and unguaranteed. It can be sad to ponder too much on death, but a healthy reminder of our mortality should spur us into action, keep us humble, and of course, keep us grateful for the time that we do have left here on earth.
example goals: Remind yourself once per day in the morning that you are going to die someday, and that this fact is one of the only certainties in life, live your life to its fullest each day. Read books about famous and inspirational people and look at how much they accomplished in life. Read stories about people who faced death and used the fear of death to accomplish great things (Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer is a great example).
- Dedicate your life to something bigger than you. (find a sense of belonging)
Happiness and solace can come to people who give the purpose of their life up to something greater than themselves. When we seek only to fulfil our short term wants and needs, life can seem shallow and meaningless, but when we dedicate ourselves to something beyond ourselves: family, helping people, serving a god, making the world a better place, creating a great new invention for the world, or simply becoming our highest form of self, we can gain a powerful and deep happiness that is unshaken by most of life’s trials.
example goals: Create a personal mission statement stating what the purpose of your life is and in what ways your existence makes a difference in the world. Go to church or find a religion that helps you raise feel a part of something bigger than yourself. Join a volunteering group. Dedicate more time to spend with your family and place more emphasis on your family in every decision you make.
- Do something nice for someone.
Taking the time and energy to do something kind or considerate for someone else is pretty much an instant boost of happiness. Try it out for yourself the next time you are feeling down, just do something kind for someone you know or even just for a stranger.
I don’t think anybody really knows why charity and kind acts make people feel happier, partly a feeling of accomplishment, partly a feeling of pride for helping someone, but it is a 100% happiness boost every time.
example goals: Give 3 random compliments to people at work for no reason. Hold the door open for people every time you get the opportunity. Give a 20 dollar bill to the homeless guy by your highway exit. Donate something anonymously to someone you know that is need.
- Act happier to feel happier.
When someone asks us- on a tired Monday morning- “Hey, how are you today?” It is easier to give some generic grumble like “I’m here.” or “Good morning.’, but it also won’t do much for you in the way of gaining more happiness in your life either.
Sometimes if you truly want to feel happy, you have to fake it a little bit, and the happier you act you will almost always find, the happier you will feel. Just smiling can boost your mood and make you feel happier; have you ever wondered why happy people are smiling all of the time?
Is it because being happy makes you smile, or because smiling makes you happy? Either way, people who are happy act happy, and if you are acting sad and depressed, you aren’t ever going to feel happy.
example goals: Smile each time you greet someone. Make it a habit to never answer “How are you?” or “How was your day?” with complaints or unimpassioned responses, choose instead to say “I am really great.” or “I am really happy to have another day here on earth, so many people don’t have the opportunity to live another day.”. If you feel sad, try making yourself laugh, hold a smile for 30 seconds, or dance around like a crazy person for 30 seconds.
- Do something you love.
Do you love reading but never find the time to do it each day? Did you love running when you got married, but never find the time since you had kids? Have you always wanted to take a dance class, but never tried it out?
Doing something you love, or finding something you can be passionate about is a great way to add more enjoyment and happiness into your life. Not only does doing something you are passionate about release stress, unlock creativity, and develop new skills, but it just makes you feel happier too.
example goals: Join a book club and read the books required for the club. Sign up at your local rock climbing gym and climb at least 2 times per week. Dedicate at least one night per week to playing games with your family.
- Set some goals.
These are all great goals, but please understand that pretty much any goal you set will make you happier.
Goals give you happiness as you plan your goals, work toward them, when you accomplish them, and then even after they have been accomplished. One of the greatest sources of eternal happiness in life comes from the continual commitment to personal growth and improvement.
If you are always growing, always working towards something, and always developing new skills and interests, you will almost always find new passion and happiness, but if you choose to settle, become complacent, and give up control over your life, you will almost always end up feeling sad and wishing for more.
example goals: Set at least 3 focus goals each month in different areas of your life. Create 2 new habits every 6 weeks that will make you better in some way. Set a deadline to get back into school or to find a job that will allow you more advancement and growth.
Happiness doesn’t have to be some elusive thing that you spend your whole life searching for, but it exists in every moment, within your mind, within your actions and experiences, and within the choices you make at every turn.
The only thing stopping you from being happy is yourself, there is always joy to be found in each moment, it just takes the courage and strength to find it, and while happiness may be euphoric, it doesn’t mean it is easy. In fact, happiness comes from doing something, and often from doing the things we don’t “feel” like doing at all.
Happiness is not created, it is chosen and embraced.
Choose to be happy, you deserve it.