Happiness is the highest form of wealth and living life in a way that is conducive to happiness can be relatively simple. I can certainly vouch for the fact that these ten steps have worked wonders for me in terms of improving my overall happiness in life – so hopefully they might do the same for you.
1. Take responsibility for your happiness
An important thing to realise is that you are in the driver’s seat of your life. You are responsible for your wellbeing, the route in which your life is going and ultimately your happiness. Not your mum, not your partner, not your best friend, you! Daunting I know. So it’s important to learn to trust and believe in yourself – even if it takes some time. If you are not currently happy then ask yourself why – what’s causing your unhappiness and what you can do to change it? Eradicate things that make you unhappy and work towards creating the life that you want – one that will ultimately bring you happiness. Many people don’t know what they want out of life, which is okay! You are not the only one.
“Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” – Rumi
2. Enjoy now
It can often be the case that we feel as though absolute happiness should be reserved for when we finally achieve a certain level of personal success, such as reaching the top of your field, finding a dream partner or losing weight – but how long could that proverbial goal take to achieve? Could it perhaps be years? Why defer your happiness when there are things to be happy about and grateful for now. Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans, so stop focusing on the destination and enjoy the ride because usually it’s where 90% of the fun is anyway. Living in the future and being impatient is counterproductive, you simply instil unnecessary pressure on yourself. Savour the here and now and be confident that the best is yet to come.
“You will never be as young again as you are today”
3. Be nice
One of the best feelings in the world is to do something selfless for someone. Being nice feels good and it’s no coincidence that the nice people in life are usually the happy ones. In a society where it’s often deemed that being nice should come at a price, it’s important to forget about what you can get from people and focus on what you can give. Doing something nice for someone and expecting something back in return, however small it may be, devalues the gesture. By doing so you put yourself in a needy position where you rely on that person for gratification – but when you focus on what you can give to others, it’s empowering, you genuinely make a difference to the world and this can boost your feeling of self-worth. No act of kindness is ever wasted and it’s amazing how it sets the world in the right direction. The cherry on top is that it’s amazing how far in life being nice will get you.
“The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves” – Amelia Earhart
4. Have Balance
Leading a balanced life is integral to being happy. Don’t let any one aspect of your life dominate or define you. Allot your time and energy out to different parts of your life such as family, friends, relationships, work, hobbies, self-development etc so that you can give each one your undivided attention and presence at the time. When you have a diverse and balanced life, it means that you are not reliant on any one aspect, so if a fraction of it falls away, you won’t feel as though your life has totally imploded.
5. Treat yourself well
Are you getting the basic requirements for looking after your health and wellbeing, such as enough sleep, exercise and nutrition? With busy lives, it’s not always possible to get these things all of the time and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not getting them on a long term basis then chances are you are not as happy as you could be. It is astonishing how things such as bad diet and lack of sleep can have a knock-on impact on your mood and wellbeing. This is why it’s so important to be stubborn in making them priorities in your life – a lot of things should come secondary to getting these basic necessities.
It’s not only your body that you have to treat well, but your mind too. Negative thought mechanisms are detrimental to happiness. Consider negative thoughts the same as you would unhealthy food, it just doesn’t do you any good. Think and speak positively about the good in your life, the good in yourself and the good in others. We can often be hard on ourselves, but would you ever speak deprecatingly to a friend or a family member? Of course not, so why would you do it to yourself? Maintain a sense of self-respect and self-worth, because the way you treat yourself sets standards for the way that others treat you.
6. Let go
At times it can feel as though we are bearing the weight of the world on our shoulders, but sometimes we can do ourselves a big favour by simply letting go of some of the heavy stuff. Why agonise over something that is out of your hands or written into history. Things that you wish you’d done differently, pent up anger, sadness, betrayal or grudges, just let them go. Forgive and forget, we are all human and we all mess up sometimes and we can only hope that when we inevitably mess up that others would treat us with the same forgiving nature. If someone has hurt you so badly that you feel your life would be better off without them, then let them go, or simply take some time away to heal.
Similarly, when you set your heart on something, it puts you in a very vulnerable position because nothing in life is guaranteed. You can’t always get what and who you want. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and take up what life brings you, whether it was what you were hoping for or not. If you tried your best and still didn’t get what you hoped for then at least you can walk away, confident in the fact that you did all you could and it just wasn’t meant to be. Sometimes you just have to accept what you can’t change or change what you can’t accept. It’s really that simple.
7. Do what you love
Make doing what you love a priority – it’s important! Getting a bit of ‘you’ time can work wonders for morale and motivation. Experiencing some nature is a great one, getting some sun, breathing in the fresh air, admiring the greenery and wildlife is a fail-safe way to lift your mood. Of course, travelling is a big recommendation from me. You don’t necessarily need a lot of time or money. Explore during your lunch break or go to a bit of your city that you’ve never been to before. Just discover something new that you never knew existed yesterday.
“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted” – John Lennon
8. Be grateful
If you are reading this, chances are you are within the small percentage of the world that is developed and have access to a decent living standard, not to mention internet. That alone makes you a lot, lot luckier than most people and therefore have things to be grateful for. In fact, do you know the probability of you even being born in the first place was pretty much zero. You are essentially a walking miracle. If that’s not a reason to be grateful then I don’t know what is!
There is something very attractive about people who simply enjoy their lives and are grateful for who and what they have. You can have the best of everything but if you don’t appreciate it then you are still poor at heart, in fact, some of the wealthiest people I know are also some of the unhappiest. Be grateful for what you have in your life because some of the things you have now were things that you once wished for. Show gratitude to the people around you, always say thank you, because it’s a small gesture of gratitude that we can all do.
9. Have real relationships
It is important to have a close circle of people in your life that you love – it doesn’t have to be big. People homogenise with each other by nature and who you choose to hang out with can have a massive impact on how you feel, so it’s important to have the sort of friends who you admire, respect and trust. I would sooner trade in ten flimsy acquaintances for a real friend. If you don’t have friends like that in your life right now then go out and find them, as daunting as it may seem. Do the things that you love in order to meet the sort of people you love. Invite people into your life, not everyone will take you up on your offer but trust me there are a lot of amazing people out there who will, just be patient.
As difficult as it can be, sometimes it’s best to cut the deadwood from your life. There are certain relationships in life that we can’t choose, such as our family, but there are others that we can choose, such as our partner and friends. Know what it is that you expect from the relationships in your life and stick to your standards, be decisive with ending relationships with people if you feel it’s necessary for your own wellbeing and if you feel as though lines are being crossed. No more toxic relationships, no more dead-end relationships. Instead, invest your time and energy in developing relationships that have real longevity. Ask yourself which people currently in your life you are likely to stay in touch with years down the line and work on really connecting with those people.
10. Change your Attitude
A lot of the time people look to external sources for happiness, be it money, success or other people, when really a lot of it comes from within. Life is unpredictable, who knows what the future has in store for us. None of us can control what happens in the world around us, but there is one thing we can control… our reaction. Life gets difficult for all of us sometimes but chances are there is someone out there who is happy with much less than you, or who have overhauled their life for the better with access to fewer resources or support than you. Some of the most unlikely people have been through some of the most unimaginable hardships, yet still smile. “Life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% how you deal with it”. Never underestimate the power of the mind.
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