Regardless of your version of true happiness, living a happier, more satisfied life is within reach. A few tweaks to your regular habits like getting more sleep and exercise can help you get there.
Habits matter. If you’ve ever tried breaking a bad habit, you know all too well how engrained they are.
Well, good habits are deeply engrained, too. Why not work on making positive habits part of your routine?
Here’s a look at some daily, monthly, and yearly habits to help kickstart your quest. Just remember that everyone’s version of happiness is a little different, and so is their path to achieving it.
If some of these habits create added stress or just don’t fit your lifestyle, ditch them. With a little time and practice, you’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.
The following daily habits may help you achieve more happiness in your life.
You tend to smile when you’re happy. But it’s actually a two-way street.
We smile because we’re happy, and smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier.
While not completely foolproof, researchers have found that the link between smiling and happiness could be attributed to the “facial feedback hypothesis,” where facial expressions may have a modest influence on emotions.
That does not mean you have to go around with a fake smile plastered on your face all the time. But the next time you find yourself feeling low, crack a smile and see what happens. Or try starting each morning by smiling at yourself in the mirror.
Exercise isn’t just for your body. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness.
Even a small amount of physical activity can make a difference. You don’t have to train for a triathlon or scale a cliff — unless that’s what makes you happy, of course.
The trick is to not overexert yourself. If you suddenly throw yourself into a strenuous routine, you may just end up frustrated (and sore).
Consider these exercise starters:
- Take a walk around the block every night after dinner.
- Sign up for a beginner’s class in yoga or tai chi.
- Start your day with 5 minutes of stretching.
Remind yourself of any fun activities you once enjoyed but that have fallen by the wayside. Or you could consider starting activities you always wanted to try, such as golf, bowling, or dancing.
3. Get plenty of sleep
Most adults need at least
No matter how much our modern society steers us toward less sleep, we know that adequate sleep is
Here are a few tips to help you build a better sleep routine:
- Write down how many hours of sleep you get each night and how rested you feel. After a week, you should have a better idea how you’re doing. You can also try using an app to track your sleep.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including on weekends.
- Reserve the hour before bed as quiet time. Take a bath, read, or do something relaxing. Avoid heavy eating and drinking.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet.
- Invest in some good bedding.
- If you have to take a nap, try limiting it to 20 minutes.
If you consistently have problems sleeping, consider talking with a doctor. You may have a sleep disorder that requires treatment.
4. Eat with mood in mind
You may already know that your food choices have an impact on your overall physical health. But some foods can also
- Carbohydrates release serotonin, a “feel good” hormone. Just keep simple carbs — foods high in sugar and starch — to a minimum because that energy surge is short and you’ll crash. Choosing complex carbs, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, can help you avoid a crash while still providing serotonin.
- Lean meat, poultry, legumes, and dairy are high in protein. Protein-rich foods release dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost energy and concentration.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, have been found to have
anti-inflammatory effectsthat extend to your overall brain health. If you don’t eat fish, you might consider talking with a doctor about possible supplementation.
- Highly processed or deep-fried foods tend to leave you feeling down and so will skipping meals.
If you want to eat with your mood in mind, consider starting with making one food choice for your mood each day.
For example, swap a big, sweet breakfast pastry for some Greek yogurt with fruit. You’ll still satisfy your sweet tooth, and the protein will help you avoid a midmorning energy crash. Consider adding in a new food swap each week.
5. Practice gratitude
Simply being grateful can give your mood a big boost, among other benefits. For example, a two-part study found that practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness.
You might try starting each day by acknowledging one thing you’re grateful for. You can do this while you’re brushing your teeth or just waiting for that snoozed alarm to go off.
As you go about your day, consider keeping an eye out for pleasant things in your life. They can be big things, such as knowing that someone loves you or getting a well-deserved promotion.
But they can also be little things, such as a co-worker who offered you a cup of coffee or the neighbor who waved to you. Maybe it could even just be the warmth of the sun on your skin.
With a little practice, you may even become more aware of all the positive things around you.
6. Give a compliment
Research shows that performing acts of kindness may also help promote your overall well-being.
Giving a sincere compliment is a quick, easy way to brighten someone’s day while giving your own happiness a boost.
Catch the person’s eye and say it with a smile so they know you mean it. You might be surprised by how good it makes you feel.
If you want to offer someone a compliment on their physical appearance, make sure to do it in a respectful way.
7. Breathe deeply
You’re tense, your shoulders are tight, and you feel as though you just might “lose it.” We all know that feeling.
Instinct may tell you to take a long, deep breath to calm yourself down.
Turns out, that instinct is a good one.
The next time you feel stressed or are at your wit’s end, work through these steps:
- Close your eyes. Try to envision a happy memory or beautiful place.
- Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose.
- Slowly breathe out through your mouth or nose.
- Repeat this process several times until you start to feel yourself calm down.
If you’re having a hard time taking slow, deliberate breaths, try counting to 5 in your head with each inhale and exhale.
8. Acknowledge the unhappy moments
A positive attitude is generally a good thing, but bad things happen to everyone. It’s just part of life.
If you get some bad news, make a mistake, or just feel like you’re in a funk, don’t try to pretend you’re happy.
Acknowledge the feeling of unhappiness, letting yourself experience it for a moment. Then shift your focus toward what made you feel this way and what it might take to recover.
Would a deep breathing exercise help? A long walk outside? Talking it over with someone?
Let the moment pass and take care of yourself. Remember, no one’s happy all the time.
9. Keep a journal
A journal is a good way to organize your thoughts, analyze your feelings, and make plans. And you don’t have to be a literary genius or write volumes to benefit.
It can be as simple as jotting down a few thoughts before you go to bed. If putting certain things in writing makes you nervous, you can always shred it when you’ve finished. It’s the process that counts.
10. Face stress head-on
Life is full of stressors, and it’s impossible to avoid all of them.
There’s no need to. Stress isn’t always harmful, and we can even change our attitudes about stress.
For those stressors you can’t avoid, remind yourself that everyone has stress — there’s no reason to think it’s all on you. And chances are, you’re stronger than you might think you are.
Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed, try to address the stressor head-on. This might mean initiating an uncomfortable conversation or putting in some extra work, but the sooner you confront it, the sooner the pit in your stomach may start to shrink.
11. Avoid comparing yourself to others
Whether it happens on social media, at work, or even at a yoga class, it’s easy to fall into a place where you’re comparing yourself to others. The result? You
It can take practice to stop comparing yourself to others, but it’s worth it for the benefit of having your inner peace and happiness.
You can start with some of the other tips on this list that can help draw your attention inward to yourself, such as deep breathing and journaling. You may also consider talking with a therapist for perspective.
The following tips include weekly habits that may help you feel happier.
Decluttering sounds like a big project, but setting aside just 20 minutes a week can have a big impact.
What can you do in 20 minutes? Lots.
Set a timer on your phone and take 15 minutes to tidy up a specific area of one room — say, your closet or that out-of-control junk drawer. Put everything in its place and toss or give away any extra clutter that’s not serving you anymore.
Keep a designated box for giveaways to make things a little easier (and avoid creating more clutter).
Use the remaining 5 minutes to do a quick walk through your living space, putting away whatever stray items end up in your path.
You can do this trick once a week, once a day, or anytime you feel like your space is getting out of control.
13. See friends
Humans are largely considered social beings, and while the
Who do you miss? Reach out to them. Make a date to get together or simply have a long phone chat.
In adulthood, it can feel next to impossible to make new friends. But it’s not about how many friends you have. It’s about having meaningful relationships — even if it’s just with one or two people.
Try getting involved in a local volunteer group or taking a class. Both can help connect you with like-minded people in your area. And it’s likely they’re looking for friends, too.
Companionship doesn’t have to be limited to other humans. Pets can offer similar benefits, according to multiple studies.
Love animals but can’t have a pet? Consider volunteering at a local animal shelter to make some new friends — both human and animal.
14. Plan your week
Feel like you’re flailing about? Try sitting down at the end of every week and making a basic list for the following week.
Even if you don’t stick to the plan, blocking out time where you can do laundry, go grocery shopping, or tackle projects at work can help quiet your mind.
You can get a fancy planner or app, but even a sticky note on your computer or piece of scrap paper in your pocket can do the job.
15. Ditch your phone
There’s mounting evidence to support the fact that excessive phone use can lead to changes in the brain and impact your mood, with one review even revealing more serious cognitive and emotional changes in adolescents and young adults.
Turn off all the electronics and put those earbuds away for at least 1 hour once a week. They’ll still be there for you later if you want them.
If you haven’t unplugged in a while, you might be surprised at the difference it makes. Let your mind wander free for a change. Read. Meditate. Take a walk and pay attention to your surroundings. Be sociable. Or be alone. Just be.
Sound too daunting? Try unplugging for a shorter amount of time several times a week.
16. Get into nature
Spending 30 minutes or more a week in green spaces can help lower blood pressure and the chances of developing depression, according to
Your green space could be anything such as your neighborhood park, your own backyard, or a rooftop garden — anywhere you can appreciate and enjoy nature and fresh air.
Better yet, add some outdoor exercise into the mix for extra benefit. The same aforementioned study found that people who spent time in green spaces were also more likely to exercise more frequently and for longer each time.
17. Explore meditation
There are many methods of meditation to explore. They can involve movement, focus, spirituality, or a combination of all three.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sitting quietly with your own thoughts for 5 minutes. Even the deep breathing exercises mentioned earlier can serve as a form of meditation.
18. Consider therapy
We’re certainly happier when we learn how to cope with obstacles. When you’re faced with a problem, think about what got you through something similar in the past. Would it work here? What else can you try?
If you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, consider speaking with a mental health professional like a therapist on a weekly basis. You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health condition or overwhelming crisis to seek therapy.
Mental health professionals are trained to help people improve coping skills. Plus, there’s no obligation to continue once you start.
Even just a few sessions can help you add some new goodies to your emotional toolbox.
19. Find a self-care ritual
It’s easy to neglect self-care in a fast-paced world. But trying to find time to nurture yourself as much as you can is important in supporting your body’s responsibilities of carrying your thoughts, passions, and spirit through this world.
Maybe it’s unwinding your workweek with a long, hot bath. Or it may be adopting a skin care routine that makes you feel indulgent. Or it could be simply setting aside a night to put on your softest jammies and watch a movie from start to finish.
Whatever it is, make time for it. Put it in your planner if you must, but try to make it a priority do it.
You might want to give these monthly habits to improve your happiness a try.
20. Give back
If you find that giving daily compliments provides a needed boost to your mood, consider making a monthly routine of giving back on a larger scale.
Maybe that’s helping out at a food bank on the third weekend of every month or offering to watch your friend’s kids one night per month.
21. Take yourself out
No one to go out with? Well, what rule says you can’t go out alone?
Consider going to your favorite restaurant, taking in a movie, or going on that trip you’ve always dreamed of.
Even if you’re a social butterfly, spending some deliberate time alone can help you reconnect with the activities that truly make you happy.
22. Create a thought list
You arrive for an appointment with 10 minutes to spare. What do you do with that time? Pick up your cell phone to scroll through social media? Worry about the busy week you have ahead of you?
Trying to take control of your thoughts during these brief windows of time can offer benefits.
At the start of each month, make a short list of happy memories or things you’re looking forward to on a small piece of paper or on your phone.
When you find yourself waiting for a ride, standing in line at the grocery store, or just with a few minutes to kill, break out the list. You can even use it when you’re just generally feeling down and need to change up your thoughts.
Try following habits once a year or more to reflect and plan for happiness.
23. Take time to reflect
While the start of a new year is a good time to stop and take inventory of your life, you can set up yearly habits at any point in the year. Try setting aside some time to catch up with yourself the way you would with an old friend:
- How are you doing?
- What have you been up to?
- Are you happier than you were a year ago?
But try to avoid judging yourself too harshly for your answers. You’ve made it to another year, and that’s a reason to celebrate.
If you find that your mood hasn’t improved much over the last year, consider talking with a doctor or mental health professional. You might be dealing with depression or even an underlying physical condition that’s affecting your mood.
24. Reevaluate your goals
People change, so try thinking about where you’re heading and consider if that’s still where you want to go. There’s no shame in changing your plans.
Let go of any goals that no longer serve you, even if they sound nice on paper.
25. Take care of your body
You’ve likely heard this before, including several times in this article. Your physical and mental health are closely intertwined.
As you build habits to improve your happiness, it’s important to follow up with routine appointments to help take care your body, such as:
- seeing a primary care physician for an annual physical
- discussing and addressing any chronic health conditions with a healthcare professional and seeing recommended specialists if needed
- seeing a dentist for an oral cleaning and dental exam, and follow up as recommended
- getting your vision checked
26. Let go of grudges
This can often be easier said than done. But remembering that you are not necessarily doing it for another person or other people may help you be more open to beginning the process.
Sometimes, offering forgiveness or dropping a grudge is more about self-care than compassion for others.
Take stock of your relationships with others. Are you harboring any resentment or ill will toward someone? If so, consider reaching out to them in an effort to bury the hatchet.
This does not have to be a reconciliation. You may just need to end the relationship and move on.
If reaching out is not an option, try getting your feelings out in a letter. You don’t even have to send it to them. Just getting your feelings out of your mind and into the world can be freeing. You can even shred the letter afterward if you want to.
27. Plan a trip
With an ever-hectic schedule, sometimes it’s easy to forget to schedule something else that’s crucial to your well-being: time off. You can reap even more benefits by planning a trip, whether it’s close to home or somewhere further away.
What’s more, research also backs both the mental and physical benefits of taking that much-needed vacation. In one such study, researchers looked at stress and heart rate as it relates to taking a vacation. They found that not only did the vacation itself reduce stress, but the weeks leading up to that planned trip had similar effects.