How to be happy with yourself and life in general

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How to be happy with yourself and life in general

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The desire for happiness is a universal human emotion. To some extent, you want to learn how to be happy with yourself in some shape or form. However, not everyone knows how to achieve this state.

Unfortunately, society hasn’t helped with this confusion. We have been conditioned to associate happiness with materialistic possessions.

The line of thinking is that, if we have more things, we will be more fulfilled. As a result, a lot of people spend their entire lives chasing happiness, only to be left feeling defeated when they don’t find their version of utopia.

Happiness is not something that you find external to yourself. You won’t buy a new dress or purchase a new car and feel like you’re living on a cloud for eternity.

Sure, you may feel short-term gratification from a purchase, but this feel-good vibe won’t last. Shortly thereafter, you will be looking for the next best thing to fill a void.

There’s no magic pill for happiness. Happiness is an inside job, a choice that you have to make. Try the following to learn how to be happy with yourself every day.

1. Practice Mindfulness

How you start your day matters. If you begrudgingly roll out of bed, put on a pot of coffee, and rush out the door to work, how do you think your day will unfold?

I don’t know about you, but my emotions end up getting the best of me. If you don’t master your mind, your mind will master you. This is why I’m such a big believer in creating an empowering morning ritual.

When you take the time every morning to nourish your mental and emotional state, you set yourself up for success. Meditate, journal, exercise, recite affirmations, juice, dance. Do whatever it takes to get yourself into a high vibe state.

Yes, meditating is great, but it’s bigger than that. You want to strive to live more mindfully all around. Think of mindfulness as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience, without judgment [1] .

Strive to be more present in every given moment of your life. Instead of rushing from one thing to the next, take time to pause and enjoy the little things.

2. Be Grateful

Gratitude is a way of living that focuses on seeing the good, no matter how dire one’s circumstances are. Of course, it can be hard to be grateful when you’re going through difficult times in life.

However, there is always a silver lining in every struggle. You just have to be willing to look for it. When you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you shift into a state of appreciation. All of sudden, there is no room for sadness because you are choosing love.

Research shows that gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, and deal with adversity [2] .

If you don’t already, I encourage you to start a gratitude journal. A simple practice like this one only takes a few minutes every day. It has the power to change your life. What are you grateful for?

3. Find Your Tribe

By nature, we are social creatures. Connecting with one another helps us thrive, especially when we are faced with difficult times.

Research shows that people who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, and greater empathy for others [3] .

I wouldn’t be who I am today without the solid tribe of people that I call family. These are my people. Although my circle is small, I know that these people will always have my back, no matter what.

You become the five people whom you surround yourself with. If you want to be a happy and successful person, you need to make sure that your friends have the same vision as you.

Strive to find people who empower you to become a better version of yourself. They will naturally enhance your happiness and make you feel good about yourself.

4. Connect to Your Body Intelligence

Where people get stuck is that they live too much of their lives in their heads and fail to connect with their body intelligence. Your body is a vessel that is constantly speaking to you.

When you don’t listen to it, you end up getting into trouble. The body is intimately connected to the gut. The more that you go inward and bring attention to your body, the more you are able to connect with your intuition.

It is the place of inner wisdom that brings you back home to yourself. In actual fact, every cell in the body is intelligent, with the heart acting like a conductor for the cellular processes taking place within us in each and every moment [4] .

There are a variety of different modalities that allow you to connect to your body intelligence, whether it’s dance, yoga, or chi gong. When you allow yourself to drop out of your head and into your heart, you come to realize that everything you’ve ever needed is already inside of you.

5. Don’t Take Life So Seriously

Life is so short. If you spend the entire ride worrying and agonizing about everything, you will miss so many beautiful moments. Not only that, but it will create dis-ease in the body.

An overemphasis on seriousness in life lends itself to a narrow way of understanding what’s worth your time and attention [5] .

In childhood, we are encouraged to play and be free. However, a lot of people lose this desire once they become adults. If you can relate to this, let me ask your something… what would happen if you slowed down and took the time to enjoy life more?

You don’t want to get to the end of your life and wish that you had laughed and smiled more often. Nobody wants to live with regrets.

The next time that you’re taking yourself too seriously, step back and ask yourself: “Is this situation worth getting so frustrated over?” If not, move on and get back to enjoying life.

Final Thoughts

You can’t always control the external world. However, you can always control your internal world. Finding simple ways to be happy with yourself every day is a commitment. However, it’s worth the effort because you deserve to live a happy life.

From your posture to your breathing to the images on your laptop.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

Feeling down? Got the blahs? This post provides 10 easy ways to feel happier in 30 seconds or less—and every technique is based on the best research available.

Of all of the definitions of happiness, my favorite is from psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, who defines it as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning.” I find it true that neither “pleasure” nor “meaning” alone quite describe happiness. You need meaning to give you a sense of purpose in life, and you need pleasure to give you a sense of joy or well-being in the present moment.

If you want to be happier, just add pleasure or meaning to your life (assuming your pleasures or purposes do not harm you or another person). You’ll discover that you’ll not only be happier in the moment, you’ll also increase your ability to be happier in the future.

The following happiness enhancers will increase your immediate sense of pleasure or your sense of your life’s meaning, or both—in the blink of an eye. You don’t need another person to help you, and you can practice the techniques almost anywhere—at work, at home, outside, in your car. Only your willing mind is required.

How to Become Happy in 30 Seconds or Less

1. Take one deep breath.

Just one deep breath can turn down your “fight-or-flight” instinct and activate your “rest-and-restore” mode. Got 15 seconds more? Take another deep breath. You’ll feel even more content.

2. Find something in your day that triggers a feeling of gratitude.

You had a good breakfast, you have a job, or you enjoyed reading the newspaper this morning. Absorb that feeling of gratitude for a few moments. Lingering on a positive experience helps embed it in your brain.

3. Take time to appreciate something that didn’t happen during your day.

No one in your family got sick, you didn’t have car trouble, and you didn’t fight with anyone. Remember to keep things in perspective.

4. Smile.

Many people think of happiness as something that comes from the inside out, or from your mind to your behavior. But happiness can also come from the outside in, or from your actions to your mind. The deliberate decision to smile, for example, actually activates happiness-inducing chemicals, as described here.

5. Slap a label on your negative feelings.

Angry. Helpless. Sad. Anxious. Just labeling your emotions can ease your suffering. Attaching a label shifts activity from the emotional part of your brain to the thinking part, making you hurt less and feel more in control. (Learn more here.)

6. Sit up straight.

Poor posture can actually cause negative emotional states. Studies show that people who slouch experience more bad moods, lower self-esteem, and poorer confidence than those with upright posture. Sitting up straight can cause positive emotional states—a sense of confidence, assertiveness, and a happier mood. Good posture also helps your physical well-being and prevents many types of neck, shoulder, and back problems. So to lift your mood, pull your body upward. You’ll feel happier.

7. Notice the small pleasures in life and appreciate them.

Author and Psychology Today blogger Rick Hanson writes about the health and happiness benefits of “taking in the good” in his groundbreaking book, Hardwiring Happiness. He recommends appreciating the little things, noting, “Most opportunities for a good experience arrive with little fanfare. You finished an email, the telephone works, you have a friend.” For the best results, bring pleasant objects, thoughts, and people to the foreground of your awareness. Linger for five seconds or more on a good experience to allow it to sink into you. Your happiness level will steadily increase.

8. Appreciate yourself.

Think of one thing you’ve already accomplished or handled well today or focus on a good quality you’ve demonstrated—a start to a project, a phone call, or even an honest talk with a colleague that ended well. Drawing your attention to your strengths will lift your spirits.

9. Find positive meaning in negative events.

If you experience a setback, can you find a rapid way to turn it into lemonade? Start by thinking about the setback as a challenge rather than a failure. That should take five seconds or less. In the remaining 25, begin to think about how to move forward.

10. Use a desktop photo to remind you of the purposes and pleasures of your life.

A photo of your family, your travels, or a favorite saying can be restorative and promote moments of happiness. Taking a “micro-break” and enjoying a photo of a natural scene can promote good health by lowering stress and blood pressure—as well as happiness. To keep from getting used to a particular photo, periodically change it up.

Why Practice Happiness Habits?

The benefits may seem obvious; after all, feeling happy feels good! But the value of happiness habits goes even deeper. In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson points out that negativity is hardwired into our brains. We are predisposed to pay more attention to bad things than good things. This negativity bias has helped us survive by making us aware of possible threats, problems, and stressors in our environment. However, if we are ruled only by our negativity, we miss opportunities for pleasure, joy, good relationships, and humor. Happiness activities help balance out the negativity bias so that we see and experience the positive aspects of life.

Experiencing and absorbing moments of happiness has long-term brain benefits. Happy experiences and thoughts can actually grow new neural circuits in your brain. These neural structures provide you with inner strengths such as resilience, gratitude, enthusiasm, and happiness.

So try these small steps. You’ll find not only that your Happiness Quotient rises with every micro-moment of happiness, but also that making yourself happy becomes easier as you practice.

NOTE: If you suffer from mental health issues like depression or you are going through a catastrophic life event, these activities may not help enough. Consider seeing a therapist.

For more on happiness, health, and habits, see my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn by scrolling down to my photo and clicking on the appropriate icon.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

If you feel like you’re on a constant quest for inner bliss, you might be asking yourself: If there was one secret on how to be happy in your relationship or marriage, workplace, home life and family wouldn’t you have learned it by now?

Are you constantly searching, asking people who seem happy, reading articles and watching videos on how to be happy? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Online search engines get millions of people asking this question, and the internet is full of promises that this strategy or that formula will deliver you to a place of lasting happiness. Yet, many miss the main point: they never even touch on the fact that the real key to happiness with others is happiness with yourself.

If you haven’t noticed or been here yourself (most of us have), an insecure person’s need for constant approval is exhausting. Those who are happy and love themselves don’t hang around with that kind of negative energy. Since we can’t change other people, lead by example and others will follow in your footsteps, becoming good role models themselves. Read on to learn the five tips that will help you become happier with yourself.

1. Forgive Yourself
Forgive yourself for anything and everything you think you caused that was bad in your or someone else’s life. You can’t go back for a do-over, so learn the lesson and move forward, promising to better handle any similar situation that may arise. Now you’re freed up to relax more and have greater peace of mind without beating yourself up over guilt and resentment.

2. Understand That You Are Complete
And understand that, “You complete me,” was just a cheesy line in a Tom Cruise movie. (I loved that line at first too. for a few seconds, until I realized how inaccurate it was. Keep reading to learn why!) The reason most of us don’t feel complete, and latched onto that line like it was the end-all be-all relationship concept is because we’re waiting for someone else to be or do something that makes us feel whole.

First of all, as mentioned, we are already complete. But even if we weren’t, no one else would be able to complete us anyway — it’s impossible. When we put our happiness in someone else’s hands we set them up for failure. Why would we do that to someone we care about? Because we don’t realize we are the only ones who control our happiness.

Does this mean if you’re unhappy it’s your fault? Yes. Does this also put you in a position of power in your life? Absolutely. You want your relationships to be the joining of two complete individuals to create a third, larger entity so that you’re a part of something, not just half of something. The whole “my other half” thing just breeds insecurity, which leads to the most painful relationship challenges like jealousy, abuse and infidelity. Why on earth would you want your happiness to be determined by someone or something outside of yourself?

3. Get To Know Yourself
When do you feel you’re at your best when you’re alone? Are you reading your favorite book overlooking a beautiful view? Enjoying your favorite tea, watching a movie? Shopping outside at the farmers market? Listening to your favorite music? How does your body feel? Healthy? Need some work? No one will be happier than you when your body looks good and functions well. This is a good confidence builder and when you have more confidence, you look better and healthier, and carry yourself in a completely different way that attracts confident people to you.

Here’s a personal example: I had a spider vein on my lower leg and didn’t feel comfortable in shorts for years. I finally had it removed and couldn’t believe how much better I felt. My posture and confidence in shorts was much improved. Some things are easily fixable and for the others we may need to adjust our perspective a bit.

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What are your favorite parts of yourself — your appearance, your character traits, your values or your personality? Do you get a kick out of your great sense of humor? I get a kick out of mine. I laugh to myself quite often! Are you really excited that you value honesty, which has attracted honest, genuine people to you? Are your eyes or hands or knees your favorite part of your body? Get to know your favorite parts and love them all.

4. Take A Good Look At Yourself
Take a look and notice how amazing you are. Keep your self-talk positive. There are things supermodels hate about themselves, so don’t go thinking you’re the only one who has dislikes. You can be happy with yourself even if there are things you’d like to change. I’ve always been taller than most other people and would have given anything to be “normal” height. It took me 27 years of hating my height when many other people always wanted to be taller and would have traded me in an instant. Look how many years I experienced self-induced suffering. (This describes all suffering by the way. Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.)

What are you good at, best at and want to improve at? What are your talents and what skills have you developed? What would you like to do in your life that you haven’t done yet? What is the best thing you’ve ever done? Are you noticing that you might ask some of these questions on a date to get to know someone and determine if you like them or not? We get to know people by asking questions although we rarely ask them of ourselves. And when someone else asks, we sometimes answer differently than when we’re asking ourselves.

5. Ask Yourself Questions
To find out more about yourself, ask yourself the questions you would ask on a date. The quality of your relationships is determined by the quality of the questions you ask. Ask good questions and lots of them (more than you would ask on a date; it’s OK to be a chatterbox with yourself) to build that strong, healthy relationship with yourself.

Take time away from other people and be happily alone. At first, it might feel weird choosing to be alone but being alone and being lonely are two very different things. Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.” I went from being scared to sit alone in Starbucks for fear some stranger would think I didn’t have any friends to loving going places alone. I have attracted wonderful friends by learning how to like myself and since like attracts like (energy), they happily do things on their own too. Yes, we do enjoy each other’s company as well; we don’t just talk about all the things we did by ourselves (although that would be funny).

Welcome to your inner power. You are qualified, capable and worthy of being happy with yourself regardless of anyone else on the planet so lead by example and show others how it’s done. You will see that you can have much more fulfilling relationships without putting the responsibility of your happiness on someone else. Congratulations!

Everybody’s life is filled with ups and downs, but new research suggests everyone’s life follows a particular pattern when it comes to our general contentedness. Around mid-life, we all seem to be pretty bummed.

Isolation Is Killing You

There are a lot of perks to going it alone sometimes, but true isolation is becoming a deadly…

According a new analysis of life satisfaction from the National Bureau of Economic Research , which encompasses seven massive surveys and 1.3 million randomly sampled people from 51 countries, rock bottom is somewhere around the early 50s for most folks. On the other hand, people report being pretty happy in their early 20s and their 60s once retirement kicks in. All in all, our life seems to follow a specific parabola of satisfaction ( the Washington Post has a great chart you can check out ).

What’s interesting is not all surveys used the same framing when asking people in different parts of the Western world how they felt at different points in their lives—some of them asked for ratings of general satisfaction, others were asked in terms of being happy or unhappy—but they all still roughly followed the same U-shaped pattern. Life starts out great, gets worse some time in your late 40s and early 50s, then gets better again. The concept of the “U-shaped happiness curve” isn’t a new concept, and it’s something that’s even been observed with apes , but this new analysis shows how consistent the the curve is across a wide variety of different data sources.

Why are our 50s the low point? For one, the researchers point out that middle-aged people are often at the peak of their careers, which causes a great deal of stress. Alternatively, people are at the point where they feel like they should be at the peak of their career and they’re not even close. Also, by your 40s and 50s parents have children coming of age to worry about. It seems the oft-joked-about “midlife crisis” is a reaction to a very real low point.

How to Buy Happiness: The Purchases Most Likely to Bring You Joy

While true happiness may be something that can only be found in the heart, there are plenty of…

If you want to mitigate the effects of this seemingly natural happiness curve throughout your own life, here are a few suggestions:

  • Navigate your “quarter-life crisis”: By the late 20s and early 30s, people’s satisfaction seems to plummet. This is what some experts are calling the “quarter-life crisis.” There are a few things you can do to overcome it .
  • Know what happiness you can buy: Money can’t buy you love (not emotional love anyway), but it can buy you some happiness if you spend it the right way . Buying experiences like fun trips, putting money toward your financial security, and spending money on others can give you a lasting mood boost.
  • Learn what happiness is by understanding what it isn’t: Only you can truly define what true contentedness is to you, but there are some things experts are sure it isn’t . For example, happiness is not always experiencing positive, pleasurable feelings; or never feeling negative emotions.
  • Don’t try so hard: Research suggests the harder you hunt for happiness, the least likely you are to find it . You’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment that way. I’ve described happiness in the past as “a feather slowly floating down from above. If you reach out to try and catch it, the feather will swirl away. But if you watch it and let it float down into your hand, you can finally grasp it.”
  • Have friends: Not only does isolation make you unhappy, it makes you very unhealthy —and that makes you even more unhappy. Having close relationships throughout your life is important.

Wherever you are in life, remember, more happiness doesn’t necessarily mean a better life. There’s more to your overall well-being than how happy you feel all the time. You need the bad to have the good, and lasting happiness is something you build within yourself by showing gratitude for the big and little things in life.

From your posture to your breathing to the images on your laptop.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

Feeling down? Got the blahs? This post provides 10 easy ways to feel happier in 30 seconds or less—and every technique is based on the best research available.

Of all of the definitions of happiness, my favorite is from psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar, who defines it as “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning.” I find it true that neither “pleasure” nor “meaning” alone quite describe happiness. You need meaning to give you a sense of purpose in life, and you need pleasure to give you a sense of joy or well-being in the present moment.

If you want to be happier, just add pleasure or meaning to your life (assuming your pleasures or purposes do not harm you or another person). You’ll discover that you’ll not only be happier in the moment, you’ll also increase your ability to be happier in the future.

The following happiness enhancers will increase your immediate sense of pleasure or your sense of your life’s meaning, or both—in the blink of an eye. You don’t need another person to help you, and you can practice the techniques almost anywhere—at work, at home, outside, in your car. Only your willing mind is required.

How to Become Happy in 30 Seconds or Less

1. Take one deep breath.

Just one deep breath can turn down your “fight-or-flight” instinct and activate your “rest-and-restore” mode. Got 15 seconds more? Take another deep breath. You’ll feel even more content.

2. Find something in your day that triggers a feeling of gratitude.

You had a good breakfast, you have a job, or you enjoyed reading the newspaper this morning. Absorb that feeling of gratitude for a few moments. Lingering on a positive experience helps embed it in your brain.

3. Take time to appreciate something that didn’t happen during your day.

No one in your family got sick, you didn’t have car trouble, and you didn’t fight with anyone. Remember to keep things in perspective.

4. Smile.

Many people think of happiness as something that comes from the inside out, or from your mind to your behavior. But happiness can also come from the outside in, or from your actions to your mind. The deliberate decision to smile, for example, actually activates happiness-inducing chemicals, as described here.

5. Slap a label on your negative feelings.

Angry. Helpless. Sad. Anxious. Just labeling your emotions can ease your suffering. Attaching a label shifts activity from the emotional part of your brain to the thinking part, making you hurt less and feel more in control. (Learn more here.)

6. Sit up straight.

Poor posture can actually cause negative emotional states. Studies show that people who slouch experience more bad moods, lower self-esteem, and poorer confidence than those with upright posture. Sitting up straight can cause positive emotional states—a sense of confidence, assertiveness, and a happier mood. Good posture also helps your physical well-being and prevents many types of neck, shoulder, and back problems. So to lift your mood, pull your body upward. You’ll feel happier.

7. Notice the small pleasures in life and appreciate them.

Author and Psychology Today blogger Rick Hanson writes about the health and happiness benefits of “taking in the good” in his groundbreaking book, Hardwiring Happiness. He recommends appreciating the little things, noting, “Most opportunities for a good experience arrive with little fanfare. You finished an email, the telephone works, you have a friend.” For the best results, bring pleasant objects, thoughts, and people to the foreground of your awareness. Linger for five seconds or more on a good experience to allow it to sink into you. Your happiness level will steadily increase.

8. Appreciate yourself.

Think of one thing you’ve already accomplished or handled well today or focus on a good quality you’ve demonstrated—a start to a project, a phone call, or even an honest talk with a colleague that ended well. Drawing your attention to your strengths will lift your spirits.

9. Find positive meaning in negative events.

If you experience a setback, can you find a rapid way to turn it into lemonade? Start by thinking about the setback as a challenge rather than a failure. That should take five seconds or less. In the remaining 25, begin to think about how to move forward.

10. Use a desktop photo to remind you of the purposes and pleasures of your life.

A photo of your family, your travels, or a favorite saying can be restorative and promote moments of happiness. Taking a “micro-break” and enjoying a photo of a natural scene can promote good health by lowering stress and blood pressure—as well as happiness. To keep from getting used to a particular photo, periodically change it up.

Why Practice Happiness Habits?

The benefits may seem obvious; after all, feeling happy feels good! But the value of happiness habits goes even deeper. In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson points out that negativity is hardwired into our brains. We are predisposed to pay more attention to bad things than good things. This negativity bias has helped us survive by making us aware of possible threats, problems, and stressors in our environment. However, if we are ruled only by our negativity, we miss opportunities for pleasure, joy, good relationships, and humor. Happiness activities help balance out the negativity bias so that we see and experience the positive aspects of life.

Experiencing and absorbing moments of happiness has long-term brain benefits. Happy experiences and thoughts can actually grow new neural circuits in your brain. These neural structures provide you with inner strengths such as resilience, gratitude, enthusiasm, and happiness.

So try these small steps. You’ll find not only that your Happiness Quotient rises with every micro-moment of happiness, but also that making yourself happy becomes easier as you practice.

NOTE: If you suffer from mental health issues like depression or you are going through a catastrophic life event, these activities may not help enough. Consider seeing a therapist.

For more on happiness, health, and habits, see my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn by scrolling down to my photo and clicking on the appropriate icon.

Simple changes to your daily habits will put you on the fast track to happiness.

Do you find yourself just going through the motions? Has “Different day. Same story” become your mantra? Then right now—not tomorrow or next week—is the time to start changing your story. Fortunately, there are quick, simple and no-cost ways to do just that and effectively bring about lasting happiness:

1. Get seven to nine hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep is critical to having a happy, productive day as the alternative can lead to reduced alertness and logic and general health issues such as obesity and a lesser ability to maintain healthy relationships. Try taking a warm shower just before hitting the sheets, getting your phone out of sight, or trying the reverse psychology method. If the insomnia still won’t quit, then try one of these other science-backed methods.

2. Wake up 15 to 30 minutes early. If you’re a serial snoozer, you may scoff at this one. But, assuming you adopt the seven to nine hours per night rule, waking up earlier should be within reach. Imagine a morning that doesn’t involve running around like a crazy person and struggling to get out of the door on time. Waking up 15 to 30 minutes early will allow you the presence of mind to get a positive start to your day. You’ll see a difference in your attitude immediately.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

3. Meditate. This one is huge. Meditating for five to ten minutes upon waking is simple and has immediate benefits including heightened inner clarity and focus for the rest of the day. Starting your day with meditation also sets positive intention, allowing you to detach from habitual thought barriers and keep you in the moment. Studies also show that meditation helps prevent stress and anxiety, thus squashing frustrations that limit your ability to tackle your goals. These five techniques will help you discover the meditation style perfect for you.

4. Declutter. Many of us fill our homes and office spaces with things we think we need. The truth is accumulating stuff ultimately harms your mental, emotional, and physiological well-being. The good news is reversing these effects is as simple as clearing the clutter! By spending a few minutes at a time removing the items collecting dust, your mood and happiness will effectively improve. And it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Simply commit to one area at a time—perhaps your desk space or closet. And instead of tossing everything in the trash, donate items to a local cause or put them on Craigslist!

5. Learn something new. While taking on new challenges may sound counterintuitive to creating happiness, learning something new boosts your well-being. Focusing on making progress puts us in a state of flow, which has been shown to foster happiness. Learning also builds your self-confidence and keeps you sharp. It has never been easier to expand your mind with so many free online courses. If getting active is your goal, check out the free classes offered through your local recreation center. Meetup.com is also great place to start!

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

6. Walk it out. Research shows that 30 minutes of walking a day helps to adjust your nervous system, thus reducing anger and hostility. If devoting 30 minutes every day to walking is difficult, you can take small actions to increase your steps. Park your car in one of the furthest spots from your office or start drinking more water—having a million benefits in and of itself–to increase your trips to the restroom! There is no shortage of ways to get your steps in.

7. Disengage from social media. It’s easy to tune out on Instagram and Snapchat during downtime, but research shows that too much social media use can be harmful to your mental health. Instead, use that 15 minutes productively by reading the news, playing a brain-boosting game or listening to a fun, or thought-provoking podcast. You’ll take true joy from the activity and, at the same time, become a better version of yourself without changing a thing.

8. Perform a random act of kindness. There is a range of research linking generosity to better health. fMRI technology, shows that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Giving back is truly a win-win. The recipient benefits, and you feel better knowing you’ve positively impacted someone’s life. Consider donating to a cause you’re passionate about, volunteering at the local soup kitchen, or giving up your seat. The best part? Kindness is contagious.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

9. Surround yourself with happy people. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously asserted that you are the average of the top five percent of the people with whom you spend the most time. So, find the most positive, engaging people with whom to interact. This easy switch will motivate your level of happiness, sense of achievement and could even open new doors in your professional or personal life.

10. Don’t gossip. Partaking in gossip may feel like a positive and perhaps necessary release, but it only causes stress and unhappiness. Plus, when was the last time gossip helped anything? Next time you have the urge to complain about a friend or co-worker, pause for ten seconds, and shift that negative dialogue to one of positivity. Search instead for something genuinely nice to say about the person. If you simply cannot, say something nice about a different colleague, or discuss the weather—if it’s pleasant. Just steer the focus away from the negative!

11. Spend time with a loved one. While catching up with family and friends via phone or e-mail is always encouraged, studies show that physical interaction is far more beneficial to your overall health and happiness. Think about how good you feel after grabbing lunch with an old friend, having a home-cooked meal with your partner, or hiking with your kids. There is nothing quite like it. So, aim to schedule face time (not FaceTime) with a loved one at least three times a week. For those new to an area or wanting to expand their network, you can find dozens of groups online, from book clubs and sports teams to foodies. You’ll instantly and easily connect with people who share your interests and hobbies!

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

12. Journal. Though this tip can appear unrealistic for many, it doesn’t have to be a big production. Simply commit to writing just 50-words at least three times a week about anything. You’ll be surprised how far this small goal will take you. From stretching your IQ and creating mindfulness to boosting your self-confidence, forming this simple daily habit effectuates a myriad of mental and emotional benefits.

13. Practice self-care. When you take care of yourself, you experience a number of benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, increased positive thinking, and boosted immunity. Take time out every day to do something that will bring you joy, such as exercising, cooking a great meal, or reading. You’ll be amazed at how simple acts of self-care improve your mind, body, and soul.

As you can see, there are so many ways to shake up your day, and get out of boring routines. Now, like anything else, success is in acting. So pick one, and let the fun begin!

Taking better care of your body boosts your well-being fairly fast. “[Exercising and eating well] provide nearly instant benefits, helping the body and the mind to manage most any difficulties, including anxiety and depression,” according to clinical psychologist and certified life coach John Duffy, PsyD. In fact, this is the first thing Duffy discusses with new therapy clients.

In addition to nourishing your body and participating in physical activities you enjoy, there are many other ways you can improve your mental health.

According to clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, “well-being is associated with balance, understanding, acceptance and constant growth.” Below you’ll find 15 ways to help you flourish and bolster your well-being.

1. Accept your emotions. “Some would argue that most of our physical, mental and relational problems come from our inability to adequately experience emotions,” Howes said. “We deny, bury, project, rationalize, medicate, drink away, smother in comfort food, sleep off, sweat out, suck (it) up and sweep under the rug our sadness, anger and fear.”

Some people spend more energy on avoiding their emotions than others do on actually feeling them, he said. So the key is to give yourself unconditional permission to feel your feelings. “When you feel safe enough to let your guard down, whether that’s alone or with someone you trust, you can focus on the situation, fully experience the feelings and may then be able to better understand why it hurts and what you want to do about the situation,” Howes said.

Writing about negative emotions also helps. According to clinical psychologist Darlene Mininni, research has shown that people who write about their deepest emotions are less depressed and more positive about life than before they started writing. To reap the benefits, it’s important to follow a few guidelines. Here’s Mininni’s emotional writing guide.

2. Take daily risks. Structure and routine are important. But you also might get stuck in a rut. And that means you’re not growing, Howes said. Taking certain risks can be healthy and rewarding, he said.

“Challenge yourself to take a risk each day, whether it’s talking to someone new, asserting yourself, trusting someone, dancing, setting a tough workout goal or anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone.”

3. Live in the present. “Mental health tends to become challenged when we get sucked into what used to happen or what people ‘did to me’ rather than taking responsibility in what I am doing or creating today, right now,” according to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber. He encouraged readers to live in the present without hyperfocusing on the future or the past.

4. Be introspective. Avoid coasting through life without assessing yourself, Sumber said. For instance, he periodically asks himself questions such as “Am I in denial about anything or resisting anything anywhere in my life?”

Duffy also suggested stepping back and considering where your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are coming from. You might ask: Is that thought helpful? It that behavior necessary? Is there a better option?

5. Laugh. “Sometimes, we take life far too seriously,” Duffy said. Need proof? Duffy ran across information that revealed that kids laugh about 200 times per day; adults laugh an average of 15 times per day. He suggested everything from seeing a funny movie to playing games like Charades or Apples to Apples.

6. Determine and live your personal values. “[Your values] serve as an ‘inner GPS system’ that guides you through life, helping you make the right decisions and keeping you on track,” said Megan Walls, CPC, PCC, ELI-MP, a certified executive and life coach and owner of Conscious Connection. “Knowing and living your values will lead to a sense of balance, confidence and fulfillment.”

7. Identify and use your individual strengths. Using your strengths, Walls said, helps you feel energized and empowered. Not sure what your strengths are? Walls recommended Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinders 2.0, which features 34 strength themes and an assessment.

8. Keep tabs on your thoughts. Without even knowing it, you might be caught in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, which seem to sprout naturally. Not only do these thoughts sink our mood but we also start to see them as truths.

Fortunately, we can work through these thoughts and see them for what they are: untrue and changeable. Walls suggested monitoring your thoughts and challenging and replacing negative ones. (Here are four questions to ask to reduce automatic negative thoughts.)

9. Practice gratitude. “You’ll find you shift your overall outlook on life when you come form a perspective of gratitude,” Duffy said. He suggested readers make a list of three things they’re thankful for every morning.

Another idea is to recite at least 10 reasons why you’re grateful for your job, according to Master Certified life and career coach Kristin Taliaferro. “Look for unexpected surprises such as ‘my sunny office window’ or ‘cool work friends to have lunch with.’”

For inspiration, you might check out Living Life as a Thank You by Mary Beth Sammons and Nina Lesowitz. It’s filled with inspiring stories of gratitude, according to Duffy.

10. Discover or rediscover a passion. Take the time to consider your passions. For instance, Duffy’s wife recently tried painting, and found that she loves it and is really talented. “Without a doubt, it has done great things for her overall sense of well-being,” he said.

11. Do what makes you happy first thing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re going through your days on autopilot, and that can get tedious and depressing. Start your day off on a positive note by engaging in an enjoyable activity every morning.

One of Taliaferro’s clients started swimming at a YMCA pool in the a.m. She told Taliaferro that it’s completely shifted her outlook and lifted her mood.

12. Get rid of rotten eggs. “There’s usually at least one rotten egg in your life that’s dragging down your mental outlook,” Taliaferro said. For example, some of Taliaferro’s clients are especially affected by the news. One of her clients decided that if it’s not on the AOL homepage then she doesn’t need to know about it.

Identify your rotten eggs and figure out how to remove them. Your rotten eggs might seem small. But even annoyances can add up and chip away at your mood and well-being.

13. Surround yourself with positive scents and sounds. Our surroundings can affect our well-being. “You can create a positive feeling at home with lemon, peppermint or other essential oils you love,” Taliaferro said. She plays different kinds of music regularly depending on what she’s in the mood for.

14. Get inspired. Find inspiration in everything from subscribing to a daily quote to listening to uplifting audio books on the way to work to reading magazines with exciting ideas, Taliaferro said. Duffy also suggested reading Inspiration by Wayne Dyer, which is one of his favorites.

15. Carve out time to meditate. “Protect a few minutes each day to sit, relax and breathe,” Duffy said. People tend to think that meditation is complicated. But you don’t need much time or effort to meditate, and it’s quite soothing. Try this super simple meditation from Mininni.

Even in tough times, these 12 strategies can bring joy to your heart.

How to be happy with yourself and life in general

Are you waiting until your life is problem-free to be happy? If so, you could be waiting for a long time — like forever.

It’s common for all of us to tell ourselves during times of stress, “When I finally have ______ (fill in the blank), or when ______ (fill in the blank) is over, then I can be happy.” That first blank could be “a home of my own,” “a committed relationship,” or “a better job.” The second blank could be anything from “the divorce,” “the home repair,” “the illness,” “she stops drinking,” or just a particularly busy time.

But the idea that you can’t be happy unless and until some condition is met can itself be a huge barrier to happiness. While it is certainly normal to wish that a period of unusual stress would be over, you could be losing a lot of your precious life by giving in to excessive misery and unhappiness. (I would like to clarify that I am talking here about the relatively predictable crises of everyday life, not catastrophic events. Dealing with trauma is a different process from dealing with stress.)

I’m not suggesting that you fake-happy your way through the day. Within your challenging context, I’m suggesting that you find real happiness, if only for a few minutes at a time. Of course, if you are feeling depressed, out of control, traumatized, or suicidal, please seek help.

Try these 12 ways to become less miserable — and even happier — right now:

1. Recognize the unhappiness you are experiencing. Research indicates that accepting your negative feelings will, paradoxically, increase your well-being. Accepting negative feelings such as disappointment, anger, and sadness will also reduce stress. While it is not clear why acceptance of negative feelings is such a potent strategy, previous research has shown that labeling negative feelings — “I’m feeling resentful,” “This is sadness,” etc. — shifts your feelings from the emotional part of your brain to the thinking part of your brain. Once your “thinker” (the prefrontal cortex) is on board, you can put your feelings in perspective.

2. Offer yourself some compassion. Talking kindly to yourself could bring moments of comfort. You may not have many people in your life right now who can give you the deep empathy that you need, but you do have one person — you.

3. Give yourself permission to be happy when possible. Tell yourself that you don’t need to feel guilty for wanting moments of relief, happiness, and joy in your life.

4. Experience pleasing and healthy distractions. Once you give yourself permission to be happy, you can better allow yourself the experience of small pleasures — a walk, a cup of coffee, a chat with a friend, a visit to the park. Music, books, and films can provide both escape and contentment. Remind yourself that it’s OK to have fun, even though part of your life may be falling apart.

5. Hold tightly to your self-care program. Or start one if you don’t already have one. Exercise, eat right, connect with friends, and get plenty of sleep. Resist the “false friends” of over-drinking, over-eating, and the couch-potato life.

6. Seek out creative and meaningful activities. Pour your feelings into a hobby or a creative activity. Writing in your journal can help you focus and may even be therapeutic, according to studies by James Pennebaker and others.

7. Compartmentalize. If the source of your unhappiness is work, put your work struggles in the “work compartment” of your brain. Leave them there when you’re at home so you can enjoy your home life. When you get back to work, take those work issues out again, and deal with them as best you can. Taking a mental break from your troubles may even help you envision new solutions.

8. Realize that everything changes. Events change, feelings change. However you feel now, you are likely to feel differently in the future, perhaps even in the next moment. Let “this too shall pass” become your motto.

9. Change one small aspect of your situation. Is there a way to make even a tiny change that will improve your life? “Do one thing different,” as therapist Bill O’Hanlon wrote in his book of the same name. Then take another action that will help you. And another.

10. Ask for help. You may think you are admitting defeat by asking for help. Reframe this destructive idea. Instead, think of yourself as the CEO of your own life (because you are), and delegate some responsibilities to others. Use the time you gain for self-care, fun, and meaningful activities. Find a therapist who can be your ally and sounding board.

11. Help others. While it may sound odd to suggest to help others when you yourself need help, research shows that helping others will make you happier, among other health benefits. You may also realize that your situation could always be worse — because it could. (If you are already a full-time caregiver, this tactic may not be the best one for you.)

12. Be grateful for what you can. Gratitude is the cousin of happiness.

There are times when searching for happiness could be a way to avoid facing serious problems. For example, if you are unhappy because you are in an abusive or life-threatening relationship, it could be a cop-out to focus on moments of happiness. Call a hotline for help, and get out when you can.

And some extraordinary people can find happiness even under the harshest conditions. Such individuals amaze and inspire me. For example, when poet and author Nina Riggs was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she knew she would die and leave her two young sons behind. Before her death at age 39, she was able to tell her husband, “I have to love these days in the same way I love any other.”

When you wait for some external event to occur so that you can be happy, you are taking a passive stance toward your own well-being. Remember, you alone have the ultimate responsibility for your own happiness.

© Meg Selig, 2017. All rights reserved.

To see my recent Changepower blogs, click here.

Whiteman, H. “Embracing negative emotions could boost psychological well-being,” Medical News Today

Pennebaker, JW & Evans, JF (2014). Expressive Writing, Idyll Arbor.

Newman, J. “I’m Dying Up Here. ” New York Times.