how to be happy

6 Simple Ways to be Happier Today

There are numerous ways that we can help ourselves to be happier every day. In fact, there are so many ways that a looking at too comprehensive a list could cause someone to be overwhelmed, leading instead to unhappiness.

In order to avoid the overwhelm that I just mentioned, the first thing I want you to do is to adopt the following habit, which will help you with all future habits you want to adopt in your life. Ready? Here it is: Slow down.

What I mean is this: Instead of experiencing the failure, frustration, and stress that comes with trying to do too much each year via New Year’s resolutions, maintain a running list of life improvement goals and break them down into pieces that are small enough to turn into new habits one at a time, over the 21 days that it takes to make a new habit stick.

Below are a few ideas for you to consider adopting. Break them down into smaller goals, specific to your situation. Work on a goal for 21 days. When it becomes a habit, consider adding another. Making small, meaningful changes will add up, moving you towards the big goals you want to achieve.

1. Measure your progress not your distance to the goal. Human nature causes us to be more inclined to reflect on negatives than positives. To counter that natural tendency, be sure to make it a daily practice to celebrate your achievements. And when looking at your goals, remember to look at how far you have come towards achieving them. When you measure yourself against your goals, you will always come up short. When you measure yourself against where you started, you will be recognizing your achievements, and those deserve to be celebrated.

2. Make gratitude lists. You’ve probably heard this before. Expressing your appreciation for what you have helps to take away your focus on what you don’t have, and is an acknowledged happiness strategy. It’s one that is worth doing on a daily basis. Short of that, try doing it at least weekly, starting today. If you’re having trouble thinking of things, you may be thinking too small. Widen your view. Think about nature: the trees, the sun, the sound of a running stream. Think about people: family and friends with whom you are grateful to have a relationship. We all have much to be grateful for, even in what might be difficult times.

3. Help other people. There are many benefits that come from giving of yourself, whether helping someone you know or volunteering for a community service activity. Volunteering is proven to be good for your health and your happiness. Studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer. Volunteering is also a great tool in the fight against depression because it’s easier to temporarily forget about your own problems when you shift your focus to helping others. And it’s an extremely gratifying activity.

4. Recognize the power of negative thinking. Most of us have heard of “the power of positive thinking.” While“the power of negative thinking” isn’t a well-known phrase, we are all familiar with the results of negative thinking—stewing over minor slights and inconveniences, being snippy with the ones we love, and general unhappiness. When we learn that our thinking has everything to do with our emotions, we can be happier by recognizing when our thoughts are running away from us, bringing ourselves back into the present moment, and reminding ourselves not to sweat the small stuff.

5. Look at the glass as half full. We’ve all heard that saying, but do we really know what it means? Maybe this will help you. If you heard that someone you loved was in a car accident. What would your first question be? I bet it would be, “Is he/she okay?” And then, if the answer was “yes,” you would express relief. You would be looking at the glass as half full. You would be happy that your loved one was okay, despite the bad news about the accident. On the other hand, if you were in a car accident and your car was badly damaged, but you were okay, you might spend time and energy kicking yourself for getting into the accident. If so, you would be looking at the glass as half empty instead of being grateful for being okay.

6. Recognize how much you can accomplish if you break your big goals down into small pieces. This is so important that I’m going to repeat this point from this article’s introduction. It takes 21 days to form a habit. If you use that fact to make small improvements, rather than trying for too much, too fast (like so many of us do with New Year’s resolutions), you can accomplish incredible things. Use this strategy in all areas of your life, including putting into action the first five items on this list. The results will be a happier life!

What are some of your experience making changes to be happier? Join the conversation with your comments…

David J. Singer is the author of Six Simple Rules for a Better Life and blogs at www.SixSimpleRules.com.

  • http://www.acalltoaction.net/ Trevor Wilson

    These are all good points. Happiness is a mindset. One that we create ourselves. Or don’t.

    But a change in mindset can be a difficult thing. We have to work at it every single day. We have to be diligent not to slip back into old patterns. It takes persistence.

    We need to remember, though, that the process — however difficult – will always be worth it. This process is what will lead to fulfillment . . . to happiness.

    Cheers!

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

       Thanks Trevor. Simple is not easy. It does take work. A desire to change leads to a new awareness. Then a game plan to focus on a change until it becomes a habit helps make it happen. Continued awareness and, as you said, persistence helps you refocus if you slip. Have a great day!
      Best regards,
      David

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    All good points that I currently practice.  The one I could use the most work on is: gratitude lists.  Thanks.

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Dan:

      Start
      small. Just think of one thing you are grateful about at the end of each day.
      Then build from there.

      Thanks for the note!

      Best
      regards,

      David

  • AaronMorton

    Good article describing some simple steps towards becoming a happier person. Something I would like to add is a recent research piece highlighted to build that habit it doesn’t matter if a day or two is missed in the process. So if you have a day where you hate the world, feel like the world hates you and curl into a foetal position whilst listening to coldplay tracks, its not so bad as long as you get back on it the next day!

    Aaron Morton

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Aaron:

      Good point. I definitely agree.

      We are not perfect. Measuring progress is key — see number 1 above.

      Thanks so much for the note.

      Best regards,

      David

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  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    I have learned the importance of speaking and thinking positively about every situation. Writing a grateful list is such a great point. 

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Excellent Dan. Glad you like it. Thanks for the note.
      Best regards,
      David

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

         your welcome:)

  • Toshi

    Hi.. Loved the article. But its a bit difficult to put it into practice. What to do when you have a person who is continously belittling you, rude without reason, and tries to create rift between your spouse and yourself. And that person is with you 24/7 .

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Toshi:
      Without knowing all the circumstances, I don’t know what to say. Even if I did know all the circumstances, I am pretty sure that all I would be qualified to say is (1) seek some help, a third party to advise you and guide you (friend, therapist, other) and possibly to help mediate the situation and (2) Try the recommendations above–they are not fixes for your problem, but they will help you to be happier in spite of the problem.
      Thank you for reaching out and I wish you all the best.
      David

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  • Bagsteve

    I enjoyed reading David’s 6 rules to be happier. It’s not
    all about getting pleasure for your self through things you might enjoy, not
    that there anything wrong with that. But it builds on helping others and realizing
    the value that can have in your own self happiness along with others who will benefit
    from what you do to help them on their journey.
     

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Thanks Steve. Appreciate the comments.
      David

  • Jay Paterson

    Hey David,
    Really well written, and absolutely true. I wonder, is SLOW the same speed for a guy from The Big Apple, as it is for a guy in Southwestern Ontario?
    Great Article.

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Jay:
      Good question :)
      Let’s just say that I’m trying to slow down to Southwestern Ontario speed.
      Thanks for the positive feedback. I really appreciate it.
      Best regards,
      David

  • Erica Cave

    I keep a prayer journal. I also find joy in continual learning. I recently started a blog and people posting on it makes me happy!

    • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

      Hi Erica:
      I haven’t looked at this post for a few weeks, so I am just reading your note today. Simply put, I agree! I love blogging and the interaction with the community (thanks for commenting on my post!) and I am a big advocate of  lifelong learning (I have a book, Six Simple Rules for a Better Life and the 5th rule is “Be a Lifelong Learner.” :)
      Thanks again.
      Best regards,
      David