How To Be Happy

“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy

Do you know someone who’s happy?  Not just someone who smiles when you greet them.  I’m talking about someone who’s genuinely happy, someone who savors life.  I’m one of those people.

Guess what?  Happy people have shitty lives too.  Bad things happen to us.  People piss us off.  We get into accidents.  Our partners are unreasonable at times.  We get sick.  Bosses demand too much from us.  We fail and get frustrated.  We deal with the same kind of crap that unhappy people deal with every day.

Sometimes happy people even have it worse than unhappy people.  There was a time in my life when I went through a heartbreaking divorce, had spinal surgery, was unable to work, had no home of my own and was overcoming a prescription drug addiction all at the same time.  And guess what?  I was still happy.

It’s a myth that happy people have easier lives than others.  The truth is that happiness is a choice.  Yes, your ability to be happy is influenced by genetics, how you were raised and your current life circumstances, but the most important factor for determining your happiness is quite simply your decision to be happy.

If you want to be happy, make the choice and take action.

Here are 9 tips for greater happiness:

1. Be grateful. Your focus dictates your reality.  If you regularly focus on what you don’t have, you’ll feel deprived and unfulfilled.  Instead, remind yourself regularly of the things you have to be grateful for such as your health, your home, your job or your family and friends.  Yes, you may be faced with challenges in life, but try to look for the silver lining.  There is something positive to be experienced or learned from every situation.  Be grateful for what you have and remember that while it may be simple to you, it would mean the world to someone else.  As Katie Tallo from Momentum Gathering says, Do The Math, Count Your Blessings.

2. Enjoy the little things in life. Don’t delay your happiness by waiting for those big moments worthy of celebration.  Find happiness in the little things.  Smile at the laughter of children in a playground.  Appreciate the kindness of a stranger who holds the door for you.  Admire the beauty of a tree gracefully blowing in the wind.  There is so much potential for happiness all around you.  Enjoy the little things in life.  They add up.

3. Surround yourself with happy people.  People feed off one another’s emotions.  Spend time with someone who’s miserable and it won’t take long for you to start feeling down.  But surround yourself with happy people and you’ll be reminded of the joys in life.  Happiness is contagious.

4. Be present. Too many people plan for their happiness and ignore the present.  They’ll be happier when the weekend comes, when the weather improves, when they go on vacation or when they retire. Why put off happiness?  Focus on the here and now and enjoy this present moment for everything it has to offer.

5. Connect. I don’t believe we can be truly happy if we’re alone.  One of the greatest joys in life is connecting with others.  Make time with family and friends a priority, but don’t simply spend time together, connect.  Share your feelings, play together and support one another.  Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has some great tips for connecting.  New in town and don’t have family or friends nearby?  Volunteer, join a club or enroll in a course.  Take action.

6. Take care of yourself. It’s hard to be happy when you’re tired, lacking energy and feeling unhealthy.  Your physical and emotional wellbeing is directly related to how you treat your body.  Be sure to get adequate sleepExercise regularly.  Make healthy eating a priority.  Meditate.

6. Simplify. We’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages telling us we need bigger, better and more if we want to be happy.  The truth is that material excess is often the cause of stress and undermines our happiness.  Consider a simpler, more minimalist approach to life.  Focus less on material possessions and more on the people and experiences that enrich your life.

7. Stop and breathe. Stress can easily rob us of happiness.  Sometimes it comes at us with guns blazing, other times it sneaks in and sets up camp without us realizing it.  Regularly take time to stop and breathe.  It will help you to relax, maintain perspective and stay focused on the positive.

8. Embrace change. Change can be unnerving for many people.  It represents the unknown and pushes us out of our comfort zone.  But change is inevitable and happens every day.  Instead of living in fear of change, embrace it.  Learn to appreciate the excitement and opportunities that change brings. Change will happen whether you want it or not, so go with the flow.

9. Fake it ‘till you make it. Sometimes even the most positive people find it difficult to be happy.  That’s okay.  Life can be hard.  When you find yourself faced with one of those challenging times, fake happiness.  If you change your physiology, your psychology will follow. Smile, stand tall, laugh and dance.  You’ll be surprised at how effectively actions can influence your state of mind.  This is not the same as being in denial.  It’s simply a tool to help you change your psychology and encourage genuine happiness.

Happiness is a choice.  Like any habit, the more you practice the more natural it will become.  Take action and welcome more happiness into your life today.

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  1. You’ve pretty much covered my strategies…

    I also practive your tips #2 and #4 in what I call “random acts of beauty”. I always feel better if I bring some beauty in my environment. It can be as simple as cutting a flower or even a small branch to put in a vase. Cleaning or caring for something (repot a plant, touch of paint on a lantern, dust and polish an old piece of furniture, etc).

    As for your tip #8 “Embrace Change”, I would add… “let go of the past”, don’t try to relive it or recreate it, or let it poison your present. Look ahead and enjoy the journey!

    PS – Love your blog on so many levels… Like you, I’ve recently adopted a primal diet and am slimming down while feeling more energetic.

    • I love your random acts of beauty, especially the opportunity it gives to bring a little bit of nature into the home.

      Excellent point about letting go of the past.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

      By the way, I really enjoy reading your posts about minimalist life while living with a packrat and two teens. I encourage all of my readers interested in minimalism to visit Minimalist Wannabe’s blog. Just click on her name above.

  2. I love this post, everything is so true. And I try to do most of those things even thought they’re not always possible. I’ve found that the best thing to do it to “smile, breath and go slowly” =) but you already know that. I’m still living a super fast life, but I try and atleast I’m not the escapist I used to be.

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Tracy.

      I think you can still lead a “fast” life as long as you’re caring for yourself. Of course that means taking time to stop and breathe. 🙂 I know people who live very fast lives but take care of themselves and have a very balance life. I also know people who move slowly, but are very unbalanced and unfulfilled.

  3. I’ve never been addicted to anything more than caffeine (wait, no, cigarettes, too), but I have known people addicted to narcotics and alcohol. It’s surprising to me that someone who was an addict would describe themselves as having been happy during that time. Addiction seems to often be an expression of unhappiness.

  4. Hi Miss Britt.

    Thanks for your comment.

    It does sound odd that someone who was addicted to a drug would describe that time as happy, but I was. I think it has a lot to do with the nature of my addiction. I was not using the drugs recreationally or for pleasure. They were pain meds that I had been prescribed to deal with the pain related to my back injury. My (former) doctor misprescribed the medication in my opinion, which is what led to my addiction. My doses were slowly increased over time, so I never even really “enjoyed” a buzz. They were simply for pain management. It wasn’t until after my surgery when I went off my meds that I realized I had a physical addiction. It was challenging to kick the addiction, but I stuck to a plan my new doctor set out for me and was able to do so.

    Had the drugs been recreational, or used to fill an emotional void in my life at the time, I think the story would have been very different. But because the drugs were solely for pain and the addiction was physical and not mental in nature, they didn’t prevent me from being quite happy during that period of my life.

    Thanks for your comment. I’m sure others were wondering the same thing and I’m glad I had the opportunity to clarify. I hope you’ll visit again soon.

  5. WOW . . Thank you for this . . Totally need some happy inspiration today and finding this puts my whole life in perspective .. . Seee i normally get to 3 and then have to start again . . Well Today i think its time for change . .

    Thanks = )

    • Jason Billows |

      Welcome to Stop & Breathe, Mizzle. And thanks for your kind words. I’m so happy to hear that this post resonated with you.

  6. i have read the part about surrounding yourself with happy people, i want to know if the same type of happiness can come if you are not around happy people

    • Jason Billows |

      Hi Big Time.

      I think you can still be happy when you’re surrounded by unhappy people. Ultimately we’re responsible for our own happiness and there are a number of things we can do to influence our happiness. That said, it becomes more difficult when there are unhappy people influencing you. So, if given the choice, I’d seek out happy people to spend time with.

  7. There are actually 10 tips, because you have two No. 6’s. 😀

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