Here are some practical steps and tips for happiness in life that you can start implementing today.
Happiness requires choice
Happiness requires choice from your part. The world itself is filled with confusion.
Choose a perspective that is helpful to you and support your happiness. One can choose to look at life as a series of negative and unfortunate occurrences or you can view it as something helpful and positive.
In other words, happiness is created not discovered. It is a choice.
Happiness requires active risk-taking
No one gets happy by passively accepting whatever the life throws at them.
Actively go for what you want, knowing you are actively participating in creating your life, makes you happy.
Continuously take risks that scare you. This builds your “courage” muscles. Knowing you are acting courageously improves your self-image.
The passiveness is riskier in that regard, because you are acting at the cost of your confidence.
Happiness involves faith or ‘As-if’ thinking
One of the main ingredients is ‘As-if” thinking, this means that you should be open to the things that you don’t know.
In order to learn something new, you need to keep aside all your current beliefs and believe in something new. You need to be willing to believe in something that you don’t believe in yet, to learn something new and have new experiences.
Without this in mind, your actions will seem pointless and will create unhappiness. Everything that you attempt to learn will only be a re-affirmation of “I told you so”.
Acting as if you matter and your life has meaning creates meaning.
Use your dark side as a measure to know your insecurities and overcoming them
You need your negative thoughts as a measure to see where you are feeling not good enough. That is all they are. A measure of how we feel about ourselves, and then it is up to us figure out what is causing it and fixing it. Whether it may be adopting new beliefs, thinking and acting in a new way etc.
Welcome your “negative” experiences
Historically, the happiest people often record going through a deep depression caused by a sense of the loss of meaning. Only through this, a transformation is possible, and a new self can be born. So, it is important to welcome these experiences. The key is not to get stuck in there.
Don’t try to be happy
The attempt to be happy is the one of the chief sources of happiness.
Happiness is a by-product. Attaching yourself to be happy and creating a goal around it will cause you to feel miserable. That is a very high standard that you put yourself on.
Avoiding unhappiness causes inauthenticity as you are right now
The answer is in the quest. You need to allow yourself to experience the whole depth of your being. And be subject to many experiences. Whether it is sad, happy or angry or whatever.
Trying to be happy causes you to act in a certain way that reduces the range of your human experiences to a limited set of perceived higher emotions. You are reducing your humanness.
Be mindful of your language
Language creates reality. In the book four agreements, the first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say. To sin is to go against yourself. Make sure when you use your language to yourself (inner voice) or to others (speaking) you are going for yourself not against. How you interpret your situations using your language shapes the emotions around it and creates your experience.
Be mindful of your opinions
It is not the event itself that disturbs us or elevate us, it is our opinion about the event.
Epictetus in his book manual for living gives an example for this. He says, dying is a natural process, every creature dies, that in itself is not terrible. But when you look at death through the lens of your opinion (terrible) it becomes terrible.
Follow through on your word
If you say something to yourself that you are going to do something, follow through. If you have a tendency to say, “I will do it tomorrow”, stop doing that now. Because you know that you’re lying to yourself. It will lower your confidence in yourself and affects your happiness levels.
For example, if you are watching your food intake and then you come across a cheesecake, don’t say it yourself, I will start from tomorrow. You’re the only one being deceived.
Cultivate your sense of value and worth
Your value comes from you knowing that you are acting in your best interests. Your sense of value comes from knowing that you matter, and you have the right to take space irrespective of your situations, thoughts and emotions, irrespective of your opinions and beliefs, irrespective of your looks. Your value comes from respecting yourself.
This is what loving yourself means. It is not merely saying “I love you to yourself” and doing nothing. Remember active participation in life.
Use meaningful affirmations. By that I mean align your actions to reflect the affirmations. A certain level of “act as-if” and faith is needed. Remember the “ACT” in act as-if.
It is not merely saying that I am a successful entrepreneur, when you don’t make any effort to have it. If you only recite certain powerful affirmations, but do not act accordingly, again this is lying to yourself.
Stop doing things that go against yourself now, at the very least.
As said before, to sin is to miss the target, to sin is to go against yourself. If you are going against yourself, you are telling yourself that you don’t respect yourself. So, you are actively contributing to diminishing your self-value.
Create a healthy social circle
Social circle has a big impact on the level of your happiness. You are the sum total of the five people you hang out with, someone has said. Knowing that you have a group of friends who you can turn to, makes you feel supported.
You should be an individual in your social circle. You should have your own opinions, willing to be wrong and should be comfortable with people disagreeing with you. Your friends should be able to do this too. This is how you know you have a good social circle. Avoid thinking in a group and avoid ideological communities.
Your friends should celebrate your successes but should not put you down when you make a mistake by saying “I told you so, you’re an idiot” or any version of that. They should also challenge your opinions expressing their opinions.
Increase your competency levels
Increase your competency levels in the areas of your life, money, work, relationships, fun, personal and spiritual growth etc.
The reality is that, now, we receive little education about these in our traditional schooling. And thinking that you are by default entitled to fantastic work, relationships, friends, family etc. is foolish.
Increase your competency levels in these by going to workshops and spiritual practices etc. Be a good communicator by taking communication lessons and practicing that actively. Learn how to have an adult conversation with your partner, family and work colleagues and boss etc.
Learn time and money management. Learn how to do only the things that matter to you and eliminate the rest. Learn how to manage yourself emotionally and spiritually, learn how to work with your insecurities using writing, journaling or other spiritual practices. Learn how to be good in sex by going to workshops.
Increasing your competency will naturally increase the belief in yourself and happiness.
One of the main reasons why so many people are unhappy is because they are conditioned to be lazy. Become aware when you are being lazy and using seemingly valid excuses to progress in your life.
Question your attachment to strongly held beliefs.
Be aware of confirmation bias.
“Confirmation Bias”— embracing information that supports your beliefs and rejecting information that contradicts them — is the phenomenon by which your brain manipulates your perception.
This is an easy way to know how we see the world. It is a good exercise to write down these beliefs and see how you are acting these out.
Progress not perfection
The only person you need to compare yourself to is the person who you were yesterday. Look for progress in terms of quality of life, the way we act around certain situations, how we respond to our own emotional state, how we handle difficult situations etc. as a measure of progress. At the same time celebrate your shadow side.
As Buddha said “Too pure water has no Fish”
Make decisions quicker.
We are hesitant to make decisions because we don’t want to take responsibility of the choice of making a decision.
We want someone else to make the decision for us. Too often we give ourselves the credit if it goes our way and blame someone else (sometimes fate or god) when things don’t go our way. Both are ways to protect our ego.
Instead, take responsibility and make decisions quicker. Be willing to be at effect of the consequences of your decision. Treat these consequences as learning experiences.
Quit blaming the “System”, “Inequality”, “Oppression”, “Government”, “Weather”, “Family”, “Kids”, “Marriage” etc for the circumstances in your life.
Because we all know people who have overcome this. There are decisions that you can make to create a happy life for yourself. If you are still blaming someone else as an excuse not to move forward or that is on you.
Become aware when you are overwhelmed
A lot of people don’t act quickly because they are overwhelmed by the choices. Choose one or two things to work on and act on it. Don’t go into analysis, paralysis by weighing the pros and cons and getting there.
Instead make decisions and do them faster, and measure against the results of your actions. This is much better than analysing for days and not taking any action. Instead, invest that energy into getting things done.
Simplicity is your friend in this scenario. Choose something as simple as making your bed in the morning will give you a sense of achievement. Do one thing at a time. Do simple things to give you momentum and give you a sense of movement.
Quit all gossip
Avoid negative talking about others when they are not present. Your listeners will immediately put you in the “not trustworthy, I cannot be vulnerable with this person” because they don’t know if you will do the same thing with them.
Cultivate healthy self-doubt
Self-doubt is needed for your growth but be aware of when in it is in the way of your growth. You need to be able to challenge your existing belief enough to grow.
At the same time, you need to be able to fully believe in yourself to go for the things that you want in your life without your doubts holding you back. You need to be able to doubt your doubt in these situations.
Stop trying to be good
We are all conditioned to be the good man or the good woman. Don’t offend anyone, keep things to yourself, be polite even when you hate someone’s guts etc. etc.
This is very counter intuitive to creating connections with others. Speak up and express your opinions, even if there is a risk of being disliked. Most likely it will happen that people will like you more.
Being nice won’t have people liking you, instead it will have the opposite effect. No one can connect with you when you are phony.
In some cases, people like your phoniness, only because they are not comfortable with any kind of intimacy or truth. They are okay with your phoniness because they can be phoney as well. They don’t have to reveal themselves to you. Because they deem it dangerous. Don’t choose those kinds of relationships. It is detrimental to their growth and yours.
This does not mean you have to be nasty to others either, or actively being bad. This only means just stop trying to be good. Nothing else.
Stop doing this that is known to be ineffective
You know certain things that you do are making you feel irritated or angry or sad. Still you do them. Just stop doing them. This will only improve your life many folds.
I do certain things because I know that in the short run it makes me happy, whether it is shopping or eating a chocolate pudding. This is not good when I am are trying to stay healthy.
These things create temporary happiness but in the long run are detrimental to our growth.
Create meaningful relationships
More than the regular “in the lift” “hi-byes”, and after work beers, attempt to create relationships that are honest and vulnerable. You don’t need one more friend who uses you to boast themselves or wallow with them in their own self-pity. Create meaningful adult relationships that are reciprocal.
Have a regular self-care regimen
Have a regular self-care regimen. Whether it is meditation, journaling or reflection on your beliefs. Do them consistently. It is important to take care of yourself.
Create intimacy in romantic relationships
One of the fundamental needs for us, is to be intimate with someone else. Someone to talk to and someone to care for. Someone to care about us in a romantic way.
Physical touch is also important, be generous with giving and receiving them. The only way to be intimate with someone else is through honesty and vulnerability. You need to be willing to reveal yourself.
Have regular sex
Having regular sex is important. It is one of you basic needs to feel erotic and sexual. Having the feeling of having the sovereignty over your sex is in its own way powerful and will contribute to your overall confidence.
Don’t assume anything
You can’t read anyone’s mind, no one can read your mind either. Clear your assumptions with effective conversations. Ask for the things that you want and ask others what they want. Tell them what you want. Listen to what others want.
Be curious about someone else’s inner world. When you assume things about people and situations, it makes it harder to create healthy connections with others.
Trust your feelings and judgements
I know I said don’t assume things above, sometimes it is important to trust your judgement and feelings about things and others. People lie most times. So, trust your judgement, it does not make it the truth. However, you deciding to be responsible for your judgement. You might be wrong, but that is a risk that you need to be willing to take.
Don’t take anything personally
This is the second rule in the “Four agreements” book.
Everything anyone does is because of them, not because of you. Similarly, whatever you do is because of you not because of others. This is important in learning how to take responsibility for your own life and understanding you are responsible for creating your life.
Because no one else knows you so well as you do, how can they possibly judge you? Don’t take anything personally.
If someone is being nasty to you, they are hurting within themselves either because they see themselves in you or they are actively trying to get away from what they see in you. It is really the nastiness towards themselves that is coming out. See if you can find some compassion there.
Adopt newer ways of thinking
Your thoughts create your emotions.
Understand that your thoughts create your emotional. You can create any emotion by changing your thinking. So, adopt a new perspective that makes you healthy, useful and usable. Because you have something to offer to the world. Indulging in unhelpful and untrue thoughts will block your natural creativity from coming out.
Use physiology to affect your mood
Your physiology (posture, actions) causes you to think in ways that are congruent to it. Stand up straight, make eye contact when you speak, smile, walk a bit faster than normal, walk deliberately, move with deliberation and in a relaxed manner, sit straight, project your voice, have the appropriate facial expression etc. Your mind will follow what you are doing and think accordingly.
Try this, when you are not feeling confident, allow yourself to adopt a posture that portrays confidence. Conjure up in your mind, how you would talk, how you would feel when you are confident. This will cause a disconnect in your psyche and break the pattern of self-indulgence.
Journal for emotional catharsis
Keep a journal. Write every day. Write down the events, your thoughts and your feelings at the end of day every day. This will have a cathartic effect. Write it as if you are talking to a good friend. Do not filter. Write down everything. Cry, become angry, be happy, be scared on paper.
Keep a gratitude journal
Every day, write down 100 things that you are grateful for before going to bed and when you wake up. If you are stuck make something up or make your gratitude simpler. It can also be things like “I am grateful for the parks” or “I am grateful for my toaster”. Again, don’t filter, write whatever comes up.
Join a support group
In many cities there are support groups. Join one or several of them for instant connection.
12 step groups are one of my favourites. Go to them even if you don’t categorise yourself as an addict or whatever. It is good to listen to other stories and to know you are not alone in your struggles. Chances are you will discover that you have a lot in common with the group there.
Join a men’s or a women’s group. Go to groups in Churches even if you are not religious. Do a google search “Men’s group in __(your city)” or “Women’s group in __(your city)”
There are apps like Meetup, Couchsurfing, Internations or Facebook groups that you can try out.
Set goals and work towards them
Don’t allow yourself to take things as they come by. Remember happiness is created. We are happy when we know we have a purpose in life. Human beings are meaning seeking machines. When we don’t have goals, our actions seem pointless and we become lazy.
Use tools like SMART goals to set your goals up. Schedule the things you are going to do in your calendar and follow them through. Don’t treat them like to-do lists, they are not that great.
You are not going to get everything done, however if you do one thing that is beneficial for you every day you will grow a lot in a month or in a year.
The point is enjoying the process of working towards the goals with highest intentions without the attachment to the attainment of goals.
Do your best
After setting your goals it is not appropriate to sit back and relax. And hope for them to come by. That is not effective. You need to work towards your goals, go all in. Be mindful about tiring yourself out. Do your best. Nothing more, nothing less.
Do tasks totally
Don’t be lukewarm when you are working towards your goals. Do your best or nothing. Otherwise find something else where you can give your all in. Being lukewarm only drags a task more than it needs to be. It is not effective. Even if you are doing one thing towards the achievement of your goal, set a timer and do it totally.
Mindfulness is essential. You can do the formal mindfulness practice such as meditation or introduce mindfulness into your daily activities. It is simple to use an activity such as taking a shower or brushing in the beginning. Something that is repeatable and don’t change in structure is easy in the beginning to practice mindfulness.
Have a consistent exercise regimen
Have an exercise routine. Whether it is 10 mins yoga in the morning when you wake up or stretching. This is good for your body and your mood. This also gives you the feel good endorphins.
Volunteer because you want to
Volunteering in local groups is a good way to be put yourself at use and get connected to something that is outside of your needs that serve you. It will take attention off of you in a good way.
Be mindful of engaging in such activities because you can’t be with yourself or you don’t feel valuable when you are not doing anything for others. That is only a symptom of low self-esteem
Have some fun by doing things that is not “productive”
Don’t forget to have fun. Do things just for yourself without needing to be productive. Do things just because you enjoy them without worrying if it is useful or worthy of doing.
Talk to strangers
We all are wired for connection. Talking to strangers is a good way to step out of your usual zone of friends and to introduce the possibility of an alternate perception than of your friends.
Eating healthy will cause you feel good about your body. That has a positive impact on your mood. Be mindful of carbs and simple sugars. Be mindful of high GI foods that causes rapid fluctuations in your blood glucose levels.
Calorie counting is not effective, there are other factors that affect your mood and health. There are popular myths like “eating fat causes you to get fat” or “breakfast is the most important meal” etc. Be informed. Tim Ferris has a very good book on this titled “The 4-hour body”. Get a copy.