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Everyone wants to be happy, yet no one seems to know how to do it. The act of being happy has sparked a lot of discussion and thousands of studies have been conducted trying to solve the problem with happiness.

Psychologists and scientists seem to have found the solution: little habits create big changes and lead to happiness.

Activities involving looking after your mind and your body can boost how fulfilled you feel. Furthermore, helping others and organizing your life can guarantee you find happiness.

So, let’s get started with adding these 15 habits into your life – you’ll be surprised at the power of these tiny changes.

The mind is where happiness comes from – if you want to feel more fulfilled and happy, you need to treat your mind. Here are the most efficient ways to do it and the habits you should aim to adopt.

Person meditating on the beach

1. Meditate to unplug

If you’ve been following the self-help industry at all in the past few years, you would have noticed the talk about meditation. The benefits of meditation are not just a fad – it can have a truly transformative impact on your life. Studies have found meditation or the act of quieting things around you to reduce anxiety and stress.

When you meditate, you become more aware of your emotions, making it easier to appreciate the good and control the bad. The practice of mindfulness or meditating has even been linked with better self-awareness and perspective – those annoying things might actually seem rather unimportant when you learn to meditate.

You don’t even need to be a rocket scientist to start or have lots of free time to get started– you definitely don’t need to buy a rope and move into the mountains. A few minutes of meditation each day can have a transformative impact.

2. Visit cultural activities

You can also boost your mood by participating in cultural activities. A study looked at life satisfaction of over 50,000 adults in Norway and the researchers found an interesting link between the levels of depression and culture. Those that attended plays, visited museums or joined other such cultural activities, reported lower levels of anxiety and felt more satisfied with their quality of life.

So, you should start a habit of doing something cultural every week. It could be visiting a museum or attending a play at the theatre. It won’t cost a lot – there are plenty of free ways to enjoy culture – and it gives you plenty of happiness and enjoyment!

Woman holding out her hands with a flower in them

3. Learn to forgive

There’s nothing worse for mood than harboring those bad feelings inside you and staying angry with the people who’ve hurt you. Are there dumb people out there that will hurt you? Of course! But you feeling angry and wallowing in your hurt is not going to hurt them nor is it going to lead to you feeling happy.

According to Mayo Clinic, holding a grudge will lead to resentment and revenge and harboring these emotions will ensure you don’t have time or space for something else: i.e. happiness.

There are tons of studies out there suggesting that people who are able to forgive – even the most horrific of crimes – are less stressed, live longer and have better overall health. So, forgiveness doesn’t just make you happier, it can also make you healthier.

If you do find yourself feeling angry, you should do the following thing recommended by a team of psychologists: write a letter to the person but don’t send it. Writing down your anger provides you clarity of emotions, helps you find solutions and reliefs stress. It can even help you forgive and feel calmer in the process.

4. Find reasons to smile

OK, so finding reasons to smile might not sound like the best advice ever. Surely, if you were smiling you’d be happy. But the point here is to make the effort – to not just sit and wait someone makes you smile. However, that also shouldn’t make you fake it. A study in 2011 found that when bus drivers were forced to smile, they were in a worse mood than before the day started!

The key, then, is to find those thoughts and acts that genuinely make you smile. List things that make you smile and when you feel grumpy, look at those reasons – you are guaranteed to smile a little and then, perhaps, more. Read a joke or call someone you love. Don’t force the smile, but make an effort to find a happy thought!

However, happiness is not just about the external things happening in your mind. If your body is working well and getting the right nourishment, your happiness will increase. Psychologists, therefore, suggest you also adopt habits for a healthier body.

woman stretching

5. Start exercising regularly

Aside from meditation, one of the most convincing habits to adopt for happiness boost is exercise. The evidence to support regular exercise in feeling better is just simply staggering. Research has found exercise to:

Furthermore, the beneficial mood boost isn’t short-lived. According to a study conducted by the University of Vermont, 20-minutes of exercise will continue to positively influence your mood up to 12 hours afterwards.

Although any exercising habit is worth creating, you can enjoy additional benefits if you exercise in nature.

One study in the US, found walking in nature to reduce negative thoughts and make the person feel happier. So, beach walks, swims in the river or any other exercise in nature can lead to a happier life – but even if you can’t exercise outdoors, do create a regular routine of brisk walks or jumping jacks for a mood boost.

6. Be intimate with someone

Some people say there’s nothing better than sex and chocolate – together or separate, I do not know. These people have found a truth there, as research has suggested sex can lead to happiness. Indeed, there’s a study to suggest having sex once a month will make you as happy as having $50,000 extra on your bank account.

Before you start adding more sex to your schedule, thinking it’ll help you feel like a lottery winner, you should know one other fact. Research might not support the above finding quite as strongly. The thing is more sex doesn’t automatically lead to happiness, having sex does.

So, whether you are intimate with someone twice a week or once every three months doesn’t necessarily boost or diminish your happiness or health. Having sex with someone you love, whenever you feel like it will have the positive effect. The purpose of the act counts more than the times you do it!

Clock, tea, and a book on a bed

7. Get enough sleep

You should also find other uses for your bed than being intimate. Sleeping is linked with your levels of happiness and people who get enough rest tend to feel more satisfied with their lives.

Dr Raymonde Jean, director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital, has told Health.com that, “a good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety”. Dr Jean added that proper sleep could provide you with “more emotional stability”.

Sleep is essential because it removes toxic proteins, which have accumulated during the day, from your brain, providing you with a better sense of alertness and attention. Ensure you find time to sleep – you could even start napping during the day!

8. Give your time to help others

Yes, you are a busy person and you’re not a bad person for pursuing your dreams. A healthy dose of self-love is definitely a good thing. Yet, if you are looking to be happy, you need to create a habit of devoting your time to helping others.

Why? Because it can make you feel happier. One long-term study has found volunteer work to help both the mental and physical health of people – no, not just the people who are the focus of the volunteering, but also the people who actually volunteer. In fact, the act of giving and doing something good causes your brain to release dopamine – the chemical behind the feeling of euphoria.

Taking time to help others doesn’t mean you need to join an orphanage in India. Just start focusing more on other people and helping them. Ask colleagues every day what you can do to help, visit a friend to help or give money to a charity close to your heart. Focus on the little actions and be mindful of the power of a helping hand.

friends having fun

9. Spend time with friends

We humans are social animals and as much of we love to hate other people’s company at times – the boss really doesn’t need to come to every coffee meeting to stop us from gossiping and your mother-in-law can spend holidays elsewhere as well – deep-down we love and cherish other people’s company.

Now, before you get excited, there seems to be one specific ‘but’ to this. Research has found your friends give you a happiness boost sometimes more than your family or your children! So, if you want to stay happy, allocate time to spend with your friends. Remember to make them in-person connections, though! According to research, physical touch decreases anxiety and makes us happier.

10. Take out the credit card – for others

While money might not buy happiness, it can definitely make you happier. There is in fact research that quite clearly suggests a certain income level makes people happier. For more on this, check out the YouTube video below:

However, spending money can have another positive impact on your mood – you just need to ensure you’re using the credit card to buy something for others, not yourself. According to a study, published in Science in 2008, people who spend money on others rather than themselves feel an immediate boost in happiness. So, you should start splashing out some money on gifts and other little treats for others. Just make sure you stay on budget!

Finally, happiness does not enjoy clutter and chaos. If everything is a mess and you don’t know what is going on, you can’t realize the good things around you and feel enjoyment. So, make sure to organize your life with the following habits and feel happier in the process.

man thinking alone

11. Tackle negative events

Happy people aren’t just better at avoiding the bad things in life, as a cynic might say. Being happy isn’t about covering your head in the sand – indeed, it is about staying resilient and dealing with those negative feelings and events. You want to understand disappointment.

When a negative thing happens or you feel really down, take a moment to understand what is happening. More importantly, find the silver lining. If you focus on solutions rather than the emotions, you can move on and deal with the negative emotions. You don’t bury them only to find them popping up later, but you deal and tackle them.

12. Set realistic goals

Having dreams and goals can be helpful for your happiness. People who set goals are more fulfilled because they maintain focus – they set their minds to achieving the things they want and need to achieve. Ticking off a goal from your list always gives you that powerful sense of accomplishment – you feel good and proud about yourself.

Setting goals also gives you a chance to clarify your objectives. If you set life goals, such as things you want to achieve in the next five years, you need to analyze your life and your dreams. You get more clarity in the things you actually care about and want to work towards to.

There is one important thing to understand about happiness and the habit of setting goals. These goals must be realistic. Notice the word carefully; realistic does not equal to pessimistic. According to psychologist Sophia Chou, you need to be a ‘realistic optimist’, meaning you are able to face reality – the work market is really difficult at the moment – with a positive outlook – I can take a course to improve my hire-ability.

Someone painting with watercolors

13. Do things you enjoy – even when you don’t want to

Think about your happiest moments. What are the things you’ve been doing or things you enjoy doing most often? If you think about it, happiness isn’t rocket science – you just need to do the things you enjoy.

The key is to get your butt up to do these even when you don’t feel like it. When you are down and it’s raining, it’s easy to create a dialogue in your head that says, “Just stay home and sulk in the sofa”. But if you are a movie fanatic, you might actually enjoy going to the cinema, even if it doesn’t feel good in the particular moment.

Sticking to routines that make you happy, such as reading, even when you don’t really feel like it can help you feel happy. Going out with friends can turn out to be the best time of your life, even though you felt a bit tired.

14. Keep regular journal of your feelings

You should also adopt the habit of keeping a journal, especially about your feelings. A team of psychologists studied the benefits of recording one’s emotions and found that those who recorded feelings for 20-minutes a day felt calmer than those that just wrote down neutral thoughts.

The act of writing, as mentioned earlier, gives you perspective on the emotions and helps you analyze your feelings. By writing down your disappointment, you might realize things aren’t actually that bad.

a person in cosy socks sitting on their bed with a journal, coffee, and guitar

15. Learn new skills

Happy people also have a growth mentality and they are always willing to learn new things. According to research, people who continue to learn new skills will feel happier in the long-term than those who don’t.

So, even when you are learning something you don’t enjoy in that moment – such as improving your math skills – you will experience long-term benefits. The same research also emphasized the amount of work you put in acquiring the skills. The harder you work, the happier you will feel.

Don’t be afraid to pick up new hobbies – the art of learning and then succeeding can be beneficial to your mood. So, whether it is learning to speak a new language, starting gardening or taking up a new sport, you should never stop learning new things and expanding your mind.

The above 15 habits are definitely worth adopting, especially because there’s evidence to support the claims. Happiness is not impossible to achieve and it doesn’t require huge changes. Small, positive habits in the things you do, think and work towards to can make you happier.

However, don’t become obsessed with happiness – life won’t always be full of sunshine. Sometimes you are handed lemons and you just need to make that lemonade.

Martin LuenendonkAbout Martin Luenendonk
Martin is a serial entrepreneur and is currently helping people find their dream job at 
cleverism.com