Life is hard. It is exponentially harder when you are feeling down. It is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. You say harmful things to your spouse or kids. You don’t really have the capacity to listen well to others. And let’s not even get started with how unmotivated you feel about work.
There isn’t really any one thing that you can pinpoint as being “wrong.” It’s just that everything feels like a struggle. It’s monotonous.
Is it possible to inject a little more happiness into your life?
Of course, you can! But it will require some intentionality and effort. Here are some steps you can take to live a happier life:
Tip #1 on How to Live a Happier Life — Practice Being Adaptable:
Being strong-willed or persistent is not a bad thing. Being rigid can be. Life is dynamic. It is constantly moving and changing. When we are inflexible, we don’t allow space for life to happen.
When I was a high school and college student, I thought I had life mapped out. I had worked hard and had a plan for my future. At the time, the plan did not include becoming a mental health counselor. But here I am, helping teenagers in Tualatin and college students in Portland with their anxiety and depression. I am counseling married couples in Lake Oswego to strengthen their communication skills. And they begin to remember why they decided to get married 15 years ago in the first place.
Why am I writing this? To illustrate how dramatic life is. There are twists, turns, highs and lows. Our circumstances will bring incredible joy one moment, sadness and depression the next.
Practicing adaptability fosters resilience in our lives. It enables us to find happiness even during difficult situations. When we are adaptable, we make space for all the alterations life throws our way.
Tip #2 on How to Live a Happier Life — Be Grounded in Contentment:
Finding contentment is exceedingly hard. Finding satisfaction in who we are is an elusive and constantly shifting goal. One minute you may be feeling confident in yourself. The next minute you are feeling depressed at the thought of all that you do not have or have not accomplished.
We compare ourselves to others. And that never brings joy or happiness.
Finding satisfaction with who you will provide a boost to self-confidence and self-esteem. And this will lead to personal satisfaction and happiness. When you focus on what you have and what you bring as a person, contentment is soon to follow.
But how do you ground yourself in contentment? The next tip will answer that.
Tip #3 on How to Live a Happier Life — Practice Mindfulness:
Mindfulness practices helps bring into the present. You won’t focus on what has occurred in the past or what is worrying you about the future. You’re focused on what is happening right now. Right in front of you.
Meditation is a great mindfulness practice. Prayer can serve this purpose if you are a person of faith.
Practicing mindfulness has the added bonus of helping people who are experiencing bouts of anxiety. It reduces stress. It centers you on who you are as an individual. You are better able to regulate your emotions.
There are so many benefits to practicing mindfulness.
Tip #4 on How to Live a Happier Life — Take Control:
You have more control than you think. You just have a bad habit of giving that control over to other people or other circumstances.
And I don’t blame you. It’s far too easy to hand power over to others.
It is true that you don’t always have power to control all of your circumstances. You do, however, have the power to control how you react to those circumstances.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore painful emotions or brush off feelings of grief to avoid it. It does, however, mean that you can intentionally choose what to do in your actions.
Likewise, you can make intentional decisions in your relationships. In your work. And in your life. And once you start taking control of your emotions and actions, you’ll discover greater amounts of happiness.
Tip #5 on How to Live a Happier Life — Stop the Negative Thinking:
Have you ever had conversations with yourself while in the shower or driving around in the car? Replaying arguments in your head? Thinking about what you wish you had said differently? And all of that thinking leads you to feeling shame or like you don’t measure up to other people.
How do you typically feel when you realize what you are doing? Not good.
Putting an end to the negative thinking will lead to greater feelings of self-satisfaction and happiness. You can do this with thought-stopping journaling, which pushes you to reflect more upon what is true in your life.
Tip #6 on How to Live a Happier Life — Get Involved:
Getting involved in what is taking place in your community breeds happiness. Volunteering and practicing generosity help foster greater feelings of thankfulness.
So, what are some organizations that you can get involved in? Do you have a local animal shelter nearby that needs people to play with the guests? Or a food bank that needs help organizing and handing out supplies? Or a school that is looking for adults to read to young students?
There is no limit to your ability to get involved in your community. And it is hard to overemphasize the amount of joy or happiness you can receive from helping others.
You have the power to make another person’s life better. Why not use it?
Tip #7 on How to Live a Happier Life — Be a Friend:
Are you waiting for other people to call or contact you? And then when they don’t…you started thinking that no one loves or cares about you? You may even start feeling a little depressed.
Why wait for people to contact you? You can be the active pursuer and community builder in your friendships. Choosing to be active in your friendships means that you will actually have more interaction with others. That’s what you really want. And that community is what will make you happier or more satisfied in life.
So, make it a goal to reach out to your friends once a day. Maybe even think about one thing you can do to make someone in your friend group feel special.
Tip #8 on How to Live a Happier Life — Practice a Work/Life Balance:
There are times when work feels like it is actually controlling your life. You feel like a slave to your job. Your marriage and family are suffering from it. And you are teetering on the edge of burnout?
Having a healthy work/life balance can save you from a lot of pain. And it just so happens that when you will feel relief from emotional and mental pain, you are a happier person. You can find greater amounts of joy!
And when you are feeling mentally and emotionally well, everyone around you benefits.
Tip #9 on How to Live a Happier Life — Be Quick to Ask for Help:
We live in a society that views individualism as a strength and something to be admired. So, you might be the type of person that puts your head down and attempts to push through challenges and hard times by yourself.
But that is exhausting. If you are not already worn out, you will be shortly.
Life is better when you are not walking through the tough stuff alone. Do not hesitate to seek help when you need it.
And if comes to the point where you feel stuck in your pain or hurt, seek out a professional counselor. You can find the hope, healing, and freedom you are looking for.
You want to infuse some more happiness into your life? Well, you definitely can. You can walk around life with stronger friendships, a healthier marriage, and more self-confidence in your job.
Try implementing a few of these suggestions. You may just find that happiness is soon to follow in your life.
Jason Wilkinson is a mental health therapist and the owner of a Wellspace Counseling. Wellspace Counseling provides counseling for professionals dealing with issues of anxiety and low self-esteem. We serve the communities of Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Tigard, and the Portland Metro Area. We are also able to help people living throughout Oregon through online counseling.