Admit it: You’ve found yourself waiting around for something like an internship, a great opportunity or even someone (ahem, Prince Charming) to swoop in and become the source of your happiness. Despite the countless times we’ve all been there, the greatest predictor of how happy you’re going to be once these things do happen for you is how happy you were before, according to Dr. Pat Love, an author, relationship consultant and workshop presenter. It’s about time you start taking charge of making yourself happy, because you deserve it! We’ve got you covered with things you need to do as well as things you shouldn’t do in order to be happy.
While it may sound silly, smiling is a great happiness boost. According to Susanna Halonen, a.k.a. the Happyologist (she’s a happiness expert!) and a coach, trainer and speaker, when you smile, your brain receives a message to release endorphins, which are happy hormones. When these hormones are released, you want to smile even more.
“Smiling is basically a self-reinforcing feel-good cycle!” Halonen says. “Even a forced smile can make you feel better if you’re feeling frustrated or stressed.”
2. Get more sleep
While it may be tempting to stay up for just one more episode (or two or three more episodes) of your favorite show on Netflix, don’t! Sleep is a key ingredient to a person’s well-being and happiness.
“Your body and mind need sleep in order to recover from the day, digest what you learned and get you energized for the next day,” Halonen says.
If you have time, try to squeeze in even a 15-minute power nap (15 minutes is the perfect amount of time to recharge, according to Halonen) during the day to boost your energy and positivity. At night, Halonen recommends getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep to prepare for the next day.
3. Prioritize your values
This one might be more difficult, as it requires some serious thinking. Dr. Ruth Baer, professor of psychology and author of The Practicing Happiness Workbook: How Mindfulness Can Free You from the Four Psychological Traps that Keep You Stressed, Anxious, and Depressed, believes you can accomplish this goal by asking yourself what you truly care about in life.
“Do you want to be a good friend, a good student, a good worker, someone who makes meaningful contributions to things that are worthwhile to you?” Dr. Baer says. “Take an honest look at whether you’re living your life in accordance with your true priorities.” Although it may be challenging and take time, prioritizing what and who you want to be can transform the way you see yourself and your life.
4. Surround yourself with positive people
To be happy, it’s important to be surrounded by people who aren’t going to bring you down. The expression “misery loves company” is undoubtedly true.
Dr. Love encourages the development of a support system full of positive people. “We have to have people in our life, but you shouldn’t ever let yourself get stuck with someone who feeds off of negativity,” she says. “Cut the defeatists and pessimists out, and be with people who make you feel good about yourself.”
When it comes down to it, a real friend would encourage your happiness, not bring you down. Don’t be afraid to shy away from those who have a negative effect on you.
5. Think positively
Moreover, you can’t bring yourself down, either! The process of becoming a more positive person is simple: Think good thoughts.
“Positive emotions are good for us: They motivate us to explore the environment, learn, grow, be creative and bond with others,” Dr. Baer says. “All of this contributes to a good mental health.”
Basically, if you want to be happy, you have to think happy!
Studies have shown that regular exercise can be even more effective than medication when it comes to treating certain cases for depression.
“When you exercise, you release happy hormones, which make you naturally feel good,” Halonen says. “It also gives you a sense of achievement and boosts your self-confidence, both of which have a role in your happiness.”
Try to find a workout routine that you actually enjoy, whether you’re at home or on the go, and commit to it! Try to work out for at least 30 minutes a few times a week. Like the great Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy!”
7. Focus on the little things
It’s always refreshing to take a step back from the big picture that is your life and appreciate all of the things around you that often go unnoticed.
“You’ll start seeing small, pleasant moments that you might have overlooked before: things like the feel of the air on your skin, the taste of good food, pleasing sights like flowers, animals or the smile on a friend’s face,” Dr. Baer says. “If you’re patient, over time noticing these things will increase your overall happiness level.”
If you make an effort to adopt this outlook, you’ll be a much happier person.
1. Expect life to be easy
With happiness comes acceptance. Being realistic about the hardships of life will get you a lot further than expecting everything to come easily.
“Pursuing your highest goals and priorities is inherently challenging and has lots of stressful, difficult moments, along with the deeply satisfying ones,” Dr. Baer says. “Stop trying to avoid or get rid of these difficult moments, and instead, embrace them. Use the wisest part of your mind to cope with them constructively.”
Easier said than done, right? Some studies show that complaining is a horrible waste of energy and is harmful to your mental health.
If you find yourself constantly grumbling, Halonen says there are two things you can do to deal with it. “One, use the energy towards trying to change the thing you’re complaining about,” she says. “Two, if you can’t change it, then change your attitude about it.”
Try to learn from the situation, and focus on the positive. For example, if you’re having issues with your roommate, you’ll probably find yourself complaining about her to your other friends. Instead, use your energy to try and change the situation by sitting down and talking to her! If that doesn’t fix things, move on to step two and try to change your attitude toward her and whatever is bothering you.
3. Be a worrywart
Like complaining, worrying is a huge waste of energy. To overcome your worries, there are also two options:
“If you can control the thing you’re worrying about, then go and do something towards it so you can stop worrying about it,” Halonen says. On the other hand, if you can’t control whatever you’re worrying about, don’t waste your energy on it. Invest that energy into something more useful. You can’t expect every part of your life to go as planned, so don’t bother worrying about things out of your control!
Nobody can give you true happiness except yourself. Waiting around for an SO, a job or anything else to make you happy other than yourself is a waste of time because you have so much potential to boost your own mood. You deserve to feel the best, so start working towards a happier you!