Most people view happiness as an elusive destination that keeps moving out of their grasp.
But what if I told you that happiness is much simpler than that?
All you have to do is shift your mindset. Stop thinking of happiness as something to strive towards and start thinking of it as something you can practice.
Yes, that’s right. Happiness can be practiced in the here and now. You don’t need to spend thousands of money on a vacation or hundreds of hours groveling just to be able to say you’ve “made it”.
If you really want to be happy in life, start doing these 7 things differently.
1) Accept “ugly productivity”
In his book Someday Is Today, Matthew Dicks says that accepting ugly productivity – that is, productivity that lacks aesthetics – is a huge step forward when it comes to making your dreams a reality.
I’ll be honest. I used to be obsessed with productivity. As a huge nerd and achievement-oriented person, I used to watch dozens of YouTube videos on productivity tips, study sessions, reading vlogs, and more.
But when I looked at my own life, it seemed nowhere near as beautiful as those videos. I didn’t have the money to buy expensive candles. My bedroom was nothing special. I always got bored of color-coding extremely quickly.
But then I accepted that productivity wasn’t always pretty, and as soon as I got stuff done, what did it matter whether I was lying in bed or sitting in a lovely café?
This mindset shift helped me eradicate a lot of friction from my life and focus on what truly mattered: the work itself.
Sometimes, dressing up, lighting a candle, and making myself a nice cup of tea helps me get into the flow. There’s no doubt about that. But there are just as many days when I stay in my pajamas.
There is no “right” place or “right” atmosphere to be productive. As long as you feel comfortable, you’re good to go.
2) Don’t stuff yourself into a suit that doesn’t fit you
And speaking of feeling comfortable, our next rule is to stop trying to force your body to be something it’s not.
Let’s talk about energy levels. Your energy fluctuates throughout the day. Of course, energy can be influenced to a certain degree – for example, eating lots of sugar gives you an energy spike only to make you crash hours later – but some of it is just up to your genetic makeup.
In the book Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, Matthew Walker explains that some people truly are night owls, and since our current world isn’t built for them, their sleep cycles suffer as a result.
He says: “Night owls are not owls by choice. They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hardwiring. It is not their conscious fault, but rather their genetic fate.”
This is exactly why waking up at 5 AM isn’t for everybody. If you can’t wake up early, go to the gym, work on your side hustles, and only then start a 9-5, it’s not a failing of character.
It just means you need to listen to what your body wants a little bit more carefully.
Don’t stuff yourself into a suit that doesn’t fit you. Find a suit in a different size that sits on you just right.
3) Embrace slow change
It’s 1 AM, and you’ve suddenly decided you will turn your whole life around. From now on, you will start working out and eating a nutritious diet.
You will look after your hair, learn to follow a five-step skincare routine, and stop biting your nails. Oh, and you’ll also do half an hour of language learning every day, followed by an hour of reading about history.
The first two or three days work pretty well. You’re on cloud nine. Wow, life seems more amazing than ever before! You’ve achieved so much in so little time!
But once the fourth or fifth day rolls around, your new habits begin to slowly fall apart. You skip language learning. You don’t put on your new hair mask because you’re too lazy. You take a break from the gym that lasts three weeks.
Look, we’ve all been there. And let me tell you that having all your new habits vanish into thin air as time goes on doesn’t mean you have a weak will or are just inherently lazy.
In fact, building habits is incredibly hard. You’re essentially rewiring your brain. If you try to do too much tweaking at once, you’ll get overwhelmed and probably won’t stick to anything for very long.
This is why it’s crucial to embrace slow change. Start with one habit. After a few weeks, add another one. Don’t try to do too much too quickly.
This year, I’ve managed to make more habits stick than ever before because I spaced them out throughout the entire year.
Slow and steady wins the race.
4) Reconfigure your approach to “negative” emotions
We tend to think of anger, grief, frustration, and anxiety as inherently negative emotions.
They make us feel uncomfortable, after all. Unlike excitement or satisfaction, they aren’t pleasant.
But at its core, an emotion is a temporary state of mind manifested through a physical sensation. And more often than not, that emotion serves a purpose.
Fear notifies you of danger. Anger fights for you. Grief is a way to process terrible events and release the shock of it all.
Of course, emotions can get out of hand. Anxiety can manifest when no danger is present because of your past experiences, and anger can get in the way of healthy relationships if it has too much power over you.
But at the end of the day, your emotions mean well. They are your body’s way of protecting you in the best way it knows how.
Instead of seeing your “negative” emotions as something bad you need to get rid of, what if you accept them and try to process them in ways that help you rather than hinder you?
What if you go to the gym when you’re angry, cry when you’re sad, and dance and shake when you’re anxious?
As Rudá Iandé says in his free masterclass Free Your Mind, “positive” and “negative” feelings are just two sides of the same coin. Happiness isn’t purely good, and sadness isn’t purely bad.
Acceptance of these mental states has been shown to promote psychological well-being.
5) Romanticize the mundane
Ever since I can remember, I’ve romanticized my life.
One of my favorite YouTubers, Unjaded Jade, calls it casual magic, while many people on TikTok have begun to refer to it as glimmers.
Whatever you call it, romanticizing your life is all about noticing the beauty in the mundane, soaking it in, and marveling at the magic in the world around you.
It’s essentially a form of mindfulness – instead of being stuck in your head while you walk down the street, you stop for a moment to admire the sunset painting the buildings orange, and in that single moment, it is just you, the sunset, and an incredible sense of marvel.
As the years go by, I find myself noticing casual magic more and more often. And every time I soak in the small and beautiful thing I’m focusing on, I feel myself becoming more at peace.
Every day, try to find your own glimmer or piece of casual magic. Every day, add a tiny bit of romance to your life.
6) Don’t be afraid to give up
Each year, I sign up for a reading challenge on Goodreads.
I love reading challenges, but over the years, I’ve realized that there’s one disadvantage to them – once you’re halfway through a book you don’t much enjoy, you refuse to give up on it because you want to add it to your list.
You’ve already invested so much time and effort, after all! You might as well finish it, right?
As a consequence, you end up in a one-month-long reading slump and read much fewer books than you would have if you gave up on this particular one in favor of something more up your street.
This is why I decided to change my approach to giving up in general.
If I’ve already invested a lot of time into something, it doesn’t mean I should invest even more. If the thing itself isn’t contributing more good than bad to my life, why would I spend even *more time* on it?
Don’t be afraid to give up. Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need in order to grow in a new direction.
7) Do things out of self-love, not self-hate
I used to hate exercise. It made me feel like dying, it wasn’t fun, and what’s more, the results were extremely slow. But this year, I fell in love with going to the gym.
So, what’s changed?
My motivation. I used to go to the gym because I hated how I looked. I wanted to slim down, so I pushed myself to work hard, hating every second of it.
Then I shifted my focus from slimming down to growing in strength. I no longer viewed working out as a means to an end but rather as an exploration of what my body could do on a practical level.
I stopped exercising because I hated my body and I started exercising because I loved it and wanted to give it the chance to be healthier.
My confidence skyrocketed.
What are you doing out of self-hate? And how can you turn it into self-love?
As my friend always says, “You can’t hate yourself into a better place.”