Happiness — isn’t it what we all want more than anything else?
For some, it remains elusive. For others, it comes and goes. For the lucky ones, life is filled with it on a daily basis.
Feeling happy isn’t just something that happens, it’s also something you create.
In this article, we’ll look at the best ways to boost your mood to feel as happy as possible.
1) Count your blessing
Right now I’m in the process of moving. I’ll be honest, it’s super stressful.
There feels like so much to do, so much that is out of my hands, and so much that’s a bit of a pain in the ass.
Life is full of these sorts of irritations — from the big trials and tribulations, to the little inconveniences.
Even with the best intentions in the world, it’s hard to keep stress and anxiety totally at bay. But simply telling yourself you shouldn’t stress does very little.
Instead, one practical thing you can do is practise gratitude.
It doesn’t take life’s irritations away, but it does help you focus your attention away from them.
Because the truth is that no matter what’s going on, there’s always something to be thankful for.
If you want to feel happy, you need to remind yourself of what you’ve got to be happy about.
A gratitude journal or practice works by really helping you to pay attention to and soak up all of those good things.
Research shows it’s associated with greater levels of happiness and can:
- Help you feel more positive emotions
- Help you to relish good experiences
- Help improve your health
- Help you deal with adversity
- Help you build strong relationships
When you wake up, start the day by listing several things (ideally writing them down) that you feel grateful for.
Really let yourself feel the positive emotions it brings. It’s a great way to set yourself up for a good day.
2) Say nice things to yourself
Do you ever feel like you’ve put yourself into a bad mood?
I catch myself doing it all the time.
What I mean is this:
You wake up — so far so good. You go to the bathroom mirror. The first thought that pops into your head is “OMG, I look dreadful”.
Or you’re getting dressed and that little voice in your head questions what you’re wearing, and the shape of your body.
You go into the office and have a meeting with your boss. Before you know it your inner critic is chastising the “stupid” thing you just said.
As the saying goes:
‘With friends like these who needs enemies.’
And sadly, we can be our own worst enemy. We say things to ourselves we would be shocked hearing from someone else.
It can take its toll.
Negative-self talk has been found to encourage anxiety, depression, and stress. Plus, perhaps unsurprisingly it lowers levels of self-esteem.
There isn’t a magic way to cut out all your negative chat, but you can try to become more aware of it.
Instead, purposefully feed yourself positive comments and compliments throughout the day.
3) Move your body and get outside
Happiness is undoubtedly a complex thing. But the irony is that most of the things that create contentment are actually pretty simple.
Often the most basic self-care has the biggest impact on your well-being. I’m talking about trying things like trying to get enough sleep, and eating well.
Another biggie is undoubtedly staying active. The benefits of exercise not only improve your physical health, but also your mental health.
If you can get out into nature for some exercise, even better. Research shows that taking a walk in nature can reduce your risk of depression.
According to the co-author of the study Gretchen Daily:
“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world”.
But getting moving each day is even more basic than that.
I know that when I lie around in bed, it stalls my day and I’m more likely to struggle to get the energy flowing. But when I get up and moving it helps to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Wake up, put some feel good music on, and have a dance around as you get dressed — then see what your mood is like.
Moving your body is a great way to get those endorphins pumping and instantly boost your mood.
4) Get organized
I already mentioned that I’m moving apartments right now. Everything feels a bit chaotic and my “to do” list is never ending.
A lot of the time it can feel like our happiness gets stolen by stress.
But getting organized helps you feel more in control. That way you can try to avoid (or at least reduce) overwhelm and procrastination.
When we feel helpless, it fuels anxiety.
Having a plan and taking little achievable steps each day will make you feel more in charge of your own destiny.
Getting organized might include tidying and decluttering your space.
It can also be getting clear on your priorities for the day, and doing the most important things first.
Setting very small and achievable daily goals helps you to stay on top of things and feel like you have accomplished something.
5) Make time for the things you love and that are important to you
Life is all about priorities. The reality is that some are non-negotiable.
I get it, it’s not as simple as spending your days doing whatever you want.
We’ve got jobs to turn up to, bills to pay, and a list of commitments to fulfil.
But it’s still a really good idea to constantly check in with your priorities and ask yourself:
Am I making time for what is most important to me?
Because here’s the thing:
Often, without realizing it, we spend a lot of our time on the things that don’t matter so much and neglect the things that do.
That might be people, activities, or goals.
Even if you can genuinely only spare 15 minutes a day —savor your “me time” and make it count.
I think we’re all looking for purpose and meaning in life. But rather than “finding” purpose, I really believe we create it. And your version is going to be different from someone else’s.
Growth is important. When we feel stagnant and stuck we can feel low. Having purpose brings meaning to life and makes us happier.
But that doesn’t need to be anything grand. It’s not about curing cancer or being the first person to reach Mars.
Actually, the most humbling elements of life can still be the most rewarding. It’s about creating purpose in what you choose to spend your time doing.
Part of that is staying present, and giving each moment your full attention.
6) Try to live in the moment
Mindfulness is all the rage these days. I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to tell you that meditation is good for you.
It’s widely accepted and confirmed by scientific research that it helps to reduce stress, control anxiety, promote emotional health and even generate kindness .
But shall we be honest? A lot of us still struggle to stick to meditation.
I know I do.
It’s funny how difficult it can feel to sit quietly and do nothing for ten or fifteen minutes.
A couple of times when I was neglecting meditation I found a friend to make an accountability pact with.
We sent each other a text every day, just saying “done” when we’d finished our meditation. I find it really helps.
But if meditation feels impossible for you, there are other things that have some of the same benefits.
It’s actually about promoting mindfulness. By focusing on the present moment you can bring yourself more peace and stop the chattering mind.
That’s why activities like jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, and even coloring books can have a similar calming effect.
Another more active form of mindfulness is breathwork, where you consciously direct your breath in a certain way.
You can check out a few exercises to try by clicking here.
7) Smile and laugh
I know it sounds a bit obvious. Happy people laugh and smile.
But rather than wait to be happy before you think you’ve got something to smile or laugh about — you can try it the other way too.
Even when you don’t feel like it, you can still fake it till you make it.
If you want an instant mood boost, this might be your best bet.
For example, smiling helps you to release cortisol and endorphins that can strengthen your immune system, reduce pain, and increase endurance (amongst other things).
Meanwhile, laughter has a similar effect. Just having a little chuckle can help relax your muscles, lower your stress hormones, and ease tension.
You might want to watch your favourite comedy show, or see some stand up. There’s even something called laughing yoga which helps promote intentional laughter.
Personally, when I’m having a bad day I watch the so-called laughing yogi, Ramesh Padney, for a few minutes and it never fails to have me in stitches.
8) Picture yourself living your best life
You may have got told off as a kid in class for doing it, but daydreaming is sort of good for you.
Visualization is big in the wellness world. The idea is that you create images in your mind’s eye of the outcome you hope for.
Visualization can be a good relaxation technique. But it can also improve your mood in other ways too.
You can picture yourself as the person you most want to be. You can imagine your life exactly the way you want it.
Doing so can lift your spirits and inspire you to keep on going when things are tough.
Far from simply wishful thinking, the results can be powerful.
As Dr. Gia Marson puts it:
“It works because the mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t with repeated practice, especially when all five senses are incorporated into the visualization. Essentially, you can trick the brain into thinking that you already have what you desire, or that you already ironed out all the kinks to a problem, whether it’s increased confidence or better school grades. Simply put, visualization serves as a motivational amplifier to promote positive behavioral changes that may lead to success.”
9) Stay connected…but not too connected
Make plans, talk to strangers, and call your loved ones. Join community groups, go to meet-ups, and send a text to check in on someone.
Connection is really important to us.
But here’s the caveat:
You need to know when to disconnect too.
Time to yourself is important. As an introvert I know that’s when I recharge.
In a modern global world, it’s easy to fall into the trap of 24-7 communication.
I’m not going to bash social media, email, or smartphones. They make life easier in many ways.
But they can also create stress.
The darker side is that social media can lead to comparison, pressure, and a weird feeling of isolation.
So I guess we need to be mindful of the impact it could be having on us.
A good dose of self-awareness helps you find your own sweet spot.
For me, that looks like forcing myself to get out of the house and meet up with friends. But giving my phone a bedtime so I’m not scrolling away when I should be winding down for the day.
To boost your mood, stay connected to the people around you, but be aware of when you need to switch off and recharge your battery.
10) Frame your day in a positive way
It’s so easy to dwell on the mistakes, problems, and challenges. But we need to learn to let it go so that we don’t end up sweating the small stuff.
What’s done is done. But leaving it in the past can be easier said than done.
That’s why most of the things in our daily routine of mood boosting habits is about encouraging a more supportive mindset.
At the end of each day try to think about what went right.
What were your wins? What were the highlights?
This is about training your brain to pay attention to the good bits too.
Before you go to bed, think about what you have achieved, and the things you can feel proud of.
Focus on the small wins and recognize your efforts.
If you start the day with gratitude and end it with celebration you are going to feel happier every day.