“The biggest lie we’re told is ‘Be with someone who makes you happy.’ The truth is, happiness is something you create on your own. Be with someone who adds to it.” ~Unknown
That’s what we all strive for, right?
Happiness, I mean.
I used to think that happiness was about my external world. If things were going well for me (in my career, social life, relationships, etc.), then I was happy. If things weren’t going well, which things often weren’t in one area or another, I felt frustrated, angry, or defeated.
Later, I realized that long-term happiness isn’t about external events. It starts from within and most importantly, it’s a skill to be learned and developed.
To live your best life, you need to realize that happiness doesn’t happen to you—it happens because of you. That doesn’t mean if you do all the right things you’ll feel happy all the time. No one feels happy all the time. It just means your choices influence how you feel, and if you make healthy choices you’ll likely feel good more often than not.
To help you create a happier life, I’ve put together fourteen habits you can adopt right now. Read them, ponder them, and let them move in with you. Use this list to start building habits that will help you cultivate happiness, no matter your current situation.
1. Look for the silver lining.
It’s said that every cloud has a silver lining. Sometimes they’re hard to find, but in my experience, they’re always there.
When one of my friends passed away a few years ago, I had a hard time finding the silver lining. Life just seemed unfair and brutal.
After a few months I decided to channel all that frustration, anger, and sadness into making a life change. So I quit my job and went traveling for a year. What happened to her made me realize that life can be short, and I wanted to make the most out of mine. That was the silver lining for me.
2. Water your own grass.
It’s so easy to compare ourselves these days. Just by turning on the TV, opening social media, or by having a conversation we can fall into the trap of comparison. That’s not how we build a happy life. We do that by watering our own grass, not by looking to our neighbors’.
So, acknowledge what other people have and use that as inspiration to get to where you want to go. Keep your eyes on your lane and build, create, and nurture what you want more of.
3. Move the phone away from the bedroom.
For many people, the last thing they see before falling asleep is their phone. It’s also probably the first thing they see when they wake up. (Confession: I’m guilty as charged when it comes to this.)
By checking your phone first thing in the morning you allow other people, apps, and email notifications to dictate how you feel. You start the day being reactive instead of deciding for yourself what to focus on.
Get yourself an alarm that isn’t your phone (or at least put it on airplane mood). Then create a short bedtime and morning routine that makes you feel good. I like to spend a few minutes visualizing, meditating, or appreciating to set my attention straight.
4. Setup feel-good reminders on your phone.
Oh, this is something you have to do right now! Go to your phone calendar and set up one or two daily reminders to yourself. At 9am every morning I get the notification “I’m enough” to remind myself that no matter how I’m struggling or what other people think or say, I am enough!
At 1pm another affirmation pops up saying “I deserve the best and I always get it.” This one always makes my heart smile because it reinforces my worth and compels me to consider how my present circumstances might actually be in my best interest.
Treat your future self nicely by setting up at least one feel-good- daily reminder. It will help you to change course during the day, if needed.
5. Go for a walk in nature.
I’ve quite recently realized the power of connecting with nature. This is a place to reconnect and ground yourself.
Fun fact: Nature is said to have a natural frequency pulsation of 7.83 hertz on average (the so-called Schumann resonance).
This frequency (7.83 hertz) is supposedly also the brain’s average alpha frequency. The alpha state is where we feel relaxed and calm. Pretty epic, right? So, make it a daily habit to walk in nature and tune yourself into a happier and more relaxed version of yourself.
6. Take 100 percent responsibility.
This is always a game changer for me. I often avoid responsibility at first (much easier to turn to blame, criticism, or excuses, right?) But you can’t change a situation if you don’t first take 100 percent responsibility for it.
Look at any area in your life that you’re not fully satisfied with (your finances, health, career, love, social life, etc.). Then decide to take full responsibility for changing it. It might be true that someone else is to blame for a situation, but the only way you can change things is by taking responsibility for what’s within your control.
7. Stop complaining.
Oh, it’s so easy to complain. To look at what isn’t working or what other people are doing wrong and to criticize and condemn. But that doesn’t solve any problems.
If you don’t like something, change it. If you’re unable to change it, your only option is to change your attitude about it. Next time you feel like complaining, ask yourself what you can be grateful for in this situation. For example, if a bus driver is rude to you on the way to work, you can choose to focus and give thanks to the fact that you are able to ride the bus to work.
8. Communicate confidence through your body.
Our body reflects how we feel. If you are nervous and anxious, you can be sure that your body is mirroring that. You might flicker with your gaze, speak quietly, or hold a posture that signals insecurity.
The positive thing is that this mirroring also happens the other way around. So start communicating to your mind by using your body. Stand up tall and straight, look other people into the eyes, and speak up. Tell your mind, by using your body, that you’re safe, appreciated, and comfortable where you are.
9. Spend time on what matters.
If we want a happy life, we have to fill it with happy moments. This means spending time on things that matter and with people that matter.
What do you love doing? What brings you joy and happiness? Which people do you feel great being around? Make sure to carve out time every day for what brings you joy.
10. Spend less time on social media.
Oh, social media! Just by opening our phone, we can step into the lives of thousands of people.
Social media can be great in many ways. It can help us to get inspired, connect with people across the world, and share special moments. But it can also lead to feelings of lack, inadequacy, and exclusion.
Be conscious of your mood before engaging in social media. Ask yourself: Am I in a place where I can use it to my benefit? Or am I in a place where it can trigger me negatively? In short, make sure you control your social media experience, not the other way around.
11. Give yourself space during the day.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life. To focus on efficiency, productivity and getting sh*t done. But not making space for yourself during the day will not only create a sense of stress and urgency, it will also stifle your creativity, intuition, and ability to reflect.
So, if possible, be smart about how you set up your day. Give yourself more time than needed to complete a task. Allow it to take an hour and a half instead of an hour. For me, not rushing through tasks has resulted in greater clarity, satisfaction, and (to my surprise!) productivity.
12. Become a master at shifting perspective.
This is my go-to, every day! Whenever I feel bad about a situation, I know there’s another, more beneficial perspective available. For example, if I have a hard time falling asleep, I can either focus on me losing sleep (oh, the horror!) or on the fact that I can handle a night with less sleep and that it’s not a big deal. (And yeah, that’s usually when I fall asleep).
In short, look at any challenging situation and try to find a better-feeling perspective. For example, did you get into conflict with someone? Then this might result in you understanding each other better next time. Do whatever you can to scout out the learnings, upsides, and positive aspects of any difficult situation.
13. Give the gift of allowing someone to help you.
When was the last time you asked someone for help? We tend to believe we have to be strong and independent all the time. But the truth is we’re not wired for independence—we’re wired for collaboration.
In general, people like helping other people. So, why not give someone the gift of allowing them to help you? Ask for their input, advice, or help to move forward. Not only will this add value for you both, you’ll also get closer by helping one another.
14. Turn contrast into clarity.
In life, we experience contrast and difficult situations on a daily basis. Here is the good news: Negative experiences are clues to what you want. A strict and rigid work schedule might tell you that you want more flexibility. Exercise that feels boring or overwhelming might tell you that it’s time to scout a new and fun workout routine.
Contrasts show us what we don’t like. Your job is to acknowledge the dislike and then to turn your head in the other direction. Ask yourself: What do I want instead? How can I make that happen?
Small Daily Steps Toward a Happier Life
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to making changes. So, set yourself up for success by taking action on one of the points I mentioned above. Choose one that makes you excited and once you’ve mastered it, move on to the next point.
Don’t leave your happiness in the hands of chance and external circumstances. Instead, take charge and cultivate happiness from the inside out.
Take small steps to develop habits of happiness and you’ll contribute to making this world a better place.
About Maria Stenvinkel
Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to inspire and empower you to live your best life. Download her free and powerful worksheet: "The Secret to Boosting Your Self-Confidence [Easy Worksheet]."