There is no easy way to happiness, but happiness is the easiest way to live. These five practices reflect small changes you can make to your life that will support lasting happiness and make living the good life a little easier.
“True happiness and fulfillment come when you feel that you are making a valuable contribution to your world.” – Brian Tracy
One big reason why we find it difficult to access happiness is because we postpone prioritizing happiness to a later date. The best time to start practicing happiness-enhancing habits is not in a few weeks when life slows down, but right now. Though it may sound reasonable to start something meaningful when the busy season of your life is over, scheduling happiness for sometime in the future diminishes the probability that you ever begin.
The following strategies are inspired by a course titled A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment and Art Markman’s book, Smart Change: Five Tools to Create New and Sustainable Habits in Yourself and Others.
5 Ways to Support Lasting Happiness
1. Ask yourself the tough questions, every day.
The first approach to sustain happiness is to ask ourselves daily questions that open our eyes to how we’re truly leading our lives. We can get a peer coach to ask us the questions if we need a reliable reminder. The purpose of this strategy is to keep happiness in the forefront of your mind.
The following are a few examples of the kinds of questions you can ask yourself:
- Did I try to prove that I was right yesterday, when it was not worth it? How many times did I try to prove to others (or myself) that I was right?
- How many angry or disturbed comments did I make about people yesterday?
- Did I say anything nice to others?
- Did I do my best to prioritize happiness over other goals, like being right?
Feel free to adjust these questions to fit your personal situation. You can answer these questions silently in your head, aloud, or on paper, but the key to making this step work is to actually do it, every single day.
2. Frame goals in positive terms versus negative terms.
Much of the reason our habits are hard to change is because we frame them negatively most of the time. For example, rather than your goal being, “I don’t want to be sad,” frame your goal in a positive light by saying, “I want to be at peace.” Rather than exercising because you hate your body, move in ways you enjoy because you love your body and want it to feel better.
Think in terms of actions you’re going to perform rather than actions you’re not going to perform. If your goal is to quit doing something negative, ask yourself, “How can I help myself do something positive? What will I do instead?” Take the negative out of the equation and focus on what positive behavior you will be adopting instead.
3. Create an environment that supports happiness.
Happiness depends more on our disposition than environment and circumstances, yet creating an environment that supports happiness is not unwise. Your environment is a great influence in your life. Your environment will either make it easier for you to make happiness-enhancing decisions, or it will hinder your ability to do so.
Alter your environment so that desirable behaviors are easier and undesirable behaviors are difficult to maintain. Put yourself in more situations where you’re better able to eat healthier, laugh louder, judge less, avoid frustration, and smile more. If you know that being out in nature brings you peace, set your day up so it’s almost impossible not to go outside. If you know communicating with positive-minded people makes you feel more joyful, spend more time surrounding yourself with these people.
In Alexander Den Heijer’s words, “When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
4. Join other seekers of happiness and fulfillment.
We are a social species and together, we’re pretty amazing. If you spend time with people doing a particular thing, their goals become contagious and you will likely end up wanting to do what they are doing. Spend more time with people who are engaging in the behavior you want to engage in and, naturally, you’re going to partake in that behavior more often.
Sign up to receive emails from your favorite positive websites (like this blog or DailyGood.org, which delivers good news from around the world). Join social media groups that are positive and happiness-oriented. Participate in groups that meet face-to-face once a week or once a month to discuss whatever it is you’re interested in pursuing. And don’t be afraid to ask for help from others who have already made the changes that you want to make.
5. Be open-minded about new happiness-enhancing strategies.
Welcome new happiness-enhancing habits and exercises. Open-mindedness is an important trait, for it allows us to participate in new experiences from which we can learn much about ourselves. An openness also allows us to shed the labels that we so often become attached to that keep us confined to certain behaviors, and restricted from others that would fuel our growth.
Be open to the idea that you don’t need to have a set identity in this life; it can change into whatever you need it to become as you grow and evolve. Give yourself the freedom to evolve continuously, and the easier it will be to adopt new habits and practices that support lasting happiness.
If you find yourself in a behavior pattern in which you’re not experiencing much joy and fulfillment in your life, there’s no reason to believe that persisting in the same set of behaviors is going to make you happier in the future. There must be some kind of change, and that requires stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things with curiosity and faith that the discomfort of a new beginning is a sign of growth and effort.
Every new beginning is an opportunity to live a life worth loving.
What questions will you answer today? How can you inspire change by focusing on the positive instead of the negative? How can you alter your environment to encourage positive change? Who can you learn from and what can you try? Please share your thoughts, practices, insights, and experiences with me in the comments.
Share these happiness strategies with someone who would appreciate them.
Lasting happiness comes from what you are, not what you have.