One of the most frequent questions I receive as a therapist is this:
“How can I be happier?”
And each time I’m asked, I have five responses that most people usually don’t expect.
To learn what they are, keep reading.
“How can I be happier?”
Honestly, this is a bit of a tricky question because I actually don’t think happiness, per se, is the goal. Not of therapy or of any personal growth work.
Sure, it’s lovely to feel happy, yes, but the goal of life isn’t to remain in a static state of happiness.
Rather, I personally and professionally believe that the goal, that our personal growth work goal, is to increase our capacity to tolerate more and more of life’s broad range of emotions – the highs as well as the lows – increasing our ability to more fully show up and engage with the richness of life.
And that said, there are actually some paradoxical tips that I would argue can actually “boost our happiness” as we work towards this other goal of increasing our engagement with all of life’s emotional experiences.
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5 Surprising Tips To Boost Your Happiness + Free Resources
1) Lower your standards.
So many of us expect that we should be consistently happy most of the time that we set a fairly impossible bar for ourselves and are often disappointed when we find ourselves unhappy and “falling short.”
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t continue to strive towards happiness, but recognize it’s only one part of the emotional experience you’re going to face during your days and weeks.
By lowering our standards, our expectation that we “should” be happy all of the time, paradoxically we can increase our sense of overall well-being and contentment by reducing the disappointment in ourselves when we feel something other than “happy.”
2) Invest the time, inquiry, energy, and even finances into cultivating work that truly fulfills you.
The reality is that most of us will spend our lives working to make our way in the world.
Investing all the necessary time, inquiry, energy, and even finances into making sure it’s work that fits you well, harnesses your strengths, and fulfills you, is one of the most worthwhile investments you can ever make as since you’ll be spending a vast majority of your waking hours doing it.
Check out the bottom of this article for some great career-clarifying resources I highly recommend!
3) Decrease or eliminate contact with those who drain, criticize, dislike or don’t support you.
This may sound obvious, but the people we spend time with impact our well-being and happiness enormously. And yet many of us think we’re stuck if we happen to have family or in-laws or old friends who don’t make us feel good.
You’re never stuck and you always get to choose who you want contact with! Even if this is family.
I’m not saying you have to estrange yourself from them (though if you choose to do this if it’s right for you that’s totally valid!), but decreasing the amount of time you spend with them is always an option and increasing the amount of time and contact you gave with people who genuinely uplift you will do wonders for your happiness levels.
4) Take a holistic, integral physiological and psychological approach to your happiness.
With professional support from your doctor, rule out any underlying physical health challenges that may be contributing to a sense of depression or lack of well-being.
Work with a therapist to address any unresolved trauma or chronic distorted thinking patterns that may be interfering with your happiness.
You can start doing all the new happiness-inducing habits in the world, but if you’re suffering from unprocessed trauma or a low-functioning thyroid, for instance, you’re swimming upstream when it comes to your happiness.
5) Work at appreciating what you actually already have.
So few of us fully appreciate the healthy functionality of our bodies, the relative ease of our Western lives, or the fact that we’ve woken yet again to live another day.
As the timeless Joni Mitchell song goes, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone…”
Taking the time to regularly take stock of your life and notice what’s going well, what’s already present can do wonders for boosting our happiness levels.
My favorite way of doing this is a daily gratitude journaling practice where I list 10 things I’m grateful for, 10 ways I experienced abundance lately, and 10 ways I was shown love lately.
You can make this exercise your own by listing out 10 things you may need to consciously focus on like, for instance, 10 ways you feel safe in the world, 10 ways your life is actually pretty great, etc.. Open up a Google Doc or crack open your journal and spend ten minutes on this. You’ll likely feel an emotional shift by the time you complete it.
And, as a gift to you, I’ve created a downloadable doc of 50 gratitude journaling prompts you can use to begin appreciating what it is you already have. You can receive yours here.
How about you?
Now I’d love to hear from you: What’s one unexpected (or expected) tip that you’ve personally found helpful in “boosting your happiness”? Leave a message in the comments below so our community of blog readers can benefit from your wisdom.
And until next time, take very good care of yourself.
- Blog post: “So what kind of career do you want anyways?”
- The Pathfinder by Nicholas Lore (#1 resource I recommend to all my clients wrestling with this question).
- So What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up? Workbook by Martha Beck.
- Little Red Shoes audiobook by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
- Downloadable gratitude journaling prompt list.