I believe that everything we do, every relationship we make and every goal we set is driven by one ultimate goal – to be happy and content.
What makes you happy? Is it more money? Is it success at work? Or great relationships? Believe it or not, these are just external factors that may give us a temporary high and short-term happiness. However, to be happy and content consistently is a state of mind – it comes down to our thoughts, attitudes, behaviors and lifestyle choices.
Genuine and long-term happiness and contentment come from a deeper and longer-lasting feeling of satisfaction and gratitude towards our lives. This is something that we can all do. In this article, I will share 10 habits to help you become more happy and content.
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1. Develop Close Friendships
Close friendships are great for your mental and physical health. They improve your mood, boost your self-esteem, reduce stress and the chances of getting sick. Spending time with close friends leads to a happier, more fulfilling life, and increases your sense of belonging and purpose.
There was a study that showed that 94% of adolescents saw their friends pretty much every day. The same study also showed that 91% of retired people saw their friends almost every day. Something seems to go wrong in the middle years. Whether it’s because of work, family, or kids, many of us spend very little time with our friends.
Friendships are important in difficult times. When you’re going through a divorce, a job loss, serious illness, or death of a loved one, a great circle of friends can help. Friends make life happier, more fulfilling, colorful, and exciting. I recommend having a weekly friend ritual where you take the time to meet up with a close friend once a week.
2. Take Responsibility
This is the first step towards any improvement in life, and it includes taking responsibility for your emotional state and happiness.
As soon as you blame the economy, someone else, your upbringing, lack of skills or intelligence, you become powerless. You take away your ability to change and you feel like a victim. Feeling like a victim and powerless will make you unhappy.
If you want to be happy and content, take responsibility and change things that make you miserable or sad. Think about your life and ask yourself:
- Can I take responsibility for this situation?
- What can I change about this?
- What can I do to not feel that I’m being a victim?
3. Become a Happiness Detective
If you want to be happy and content, try focusing on the good things in your life – the good things about your health, work, where you live, or your family and friends.
We usually focus on what we don’t want and what we don’t have in our lives. A great way to change this is to practice gratitude. Notice and appreciate what you already have in your life. Appreciate everything that is going well. To learn how to do this more effectively, read my article about gratitude.
Remember that there’s good in almost everything. If you’re often unhappy, it will take time and effort to focus on the good before it becomes a habit. It’s like building a physical muscle. You’re building a mental muscle by focusing on what you already have and appreciate. The more you do it, the more your unconscious mind will pick up on it, and the more it will become a positive habit.
4. Set and Achieve Goals
Happy people set goals. If you look at your main areas of life – your work, relationships, and health – you’ll find that you’re either improving or declining. We rarely stay still in any area of life. To ensure that all areas of your life are improving, it’s good to set goals. Many people don’t set goals because they are afraid of not achieving them. However, it’s far better to set goals and do your best to achieve them. If you miss some of them, use this as a learning opportunity.
There is a virtual cycle that goes on here – you set goals, then create a plan. That increases your self-discipline, and then you achieve the goal. When you achieve it, you feel good about yourself. That increases your self-esteem, self-worth and your happiness. Then you set more goals, and the process continues. We are goal-directed individuals, so setting goals is very important if you want to be happy and content.
5. Realize that Happiness is an Inside Job
Long-term happiness doesn’t come from achieving things in life. Why is that? Because the Law of Familiarity kicks in. Let’s say you get a significant promotion at work or a new job. You enjoy that increased responsibility and recognition. You probably have more money and a better lifestyle. That feels great and makes you happier. But over time it becomes normal and familiar.
Then you may think, “Well, there’s something else I need to do to be happy. I’ll go and live in another part of the world”. That feels very exciting. I did that 10 years ago moving from London to Sydney and it was great for the first few months. But then it became familiar and normal. The Law of Familiarity means that anything new and significant you achieve in life will eventually become familiar and normal.
Also watch out for “I will be happy when…” thinking. For example, when you’re at school and you don’t like discipline, you may think “I’ll be happy when I go to university”. At university you have freedom, but you are broke. So you think, “I will be happy when I get a job and get some money”. Then, you get a nice job and money comes in, but you face other challenges – routine, stress, or pressure from other people. Maybe you think, “When I get married, I’ll be happy and content”. And when it happens, it feels great. But over time, it becomes the new normal.
You can see how easily this can increase to “When I have kids I’ll be happy” and then ultimately “When I retire I’ll be happy”. “I will only be happy when…” is a kind of thinking you need to stop. Happiness is not a deferred payment plan! You can be happy and content in this moment. There’s almost like a limiting belief that I need to do this or have that to be happy. Remember that that’s not true. Happiness is something you create from the inside and you can be happy right now.
It’s often the smallest and most basic things that can make you happy and create memorable moments in your life, such as:
- Being grateful for what you already have.
- Smiling and having an uplifting posture.
- Listening to some great music.
- Quality time with your partner and close friends.
- Getting out in nature for a few hours.
- Having a lot of variety and doing lots of different activities.
6. Release Resentment
When you have resentment or a grudge towards another person, it’s you who feels it, not the other person. That person is probably not even aware that you’re thinking about them or having any of those feelings. A resentment or grudge is something that you hold inside. You are the victim. It’s you that feels violated and it’s you that feel someone else is stopping you or holding you back.
It also means that you are not taking responsibility because you are blaming someone else for your unhappiness and inability to succeed in life. Forgiveness and being able to let go is crucial for your happiness. When you do this, you will feel joy, peace, and calm. You can learn more about ways to release negative emotions in my article about the Sedona Method.
7. Cultivate Faith and Peace of Mind
Unhappy people worry a lot. Happy people have faith that everything will turn out fine. Here are 2 great ways to develop this attitude:
Use positive and soothing self-talk.
Having a positive and soothing internal voice means saying things like “You’re doing your best”, “We’ll work it out” and “Everything is okay”.
Welcome and accept all emotions.
Let all emotions flow through you – the good and the bad ones. When you resist emotions, they tend to stay. When you experience them or express them, they move on. Emotions are like clouds in the sky. If you just let them pass, they will move on.
8. Face Your Fears
Facing fears and taking risks is crucial if you want to be happy and content. When you don’t deal with stuff, it festers inside. Taking risks, facing your fears, and overcoming them feels great. That takes you out of your comfort zone and you get the sense of aliveness that comes from achieving something that you thought was hard or even impossible.
I encourage you to do one thing every day that is a bit uncomfortable. You could try a different food at lunchtime, tackle a difficult issue at work that you’ve been putting off, or deal with a difficult person.
Whatever risk you take, make sure it is calculated. Weigh up all the options first. And remember that behind every risk there is a reward – the satisfaction and the feeling of aliveness that comes from tackling challenging and difficult situations.
9. Develop Hope
A lack of hope and a feeling that there is no way out is the main reason people get depressed. Developing hope is key to getting out of any kind of depression. Hope can be built on a conviction that:
- You will find an answer or a solution to a problem.
- You are doing the right thing.
- You are being guided by a higher power that will help you through this.
Your nervous system responds to your perception rather than the circumstances. Hope makes all situations possible and tolerable. Some helpful ways to develop hope include:
- Working out the steps from where you are now to where you want to be.
- Looking for role models that have already overcome the adversity or challenge you’re facing.
- Doing kind things for others – a great way to get out of your head and forget any problems for a while.
- Practicing mindfulness – letting your mind focus on one thing at a time. When you focus completely on one thing, anxious thoughts will subside. You’ll then feel more present, calm and happy instead.
10. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
Comparing yourself with others always leads to unhappiness. It’s a recipe for misery because it gets you focused on what you don’t like about yourself and your life. Here are some tips to help you not compare yourself with others.
Compare yourself with who you want to become.
- What can I improve?
- How can I become more loving?
- How can I become more successful?
- How can I become a nicer person today than I was yesterday?
- How can I improve in all areas of my life?
Be okay with your past.
You may regret some things that happened in your past. Maybe some events in the past were very difficult for you, or even unfair. That’s okay. Remember that your past has helped you become the person you are today.
Take a break from social media.
Social media highlights all the great things that are happening in other people’s lives. It’s the opposite of the news. The news always tells you what’s going wrong in the world. Social media tells you all the wonderful stuff that’s happening. The reality is somewhere in between.
Take a break from social media if you feel it makes you feel inadequate or lacking something. Remember that when you look at people who seem to have it all, they might not be happy inside. You never know what someone is feeling inside. Although they may seem to have all that success on the outside, it doesn’t mean that they are happy.
So these are my 10 habits that will help you be happy and content. I encourage you to apply these into your life right now.
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