What makes you the most happy in life? Life has been stressful lately for almost everyone I know, between politics, the pandemic, climate change, and violence, it’s really easy to get sucked into depression.
The good news is that joy is out there… we just need to look a little harder for it in times of stress. Personally, I am most happy when I have a good laugh, I’m with my family, I am writing or rock climbing. What activities make you the happiest?
Even though it might be really simple, we should all embrace those simple things that make us the happiest! This blog post explores how it feels like to be “happy” and what it says about your personality type, as well as 30 things that are most likely to add to your happiness and satisfaction in life!
What Joy Does to Us
Joy is responsible for the release of those feel-good brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. So is love!
Basically, joy makes us feel really good, both in our bodies as well as in our souls. It’s an external and internal experience. Joy benefits us in ways that go beyond boosting your mood. Joyful emotions help you be more positive, grateful, and resilient.
Joy and Happiness
Joy is a positive feeling of pleasure and true contentedness in the spirit. It is connected with inner peace and life satisfaction. People experience joy in general when they are free from fear, judgment, and feel safe. These positive feelings are associated with a healthy sense of self and esteem.
Whereas, happiness is also a positive feeling, but it’s a more transient feeling of pleasure. You might be happy from a new pair of shoes or from getting a text from a romantic interest. Some describe happiness as being an emotion you experience in the brain.
Also, happy is an emotion that you can fake. You can “put on a happy face”. You can’t fake joy. The difference between joy and happiness is subtle, but it’s an important distinction to make.
Happiness and Success
But the interesting thing is that happiness can lead to achievement, but achievement does not lead to happiness! In other words, happiness is often a prerequisite to success. If you are automatically happy, you’re more likely to be successful. If you pursue success without finding happiness first, once you achieve success, there is no evidence that you’re likelier to be happier than you would be if you were still unsuccessful.
(So if you want to be successful, find joy and happiness first, and success will likely follow!)
“I am most happy when”, Poem by Champs Ulysses Cabinatan
Champs Ulysses Cabinatan, a Filipino poet from Cebu City, describes what makes him happy (and helps you infer what doesn’t). Many of the things he describes are on this list, from family, to feeling free to, just finding enjoyment in the simple things in his life like basketball.
What Your Happy Thoughts Say About You
Like in Peter Pan and the movie Hook, what are your happy thoughts? What are the things that make you happier than anything else in the entire world?
As we age, the things that bring us joy and gratitude are much different than the things that did when we were children. And even as adults, what made us feel happier five years in the past may no longer have that impact.
Our happy thoughts can tell us all about who the most important people are in our lives, what our values and priorities are as a person, and what simple pleasures we love the most.
Here are 30 things that might help you feel less stressed and bring you happiness through your day and life!
30 Things To Do Throughout the Day That Increase Your Happiness!
Happy people tend to play more. It’s a way for them to have fun and connect with others. Play can be structured, as in sports or board games, or it can be unstructured, as in imaginative/pretend.
Science says that play is important because it triggers the release of neurotransmitters which make us feel good inside. Play is also a way for new ideas to come into our minds, so that we can think about them and start coming up with solutions. It’s literally an idea factory!
One study says that “playfulness” might be one indicator of creativity in adults! How cool!
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2) Spend Time with Family
Being with the most important people in our lives can do wonders for our happiness. I know I’m happiest when I spend time with my family – they make me laugh and help me solve problems, to mention a few things.
It’s also more likely that we’ll have “positive interactions” (like laughing together) if we spend time with the people who are most important to us. Having a positive support system is essential to our existence as a human being.
Yep, exercise can bring you happiness! Some of the benefits of exercise are 1) it improves our mood 2) it boosts our self esteem and confidence. 3) it can help with anxiety and depression. Of course, it also helps you develop strong muscles and boost your overall health and wellness.
You don’t have to be an athlete or marathon runner – simply getting your body moving and releasing endorphins can bring happiness!
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Research shows that meditation can be an effective way to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation is when you focus on your breath and let go of intrusive or negative thoughts.
A study found that mindfulness meditation can promote “positive emotions”, such as joy, happiness, love, and serenity. People who meditate also experience an increased sense of belonging, which, again, is integral to the human experience.
Mindfulness and meditation also open us up to non-judgment and letting go of expectations in life.
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5) Be there for someone else
Being there for a friend or another person can also help us feel happier. There is something about being there for another person that makes us happier.
This could mean that you share a smile, give a hug, help a friend solve a problem, or any other number of things that can make people feel more positive and supported. People who help others and practice giving on a regular basis tend to be more prone to experiencing joy.
6) Spend time with your friends
Similarly, just spending time with friends is important for our happiness. You can’t choose the family you’re born into, but you can choose your friends. This is why so many of us think our friends are a bigger representation of who we are as a person.
Friends can help us forget about our problems, they can help buffer life’s difficulties and challenges. They also make it easier to be more productive (by helping motivate you), create a sense of belongingness, and provide someone we trust.
Volunteering is a secret activity that the happiest of us know. Being a volunteer can give us happiness for a few reasons: it helps give back to the community, creates an opportunity to use our skills and talents, meet new people.
Volunteering also makes us happier because we’re doing something good for others.
8) Start a Gratitude Journal
Unconditional gratitude is one of those things that easily boosts our happiness. When you want to feel grateful, you don’t have to get a kickass gift from someone or a promotion. Unconditional gratitude happens when we start to notice the little things in our lives that make a positive difference.
Get an inexpensive journal and start to write down the things that make you experience gratitude.
9) Get out in Nature!
Research says that nature can boost just about everything in our lives. It helps us stress less, experience less fear, relieve muscle tension, reduce a person’s blood-pressure, and generally make you feel better. You literally have less pain when you’re out in nature.
The relief of all these negative aspects can really boost your ability to be happier and more positive.
10) Drink caffeine (yes, really!)
Caffeine temporarily boosts mood, wakefulness, and focus. Basically, it’s a stimulant drug that increases activity of the central nervous system and increases blood flow to the brain. Caffeine is associated with lower risk of depression, which is one of its many benefits.
Drink a couple cups of coffee per day, especially in the morning, but make sure you stop around 2pm!
11) Learn about culture
Learning about a new culture can bring you so many benefits and amazing effects on your life. It is a matter of risk (not knowing the customs or language), adventure (finding your way in a world you know little about), and ultimately really boosting our self-worth and belief in ourselves.
Besides, opening your eyes to new cultures and peoples can help you be grateful for the things you already have in your life!
12) Watch the Stars!
Going outside at night can help you feel something bigger than yourself when you look up and see the stars in the sky. This feeling of awe leads to wonder, discovery, and helps us realize how small we truly are.
While this might seem, on the surface, that this might make you feel worse, stargazing actually helps people let go of their problems and worries and inspires positivity.
13) Spend money on someone else
Spending money actually boosts our positive emotions! But there a caveat: you need to use the money on other people. Spending money to get a homeless person a sandwich, or even just to buy your coworkers flowers makes your day (or week!) happier (and perhaps more happy than they are by receiving your gift!)
So if you need to lift your mood, go out and get something small for someone else!
14) Smile or laugh!
People who smile more tend to be happy people. Smiling is contagious; it’s an easy way to brighten someone else’s day. Plus, smiling is shown to boost mood and relieve stress!
Laughing is a great way to feel better! Laughing can release endorphins and help to reduce stress. It also boosts social bonding, which means we’re more likely to connect with others (and how happy is that?)
15) Let It Go
Our mental and emotional health is stronger when we practice letting go of our anxiety and worries. I’m not talking about ignoring your problems or pretending they don’t exist, I’m talking about taking a deep breath and letting them go.
Taking on the attitude of “it is what it is” can help us approach our lives with more positivity because we are accepting all that comes instead of fighting against everything in life.
Yes, digging their bare hands into some dirt makes people happier! There are so many benefits to gardening, including 1) getting more vitamin D, 2) lower risk of some cancers, 3) more strength through exercise and 4) better sleep.
There is even some evidence that the good bacteria in our soil can help with our gut health, leading to less depression and better mental health.
17) Eat really good food
Enjoying our food can actually release those same endorphins (again). So this is why eating really delicious food makes us want to slow down and enjoy it, and why comfort food tastes so great when we’re feeling down.
Plus, eating good food can help us be more creative! One study found that if you are trying to come up with an idea or solve a problem, the key might not be to do it on an empty stomach, but rather to allow yourself a snack beforehand.
18) Tap into flow
Flow occurs when we are able to enjoy what we’re doing and lose track of time. In a state of flow, we experience greater levels of joy because the activity is giving us an optimal experience and helping us let go of all our other worries and cares.
Flow can affect people by boosting their feelings about their lives and by giving them a sense of self-esteem or confidence.
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19) Be patient
I’m sure most people think that instant gratification is the path toward quicker happiness, but this kind of happiness is often transient. When a person wants longer-lasting happiness, it’s better to be patient.
Patience is shown to lead people to a more fulfilling life, especially in spiritual terms. In fact, when I look at the studies on patience I see that it’s correlated with many other good things like decreased anxiety, increased confidence and lower levels of depression
20) Let go of judgments
Judgments are those little nagging thoughts that we experience when we think something should be a different way. “Wow, her body does not look good in that dress!” or “I can’t believe he said that to me!”
Judgments are never a positive thing, and they’re often flat out negative. (They could even have some pretty negative repercussions.) Judgments are reflective of the threats and fear that we have according to what we tell ourselves about the way the world works.
In order to have lasting happiness, we should let go of these judgments and focus our energy on gratitude.
21) Have sex
Not only can it be considered exercise, but it’s good for your body in many different ways! Sex boosts confidence levels by causing a release of dopamine. Plus it can reduce the bad hormones like cortisol which have been linked to anxiety disorders or depression. Apparently having more sex has been shown to lead to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Plus, it’s fun!
22) Practice positivity
This effect can also extend into relationships – when we meet someone where they are or see the best in them, it increases their own belief in themselves.
23) Be a realist
It may sound contradictory, but being both a realist and an optimist is the best combination:
“Being both optimistic and realistic, i.e. combining the two into one behavioral style of realistic optimism creates a special breed of very successful people. Realistic optimists stay positive and upbeat about the future, even – and especially – if and when they recognize the challenges ahead.”
24) Embrace the little things in life
Each person has something small in life that they relish. Maybe it’s crunchy leaves under your feet in the fall. Maybe it’s the morning sunrise over the mountains. Whatever it is for you, those simple moments that bring you joy could be the matter of happiness or disappointment in life.
25) Write out your emotions
Science research has proven that when you journal, you are able to work through your emotions and express them in a healthy way. Taking time to write out your frustrations and your joy actually helps you brain release all kinds of negativity.
Southern Living says “The mere act of journaling just made (people) calmer and happier.”
26) Take time to be by yourself
Introverted people may have no issue with this, but even extroverted people need to spend time alone. I’m not saying that you need to spend hours alone, but I do think it’s important for all people of any personality type.
The benefits from spending time with oneself are well-documented and include a boost in confidence and sense of self-esteem as well as boosted creativity or problem solving skills, which can contribute to happiness!
27) Take calculated risks
Take calculated risks and take the leap. I know it sounds scary, but I’m here to say that I think taking calculated risks is important in many situations.
If you are unhappy at work or an unsatisfied with your current life situation, a risk may be just what you need to rekindle some happiness!
28) Sleep in!
Research says that when you sleep, you’re setting yourself up for happiness. I know we all are always so busy and have a million things to do, but I also think it’s important to take care of ourselves (even if that only means sleeping in once in a while).
So start your day right by getting enough sleep at night!
29) Be creative!
Happy people are creative people! I don’t know about you, but I have always been a person that is more joyful when I can express my creativity. If you are an artist in any form of art, I think it’s important for you to allow yourself time and space to focus on your creative side!
Creativity tends to bolster your problem-solving and confidence, which in turn can affect your happiness.
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30) Help others find their happiness
Does anything make you happier than helping others find their happiness? I know I feel a sense of pride when I’m able to help someone else. Happiness is such an infectious emotion, so why not pass it on and cheer up the people around you!
As Christopher McCandless, the inspiration behind Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, said:
The difference between happiness in life and a life of depression or disappointment could be a matter of only a few of these things. Whether you take the time to focus on your body (like with exercise or sex), or your mind (as with journaling), you’re sure to have a life of bliss and fulfillment.
Tell me: what makes you the most happy in life?