C’mon, everyone, get happy! If that sounds too hard, maybe you’ve been going about it all wrong. It’s time to stop waiting to hit the jackpot, meet Mr. or Ms. Right, or land that sweet job. True happiness doesn’t come from externals like that.
Instead, take a cue from happy people. Embrace these habits that help them feel great.
Evaluate your bandwidth and set boundaries
It goes without saying that you won’t be happy if you’re overwhelmed with life. Happy people know their limits and pare back obligations to fit both their energy and time. They also know this is not a one-time evaluation and is something that needs to be reviewed periodically.
Once happy people know their bandwidth — that is, how much time and energy they are willing to spend on various activities — they set boundaries so other people don’t encroach on it. That means learning to say no… a lot.
Schedule regular downtime
All work and no play is no fun. It can also be a real drain on your happiness. A 2016 survey by Booking.com found that nearly half of respondents said a vacation brought them more happiness than their wedding day.
Of course, you don’t need to go on vacation to find happiness. Scheduling regular work breaks and time for leisure activities works just as well for many happy people.
Also, make sleep a priority. The American Psychological Association says chronic sleep deprivation may be “one of the most significant and overlooked public health problems in the U.S.” It’s hard to be happy when you’re dragging through the day, so get those ZZZs.
Create realistic goals
Setting goals and creating to-do lists seems to be ingrained in our collective psyche. However, happy people don’t let unrealistic expectations rule them. Instead, they see goals as guides that can be adjusted as needed.
Realistic goals only make you happy if you meet them. In his book “The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM),” Hal Elrod says visualization is one key to success. As Elrod describes it, this practice can be as simple as closing your eyes for a few minutes and mentally walking yourself through all the tasks of the day that need to be done to meet goals, create success and enjoy happiness.
Listen to music
A pair of studies published in 2013 by the University of Missouri found that people who listened to positive or upbeat music, such as that of composer Aaron Copland, reported feeling happier than those who listened to more somber composers such as Igor Stravinsky.
The catch is that participants also had to be trying to feel happier in order to get a mood boost from music.
Volunteer regularly and be generous
One way happy people show generosity is by volunteering their time and talents. To maximize the happiness you get out of this habit, volunteer with an eye toward a specific goal. According to a Stanford researcher, having concrete giving goals creates more happiness than vague ones.
So, instead of volunteering with the intent of saving the world (vague), a volunteer with the intent of increasing local recycling participation (concrete).
Also, be generous in other ways. A 2017 study out of the University of Zurich found those who planned to share even a small portion of an unexpected windfall reported higher levels of happiness than those who planned to keep the money all to themselves.
Find the humor in life
Being able to laugh at life comes with a couple of perks that make people happier. For starters, laughing releases endorphins in the brain that can dull pain and improve mood.
Plus, those who don’t take life so seriously may be able to bounce back from setbacks more readily, according to some research.
Spend time outside
We weren’t made to live in a cubicle, and supremely happy people know this. Instead of staying cooped up indoors all day, they make a beeline for the outside world.
Of course, not all outdoor spaces are the same, and science says spending some time in a natural setting is more likely to improve your happiness level than going for a walk in a busy downtown.