Updated: Mar 3, 2021
#1 Complement others
Having kind thoughts about others and practicing kindness will have an inner transitional effect on you. It cost nothing to bring others joy, and it will have a paradoxical impact in bringing you return joy. You will find that practicing kindness towards others is a far more enduring happiness than happiness from self-seeking or self-centeredness.
I had a client once who was wanting help in his relationships with others. He said he comes off as standoffish, very matter-of-fact, and blunt. Any work towards being kind to others was being "fake" or not true to who he is, and it was just his personality. In actuality, being kind to others makes you more true to yourself. We have natural inclinations to goodness, happiness, interpersonal relationships, and truth. Any obstacle that keeps us from attaining these natural inclinations keeps us from being who we truly are. You are free to reject these inclinations, put up a mask and be uncharitably blunt, but it is a weakness in your human nature. The person who can act on these natural inclinations to the good, is the person who is really true to themselves, and your happiness depends on it.
#2 Practice gratitude:
Positive psychology research has shown consistently that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. Gratitude will help you become more aware of positive emotions, relish good experiences, and handle adversity.
Our negative thoughts can form bad habits in us. Each time you have negative thoughts or ruminations, you increase the tendency to seeing negativity everywhere - you become fixed on negativity. When we see anything through the eyes of habituation, eventually, it will lead the intellect to be unable to see anything in proper regard. You may very well be making lemons out of lemonade. The opposite effect is true when we practice positive thoughts of gratitude.
At the end of every day sit down and write about your blessings. What might you be grateful for. What might someone less fortunate than you appreciate if they were living in your shoes? Consider other people's misfortunes. You are more likely to see more good that you have been overlooking. Socrates once said,"If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart."
If you are a religious person, this would be a good time to thank God for those blessings.
#3 Surround Yourself With Positive People:
I can not tell you how much this makes a difference in my life. We all act differently around others than we do at home. Does that mean we act more true to ourselves at home, or is it that we let our guard down and forget how to act appropriately? Reflecting back on number one, I think it is the latter. My friends make me want to be a better person, a better husband, a better father. I do not put on a mask around them any more than they do around me. It is practice for the home and for everyday interaction with the community at large. Find people who lift you up, who make you want to be better, and who are not afraid to give constructive criticism when you fall short. It will make a massive difference in your life!
#4 Listen to positive music.
Many people will deny that music influences us, especially in the context of violence in music, which quite possibly invokes violence in the listener. But the truth of the matter is those who deny this are rejecting the obvious. The movie industry certainly understands how music affects emotions when they aim to build suspense. Think of the movie Jaws or any Horror movies compared to romance movies. I have thought to myself many times through the 2020 year with the amount of protesting and violence that has taken place against opposing forces that I should show up at these rallies with a megaphone blasting uplifting easy going music in the middle of the chaos. I might still do this! Don't tempt me.
Countless studies have also shown that different types of melodies, chord progression, and time signatures, can either lead one to feel happiness and joy or sadness and grief. We instinctively know this and feel it. So, make an effort to listen to more positive uplifting music and do away with the trash (that would be anything produced after the 1990s). Lol.
#5 Get Outdoors and in Nature.
The sun, sounds of songbirds, the smell of a flower, or the snowy silence on a starry night are natural antidepressants. If you cannot get out in the weather, bring nature indoors. Plants in the home will give you something to take care of and bring much positive energy. The internet is inundated with studies that show how it helps reduce blood pressure, lower heart rates, lessens muscle tension, reduces stress hormones and pain, and its association with positive moods. Enjoy nature go for a walk and get the added benefit of exercise. Exercise is always best I say when you don't know you're doing it.
#6 Learn How You Define Happiness:
How you define happiness has everything to do with what kinds of relationships you form, how you carry those relationships, the jobs you seek. Your definition of happiness becomes your purpose in life and your self-identity. It has everything to do with how you determine self-worth and whether or not our lives are worth living. I discuss this more here in a book review about the four levels of happiness. The important thing is to evaluate whether or not you are seeking disproportionate happiness in good feelings that are pleasant in the moment, in which the pleasure does not go beyond the activity that produced it, or more enduring happiness that is less immediate but rooted in greater goods such as serving and loving others, enjoying being present in the moment, and thus more fulfilling.
This is my list of how to find and live a life of happiness. It is not a comprehensive list by any means. The most important things to remember is to get active, be true to your natural good inclinations and enjoy what it is you are drawn to. Lastly if you are suffering from depression, find a therapist that can help not only in doing away with depression but help you live the life of happiness and values you seek.