6 Simple and Effective Ways to Be Happier Every Day

When asked what we most desire from life, many of us say, "I just want to be happy."  And what do we want most for our children?  Happiness.  Many of us even consider it a basic human right, as in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."


Yet often we aren't as happy as we could be.


Perhaps this is because we spend so much time gripped by discontent.  Whatever our circumstances, we continually wish for more, better, and different.


light for today



Two influences


There are two forces that push us in the direction of discontent. 


1.  External

Our culture is designed to make us discontented.  Ads, media, and influencers are constantly reminding us that whatever we possess must be the latest and greatest.  Our economy depends on us to keep up with changing fashions, cutting-edge technology, higher-end transportation, and the next must-see destination.


We're told that we're missing out on something better if we don't wear the current looks, follow the latest diet trend, experience the hottest entertainment, or dine at the newest destination restaurant.


Every time we focus on something we don't have, we lose sight of what we already possess and feel discontented.  That mindset is exactly where retailers want us to be, because it primes us to buy what they're selling.


3.  Internal

We can't blame all of our tendency toward discontent on outside forces.  It seems to be our default pattern.


Psychologists call this tendency hedonic adaptation.  It's in our nature to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.  In other words, regardless of what happens to us or what we acquire, we revert to the same level of happiness we had before the change occurred.


We see this when we buy a new car, house, or even a new outfit or handbag.  At first, we're excited about driving, having people over, or simply wearing our new acquisition.  We'll tell anyone who'll listen about the special features or what a great deal we got with our purchase.  But all too soon, we adapt.  The newness fades, and the item recedes into the background of all we own.  We're neither more nor less happy than we were before.  And so we repeat the process.


If we believe that we'll feel happier or more complete if we just buy or experience or achieve a certain thing, we'll always be disappointed eventually.  We can never be permanently satisfied in this way.


As a result, we don't notice happiness.  When we measure it according to those high points, they seem to last for such a short time.  We focus more on our feelings of discontent, which makes us feel that we're not really happy most of the time.


But we're not so much unhappy as unappreciative.


How can we change that?





6 ways to increase appreciation


1.  Stop comparing.

This is a common human tendency that can be positive or negative.  If comparing yourself to someone else is a source of inspiration that helps you to choose and work toward a goal, that could be a good thing.  But all too often, comparisons lead to jealousy, cliquishness, and discontent.


Remember that what gets shared on social media is generally the highlights and successes of other's lives, and doesn't represent the whole picture.  Everyone experiences challenge and failure, but you wouldn't know that by looking at what gets posted.


Focus on your own achievements and delights, and don't compare them with others'.  Life isn't about being better than everyone else.  It's about being the best you can be.


2.  Pay attention to what's good.

When we're busy (and most of us are), it's easy to start operating on autopilot.  We move through the day focused on our to-do lists, and lose sight of most everything else.  That's how we can miss a beautiful sky, a delicate scent, or a small lovely sound.  We stop smiling, and don't notice anyone else's smiles.  We stop feeling, and don't notice the details around us.


Pay attention, and you'll start to notice many small, enjoyable events that you usually ignore.  They'll really brighten your day.


3.  Say it aloud.

This idea comes from author Joshua Becker.  He suggests that you do more than think about your blessings, but that you actually say, "You know what?  I've got it pretty good."  He writes:


Every time I utter that sentence, I can't stop with those words.  I feel compelled to say more – continuing the thought rolls naturally off the tongue.  I begin to immediately list something I have that is good.


It usually sounds something like this:  "You know what?  I've got it pretty good.  I have a job that I enjoy.  I have clothes on my back.  I've got my health.  I love my wife.  I enjoy my kids...."  And the list continues.


The next time you're alone (or maybe with a friend), say it aloud.  "You know what?  I've got a good life."


happy light


4.  Remember what you liked at first.

No one's life is perfect.  There is no perfect job, house, or marriage.  And it's possible to make yourself miserable by focusing on the imperfections.


But you can reverse that by turning back the clock in your mind.  Think about what you initially loved about your job.  Remember what initially impressed you and drew you toward your spouse.  Remember what excited you about your house or apartment when you first moved in.


Before you go down the path of complaining about what isn't perfect, remind yourself of what is good.  For example, instead of thinking about how you'd like to change your spouse, focus on what he or she adds to your life.  Maybe they don't clean up around the house, but are they the first to make you smile?  Maybe they're not the most adventurous person, but are they sensible and reliable?


Apply the same principal to other situations:

  • My car isn't fancy, but it's reliable and completely paid off.
  • My house isn't huge, but it's easy to keep neat and clean.
  • My kid isn't going to be a Rhodes scholar, but he/she is hard-working, funny, and kind.

There's almost always something to like if you look hard enough.


5.  Stop thinking if/then.

"If I can just get this promotion, then I'll be happy."


Have you ever said something like that?  Once upon a time, I said, "If we can just get the loan approved on this house, we'll be set."  Well, we got the loan, and then the 2008 economic downturn happened, and we struggled financially for the next four years, and finally sold the house at loss, simply happy to be done with it and have the opportunity to move on.


I'm not saying you should have no goals or that you shouldn't work hard to be the best you can be.  But if/then thinking is dangerous.  It keeps us focused on an imaginary future and unable to appreciate what we have today.  And when things don't work out (as they sometimes don't), if/then thinking can leave us feeling cheated and defeated.


If life can only be good if we change "x", it'll be hard to feel that life is good today.


6.  Find purpose every day.

Each day is a chance to find meaning.


Our culture can make us feel we have no worthwhile purpose if we don't become a star or an influencer, if we don't set records and win awards, or if we don't produce a paradigm-changing product or become incredibly rich.  But a sense of purpose shouldn't be confined to how big and amazing we can be.


Think about the people who have made the most difference in your life.  They weren't the rich and famous.  They were the ones who cared about you, helped you, took care with their everyday tasks, and shared moments of fun and joy.


You can do the same.  Whether you work effectively at your job, make someone smile, connect with your child, or create a comfortable, organized space, you add value to the world.


Being useful and kind will give us all the purpose we need for a happy life.




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