ten tips for a happier life
text by Fiona Clarke

Happiness, as defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a state of well-being and contentment. It’s no wonder that most of us want to experience that joy. But happiness isn’t something that just happens to you. It comes from within. Each of us has the power to make small changes in our behavior, our surroundings and our relationships to tame negative thoughts and approach every day with optimism. Here are 10 tips that can help set you on course for a happier life. 


Accepting yourself leads to happiness. Self-actualization, morality and staying true to yourself are all crucial parts of being content. Once you accept yourself, you’ll stop looking outside yourself for happiness. You won’t feel forced into doing things for approval and you’ll stop taking things personally. Rejection won’t be soul-crushing: after all, no one could understand you the way you understand yourself, so don’t expect them to. Be your own advocate. Without those social pressures you’ll discover the things you truly enjoy doing, and may even discover some hidden talents in the process. Your motivations will be pure. You won’t be getting fit or advancing in your career to impress anyone, you’ll be doing it for you.


There’s nothing better than a good night’s rest to guarantee that you’ll  wake up smiling. Sleep is crucial to staying healthy and feeling your best. It plays an important role in the function of the brain by forming new pathways and processing information. Research has shown that adequate sleep helps to improve memory and learning, increase attention and creativity and aid in making decisions. While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. So keep your mind and body healthy, and get that shut eye. 


It’s human nature to focus on your weaknesses. From early childhood we are constantly reminded of our shortcomings. We struggle to succeed, which leads to frustration and disappointment. As adults, it’s no surprise that we often become fixated on what we were not able to conquer. Sure, there are things that are not your strong suit, but no one is good at everything. Instead, focus your time and energy on your core strengths. Develop and build upon those abilities. Then direct your skills toward seizing new opportunities. The feelings of accomplishment and balance are effective ways to be happy.


We all need something to drive and motive us that provides a reason for living. When we apply our unique talents to a purpose greater than ourselves, we feel fulfilled and happy. Start by knowing your strengths  – are you a good speaker, organizer or writer? Do you enjoy working with children? Have you a passion for live theater? Are you fascinated by technology? Identify your abilities and apply them to forge a career path or make a difference in your community as a volunteer for a cause that matters. 


Roadblocks are obstacles that stand between where you are today and where you want to be. The first step to more happiness is to identify these obstructions in your life. The second step is to find paths around, over and through them. For example, a negative work environment and disapproving people are two examples of roadblocks that can limit your potential. The solutions to these impediments are to surround yourself with supportive, up-beat individuals and to carefully evaluate the company culture before accepting a position. You may not be able to eliminate every roadblock, but you can work to minimize the threat.


Life can be demanding. There’s much that needs to be done and too little time in which to do it. In that never-ending race, we often cut corners and bypass common courtesies. Take the time to navigate with kindness. Acts of kindness aren’t just beneficial to the receiver — they can have a huge impact on one’s own happiness as well. The simple gesture of holding open a door for a mom navigating a stroller or thanking the clerk at Sprouts for bagging your groceries will be appreciated, and, it’s a feel-good for everyone. Treating people with respect also goes a long way. Be mindful and listen to what others have to say. Empathy at home, at work and in life is essential to understand and connect with both ourselves and others.


Want to feel better, have more energy and even add years to your life? Just exercise. The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore: exercise controls weight, reduces anxiety, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, gives you a chance to unwind, decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and helps you to connect with friends in a social setting. Whether you hit the hiking trails, take dance classes, join a bowling league, enroll in a yoga class or simply do laps in the backyard pool, the trick is to engage in activities that make you happy. 


A positive attitude is a good thing, but bad things happen to everyone. It’s just part of life. If you get some bad news, make a mistake, say something that you later regret or just feel like you’re in a funk, it’s okay to feel sad. Let yourself experience it for a moment, then shift your focus toward what made you feel this way and what it might take to recover. Perhaps a jog around the block? Or talking it over with a friend? Let the moment pass and take care of yourself. Hey, no one is happy all the time.


Optimism is part genetic, part learned. Even if you were raised by a “doom and gloom” family, you can still find an inner ray of sunshine. Optimism doesn’t mean ignoring the reality of a dire situation. After a job loss, for instance, many people may feel defeated, think that they’ll never recover and fall into a downward spiral. An optimist would acknowledge the loss in a more hopeful way, viewing a job search as an outstanding opportunity to reevaluate long range goals and find work that truly makes them happy. Thinking positive thoughts and surrounding yourself with positive people really does help. Optimism is infectious, so make a point to hang out with likeminded people.


This is often easier said than done. But you don’t always have to do it for the other person. Sometimes offering forgiveness or dropping a grudge is more about self-care than compassion for the other person. Take stock of your relationships. Are you harboring any resentment or ill will toward someone? If so, consider reaching out to them in an effort to bury the hatchet. This doesn’t have to be a reconciliation. Given the circumstance, you may just need to end the relationship and move on. If reaching out isn’t an option, try getting your feelings out on paper. You don’t even have to send it to them. Just getting those thoughts out of your mind can be freeing.