Ten Ways to be Happier Starting Today

Tell me if this is how you usually face your life: “If I could have/do/be/achieve [fill in the blank], I’d be happier.” Our world moves pretty fast and it’s easy to get swept up in the “just one more” syndrome. There’s always that one last thing to do before–BAM!–full-on happiness will most definitely stare us full in the face. The thing is, life never really works that way, does it?

We get 100 years or so to make it all happen, but those years are made up of days and hours and minutes and there is something to be said for living in the present, rather than dwelling dreamily in the future.

Relax, breathe and try one–or all–of the following to be happier right now:

1. Let Yourself Live in the Moment

Pause and look around you…what’s going on right now? Is the sun shining, is music playing in the subway, are people talking, are you around your family or friends…and are you even paying attention to what you’re doing or are you thinking about an upcoming project or appointment? Try to enjoy things while they’re happening. Let yourself unplug for ten minutes and breathe in the here and now.

2. Do Something Nice for Someone Else

One of the greatest joys in life is being kind to other people; it doesn’t need to be anything extreme. The simple act of saying good morning or hello, holding the door for someone or even smiling at them builds positive energy that can help you improve your own outlook. If you want to be really generous, you might try buying a stranger’s morning coffee or paying their bridge toll. You never know, any act of kindness might prompt someone to spread that positive energy to others. Just imagine all the mornings that could start off just a little bit brighter!

3. Be Grateful for Something

Everyone has different circumstances, but we all have at least one thing to be grateful for, no matter how small or how fleeting. This morning, I was grateful for my warm comforter and the vanilla-scented soap I had in my shower. Then the radio station was playing some pretty great songs on the way into work, so I was grateful for that. I got an email from two of my family members, so I knew they were thinking of me.

Not to mention the fact that I’m employed, healthy and was able to climb the flight of stairs to get to my desk. I think you see where I’m going with this, and only one of these things would have sufficed.

4. Smile

If you can’t shake it (your bad mood), fake it (your good mood). If you force yourself to smile and act cheery, you just might trick yourself into actually feeling cheery. It may sound silly, but some studies have suggested that the mind picks up cues from the muscles in the face, so when you smile, your brain can actually interpret this as being happy, allowing you to feel real happiness.

5. Take a Walk

Just a quick 10-minute break is all you need. Breathe, clear your head and pay close attention to your surroundings. Try not to think of anything other than what’s going on around you for the entire 10 minutes. You will return from your walk refreshed, calmer and maybe just a little bit happier.

6. Pet Your Dog or Cat

Or someone else’s dog or cat. The simple action of petting an animal’s fur may help you to relax and de-stress…ever wonder why therapy dogs are popping up more and more at nursing homes and hospitals?

7. Take a Nap

If possible, let yourself lie down and actually fall asleep for 30 minutes or so. Being overtired can lend itself to depression, so sometimes just a quick catnap can help clear your head and improve your outlook considerably.

8. Cross Something off Your to-do list Instead of Putting It Off Until Tomorrow

Try to choose something small and do-able that can be done today.Maybe you have been procrastinating scheduling a dental cleaning, putting your winter clothes away, washing the windows or writing an email to an old friend. Choose just one thing on your to-do list and completely finish it today. A sense of accomplishment can add to your contentment and happiness.

9. Put Something off until Tomorrow that Can Wait until Tomorrow

Not everything on your to-do list needs to be done today and having a long list of things to do is not only stressful, sometimes it’s simply unreasonable. Prioritize by selecting only those things that absolutely must be done today, and then schedule time into your planner for later in the week when the rest can be reasonably accomplished.

10. Listen to Music

What was your favorite song when you were 13? Through the power of the internet, you can cue up just about anything on YouTube. Search for that old favorite and listen to it, blocking everything else out of your mind. Music has the power to heal: let it do its thing!

The truth is, life is short and even though it’s great to have goals and plan for the future, don’t let yourself get so wrapped up in what is soon to come that you lose sight of what is going on RIGHT NOW. Make a commitment to yourself to be happy as soon as you finish reading this article. Life is too short not to try.


Laura Hufnagel

I'm a healthcare copywriter with a Master's degree in Dietetics from D'Youville College in Buffalo, NY. When I'm not writing about healthcare I'm busy getting plenty of exercise doing the things I love: hiking, biking, spinning, running, Pilates and going to the beach. I've recently begun eating vegetarian and I love to try out new recipes. I don't have a ton of free time, but when I do, I love to travel, read and make jewelry.

2 thoughts on “Ten Ways to be Happier Starting Today

  • June 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Definitely have days when I can use this list. I find number 2 to be the most effective. If I hold the door for someone and they smile at me, that’s usually enough to lift my spirits.

  • June 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Good points all, Laura. Makes me think about the old argument concerning “happiness” versus “joy.” I’ll save the critical analysis and just breathe and smile a bit, though–maybe even be thankful while I’m at it … :)


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