The 9 Best Ways To Find Happiness In Life

The Keys To Feeling Happier Are Closer Than You Think

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” – Henry David Thoreau

What Is Happiness & How Do You Find It?

Scientifically speaking, we know exactly where you find happiness, in inside us: the hippocampus technically. Specifically, happiness finds you when the right part of your brain gets the right kinds of neurotransmitters (mainly serotonin and dopamine), which regulate mood and appetite, among other things [1]. (That’s why some people “eat” their feelings; the brain signals for “hungry” are real similar to the signals for “sad” [2]).

On a psychological level, where you find happiness is harder to pinpoint. That’s because only a few things have empirical links to feeling happy. For example, we know that physically healthy people tend to feel about 20% happier than average, people report feeling happiest around 57°F, and exposure to sunshine tends to make everyone feel happier nearly instantly [1]. What’s more, there is some proof that a person’s genes also influence their success finding happiness [3]. Other than that, though, psychologists mostly agree that happiness is a decision, not a condition. That is, finding happiness is a result of your actions and behaviors, not a consequence of the conditions of your life [4].

What We Know About Where You Find Happiness

The 2019 World Happiness Report unearthed a troubling trend: more people are feeling more negative than any time in the last 50 years [5]. So what does that mean? Mainly, it means that everything everyone thinks they know about where you find happiness is wrong.

The global economy is stronger and crime rates are lower than ever; despite what you see on the news, we’re living in the most peaceful era in human history; poverty, illness, and illiteracy are at all-time lows [678]. So if the best way to find happiness in life is to be financially and physically secure so you can fulfill your basic needs, then people should feel happier every day. This is especially true for Americans, yet we’re finding happiness less often, and less of it [9]. Researchers point to things like social support, freedom to make choices, and the generosity of the people around you to explain this “social crisis” and the growing scarcity of happiness [10].

Finding happiness, then, is less related to making money than it is about making choices. Choices that make you friends, make you feel connected to your community, make you feel generous, and make you feel like you have control over finding happiness in life will ultimately help you find happiness more often (and more of it) more than any pay-raise could.

How To Find Happiness In Yourself

Finding happiness in life requires learning to find happiness in yourself. Having negative thoughts, making negative assumptions and comparisons, and engaging in self-defeating, self-abusive self-talk keeps people from taking action to find happiness [11]. After all, if you feel like you can’t do something and are afraid of failing, you’re unlikely to try.

The first thing you should do to find happiness in yourself is to become more aware of your internal emotional landscape. Consider this: when you have a quiet moment to yourself, what do you think about? Do you think about how far you have to go, or how far you’ve come? Do you fixate on your weakness, or celebrate your strengths? Do you feel anxious about the worst things that could happen, or feel hopeful about what might happen? Action begins with thought. For you to find happiness by doing it, you must first think it. For you to experience true happiness, more love, more positivity, and a fulfilled life, you must change how you think and how you behave. Keep reading to learn the best nine ways you can increase your joie de vivre and find happiness in your life by first finding happiness in yourself:

  1. Find a theme song. Music is a powerful tool for finding happiness because it changes your brain chemistry [12]. When we listen (or dance) to music, it helps us reframe and reset, relieves stress, and energizes us. Listening to music to pump yourself up actually literally primes your brain — that is, you feel happier in anticipation of feeling happier [13]!
  2. Make conscious choices. When we are in “doing mode,” we work, think, and live unconsciously. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss many of life’s joyful experiences. What’s more, it can also lead us to miss signs of stress and fatigue that make feeling happier near-impossible [14]. Making conscious choices brings us into the present, a place of opportunity and intention.
  3. Engage in a life that sets your soul on fire. While finding happiness in life is ultimately an internal thing, that doesn’t mean the external can’t inspire joy [15]! We get caught up in our professions, family life, projects, etc. yet making time for activities that your mind, body, and soul, inspire feelings of appreciation that empower you to feel happier.
  4. Practice acceptance. This is a major part of something called “hedonic adaptation,” which says that no matter what our reality truly is, we’re able to find happiness in it [16]. We regularly judge and comparing the “real” world with the world we expect it to be and withhold happiness for the future. Saying “I’ll be happy when…” almost guarantees you won’t find happiness in your life as it is. Suspend your judgment and allow events to unfold just as they are, without judgment. Then you can tackle a challenge or a circumstance without prejudice.
  5. Detach from outcomes. Often, we are unaware of our unhealthy attachments to people, roles, and material things. Attachments keep us from finding happiness in new opportunities and changing circumstances because of our attachment to an outcome. Most of our suffering comes from this attachment; be open to change and it will help you feel happier instead of hurting you [17].
  6. Observe your thoughts. We tend to create ideas based on old data. Thoughts are just thoughts; they are not you, the person, nor your reality. They are only ongoing subjective commentary of the world and yourself. Because they are subjective, that means they are subject to change. Push yourself to change how you’re thinking about the world so you see it more positively, and you will find the happiness you never realized you were ignoring [18].
  7. Overcome your fears to feel happier. Ask yourself if you’re afraid of becoming happy (many people are) as you may be self-sabotaging your efforts to find happiness in yourself [19]. Fear of happiness happens because becoming happy means you’ll have something to lose, which makes many people anxious [19]. Consequently, we avoid solving problems, and this avoidance leads to stress, burnout, and fatigue, while also keeping us stuck in situations we feel hopeless being in.
  8. Live in the now. Memory of the past and planning for the future are critical to daily life. When we’re under stress, we tend to remember negative things that have happened and only foresee potential negative future outcomes. Instead, try doing something that engages your senses with what you’re experiencing in the present to ground yourself in it and interrupt your mental journeying. Find something to laugh about, intentionally smile more, and/or do something nice for someone while you’re going about your day [20].
  9. Practice gratitude. Finding things to be grateful in your life rewires your brain to feel happier more often and more easily [21]. People who regularly feel gratitude experience more positive emotions, sleep better, are more aligned with their purpose, express more compassion, and have a more robust immune system [22].

You don’t have to make any big resolutions or punish yourself if you’re not consistent in how you go about finding happiness in yourself. You just have to take each and every moment as it comes knowing you can choose happiness at any point.

References:

  1. https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/the-science-happiness.html
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666386800496
  3. http://www.forastateofhappiness.com/tag/50-10-40-formula/
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/do-something-different/201402/happiness-is-not-feeling-it-is-doing
  5. http://worldhappiness.report/
  6. https://www.nielsen.com/ie/en/insights/article/2019/global-economic-conditions-ended-2018-on-an-upbeat-note-but-market-conditions-vary/
  7. https://www.ijpr.org/post/world-actually-safer-ever-and-heres-data-prove#stream/0
  8. https://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-is-better-than-ever-charts-2017-1
  9. https://www.fastcompany.com/40544341/america-desperate-for-happiness-is-getting-less-and-less-happy
  10. https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2018/ES-WHR.pdf
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201502/8-negative-attitudes-chronically-unhappy-people
  12. https://www.lifehack.org/361240/the-science-behind-why-music-makes-feel-good
  13. https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/how-does-music-affect-your-brain
  14. https://www.mindful.org/one-simple-way-to-get-out-of-doing-mode/
  15. https://zenhabits.net/happiness-within/
  16. https://www.bakadesuyo.com/2015/06/how-to-find-happiness-2/
  17. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201204/10-simple-ways-find-happiness
  18. https://medium.com/the-mission/8-ways-to-find-happiness-in-your-life-right-now-f6cf2b2d815f
  19. https://www.elitedaily.com/p/why-am-i-afraid-of-happiness-experts-reveal-why-you-feel-this-way-how-to-overcome-it-8764015
  20. https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-do-you-find-your-happiness/
  21. https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/the-amazing-way-gratitude-rewires-your-brain-for-happiness.html
  22. https://ideapod.com/neuroscience-reveals-gratitude-literally-changes-brain-happier/ 

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