“Happiness is when what you think, what you say,
and what you do are in harmony.”
Believe it or not, I’ve read 27 personal development books specifically on the topic of happiness over the last few years. (Yeah, I suppose that makes me a bit of a happiness junkie.) Throughout my reading, one of the sub-topics that kept catching my attention is how our thoughts directly influence our satisfaction and effectiveness in life.
Today I want to honor and discuss seven ways I’ve changed my thinking, based on the principles I’ve read about, that has undoubtedly made me a happier person.
1. Feeling privileged and satisfied to be alive.
If you’re reading this, congratulations, you’re ALIVE! And if you can’t find a reason to smile about that, you’ll have an awfully tough time finding a better reason to do so.
Time spent living is time worth appreciating. You are able to see the sunrise and the sunset. You are able to hear birds sing and waves crash. You can walk outside and feel the breeze through your hair and the sun’s warmth on your skin. When you make the most out of what you have it turns out being a lot more than you ever imagined.
A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset. When you wake up, take a second to think about what a privilege it is to simply be alive and healthy. Breathe onto the bathroom mirror, just to see how amazing your breath looks. The moment you start acting like life is a blessing, I assure you it will start to feel like one. (Read Zen and the Art of Happiness.)
2. Believing in the possibility of a better tomorrow.
What you believe determines who you become. If the thoughts running through your mind are pure, positive and empowering, you will create positive and empowering beliefs about yourself and about life. In turn, your actions, habits and daily routines will be a reflection of these thoughts and beliefs.
Sometimes you may catch yourself and wonder why you haven’t dropped all your positive ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to achieve. Yet you must keep them, because deep down, in spite of everything, you believe that people are still good at heart and that life still contains a touch of magic.
You have to believe that hope is stronger than fear. That imagination is more influential than public opinion. That dreams are more powerful than today’s reality. That determination always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the best cure for grief. And above all, you have to believe that love is stronger than any negative force in the world.
3. Knowing deep down that every step is worth it.
Through every life experience, especially those that force you to look fear and adversity in the face, you will gain strength, courage and confidence. Stop when you must, take a deep breath and say to yourself, “I am living through this and I am still OK. I can take the next thing that comes my way.”
Make a pact with yourself and do the thing you once thought you couldn’t do. Take another step, even when you feel too worn out or tired. Find a reason to laugh, even when you’re trying not to cry. Trust yourself, even when your mind second-guesses your heart. Dance, even when others refuse to hear the music. Dream, even if you’re afraid of what they might bring. Open the door of opportunity in front of you, even when you have no idea what’s behind it.
Every step and experience is what makes you the person you are now. Without this experience, you are an empty page, a blank journal, an unsung lyric. What makes you ALIVE is your willingness to live through today’s challenges and then hold your head up high tomorrow with hope and tenacity.
4. Appreciating the beauty in all the small things.
Subtract the obvious so you can see the meaningful.
Rediscover the sensitivity of your childhood eyes. The eyes that saw life as it is – a beautiful compilation of tiny lives, each lived one at a time like snapshots in a family photo album. That saw beauty in flowers and rainbows and wild animals. That marveled at fireflies and sunsets and starry nights. That let you dream every instant with your eyes wide open.
See yourself sitting right where you are, breathing, moving your limbs, and appreciating this chance to experience this moment. If a child of two can see the beauty in it, why can’t you? (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)
5. Feeling good enough.
Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble and reasonable confidence in your own abilities you cannot be effective or happy. Know that you are good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, and strong enough. Do not derive your sense of self-worth from what you own, who you know, where you live or what you look like. Your self-worth is a reflection of who YOU are and how YOU choose to live.
Above all, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. If you somehow feel ‘better’ than someone you’re comparing yourself to, it gives you an unhealthy sense of superiority. If, on the other hand, you feel ‘worse’ than someone you’re comparing yourself to, you usually discredit all of the important progress you’ve made. The bottom line is that the majority of the time this type of social comparison doesn’t stem from a healthy place. If you feel called to compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
6. Consciously detaching and living in the present.
The greatest step towards a life of positivity is objectivity – experiencing something fully and then learning to let go and move onward. The key is to accept that everything is changing. Each moment of your life is unlike any other. To live each one to the fullest, you must learn to be in the moment, fully, and then step out of it. This is detachment.
Take any emotional feeling – love for a significant other, or grief over a lost family member, or fear and pain from a deadly illness. If you hold back on your emotions and you don’t allow yourself to go all the way through them, you can never get to the point of being detached from them. In other words, if you spend all your energy being afraid of feeling your true emotions – the vulnerability that love, sincerity and acceptance entails – you will be forever stuck.
But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to fully embrace them to the point where you’re effectively in over your head, you leave no emotion abandoned or question lingering in your mind. You know what love is. You know what grief is. You know what fear is. And only when you know these things can you say, “I’m OK. I have experienced this. I know what this emotion feels like, and now I need to detach from this emotion and move on with my life.” (Angel and I cover this in detail in the Adversity and Happiness chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
7. Embracing change.
As Oscar Wilde so profoundly said, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Living a positive life hinges on your ability to accept the fact that everything is constantly moving forward, away from everything that previously existed. Not only do you have to emotionally detach from the past, but you also have to willingly thrust yourself forward into the unknown. You have to open yourself to trying new things, especially those that you may previously never have thought of doing, or had been too hesitant to attempt. This is how you open doors of opportunity for positive growth.
So many people live within the confines of unhappy situations and yet refuse to take the initiative to change their circumstances. They are conditioned to believe that the only choice is the current choice because it’s the life they know. Their comfort zone blinds them from the truth – that nothing is more damaging to the human spirit than a mind that resists progress and change.
All of your personal growth and much of your joy in life will come from your encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater commitment than to embrace an endlessly changing horizon.
The floor is yours…
What would you add to the list? What is your number one tip for being happy? Please leave a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Lorenzo Herrera
Thank you for the great advice! Constant curiosity truly helps me enjoy everyday life and create little moments of happiness throughout the day. I always try to learn new things, observe nature, ask questions about anything I don’t know yet. At the end of the day, I am so thankful for all what I’ve been able to learn and discover – that’s my daily dose of simple happiness!
Numbers 6 and 7 are huge for me right now. I needed this post! Seriously.
I’ve been through a tough situation in my life and I’m still hurting… but I gotta admit that moving forward is the right attitude to set you free from your fears and start over again. Hold on and never turn back!
My #1 tip: Smile every chance you get – even when you don’t feel like it. Other people will see you and smile too, which will make you smile even more.
Thank you so much for all of your thought provoking, insightful advice. Reading your articles helps me look inside myself to better influence the world outside of me. I believe happiness is the best gift we can ask for and give to each other.
I would add that when I’m feeling down I always know that I come out the other side after time passes. Like they always say, “time heals all.” I think about all the other times I’ve felt down over a similar reason and felt like I would never make it out alive, yet I persevere and heal somehow.
Braja Patnaik says
I have learnt that it is useful to break down a large , long-term goal into small actionable goals. It is easier to track each of the small goals, one at a time. When these small goals are achieved, you feel happy. If you fail, you can analyze what went wrong and change your approach. No matter if you succeed or fail in these small goals, these small steps, over time, accumulate to change our perspective. You have nicely put this as “Knowing deep down that every step is worth it”. Thanks for sharing.
sheri goodwin says
Find a hobby that you can completely lose yourself in. I prefer genealogy and gardening. It is very rewarding and relaxing .
Just recently became acquainted with your blog! Love it!!!
Anyway…gratitude for life, breath, nature, God, relationships, hard times, good times…I find that gratitude in all things helps me! There’s always something to appreciate! Express it often, too!
Christy King says
Great post. All so true. #1 and 4 are the ones I’ve been working hardest on lately.
Also, I would add reaching out to other people. This is another one I’ve put a lot of effort into recently and it definitely boosts my happiness.
Believing God is in on my side and will take me through.
The best piece of advice is to appreciate the little stuff… things everyone take for granted!
Tom Froehlich says
I remind myself that my life isn’t happening TO me, but BECAUSE of me. How I respond to life circumstances is always MY choice.
So helpful! I really need to work on #2 and #5, but I’m happy that I can check #4 off of my list 🙂 . I love looking at the stars, flowers, and random unique things on the street. And hey, who doesn’t appreciate a good firework show? Happy 4th of July!
Think happy, be happy! Woot!
Best way to think happy for me: Work on my passion project.
Cody Wheeler says
You know I’ve written about the top couple here off and on and I will say when you can really embrace those two principles, positivity and self belief, it’s amazing the difference it can make on your life.
A great read on self image is Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. It sounds heavy but it’s really not. I highly recommend that one for a great collection of thoughts on self image.
Ill be checking out The Art of Happiness as well.
Thanks for the constant inspiration guys.
Larolin Weisinger says
I have a business acquaintance who anytime you ask him how he is, his answer is always a hearty “fantastic”! I responded recently, “Oh Greg, you always say you are fantastic!” His answer to me was that if you say it often enough, you will begin to believe it. This has stuck with me ever since.
kathy h says
Hello from Mass, and thanks for the therapy session once again. Totally on point as far as looking through a child’s eyes too, cuz I do it with my grandchildren and it makes my heart melt, love it! I am also a firm believer that it’s the little things that matter and fulfill your life too. Learning to let go and move on is hard but with your blogs again, my life is good!
My number tip to being happy is to accept people as they are. YOU cannot change anyone. The sooner you accept people, the happier you’ll be. Why? Because you won’t get stressed out or ticked off if someone does something that you wouldn’t do. It won’t affect you, and you’ll be happier. And you can make the decision to:
1. Keep people in your life who “drive you nuts” or suck your life’s energy.
2. Cut ties with people with people who “drive you nuts” and suck your life’s energy.
It’s your choice.
Beth W says
SMILE! The best way for me to be happy is to smile!! I love the reaction I get when I look at someone and smile…they smile back and then pass it on.
#4 on your list – I love to take my camera with me to somewhere new, a place I’ve never been before, and look for the unusual. I found a beautiful, mirror-image flower at a botanical garden last year – totally unexpected!
#6 on the list – exactly what we discussed…you have to work your way through a tough situation, and when you do, learn from it and move on!
Thanks again for another great post!
Jean Ann Larson says
This article reminds me how blessed I am – how blessed we all are.
To do my part in living effectively I take material such as you wrote, print it and work it out so that I incorporate the lessons. It’s hard for me to live spontaneously but I’m trying. What helps after I learn the lessons carefully is to let go of the kite string and like Tony, just hold the belief that G-d is on my side and will take me through.
Thank you for sharing!!!
Happiness for me these days is all about helping my sons grow into the strongest versions of themselves.
Good read for this holiday weekend. Thanks.
tara dillard says
Joy is present, always.
No matter my situation I can choose joy. It is there to be taken.
Garden & Be Well, XO Tara
90% of the things that happens to us is our own responsability. To be and to feel happy is one of them. Is our decision to be and feel happy
Fantastic post. Thanks.
#2 Believing in the possibility of a better tomorrow.
Who hasn’t gone through a life struggle where you thought it couldn’t get any worse, and it did? I went through that this past November, due mostly to a huge mistake that I made. I beat myself up terribly for awhile but then I realized it didn’t do me any good to dwell on my mistakes. Instead, I changed my focus to where it should be. I took one day at a time and as it came – I stopped worrying “When will this be over?” And slowly, each tomorrow became easier. Not every single day was perfect, but I stayed focused. I told myself that although what I went through was terrible – it was an invaluable life lesson that I learned from and a mistake that I would never repeat again. I am a better person and I have never been happier in my life.
Thanks for a lovely post. My favorites are – Feeling lucky to be alive and treating each day as a gift, and detaching from all the ‘noise’ going on in the world and being present.
Alen Takhsh says
Unhappiness stems from the false notion that we are somehow less than divine. To realize that the very life that flows through a flower, a bee, or any other living being is that which flows through us, every single minute of our lives, is the epitome of being connected and in spirit. In short, happiness is the realization that we are Godly; not as omniscient or omnipotent, but part and parcel of Him, nonetheless.
Leslie R says
Look at someone you love—4-legged or 2, either works. Feel that love in the midst of whatever is happening. Smile.
Merra Lee says
Someone wiser than I said, “Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you…You’re only a player in everyone elses show.”
Great reminders – change most definitely is the one constant in life and the more we embrace it, the easier the flow.
I would add pay attention to what feels joyful and what lights your soul and focus on it more.
And give up people pleasing – that’s a real happiness crusher.
And lastly start giving yourself a daily dose of approval.
Don’t even know where to begin? But I guess that’s a start.
When I’ve achieved something really spectacular, I always give something to someone… the universe, a compliment I’ve been meaning to give… money to a charity.. give thanks… because of the opportunity I just received.
I believe. it was in some way paid forward to me, so I stay grateful every minute and do my best to pass my good fortune forward too.
Thanks for this post, it is truly timely. I tend to compare myself to others and it is only in comparing myself to an earlier version of me that I realise I have improved tremendously. Thank you for reminding me.
I have a magnet board where I get ready every morning–it is full of happy, empowering thoughts. It is always a good reminder to start my day smiling (:
My favorite paragraph of this post:
“Rediscover the sensitivity of your childhood eyes. The eyes that saw life as it is – a beautiful compilation of tiny lives, each lived one at a time like snapshots in a family photo album. That saw beauty in flowers and rainbows and wild animals. That marveled at fireflies and sunsets and starry nights. That let you dream every instant with your eyes wide open.”
Thank you for being part of my morning happiness ritual!
@BRC, that classifies a mistake – what we don’t do again. If we do it again then it’s on purpose – and it loses it’s “mistake” classification. I extend my sympathies and admiration. I’ve been there, done that. Mistakes we beat ourselves up about are worth remembering so that we don’t go there again. After that we pull out and move on. Freedom is having the choice to be stupid again – and choosing a wiser path instead. Good on you, BRC, may your wisdom be fortified with courage and peace.
Rosina T. says
Some of us need constant reminders and tips to pick ourselves up, like this blog. I also have a friend who says she’s “fabulous” all the time. I’ve taken to imitating her. At first I felt a little silly saying it but found myself smiling anyway. I think imitating people we admire can lead to positive change. Another friend and colleague uses every bit of time to make things happen in so many spheres of life. I think of her whenever I’m procrastinating.
Recently, I’ve been stuck on the phrase, “you can make life happen or have it happen to you”. We don’t have to step out of our comfort zone if we don’t want to but we do have to step out. Sometimes we just need to rest for a while because we’re tired or hurting, but we have to be careful not to stay there too long. Friends can be a lifeline.
Sandy Peckinpah says
A beautiful post reminding me that happiness is just a thought away!
renee segal says
I think number 7 is the most important and most relevent. We are always changing and it is inevitable that things are not permanent. I love your blogs!!
Continuously gaining understanding, as long as I’m growing, I am okay, and I’m on my way! And that brings me joy along with all of the seven things you already explained 🙂 Thanks!
L Cox says
If you’re feeling really miserable and can’t see any end in sight, do something nice for someone else. If possible do it anonymously without expecting anything in return, not even a “thank you” or being noticed. Just a little bright spot can lift the darkness, and we have complete control of making that bright spark.
Talk “sweetie darling” talk to yourself..I go through the day calling myself “honey” and “sweeet love”. I talk especially sweet around the mistakes I have made. I’m now supporting my friend with cancer with “sweetie darling” talk because she is away from here and it all I know how to give. The only reason I can give it away to her so easily is because I have practiced on myself.
Marc Chernoff says
@All: Thank you, as always! Your ideas continue to move us and make us think. Also, seeing you all interact by responding and answering each other’s questions is super inspiring. Such a beautiful community we have here.
Angel and I are just traveling back from a holiday weekend today, so I apologize for not responding to comments. I’ll jump back in here tomorrow to be certain that none of your questions/comments requiring a response were left unattended.
Jeremy Scott says
This is a very good posting! Kudos!
Vena Jensen says
This is a great post with wonderful comments – thank you all! I know it sounds cliche but I really have found that being kind matters. I appreciate it when someone else is kind and I notice the softness and love that emanates when I treat others with kindness. I would add kindness to the list.
Consciously detaching and living in the present is the greatest tip. I’ve found in the last few weeks that I have more patience (the ability to take an offense without becoming angry or bitter) when I stay in the moment. I usually use my cool because I have projected the incident in the future. I constantly remind myself it is not what happened that made me mad, but my thoughts about what happened. I constantly choose to see the positive.
Great post. For me, it’s knowing that I’m greatly loved by God and that all things work together for the good.
Enthusiasm…people (adults) seem to hide their enthusiasm as if they’re not impressed or they’re to cool and calm to be impressed or excited about what they’re experiencing. I’m stunned by this amazing,
crazy beautiful world, from the everyday things like cloud shapes (remember those) or sunsets, to the more rare and very exciting like bungee jumping (which I went with a friend and of course…he tried to play it cool). Don’t be afraid to show your true colors and express your feelings, good or bad. People respond to sincerity & it’s happily contagious 🙂
Live and let live. Too many times there are folks that get caught up in hypocrisy and would rather make someone else’s life miserable than to just mind their own business and live by the “actual” standard they have set for themselves. Understanding this is a path to happiness.