“The most important thing is to enjoy your life—to be happy—it’s all that matters.”  Audrey Hepburn

The amazing thing about happiness is it’s a skill we can learn and practice and make into a habit. 

As mentioned in What is happiness and the Neuroscience Behind It, four of the key characteristics of happiness exhibit plasticity, which means we can do something about it, we can grow and develop more happiness.

“Happiness is not an accident. Nor is it something you wish for. Happiness is something you design.”  Jim Rohn

There’s nothing lucky about being happy. Happiness isn’t down to our circumstances, luck, money, career, success, talent, education, weight, looks or age.

The good news is there are simple actions we can take to make us happier.  It turns out that simple actions are exactly what it takes to be happier, because the fascinating thing about happiness according to psychologist Ed Diener is that the frequency of positive experiences is more important for your happiness than their intensity. This means we’re more likely to be happier if we have lots of rather nice small things happen in a day rather than one amazing thing.

In other words as Daniel Gilbert, author of the 2006 best seller, Stumbling on Happiness noted in an interview for the Harvard Business Review,

So wear comfortable shoes, give your wife a big kiss, sneak a french fry. It sounds like small stuff, and it is. But the small stuff matters.”

Here are our first 10 ways to be happy. This is the small stuff, the actions we can do everyday to make us happier and hone our happiness habit.  

Most of them don’t take long, and are free. 

1. Choose happiness

Make the decision to be happy.

Say out loud  ‘I choose happiness’.   It sounds ridiculously simple and it is – but ultimately being happy is a personal choice. 

Being happy is about attitude and the approach we take.  Happiness is a skill we can learn and a habit we can foster, and it all starts with the decision to be happy.

2. Look up

It doesn’t need to be complicated.  Here’s one of the simplest quickest ways to feel happier.

Go outside and look up at the sky.  Stand up straight, put your shoulders down. Take in the vastness of the sky and know that you are an integral part of this amazing universe.

3. Be kind and spread the love

Say or do something nice for someone today.  It will make you both feel good and especially you. 

If you want to feel good – do good!

It’s not just about money, it could be giving time or skills, or just helping someone out with a random act of kindness.

Even a kind word or smile can make a difference to someone’s day.

Try going around smiling at people – it does make you feel good.

4. Move it

Get moving – dance, walk, jump, run, skip, swim, gym – however you choose to do it, get some exercise and release your happy hormones.

Research into the link between depression and exercise shows exercise improves our mood and makes us feel happier.

5. Be positive

Think positive thoughts and experience positive emotions.

Positive emotions help us become more perceptive and open to the world, and flexible and creative in our thinking. Which in turn helps us be happier.

Thinking positive thoughts means being aware of your thoughts and the self-talk when it veers into the negative and replacing them with more positive empowering thoughts. One great way of doing this is through affirmations.

6. Cultivate optimism

Is your glass half full or half empty? It might be a cliché but it nicely demonstrates the different way in which optimistic and the opposite of optimistic – pessimistic, people view the world.  The same events and circumstances elicit very different responses based on our attitude.

It sort of stands to reason that optimistic people are happier because they’re not looking for the negative in a situation or others. But there is research to show optimism has other benefits as it’s linked to life longevity and other health benefits like improvements to your immune system and being better able to cope with illness with quicker recovery.

7.  Look after yourself

The body and mind intimately connected. One influences the other so it’s not just about looking after your mind, happiness is about your relationship with your body.

Boost your energy, enhance your mood and optimise brain function through eating healthy food (most of the time), drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep. 

8 hours often cited as optimal but it varies a lot person to person – something we need to work on!

But fact is that it’s harder to be happy if you’re tired, hungry and dehydrated.

8. Be mindful of the present moment

Be  mindful of the present moment and notice what’s going on around you.  Stop and look and make an effort to do it rather than rushing around not seeing what’s around us. Be mindful about what you’re doing like how you eat or how you interact with the important people in your life.

Try Mindfulness Meditation – being intentionally and non-critically aware of the present moment. Sit quietly with closed eyes. Focus on your breath and don’t ponder the past or future but experience the present moment – on purpose and without judgement.  Just ‘be’ for a few minutes.

Find out more with our Beginners Guide to Mindfulness Meditation.

9. Get in the flow

Alternatively do something that concentrates your attention on the here and now in a way that gets you in the flow. 

This is that state of being when you can get lost in or caught up with something you’re doing.  You become so completely immersed in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. You suddenly realise an hour has passed.

It might be a physical or mental activity like singing, practicing an instrument, being creative, playing a sport or dancing.

It’s when you become totally absorbed in concentrating of something.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness.

10. Do something new

Do something fun, try a new experience, take new opportunities, try a new sport, interest or hobby. Do at least one of these every day to feel more alive, keep your plasticity going and make you feel good.

Episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast

Hear us talk about all of this and more in episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast including:

  • Why we’re feeling happy this week – hint – something to do with winning an award and launching a new podcast
  • Where todays show fits with our happiness mini-series
  • Why plasticity is important for our happiness
  • 10 ways to be happier

What to do next?

  1. Share your happiness tips in the comments below.
  2. Join us next week for 10 more actions and tips on how to be
  3. Subscribe to the Changeability Podcast on iTunes so you never miss an episode and have access to all the episodes including the first 10, which you don’t see in iTunes now.