Happiness includes a combination of how we think about our current lives and how much positive emotion (love, joy, awe, etc.) we experience. There are times in our lives when we may not be depressed but we’re still not truly happy. These are the times when we are just going through the motions. Life is passing us by and while we are not miserable we cannot honestly say we have joy. Although part of your happiness can be attributed to your genes and another portion of your happiness is shaped by your life circumstances, there is yet another aspect of your happiness that is actually within your control. While psychologists have often studies the issues that contribute to our distress, there are some psychologists, such as community psychologists and positive psychologists, who study the factors that add to our happiness and well-being. For those who are feeling stuck, uninspired, or simply bored with life, below you will find some strategies that you can use to increase your happiness. (If you are however experiencing clinical depression, this list may fall short of the support that you need. I encourage you to seek out professional assistance. You don’t have to deal with the depression alone.)
1. Get real with yourself. You will only work to increase your happiness if you realize you need to make it a priority. Go the following link to do a free self-assessment of your current level of positive versus negative emotions: http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php
2. Pleasure Principle: Find time to do the things that you enjoy. Nurture yourself. Self-care is very important. Take a warm bath, eat good, healthy food, and make time for your favorite hobbies. It is not a mystery or a secret. If you do the things you enjoy you will have more joy.
3. Love Connection: To increase your happiness, you should build more positive relationships. Decrease time with drama-filled negative people and develop friendships with those who inspire more joy and laughter in your life. These may be romantic relationships, platonic friendships, or positive family members.
4. The Gift of Goals: A sense of accomplishment can also increase our sense of happiness. It is important however to set attainable goals and to divide up large goals into smaller parts. At times we set ourselves up for failure by setting goals that require perfection. This can result in us never appreciating all of the good work we have done. Attainable goals can motivate us, inspire us, and result in greater happiness.
5. Feed the Spirit: Spirituality, religion, and faith can be major contributors to our happiness. Faith can help you to look beyond current set-backs and still see the awe, beauty, possibility, and miracles around you and in you. Feed your faith by doing those practices that feed your spirit.
6. Mind over Matter: Remember that much of your happiness comes from how you choose to think about things. Initially it is work to learn to be more optimistic, positive, and hopeful but over time it can become more of a habit. Encourage yourself to try to see the opportunity, to see the good, to see the growth instead of immediately focusing on the negative. When you catch yourself being focused on the negative make a decision and a commitment to shift your focus.
7. See the Big Picture: One of the wonderful ways to increase your happiness can be to bring happiness to others. Being of service to a higher purpose and a mission that benefits others can truly lift your spirit. Commit to a cause that is larger than you. It may be feeding the hungry, walking for breast cancer, volunteering at the public library, giving donations to a battered women’s shelter, or participating in a service/mission trip overseas. There is joy in giving. You can increase your happiness by striving to make a difference in the world around you.
If you are feeling stuck, know that you don’t have to stay in that emotional place. You can make choices to think and act in ways that increase your happiness. Whatever you do, don’t surrender to a joyless life. Take steps to get back on the path that makes your heart sing.