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How to be happy?
20 Secrets to living a happy life

Although many people seem to have a different notion about what they think will make them happy, the feeling of happiness is universal. When you are happy, you feel aligned with the universe. You feel like nothing can go wrong, you are confident about yourself and your life and you simply feel good. But how to be happy? It is easier than you think. Read on to find out more.

20 Easy Steps to be Happy

1. Realize that Happiness Comes From Inside Yourself

Realize and accept that happiness starts within yourself. You are its only source. Nobody else but you can make yourself happy, and nobody but you can take your happiness away from you. You must choose to walk the path of happiness, no matter the external circumstances of your life.

No expensive car, no highly paid job, no jewelry will bring you happiness unless you have manifested happiness from inside yourself. Ask yourself why you would like to have an expensive car. Would you like to have it because the car makes you feel better? Or would you like to have it so that other people can admire you for it because that makes you feel better? Why would you want other people to admire you? Your worth does not depend on the things you own or on what other people think of you.

You are the only person who can assign worth to yourself, not your neighbours, not your boss and not your partner, only you. Even a relationship with your soulmate will not make you happy if you are not happy with yourself and do not value yourself. The relationship will fail unless you learn to accept and love yourself.

Relying on external validation cannot make you happy. Making yourself happy is nobody’s responsibility but your own. And your responsibility is not to make other people happy by living your life the way they think is right for you. Realize and tell yourself that you are good enough. Sit in front of a mirror, tell it yourself every day and do what feels right for you. That which resonates with you is not always what your family or society expect you to do. People will always judge you, no matter what you do, so follow your heart and free yourself from other people’s opinions. Why become a lawyer just because it is a family tradition? It might make your family happy, but you will be miserable. And what happens when you are unhappy? You attract even more negative events. When you are in a bad mood it is much more likely to get involved in an argument with someone else because you are sending out negative vibrations.

So, free yourself of these restraints, be brave, and follow your calling without worrying about others so much. You will feel free and much more confident, which again will boost your level of happiness.

Happiness is a state of mind.

2. Embrace Your Uniqueness

You are unique and nobody else can compare to you. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Nobody is as good at being you as you are, so all you have to do is to be the best version of yourself.

Learn to love your body. It is the home of your spirit and your mind and you should treat it well. You don’t look like the models in magazines? So what? They don’t look like that either when you remove the Photoshop manipulations and the tons of makeup. Everybody feels insecure about their looks. Just make sure you feel good on the inside and you will reflect that on the outside.

Comparing yourself to others diminishes your own happiness. When you compare your paycheck to your co-workers’ paychecks or your car to your neighbour’s luxury limousine, it does not make you feel good. Instead, focus on what you have and how well it serves you.

Don’t compare yourself to others in any aspect of life. You were born the way you are because the universe has a unique purpose for you, and you were born with the right skill sets to fulfill that purpose. Listen to yourself to discover that purpose and if you find out you need a new skill to follow your path, acquire it. Don’t envy people who have already mastered that skill. Chances are they have put an incredible amount of practice into it or have studied it for hours and hours to become this good at it. But: If they can do it, you can do it, too. Just take the first step and become a master yourself.

But don’t beat yourself up if something you work on does not turn out perfect at the first attempt. Get into the so-called “Beta Mindset” and look at whatever you create – be it for yourself or at work for your boss or a client – as a first draft. It is not the final, perfect version, but it can turn into it by revising it, by improving it, and by listening to other’s input on the topic. Criticism can be a good thing because it can spark new ideas you did not think of before.

Nobody is perfect, but you are perfect the way you are!

3. Don't Chase Happiness

Happiness is not a goal you can reach in the future. If you tell yourself “Once I have this new job I will be happy,” you face two possible scenarios: You either do not get the job and are unhappy about it, or you get the job and then you realize that it does not make you happy either. You might not get along with your co-workers or your boss, it might take away too much of your free and family time so that tensions arise there, or at some point, you realize that there is a better-paid position out there and that you cannot be happy before you have this job.

Find happiness in the present moment, don’t project happiness into the future. You can only feel happy here and now. The more you keep projecting it into the future, the more you chase after happiness, the unhappier you will become because you can never reach it. What you desire is not static and thus you will never be happy from jumping from one fulfilled desire to the next as there will always be a new desire to chase after. This does not mean that you should not have goals you want to reach, by far not. You need a vision in life and a purpose, and this purpose will guide you towards your goals. Just don’t let your happiness depend upon reaching them.

Enjoy the process of life and find happiness in every single moment, even if your current situation might seem desperate. Take out a notebook and write down what this current situation can teach you. How can you learn from it? How can it make you help reach your goal? You are stronger than you think and you can handle much more than you might realize.

So, find joy in the small things life offers you as well as in the big things.

Live in the moment.
Live in the now.

4. Let Go of the Past

Living in the past is, in one way, not different from projecting your happiness into the future. If you live in the past, clinging to the happy moments of the past, but neglect your happiness in the here and now, you get stuck. You cannot live your life to the fullest when you live your life in nostalgia and keep reminding yourself of better days in the past. That does not mean you should forget about the good things that have already happened to you. They can be helpful and serve as a source of strength in moments when life gets tough. Just don’t fall into a pattern of ignoring the problems in the now by dreaming of the past. Use these happy memories as an inspiration and a reminder that life is not always hard, but that happiness exists. It exists right now – all you need to do is recognize it.

Constantly revisiting bad memories is not helpful, either. If you keep revisiting painful events or moments that made you feel ashamed or evoke any other negative feeling, your mind and body react to them as if they were happening now. You feel anxiety, stress, or sadness, your throat feels tight, your pulse races, and you might get stuck in a loop of overthinking what you could have done differently. When that happens, breathe deeply and focus on something positive to break that circle. Remind yourself of the present moment. The situation you were thinking of is in the past.

The past cannot harm you anymore.

5. Meditate

Meditation is a very powerful tool. It can help you with so many aspects of life. It helps you focus on the here and now, and it helps you focus on tasks you have to get done. You will experience less stress, also when under pressure, when you meditate on a regular basis. Sitting in silence with your own thoughts strengthens the connection you have with yourself. You get to know yourself better, and you consciously realize what kind of thoughts pop into your mind. Notice them, notice whether they are good or bad, and send them on without concerning yourself anymore with them during your meditation session. Meditation strengthens your self-awareness, builds up your emotional resilience, and has many more positive effects. You will notice how much easier it becomes to live in the moment and to appreciate even the small details of life when you turn meditation into a daily habit.

Meet your true self.

6. Be Grateful

We humans seem to have a tendency to take the good things in life for granted. Sometimes we don’t even notice them, but keep focusing on the bad things instead. Once you realize that the more you have to be grateful for the happier you’ll be, you have made a great step towards a better, truly fulfilled life. You can find something to be grateful for every day and in any situation, even if you might not believe it right now. Even the Corona crisis has its positive aspects: It offers the chance to spend more quality time with your family, which might not have always been possible before. Or you might have used the additional time off from work to plant a garden on your balcony, such as I have, and are now happy and grateful every time you take a look out the window and see the plants growing and thriving.

There are several ways to get into the habit of being grateful. For example, you can write down three positive things that happened during your day every night before you go to bed.

Appreciate the good things in life.

7. Let Go of Grudges and Resentment

Getting upset is easy for most of us. And why shouldn’t you get upset when a co-worker takes credit for your work and then someone takes your right of way on the way home? You shouldn’t because the only one you are hurting with it is yourself. When you focus on how other people annoy you, you put valuable energy to these thoughts that you could use in much more productive and positive ways. When your thoughts keep circling about how someone wronged you, it will not only cost you sleep – and enough sleep is very important for feeling healthy and happy – but you also victimize yourself. You give another person power over yourself, and that certainly doesn’t make you happy. So let go of the small things which aren’t worth your time and energy. And the bigger things? Talk to the people who caused the situation if you can’t let it go. Resolve the situation, but don’t carry it around with you and let it drag you down. And: Learn to forgive. Once you forgive someone, it also lifts a burden from yourself. Also, forgiving yourself for things you think you should have done differently in the past helps you to live a happier life.

Invest your energy into positive feelings.

8. Don't Gossip

Talking about people who are not present often is part of normal conversations and part of sharing information, and that is absolutely okay. The problem starts when you talk negatively about someone behind his or her back. Gossip is full of negative vibrations. Not only does it harm the person who is being gossipped about once they find out about it, but it also shifts your own focus to places where it has no business of being if you want to be happy. If you cannot say the things you have to say directly to the person you talk about, better keep them to yourself completely. It will make you feel better for sure, especially if you don’t have to face a stressful conversation with the person you gossipped about.

If you don’t have anything nice to say,
don’t say anything at all.

9. Allow Yourself to Feel Bad

Being happy will become much easier when you realize that you don’t have to be happy all the time. Be honest with yourself about how you feel, and be honest with others about it as well. Don’t just say “oh I’m fine” when you are actually not. Acknowledge your negative feelings, and find out why you feel that way. Don’t suppress these emotions but work with them. Let them show you what it is that makes you feel bad and thus don’t want. Let them guide you towards the direction of contrast, the direction of what you do want. Always keep in mind that you have a choice, though. You can either choose to stay in your negative emotional state, or you can choose to head into the direction of happiness. Ask yourself what it is that would make you feel better, and do that. Don’t let your anger or pain mislead you, though. You might be tempted to think that, for example, taking revenge on someone would make you feel better. You might think it will, and for a short period of time it might actually really do it, but you will only feel worse afterward. So think deeply and make your decisions wisely.

All emotions have a valid origin.
Accept the emotions but work on your response to them.

10. Spend Less Time With Technology

Technology can be a good thing. It keeps your vegetables refrigerated and keeps them fresh longer, it allows you to stay in touch with your family even from thousands of kilometres or miles away, and with the internet, you have almost all the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. It is amazing that we have such possibilities, but some technologies, especially the internet, also pose a threat to your well-being. Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on social media, checking other people’s feeds, and comparing your own life to theirs? And does comparing it make you feel any better? Or does it make you feel worse? Why don’t you stop browsing other people’s feeds and instead dedicate the energy and time into working on your own life? Think about your own vision and what you can do to achieve it.

Also, remind yourself how much nicer it is to talk to someone in person instead of texting them. If you cannot meet them in person, then at least call them. Our society has made it look normal to communicate in written form, but we humans are social animals. Don’t forget about that aspect.

Something else that can be overwhelming is the news. Whether it is on social media or in the news on the TV or the radio, the media have made it a habit of preferably broadcasting negative events. They claim to be neutral and unbiased, but what they present you and how they present it to you is by no means objective. Whether some TV stations have an agenda of actively manipulating their viewers I cannot say. But I do know that watching the news doesn’t make you feel better. It makes you feel worse, so try to stay away from it as much as you can.

Experience your own life,
not somebody else’s life on a screen.

11. (Re-)Connect with Nature

When was the last time you went for a walk in the forest? For those of us who live in cities, staying or getting back in touch with nature might be especially difficult. We are a part of nature, even if it has become very easy to forget or ignore. Nature has become something distant and unfamiliar for many of us. This might also be a reason why many people cannot relate to the necessity of environmental protection and animal rights. If you don’t experience nature, how can you relate to it? And yet, having a strong connection to nature is essential for our happiness. Did you know that it is even scientifically proven that the terpenes emitted by trees have a positive effect on our immune system and our emotional stability? We are meant to live among trees, not among high-rise buildings, so get out into nature as often as you can, and do everything you can to sustain and protect it!

Nature is the greatest source of positive energy.

12. Put Happiness on Your Plate

Eating is very closely related to connecting to nature. What you put onto your plate and into your mouth has a huge impact on your mood and your happiness. Pay attention to how the things you eat make you feel. Does too much sugar make you feel depressed and does it fog your mind? Does eating meat make you sad or even angry? A plant-based diet is not only healthy, ethical, and environmentally friendly, but it also makes you happy. Plants are full of so many amazing phytonutrients. Science has only started to analyze the smallest part of them and their effects on your health and your emotions are tremendous. Meat, too much sugar, and salt make you sick and unhappy. A vegan diet is not only going to cleanse your body but also your mind.

Stuff your mouth with only the good stuff!

13. Move

Most of us don’t move our bodies as much as we should. Evolution has brought us from Homo Erectus via Homo Sapiens to Homo Sedens, the sitting human. We are stuck in our office chairs for hours each day, and when we get out of them we feel mentally so drained that we lack the energy to exercise. But don’t let this system ruin your health. Your body is important because spirit, mind, and body need to be in balance. Your mind cannot function properly when your body isn’t in a good shape. This is where we have to overcome our inner resistance and work on ourselves.

This is one of the parts which has been especially hard for me to learn. I used to have a very low energy level. My mind obsessed over work at night, making me lose sleep. During the days I was too tired to exercise – ready to fall asleep while walking. But that only made it worse because the less you move your body the lower your energy level gets. And the less you move the less you can eat in order to not put on weight, but there comes a point where you cannot eat any less and you still put on weight. So you get a multiple unhappiness whammy: The excess weight makes you unhappy, the lack of exercise makes you even more tired all the time, you cannot eat enough food to supply your body with all the nutrients it needs (besides from calories) which also makes you unhappy without realizing it, and being hungry all the time certainly doesn’t add to your happiness. So I finally made a resolution to take up yoga. Yoga doesn’t have to be but can be a phenomenal workout. And the good thing is you can adjust its level of intensity. So instead of skipping it for a day, telling yourself, you are too tired, you can simply do a more mindful session instead of a power workout. This way you can create a habit of daily exercise you can stick with instead of giving it up after three days because it puts too much strain on you.

Another great aspect of yoga is that it does not only engage the body but also the mind and the spirit. It is a holistic workout, one that does not stress you out mentally – something a lot of other types of exercise do to me. Seek out the kind of exercise that resonates with you. If you need the adrenaline you get from running, put on your shoes, and run. If you need more fluid movements, try swimming. Just make sure you find something that relaxes you instead of stresses you out.

Make your body the home your spirit and mind deserve to live in.

14. Break Out of Your Routines

Do you do almost the same things every day? Do you get up, maybe have breakfast or not, go to work, get lunch from that fast-food restaurant across the street, return to your desk, go home, maybe cook or get take-out, watch TV and then go to bed? Does your typical day look like this or similar? We can get stuck in routines and one day starts to blend into the next and when we try to remember what we did three weeks ago we can’t remember because it is all a big blur. Periods of times in which we do the same thing without a lot of variation every day seem shorter in retrospective than they really were. Time flies by without you even realizing it. You probably know the feeling when somebody at work says “ok, let’s do it as you suggested in your e-mail three weeks ago” and you think “seriously, that was three weeks ago and not last week?” That is what happens when you don’t break out of your routines. Try to incorporate variation into your daily routines. Make a short weekend trip with your partner or invite some friends over to cook together or play a board game. I would also suggest travelling whenever you can, but this is a double-edged sword. Travelling a lot is good for your personal growth, but bad for the environment considering all the emissions planes blow into our atmosphere. Try to find eco-friendly ways of travelling whenever possible.

Don’t let your life pass you by.

15. Less is More

We tend to buy too many things we don’t need. The advertising industry is very good at making us believe we need this new watch or that new iPhone. And how many different types of wine glasses do you really need? The more things you have the more they burden you. We clutter our living space with too much stuff and we waste our resources on things we don’t need. Before you buy something the next time, think about whether you really need it. Do you need a new TV now just because there is better technology out – again? Or does the one still work just fine? And what about all the clothes you buy but never wear? And other things you keep that only take up space? Go through your things and figure out what you could give away – to charity for example. Cluttered spaces clutter your mind and can even make you depressed. Clearing out your space helps to clear out your mind and boosts happiness.

Give yourself space to breathe.

16. Stop Limiting Yourself

When we grow up we listen to our parents, to our teachers, and our friends. We trust them and believe what they tell us about the world and ourselves. Unfortunately, we also believe them when they tell us that we can’t do this or aren’t suited to do that. We believe them when they advise us to do something else instead because they surely know what is good for us. But even if their intentions are good, they limit us in our life choices. Their limiting beliefs become our own and we lose trust in ourselves. How can they or you know that becoming an astronaut is something you can’t achieve if you don’t try it? Just because there are not that many astronauts and the chances of being selected are small? Well, if everyone gave up on their dream of becoming an astronaut because of that, there wouldn’t be any astronauts at all. We are limitless beings, only locking ourselves up by the belief systems we and society have created. Break free of these beliefs and you will be much happier with who you are.

You can do and be anything.

17. Minimize Stress

Stress is one of the worst things for being happy. Society expects us to be productive, to make money for our boss, and if you don’t work yourself to exhaustion you are not giving it your best – so the common opinion. Work is not the only factor causing stress, but it is an important one. Stress makes us sick and depressed and goes against everything we are supposed to be – happy. Try to avoid stressful situations whenever you can. Change your job if it wears you out. Nobody benefits from you suffering a burnout – not your boss, not your family and certainly not you. If you can’t avoid stress, then at least modify the way you respond to it. Implement breathing exercises into your day, take breaks to close your eyes and find stillness within yourself. Even a few minutes of meditation during a stressful time is a great tool for lowering your stress level.

Create your own island of relaxation.

18. Learn to Say No

Being nice to other people is being nice to yourself, but you don’t have to please everybody and make yourself unhappy in the process. If somebody asks something of you that does not resonate with you, dare to say no. Don’t do things that go against your authenticity. Saying no to things you are not comfortable with strengthens your confidence and it leaves you more time to do the things you really care about. Your time is precious, so don’t waste it. If the people in your life are not used to you saying “no”, they might be surprised at first, but they will also respect you for standing up for your values and priorities.

Stand up for yourself.

19. Don't Believe Everything You Think

Do you sometimes catch yourself wondering whether you should not wear this or that because of what people might think of you? Or do you worry about something you might have done without being aware of it because you feel somebody is acting differently around you? Actually, you have no way of knowing what other people really think of you. Most people are so busy thinking about themselves that they don’t even have time to think about others. Don’t put your energy into thinking up scenarios of what could be if you don’t know for sure what is going on. The other person might simply have a bad day or might have had an argument with someone else. It might not have anything to do with you at all. Let go of such thoughts.

The same thing applies to thoughts you have about yourself, like those limiting beliefs you read about earlier. Thinking “I will never get this job” or “I will never earn more than what I earn now” are false truths. They are true as long as you believe in them, but as soon as you change your attitude towards thinking “I deserve this job and I will get it,” this becomes true instead and your false truths dissolve. With this new perspective, you are suddenly free to act in a way that brings you closer to your goal. The mindset of “I will never get this job” closes all these possibilities on how to work towards what you want because you deny their existence. So scan your thoughts and check whether something you believe to be true is really true or if it is something your mind has constructed.

You create your own reality.

20. Accept that Life is Not a Straight Line

For a lot of people, it seems to be important to get straight from A to B and not “waste” any time by taking a detour. They want to reach their goal now, not sometime in the future. But life is a journey, not a destination. This is something we tend to forget in our productivity-driven, success-oriented society. We are here to experience life, not to check off a to-do list. Everything you have done in your life has given you something valuable, something to learn from – something you can use as a tool to reach your goals. Maybe along your journey an unwanted detour even makes you realize that you were going after the wrong goals and it offers you the chance to change your route. If you attend university and study something you think you are drawn to but after a few semesters realize that it is something completely different you are passionate about, you might feel as if you wasted your time. But during this time you might have met people who are important in your life or people who know people who know people who can help you with your true passion. You might have also acquired useful skills necessary to reach your true goal. People change, and their perspectives and views change over time, and that is a good thing. It means we are growing and developing as human beings. Life isn’t a straight line, so why not enjoy life’s scenic path?

You might discover happiness just around the next curve of your trail.

This post was published on May 31, 2020 and last updated on October 12, 2020.

After a long time of being clueless about what I really want out of life and how to be happy, I finally figured it out. Now I want to share the tools with you that helped me become happy, hoping they will help you as well! Have a wonderful day, filled with joy and laughter, and remember to always follow life's scenic path!

Julia

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