“I feel like I need to be taught how to feel happy. It’s as if I don’t know how to be happy on my own anymore”, she says to me, her voice trembling as she speaks.
Ahhh, the ever elusive feeling of joy strikes again. My client feels unfulfilled and lost in her life. Her confession pulls at my heartstrings not only because of what a travesty this is, but because I’d been in this place once before.
Even though I may have looked stronger than I actually felt as I listened to her, I understood her on a deeper level than she’d ever know. Maybe you can, too.
It’s universally known that all of us learn skills through practicing them. Habits are learned the very same way, and being happy is a habit, too. It’s true!
An example of this is when we think about all of the people we’ve met. Have you met someone before whose default state of mind was always either pessimistic, irritated, or angry?
Many of us practice reacting negatively long enough for it to become a habit. New reactions need to be made into a habit. We need habits that encourage being happier before we can hope to start feeling any differently.
I remember when I was married and staying home with the kids. I was pretty bored and unfulfilled in my life. Talking to myself as we all do, I discovered I simply was not happy.
I wasn’t depressed, either. I just didn’t know how to feel happy, it seemed. You wouldn’t think that being happy was an art form or anything. This wasn’t rocket science, so why wasn’t I happy?
“It’s ridiculous!” I said to myself. “Why do I need to be taught about how to feel happy?!”
The truth is, I did need to be taught. Maybe re-taught. I think now to when I was a child, of how I would play. If you have read anything about me, then you would know that I certainly didn’t have a carefree, joyous childhood but yet, I was able to feel happy anyway.
What happened? I grew up, lost sight of what it meant to “play”, and got stuck in my hum-drum life! Sound familiar?
Do you know how to feel happy?
- Being Happy: Positive Affirmations,
- How To Be Happy,
- I Want to be Happy: 10 Habits You Must Stop Now,
- The Fearless Life Series: Pursuing an Empowered Life
If you’re ready to start taking steps toward creating your own joy, I’ve collected 11 strategies that have benefited clients of mine, as well as me personally.
11 Amazing Tips on How to Feel Happy
#1. Change your physical state.
There is real science that backs up the need for your body to be a certain way to achieve a feeling state of being.
Think of what a depressed or sad person looks like. Their head is low, their posture is slumped. They don’t resemble a happy, outgoing, dynamic person, do they?
These people are “doing” sad and depressed. If you want to be happy, then you need to practice the physiology of happiness.
What does this look like to you? You definitely want to take a look at your posture, but ask yourself if you smile regularly. Probably not. Practice standing tall, and put a smile on your face.
Check out this fascinating TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy about how posture and body language directly affects how you feel and act. Her advice shows you that, after only two minutes of consistently acting like you feel a certain way, you can begin to actually feel that way.
“But how can I smile if I’m sad?” I know, it feels difficult to force a smile when you’re feeling depressed, rushed, stressed, or even just sort of numb.
I know, I too have been there. The simple fact is you can do anything that you decide you must do, and if your happiness is a must to you… you can force a smile every now and then.
Let’s say that you were an actress playing a role in a movie, and your husband is being a jerk. Intellectually, you know he’s just a good actor, but he says something that hits a little close to home. It hurts, but you’d still have to perform.
You would still have to act the part. This concept isn’t doing much more for you than fooling your mind and releasing a few helping hormones, so while it should definitely be used, it needs to be paired with the other strategies mentioned for long-term effects.
The idea of wearing a smile when you don’t feel like it is a scientifically backed strategy to assist in improving your mood. Understanding the relationship that your body has with your feelings is difficult to grasp when you are feeling down. Smile, and “act” like a happy person even when you don’t feel like you are right now.
Just as any other behavior can become a habit when practiced long enough, looking and feeling happy is no exception. Combined with the other strategies below, you’re sure to begin feeling happier in no time.
There was a study done by the University of Missouri which concluded that participants could brighten their mood simply by listening to upbeat music.
Just as we can alter our physical state on the outside to alter our mood, music can alter our state on the inside by releasing the wonderful neurotransmitter in our brain: dopamine.
It’s a chemical that passes information from neuron to neuron. This chemical also happens to be associated with love, so it’s easy to see why it would be a great idea to stimulate the production of this chemical in our brains in any way we can!
Starting your day with upbeat music is a terrific way of practicing being more happy. Because our habits play a major role in our level of success with anything in life, this is just one of many habits that can be made to succeed at being happier!
If you have been depressed and sad for a long time, listening to upbeat music is one of the easiest steps you can take on your path to learning how to feel happy.
#3 Get out for some vitamin D.
Sure, there are places on the planet where the sun doesn’t shine as often – sometimes, there are people who won’t have the chance to see it even for weeks on end. I happen to live in such a place.
Here in Oregon, there are plenty of people who can’t stand how often the sky is gray. Some even move away to sunnier places.
It is reported all over the world in such climates, that people experience something called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD for short.
It can wreak havoc in your personal life. You begin to look at every situation in an uncharacteristically negative way.
You think your life sucks, and the mood you feel most often seems to be that of melancholy – but the truth is, at least part of the problem might be that your body is deprived of vitamin D; an extremely important, but often overlooked nutrient.
It’s no surprise that our bodies may be deficient in any particular nutrient, but here in America, we are so fortunate to have supplements so readily available. If getting out into the sunshine isn’t an option for you, consider a vitamin D supplement.
#4. Dance as often as you can.
We can learn how to feel happy through movement. When you think of a sad, depressed person, your mind conjures up a person sitting either watching TV or curled up with their hands on their face.
This sort of behavior can become addictive. “But how can I be addicted to something that feels bad?” It’s because, believe it or not, humans have specific needs we aim to fulfill with these behaviors.
When a person is in this physical state, they are seeking comfort and connection. They are not getting this sort of connection from an outside source, so they might hold or hug themselves, or even just stay as comfortable as possible in their pajamas all day, splayed across the couch.
This is our subconscious way of giving the much-needed love and connection to ourselves. As long as we continue to get our human needs met in this self-soothing way, it’s reasonable that it would be difficult for us to change.
Having the intellectual knowledge now of this fact, a person who is seeking a better way of being happy should know now that they absolutely must move their body.
As we discussed in “how to feel happy” strategy #2, we need to play upbeat music, but now it’s time to practice moving to the music. What holds many people back from dancing along to music is fear of judgement.
Even in a small family, this sort of feeling is still common. Fear of someone in the family saying something that make them feel silly for dancing is far from unusual.
If dancing freely is not something that you typically do, this is all the more reason you should do it! Why? Because doing something outside of what’s normal for you will show your family that you’re making significant strides toward a radical change, which is even more gratifying for you!
By doing something so out-of-character to lift your mood, you may get some confusion or judgement from family or friends, but you may even inspire some of them to change themselves, too.
If your friends or family judge you for dancing, it’s important to know that it’s not really about you. More than likely, they are judging themselves for their inability to let go of their own inhibitions, and they’re transferring that self-judgement onto you.
As one study has determined, dancing can be an effective therapy for depression. You already have music as a valuable tool – now you can double its effectiveness by pairing it with dancing!
#5. Exercise as often as you can.
As we found out in the previous strategies, learning how to feel happy can be improved easily by changing your physical state.
Endorphins in the body can have a direct effect on our mood, even for those who are clinically depressed.
If being physically healthy isn’t enough to encourage you to hit the gym… knowing that it can help you to be emotionally healthy, too, means that it’s just what the doctor ordered.
From my own personal experience, I feel so jazzed after I finish my workout. I love connecting with the people at the gym and challenging my body. The research is out there; if you want to know how to feel happy, it’s clear that this is one strategy that needs to be implemented right away.
My daughter has told me that, on the rare occasions that she’s been faced with days where she felt too emotionally drained to think of going to the gym, she pushed herself to go anyway because she could always count on arriving back home feeling better. I could see her light up with my own eyes!
If you want another easy habit to add to your day to start learning how to feel happy, Meditation is yet another practice that has been found to improve happiness.
Not only is meditation great for creating the habit of being happy, it is responsible for reducing stress and increasing concentration.
It’s true that many people in our world these days are overworked and living in a state of overwhelm. I don’t have to tell you that this is an unhealthy lifestyle.
You might think that you don’t have time to meditate, but the truth is, if you make something into a priority, you can make the time to do it.
With the many benefits of meditation, it’s definitely something you should add to your routine. There are many medications to help with depression, but what if you could combat depression with nothing more than good habits, and no side effects?
If making the time to meditate seems difficult with your current lifestyle, be creative! The silence of a long commute to work doesn’t have to be filled with news on the radio.
Instead, take this time to unplug from unnecessary stimulation and think. There will be plenty of other opportunities to catch up on current events. It can wait. Your happiness can’t.
Extensive study continues to be done on meditation’s positive effects. Some even suggest that it could be a cure for depression. With your busy life in full swing, I suggest that you spend at least 15 minutes every night after the kids are in bed to heal yourself and improve your overall happiness.
With my youngest daughter, we started with just five minutes each night. She takes Karate lessons, so we use this time to concentrate on her goals, and visualizing her techniques.
I have seen a significant difference in how well she applies herself in class, and she has told me that she enjoys the experience of the meditation itself. If a seven year old feels that way, imagine what it could do for you.
You can do the same thing with any goal that you have set your sights on, or you could simply use it as a healthier way to wind down for the night instead of staring at a glowing screen in bed – a common habit that has been proven to cause difficulty sleeping.
You can watch as it happens: the more they search in their mind for things to appreciate, the more their face seems to brighten up. Often, it gets easier and easier to name more as they keep going.
So why is it so hard for people to consistently maintain this attitude of gratitude on their own? It’s simple: people look at it all wrong… they think that they don’t have BIG things that they would consider worthy of being grateful for.
Worse yet? We don’t often keep even the little good things at the forefront of our minds throughout the day. We get stuck in the “doing” of life and lose all sight of the “being”.
We don’t wait for some big event to suddenly decide to be grateful. No, it’s the day to day things that are important to notice and even dwell upon.
Not only will this help to increase your vibration, which is something that others around you will pick up on, but gratitude is yet another research-backed positive habit to have.
An extensive study on gratitude was done by two leading psychologists. The results showed that after 10 weeks, those in the study who wrote down what they were grateful for had an overall improved spirit. Most of them felt that the quality of their lives had improved.
When you’re feeling low, take a moment to go through even the simplest things that went right today, and appreciate them. This could even be as silly as something like, “I’m really glad that I got such a close parking space at the grocery store when it was raining.”
You can say, “I am so happy that my body is healthy”, “I love the clean neighborhood that I live in”, or “I’m so glad that I have money in my bank account”. Affirmations of gratitude are most effective when they are believable for the conscious mind as well as the subconscious. Find what’s true for you, and appreciate it.
For a long time – decades, as a matter of fact – I didn’t have a loving, passionate marriage. For me as an example, it would have been hard to say, “I am glad that I married the man of my dreams”. Instead, I had to find what was true. I would say, “I am so glad that I married a good man.”
By many standards, that was a lot to be grateful for! I could focus on how I didn’t have love from him, but that would only make me UN-happy. Sure, using this strategy won’t “fix” a marriage, but it well help with coping in the background while you seek a solution.
So, if life has thrown you some serious curves, re-frame the negative in to a positive and find something… ANYTHING at all to be grateful for. Trust me, it will get you through the tough times.
The root word of inspire is “spirare“, which is a Latin word that literally means to breathe life into something, or to receive divine guidance.
Applying it to your life today, I would recommend reading”The Alchemist” by Paolo Coelho (affiliate link), for example. It happens to be one of my absolute favorites; reading it felt to me like an uplifting breathe that would stay with me for a long time.
Then consider to meaning of the root word of motivation which is [mot/mov] which simply means to move something into action. Often, when we are unhappy in our lives, it is something as simple as procrastination out of fear.
Once we realize that we are the very thing that is getting in our own way, we can gain a sense of courage which can move us forward. Therefore, it’s important for us to continually feed our mind with words that can help to drive us forward to reach our dreams.
If we do not grow in our lives, we feel stagnant and unfulfilled, which drags us down. To feel a sense of happiness, we need to grow. As Einstein has wisely stated, “When you stop growing, you die”.
Make it a point every day to feed your mind, your heart, and your soul. Seek out emotionally enriching literature. Paired with meditation on the message, this is a powerful tool.
Those situations will work themselves out through various strategies that you will put into place, but it’s the here and the now that is most important, and you need to take care of you.
Liaughter is just as contagious as yawning. A little known fact is that our brains are actually wired to mirror other people. We naturally smile at a smiling face, and laugh when another is laughing!
When you are in need of a lift in an otherwise mundane day, or are fighting depression, consider laughter therapy. Yes, it’s a real type of therapy that has been well studied in many different control groups.
Even in the Geriatric community, laughter therapy is effectively used to combat depression. Many people in this age group experience a loss of hope and slip into a dangerous clinical depression state.
Laughter therapy is linked to better sleep as well! Remember those endorphins that we discussed earlier?Those same feel-good hormones that are released in hard exercise are released when we laugh, too.
Laughing helps you forget your troubles. Even if for a little while, it’s a strategy that is worthy of adding to your life to improve your overall happiness, and the more often you do it, the longer the physical effects will last.
#10. Remembering and reminiscing on positive events in your life.
Our world moves at such a fast pace anymore, we rarely give time and energy to special moments long enough to imprint them onto our memory. Often, we give so much more energy to the negativity and the mundane that it’s what sits at the forefront of our minds instead.
We simply move on to the next moment without wrapping ourselves tightly in the love and laughter of the most special moments. Our minds are already jumping to what’s next. Living life just simply reacting to things blocks our hearts from feeling deeply about anything at all.
Soon, we become cold, emotionless adults who can’t smile easily. We can’t feel joy without a vacation. We feel like we need a trip out of the house, or some other way to “escape” from life.
[bctt tweet=”Our world moves at such a fast pace anymore, we rarely give time and energy to special moments long enough to imprint them onto our memory.”]
Take your mind back now, and really search for a special time when you were happy.
-Was it when you found out you were pregnant?
-Was it when you got a big tax refund check?
-Could it have been that time you stood on that tall rock by the beach? Staring out at the vastness of the ocean, while feeling the warm sun on you?
-When you finally closed escrow on your dream home?
-Would it have been when you adopted a new puppy?
-Maybe it was the time you saw your baby’s face for the first time?
Stay there now, and close your eyes. Smile, and allow yourself to feel as though you could be there right now. See the colors around you. Hear the voices. Fill your heart with the same feelings that you felt in that moment.
Get in touch now with those hopeful, happy thoughts that you had. Take time out of your life to sit and daydream about these happy moments. Create new ones with your friends, and talk about them often.
Be sure to say these people whom you had the memories with… “Remember when?” Notice that, as you do this, they will laugh and smile right along with you!
#11 Goal Visualization in the NOW!
One of my absolute favorite techniques to boost my mood is the “68 seconds” process. It’s a fantastic way of raising your vibration. Not just that, but also cementing our goals in our mind AND in our heart.
But first, let’s talk about goals. If you are not aware of the Harvard Business School Study on goal setting, then here’s a recap:
- 84% had no specific goals at all
- 13% simply didn’t commit their goals to paper
- 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them
It’s important to understand first the true impact of goal setting, and the power that it can have on your future. This is HUGE.
I suggest checking out the book, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School (affiliate link). There was no doubt for me that this needed to be implemented into my life after reading it.
Whenever I can, I strive to communicate this important information to my clients. My children, too, in hopes that they make use of this powerful tool as well.
Now, how does goal setting increase your happiness? What’s the 68 second process? I figured you were asking that by now. When we combine WRITTEN goals with the 68 second process, we have magic.
This is how it goes: Write down a goal. Let’s say it’s to buy a house in the year 2018. First, to make it happen, you need to increase your income. You have your strategy for increasing the income. Then, what you want to do with that extra money in a short-term time frame.
Now, sit down in a comfortable and quiet place with your written goals in your hands. Read over them once, so that you have them fresh in your mind. Now, for 68 seconds, you will talk as if these things have already happened.
You will begin to talk about how it feels to have the money. “I can feel relaxed and comfortable about spending money now.” Look further into the future. See yourself having reached your other goal of purchasing the house.
How does it feel to have the house? What does it feel like to be able to afford it without going into debt? What a relief! “I LOVE my new house. It’s spacious, well updated, and I enjoy coming home to it every day. I can see myself having my friends over to fill it with laughter!”
You’ll make it up as you go along. The idea is to fill your mind with the goal as if it already happened. Engage the heart, too, with statements of joy about having met these goals. Think about what they would mean to your life. Learning or re-learning how to feel happy really isn’t that out of reach after all.
There are different phases of our life that create problems and situations that are sometimes beyond our control. This is why it’s unfair and unreasonable to expect or pressure yourself to feel happy 100% of the time. We live with an abundance of distractions in this digital age. I truly believe we need a refresher course on how to feel happy. Even as ridiculous as it sounds!
Emotions are a natural part of humanity, as is the fluctuation of them. You deserve to give yourself the freedom to have sadness or anger when faced with tragedy. Depressed or sad people don’t know how to feel happy when times are tough, they are going through the motions.
It is necessary to feel those moments for what they are: moments in time. Nothing beyond that. You’re allowed to feel sad about a tragedy, so long as you don’t let it shape your entire reality.
You should realize at some point that you’re done living stuck in the tragedy. Maybe you feel like you’re just in a ‘funk’ and need to get out somehow. Maybe you’re just lost, and not feeling that abundant, joyful feeling that you once had and don’t know why.
For what ever your reasons are, you know you need to change.
Learning, or as I said in my case; re-learning how to feel happy was something I needed to focus on.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe it’s time for you to REALLY practice now on being happy. It takes a commitment on your part to make a change.
There is no simple, single method on how to feel happy. There’s a multitude of factors that contribute to your level of happiness.
Revisit the list above, and pick a few things that would be easy for you to implement right now. Gradually add more to the mix as you get comfortable with the idea of a new, happiness-guided lifestyle.