9 Things you Need to do for a Happy Life
Try to imagine yourself toward the end of a long life. You are fondly looking back on it. What are the first thoughts and memories that come to mind? What are the things you are proud of, and who are the people you are with?
Consider this list as gentle guideposts. We built it out of some of the top things mentioned by people who felt they had a good life. See how they can be part of yours!
We are inherently relational beings. We thrive on connection. At the root of that connection is a sense of love–both given and received. Feeling love and connection has the exact opposite effect to fear and isolation on your brain. It expands rather than contracts you. It moves you out of fight or flight mode and into openness.
So cultivate love. Build and nourish your relationships with family, friends, and significant others. Research has repeatedly shown that people who maintain close relationships throughout life are healthier overall and more resilient. That means they can cope better with the ups and downs of life.
2- Embrace Difficulty
Or maybe we should say, reality. Don’t try to push against life when it gets hard or it hurts. Let yourself have all the feelings. A lot of our suffering comes from trying to avoid our sadness, anger, fear, and pain. Living a happy life doesn’t mean you would be free of these. It is just accepting things as they come, and moving with along with and through them. When you embrace what you are experiencing, it’s much easier to let go.
Seriously. Be silly. Laugh, a lot. Laughter is one of the best and most enjoyable forms of stress relief. It actually calms the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It releases physical tension in the body. It spontaneously releases pent up emotions. It’s accessible in you at all times, so do it alone and share it with others.
4- Be part of the Bigger Picture
Expand your reach and impact. See how you can contribute to your community and beyond your line of sight. Give your kindness freely and irreverently. Find a spiritual practice. Experiencing yourself both as a drop in the ocean and a pebble causing infinite ripples are profound experiences.
5- Practice Gratitude
Inherent to gratitude is living mindfully–in the present moment. It’s been proven repeatedly that in finding daily ways to appreciatively acknowledge what you have right now, you alter your mind’s patterns of focusing on the negative.
This actually creates new pathways in your brain that increase the production of the happy hormones dopamine and serotonin. Gratitude is a natural antidepressant! So try a practice of daily gratitude, for the things big and small.
6- Try Optimism
By optimism we don’t mean a shallow positivity. It isn’t about saying ‘everything’s great!’, when it’s actually a mess. It’s just about cultivating a different mode of perceiving the world. Every time you alter your perception, it opens up new options and possibilities. Optimism is another route you can take. Having multiple routes gives you freedom, freedom to interpret, cope and make sense of your world in new ways. It opens up the flexibility of your thoughts and feelings, and this actually fosters resilience too.
7- Strike a balance
Too much of a good thing is…well, no longer a good thing. So move, exercise, dance, build, but also remember to rest, to get enough sleep, to self-reflect. Let yourself enjoy the sweet things, the salty things, the glass of wine. But mostly, have that water, those greens, the whole unprocessed foods. Be alone. Be with others. Travel. Stay put. Listen to music, and then enjoy the silence. Everything in moderation right?
8- Stay Curious
Don’t stop learning. From books, from people, from minute-to-minute experiences both new and old. Welcome things out of the ordinary. Say yes as often as you can. Enter each day with curiosity. Foundational to good physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing in the later years is staying engaged. It is actually seen as ‘cognitive protection’. It keeps your brain flexible because you keep building and expanding pathways in it. When there isn’t growth, there’s decay. Be open and keep those neural pathways firing.
9- Discover You
No really. Get to know yourself. There’s only one of you and you aren’t here forever. People who are happy are comfortable with who they are. That comes from understanding your values, what you want and need, and being authentic and honest with yourself and others. It doesn’t need to be harder than it sounds. Take the time to find what works for you and what doesn’t and live by that the best you can. Know your passions and the purpose you want to have in life. You can continually update it, which is great, because then you have to continually check in and see if you are living in alignment with yourself.
If you’d like some concrete ideas about how to bring these practices into your routine, check out our ‘30 Day Service Challenge‘, and our ‘Checklist for Deep Self-Care‘.