6 Simple Ways to Make Yourself Happier Today

2. Change the way you talk to yourself.

Posted Nov 28, 2016

Maksim Shirkov/Shutterstock
Source: Maksim Shirkov/Shutterstock

Recent research shows that we Americans tend to be an unhappy group. In fact, we lag far behind many other countries in terms of our general happiness. A Harris poll, taken a few years ago, found that as many as one in three Americans rate themselves as unhappy.

Happiness can be fleeting. Most people think the next big paycheck, a nicer car, hearing a "yes" when they ask someone, or landing a great job will finally be the ticket to happiness. This forward-looking thinking creates plenty of room for letdowns, however, when a happy state does not actually materialize. Your new job may be great, until reality sets in and you notice how difficult your co-workers are, or that you negotiated a salary lower than your friend earns at a similar company. Or your date goes great, but as you move toward a longer-term relationship, the person’s issues start to become apparent.

Working toward a new desired state can be exciting. But believing that you will miraculously move from unhappy to happy by reaching a desired goal is not a sure thing. In many cases, people measure happiness by comparative thinking:

  • My house is beautiful—until I get invited to the much bigger house down the street.
  • My kids are doing fine in school—until my neighbor tells me about the full college scholarships her kid received.
  • My job is going great—until I learn about the money I could have been making if I stayed at my old company.

Many people are experiencing tough times and face unemployment, debt, and a lack of affordable housing options. The picture certainly isn’t rosy for all of us. Becoming happy isn’t about putting on rose-colored glasses and ignoring what’s happening around us. But even when you are going through tough times, there are ways to raise your happiness levels on a daily basis. It may not change the issues you are dealing with, or the reality of your life, but think about how much easier it would be to cope if you felt better and more positive.

Try any one of these six actions to increase your overall happiness:

  1. Adopt the mantra “this too shall pass.” 

    Life really is fleeting. This isn’t meant to make you more unhappy, but realizing that nothing is permanent and nothing stays the same forever can help to normalize your experiences. That traffic jam? Tomorrow you will have forgotten it. That bad grade? Hard to swallow in the moment, but not representative of who you are overall. The credit-card bill you can’t fully pay off? At some point it will be a memory as well. Just think back to other things you thought were the end of the world that are now in the rear-view mirror. When times are tough—and even when they aren't—maintain a perspective that life is a moving cycle, and things change minute to minute.
  2. Change your self-talk.

    You know who is typically the most defeatist person in your life? You. The thoughts and voices that roll around in your head can drag you down and leave you feeling depressed: “You can’t do that. Why don’t you ever learn? What’s wrong with you?” These negative voices will haunt our thoughts until we can silence them. That’s right: Call a halt to the negativity. Reframe and refocus on what you can do. Those negative voices are unwanted visitors—so disinvite them. (Learn more about self-talk here.)
  3. Identify what will make you happy.

    Be specific. Most people have a vague idea of what they want but then once they get it, well, be careful what you wish for. Set realistic goals for yourself, but be specific: Exactly what do you want? Aim for what will really make you happy. Don’t just run away from what you don’t want; focus on moving toward what you do want, and why.
  4. Practice being present.

    Instead of ruminating over what’s already happened or expecting what’s coming next, stay exactly where you are. The present moment is all you have—everything else is in your mind. Focus on where you are and what you are doing, and bring your full attention to what’s happening right now. The more you can come back to the present, the more centered and content you will feel.
  5. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

    There is nothing more calming and more centering than taking cleansing breaths. Inhale through your nose and fill your stomach up, then exhale through your mouth. Imagine as you breathe in that you are bringing in positive, clean energy; and, as you breathe out, that you are emptying your body and mind of negativity. Do this several times throughout the day.
  6. Put the phone down, walk away from the computer, and be in your life.

    Get outside. Visit a friend or someone who needs support. Walk. Talk with people. Get engaged. Read articles like this one, but then move on and do something physical and interactive with others. Life is waiting for you—get out there and enjoy it.