We share 12 meaningful ways you can make positive, sustainable, and actionable changes in your life to make happiness your priority and start building a brighter future
Are you happy?
Being happy is a goal that many of us aim for, but how do we know when we’re really happy? Shouldn’t it be simple - you either are, or you aren’t? Happiness is an emotional state where we feel a myriad of different things including joy, satisfaction, wellness, contentment, and fulfilment. But feelings of happiness can be fleeting, like momentary bright sparks in an otherwise stressful, busy, and overwhelming landscape.
So, how do you know if you are happy? Is it something we should even be working towards, or should we be waiting for it to happen naturally?
Long-lasting happiness is steady. It’s something we feel continuously as a sense of contentment when we feel fulfilled across different areas of our lives. Perhaps when you feel like your work is making the best use of your strengths, or that you are able to live a life that best aligns with your core values.
Happiness doesn’t just mean an absence of stress, worry and anxiety. You can still be happy while experiencing other, less enjoyable but completely natural emotions. In fact, when we are feeling happiness at our core, we may feel more able to face big life events, changes, or periods of high stress without feeling as overwhelmed.
Happiness isn’t just a luxury we should wish for. It has been shown to help predict positive outcomes for mental and physical health, wellbeing, and longevity. Experiencing more positive emotions increases our overall satisfaction with life, helping us build our resilience, develop stronger coping skills, and feel more confident and able to face life’s challenges head-on.
So, how can we stop wishing for happiness, and start making the pursuit of happiness part of our day-to-day lives?
12 ways to make happiness your priority
1. Define what happiness looks like for you
Currently, there is no one single definition of happiness. If you try to look it up, each definition is just a little different from the next. There are even different types of happiness that different people seek out.
Some may focus on more hedonic happiness (focusing on experiencing more pleasure and less pain), while others may look for eudaimonic happiness (focusing on happiness as the end result of seeking and fulfilling their life purpose, a challenge, personal growth, or overall feeling like they have fulfilled their potential).
Take time to sit down and consider what you most value in life. What is it that makes you feel a sense of satisfaction, fulfilment, or contentment? Is it spending time with friends and family, moving up the career ladder, helping others achieve their goals and better themselves? Is it creating a sense of financial security, supporting others, focusing on your passions, or reaching a state of complete self-reliance?
Our core values are highly personal and shape the way we live our lives. Spending time defining what those core values are can help us to get a better idea of which areas in life we wish to focus on, which matter the most to us, and what, ultimately, can become the foundations of what we want to do and where we want to go with our lives. Once you can define your core values, you can begin to explore how these underpin different areas of your life, helping you to both recognise and begin prioritising what will make you happy.
2. Get in the right mindset
Some people try to simplify happiness by saying it’s all about waking up and deciding you want to be happy. If that were the case, wouldn’t we all be happy? What we actually mean when we say you need to decide to be happy, is that you need to open yourself up to the right mindset.
Be ready to challenge negative thoughts and attitudes. Take time to reflect on your emotions, thoughts, and automatic responses. When we are used to bad things happening to us, it can become a defence mechanism to think that of course, more bad things will happen. But when we automatically assume the worst, we can unwittingly close ourselves off to fostering a more positive mindset and can start to see the worst in both things and people around us.
We share seven simple steps to reset your mindset to help create unstoppable success.
3. Put wellbeing and self-care first
Self-care isn’t just about the fun bits like candlelit baths, aromatherapy oils, and forest bathing with loves ones. It’s about taking care of yourself in mind and body. That means finding ways to make exercise part of your routine by finding something you enjoy doing, rather than feeling reluctant to drag yourself to the gym once or twice a week.
It means identifying unhelpful coping mechanisms that develop over time, like comfort eating or ignoring stressful situations until we feel at breaking point and have to deal with them.
It can mean challenging yourself to learn new things, stimulating yourself intellectually, and being open to new concepts and ideas to help continue your path towards self-development and personal growth.
Eating well, sleeping enough, challenging negative thoughts, making time to connect, having time to recharge by yourself, even reaching out to others can all be ways of creating a sustainable self-care routine with wellbeing at the heart of things.
4. Have the money conversation with yourself
Money doesn’t buy happiness - it’s a nice thought, and one that we've all heard before. But the truth of the matter is, a study published as recently as 2021 shows that more money does buy more happiness (even for those who are already rich).
Money creates a sense of security. It allows us to fulfil our basic needs for food, shelter, and warmth. It makes finding a job easier, feeling safe easier, and enables us to focus on other areas beyond basic survival.
The thing is, money isn’t a bad thing. And talking about our finances shouldn’t be something we feel ashamed or embarrassed about. If anything, when we fail to examine our financial wellbeing, we risk spiralling into debt, feeling pressured to live above our means, or being overwhelmed to the point where just talking about money makes us feel sick.
Money trauma is a real thing, with long-term effects. We share more about how you can decrease your financial worries while looking after your mental health. Not sure how (or if you should) open up to friends about money worries? Counselling Directory shares more about how to start the conversation – and why it’s important to do so.
5. Practice mindfulness
Studies have shown that practising mindfulness can help us to manage our emotions, reduce stress, better understand how we and those around us are feeling, as well as help us to cultivate compassion. In turn, this can lead to us making better choices, positively impact our relationships, and help us to feel a greater sense of happiness, calm, and wellbeing.
6. Make meaningful connections
How we connect to others has a huge impact on our overall state of happiness. The more we feel able to trust and rely on others, the closer we can feel to them. And our connections with others can create a sense of encouragement, being valued, appreciated, and loved – all of which boost our overall sense of wellbeing, resilience, and happiness. Meaningful, satisfying relationships don’t just make us happier – they can also improve our health, and even help us to live longer lives.
7. Cultivate your hobbies
Hobbies shouldn’t just be meaningless time-fillers that are last on our priority list. Having hobbies can create a sense of enjoyment, meaning, purpose, and connection. Whether it’s something you enjoy doing alone or with others, our hobbies can give us pleasure, create a sense of satisfaction, and even help us to reach out and make new friends. Some hobbies turn into businesses, some become the focus of lifelong goals, while others are a way we give back to ourselves and allow just a few minutes of enjoyment in our hectic lives.
Life Coach Directory explains more about the benefits of having hobbies.
8. Give back
Giving should be an important part of our lives. Whether that’s giving back to your local community, to bigger causes on a national or international level, giving doesn’t have to mean donating money. Your time, your voice, even sharing things online can all have a positive impact on good causes big and small.
Giving to charity and helping support community causes helps us to feel good, strengthens our personal values, helps make a real impact to others, and encourages others to do the same.
9. Identify your dreams (and make them happen)
We’ve all had a dream. Big or small, silly or serious. But how many of us have given up on our dreams before we’ve even got started? Real life gets in the way, other priorities take hold. Our chances of attaining our dreams seem to small – why even bother?
Having a big life goal or dream can give us a sense of purpose. Our dreams can inspire us, push us to keep going when times feel tough, and make dreary jobs feel worthwhile as we have something more to work towards.
No one else is going to follow our dreams for us. Pursuing them can help create a sense of momentum, help you to feel more confident and proud of yourself, allows for personal growth and development, and ultimately, creates a sense of hope.
10. Declutter your life (physically and mentally)
Over time, we collect so much stuff, we can begin to feel weighed down. Physically, mentally, and emotionally - we collect things we need, we want, we like. Things we feel obligated to keep, things we don’t know what to do with, sentimental bits and pieces we feel guilty for considering getting rid of.
Resetting our environment can help us to let go of some of the things that are holding us back. Decluttering can help us in both mind and mood, creating a corner of calm when we may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or exhausted. Making space in our lives can help us to feel calmer, happier, and more in control.
11. Make time for reflection, re-evaluation, and redefinition
We change - as do our wants, needs, and ultimate goals. So why wouldn't our definition of happiness and what is right for us change over time, too?
Make time to reflect on the past year. What could have gone better? What made you happy? Was there anything unexpected that happened - and how did it make you feel? What were your goals for the past year? Did fulfilling them feel the way you expected?
It’s good to take time to sit down, look at where you are in life, what you have accomplished (and what you thought you would accomplish), and consider if your goals are still working for you. Maybe you want family to take a higher priority moving forward, or you want to make more time to give back to your community. Perhaps you’re feeling the pressure financially and need to reconsider how you can focus on your savings for now instead of your previous goals around travel and exploration.
By taking time to reflect, you can reevaluate your goals for the coming year, ensure that they still align with your personal values, and keep moving forwards. Making intentional changes and plans can help to create a sense of control and purpose, putting you back in the driver's seat of your own life.
12. Consider working with a happiness coach
Happiness coaching is about helping you identify what makes you happy, and supporting you in your journey towards happiness. A happiness coach can help you to identify your strengths and values, help support and guide you towards setting goals, pursuing hobbies and passion projects, and even towards big career changes.
A coach can help you to identify your purpose, whilst acting as a guide and a source of accountability. By having an outside person as a sounding board, it can help you to feel more comfortable opening up about what you really want, whilst providing a place to explore how you could achieve that.
A happiness coach can help introduce you to tools that can help you to work towards a happier, healthier mindset, such as practising gratitude and self-reflection. They can help you to recognise areas in which you cannot change, steer you towards areas where you can take control, and help you understand how happiness is ultimately a journey, not a final destination.
Want to learn more about happiness coaching, or ready to speak with a happiness coach? Visit Life Coach Directory, or enter your postcode below to find a qualified, experienced coach online or in person near you.