1. Be grateful
Gratitude is a tremendously powerful positive feeling. Plan a fixed moment every day where you think of three things to be grateful for. Or even better: write these three things down. These can be small things, such as a nice conversation you had, a delicious breakfast you enjoyed or beautiful clouds in the sky; all things for which you can be grateful.
2. Do not compare yourself to others
No matter how beautiful, rich or successful you are, there will always be people who are even more beautiful, rich or successful. Research shows that people who compare themselves to others are often unhappier.
Do a good deed every day: give someone a compliment, give a gift, treat someone, help someone, become a volunteer. Giving makes us happy.
4. Accept you cannot control everything
We have the urge to want to control everything. But that is impossible. Try to let things go more often. Accept you cannot control everything.
5. Have a purpose
Playing sports, learning a new language, creating a beautiful garden, setting up a company, becoming an expert in Mesopotamian art history, being a good parent: people need goals to be happy. A reason to get out of bed every day. What is your goal? Imagine the question: “What if I had a billion dollars, what would I do with my life?”.
6.Learn to think positively
Learn to quickly recognize negative thoughts. As soon as you become aware of a negative thought, immediately replace it with a positive thought. Think “I am great!”, “I am loved!”, “I am valuable!”, “I am very good at what I do!”. If you keep repeating this enough, you will reprogram or “brainwash” your brain so that you will believe this, wether you initially believed it or not. However, to have an effect, you have to repeat this positive affirmation to yourself at least fifteen times twice a day so that you really reprogram your brain.
7. Put things into perspective
Especially yourself. Laugh a little more with yourself. Do not take everything too serious. As the famous writer Oscar Wilde said: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
8. Collect experiences instead of stuff
Research shows that material things do not make you happy in the long run. Experiences do. If you buy something material, you get tired of it quickly. But you can enjoy great experiences your whole life. So instead of a new table or car, treat yourself to a journey that you will remember decades years later, and look back at with fondness every time.
9. Be aware of the status trap
Do not fall into this trap, namely that status and possessions will make you feel happy and fulfilled. After two years, lottery winners are just as happy or unhappy as they were before winning the lottery. Your brain has been programmed through millions of years of evolution to believe that more status, more success, and more possessions will ultimately make you happier. So you keep on striving for more and more. But it will never fulfill you. Until you realize, sometimes only at the end of your life, what it’s really all about: love, friendship, compassion, giving, sharing, beauty, gaining knowledge, becoming competent at things and creating stuff.
10. Smile and laugh as often as possible
Research shows that when you smile, your brain automatically makes you feel happier. It is a feedback system: even if you do not feel happy, by smiling you will feel more cheerful.
11. Avoid negative people
Surround yourself by happy, cheerful, optimistic people. Happiness is contagious.
12. Avoid multitasking
Too many tasks at once creates stress, feelings of impotence and makes you unhappy. Choose one goal, project or task each time and put your heart into it.
Traveling makes you happy. But you already knew that.
14. Move that body
Studies show that regular exercise reduces the risk of depression and anxiety disorders, and increases feelings of happiness and motivation. Physical activity releases all kinds of substances that have positive effects on the brain.
15. Always see the bright side, especially of negative things
Every event, no matter how bad, also has positive sides. If something bad happens, consider it as a learning moment, for example. Even with the death of a loved one, you can still think that this terrible event brought you more together with your family, made you get to know yourself (or others) better, made you stronger, or made you appreciate and enjoy life more. Approach every negative event as a way to grow or get something positive out of it.
16. Be yourself
Do not try to be ‘perfect’, try to be authentic.
17. Don’t hold grudges
Anger is a poison which first and foremost poisons yourself. Learn to forgive. And there will always be jealous, stupid, bad or ignorant people. This is beyond your control.
18. Live more in the moment
The ‘now’ is the only thing we have. Put your thoughts on a break. Observe your surroundings. Enjoy the light that falls through the window, the softness of the chair you sit in, the buzz or the silence that surrounds you. Surrender yourself to the know, observe in resignation and without judgment.
Meditating makes you happier. Take a course, online or in real-life, use meditation apps on your smartphone, or search for free meditation sessions on Youtube. On websites of well-known meditation teachers, such as Tara Brach, you can find lots of free meditations (link).
20. Be playful
Never really grow up. Stay playful, curious, open-minded and question the status quo.
21. Provide enough sleep
If you have not slept enough you are more prone to negative emotions and depressive feelings.
22. Live close to your workplace
Studies show that living far away from work – driving in the car for a long time – is not good for your happiness. If you can not live closer to your work, try to use public transport such as the train, so that you can do something else during the ride and enjoy the travel.
23. Connect more with nature
Go hiking, travel, eat more outdoors, go to the beach or a lake, … Find a place in nature where you can regularly go to recharge your batteries. Breathe in the fresh air and catch the sun. Observe and enjoy the beauty of nature.
24. Learn to say “no” more often
The more hay you take on your plate, the more stressed and the more unhappy you feel. Try to wonder why you say “yes” so often: is it to please people? Is it because you have too little self-confidence? Are you afraid to disappoint people? However, if you say more “no”, you will often enforce more respect and people will be more careful with your precious time.
25. Be lazy once in a while
It’s good to be lazy once a while. Give your body, and especially your brain, a rest. All work and no play make Jack an unhappy boy.
26. Less social media, especially Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
Stop feeding your ego. Stop looking at social media where everyone is apparently always happy and on vacation, giving you the impression that your own life is so much less sparkling. Everyone has setbacks, problems, fears and secrets, but mostly these negative, sad, boring, and embarrassing sides of life are not shared on Facebook or Instagram.
27. Live minimalistically
The bigger your house, the more expensive your car, the more stuff: the more you have to work, the more stress and less freedom. Live ‘light’. Do not live in your too big apartment or house, but live in the world. Do not collect stuff, collect experiences. The fewer possessions, the fewer obligations, the freer and happier you will be.
28. Eat healthily
A brain that is deficient in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients does not work well, and is more susceptible to negative and depressive thoughts. Here you will find all sorts of tips for eating healthier to have a better brain.
29. Read more
Non-fiction books make your world bigger with knowledge and insight. Fiction books make your world richer with experiences.
30. Stop following the news
Most news is bad news, because negative news attracts more attention and thus yields more clicks or money. There will never be a reporter on TV saying: “I now report live from a city where there is no war!”. This continuous flood of bad news is bad for your mood and gives the wrong impression that everything is getting worse in this world (which according to scientific research is not true: the world has never been so safe, prosperous and healthy. At least, when you take look at the last ten thousand years: slavery, torture, human sacrifices, serfdom, feudalist states, no voting rights for black people or women, the number of murders: that has all fortunately dissapeared or is happening much less). Do not be afraid of going on a “low-media-diet”. If something very important happens, you will immediately hear from the people around you. A low-media diet is psychologically very healthy. And to stay well informed and knowledgeable about the world, read a good book, which goes much deeper into specific matters than the hectic, sensational, superficial news items that are spewed out on a continuous basis.
31. Talk less
And listen more.
32. Reduce stress
Here you will find all kinds of tips to have less stress in your life.
Disconnect at least one day per month (ideally one day per week) from the world: no smartphone, internet or television. Read, meditate, think, cook, go outdoors, visit friends or family. You will be surprised how long a day lasts without internet.
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