It all sounds very simple when people say “just choose to be happy”, but what does that mean? And what does that look like?
There are people who outwardly appear to be very happy. They are the life and soul of the party, exude high energy, and they may seem to have it all - and yet inside they feel deeply unhappy.
Then there are people who are more quiet and thoughtful. You may not think they look particularly happy, but internally they are very peaceful and content.
I think happiness is deeply personal, and it fluctuates depending on what’s going on in your life.
So perhaps the most important things are to know what happiness means to you and feels like for you, and to know where you are now. Is there room for improvement anywhere or are you completely satisfied with everything as it is?
In this post I’ll share 10 strategies that will help anyone who wants to be able to increase their levels of happiness and well-being.
Why is Happiness Important?
There are many outside influences that affect us, and sometimes we don’t even believe we can be happy or deserve to be.
So instead of simply being able to choose happiness, it can become very complicated.
People often experience challenges like this:
- They have a lot of great things to appreciate in their lives and they want to be happy, but they just aren’t. There’s a feeling that something must be missing.
- They feel they can’t be happy when there is so much suffering going on in the world. “How can I be happy when ….. is happening?”
- If only … would happen then they would be happy (if only they made more money, lost weight, had the perfect job or the perfect relationship, etc.).
- They look to others for their happiness and when those people don’t behave as they expect, they are bitterly disappointed. This could be a partner or spouse, children, family members, etc.
- They don’t know how to be happy. Their life experiences have led them to believe that they are not meant to be happy.
- There’s a sense that every time things start going well and they start feeling good some kind of disaster will happen to change that.
- They are not happy with themselves, and/or are brought down by the criticism and judgment of others who don’t want them to be happy.
As you can see, it can be a complex subject and you may not simply be able to increase your feelings of happiness and levels of well-being overnight.
That’s why I want to share these strategies with you. These are all things that will create an immediate shift in your confidence, self-esteem, well-being - and ultimately your levels of happiness.
10 Strategies for Boosting Happiness and Well-Being
- Say Goodbye to Toxic Relationships
Do you know people who are constantly negative, leaving you feeling depressed or stressed after every interaction? There are also people who seem to live in a state of constant chaos and want to pull you into their drama too. There are people who are bullies, who are angry, or who are manipulative.
You can be feeling really content and happy one minute, and feeling terrible the next after being around someone like this.
Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid them completely - you may have a co-worker or even a family member who is like this. If that’s the case, then what you can do is to change how you respond to them. I like to set an intention before interacting with someone like this along the lines of:
“I will not allow this person to manipulate my energy in any way, or to pass their energy onto me.”
Then, I remind myself that their behavior has nothing to do with me. It’s a reflection of what’s going on with them and I don’t need to react or take it on. This works really well.
If at all possible, remove yourself from any toxic relationship. Remind yourself that you deserve better and that you don’t have to tolerate relationships like this.
“If somebody is looking for a bin to throw all their trash into, make sure it’s not in your mind.” - Dalai Lama
- Embrace Healthy and Positive Relationships
Who are the positive and supportive people in your life? These are the people you want to spend more time with - people who support, encourage, motivate and uplift you.
If you don’t know where to find these people, you’ll notice that once you take care of yourself by letting go of the toxic relationships you’ll begin to attract more healthy ones.
Pay attention to those people who leave you feeling uplifted and motivated. Know who they are and spend more time with them. A positive attitude can be just as infectious as a negative one.
“You’re the average of all the people who surround you. So take a look around and make sure you’re in the right surroundings.”
- David Burkus
- Release Perfectionism
It’s okay to have high standards and to believe in excellence, but if you try to be perfect all the time at everything, you can never be truly happy. You will put so much pressure on yourself that you will never be able to live up to it, which creates stress and limits your ability to really enjoy life.
As a recovering perfectionist myself, I know this is true. I also discovered that as a perfectionist your intensity and incredibly high expectations (of yourself and others) often make it difficult for others to be around you. People can be intimidated because they feel they will never measure up, that nothing they do will ever be good enough.
As a perfectionist, it’s not that you mean to be hard on everyone around you. You feel you just have very high standards and you can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t just get that. What you don’t realize (as I didn’t) is that your standards are impossibly high. So high that nobody (including you) can ever measure up.
I know from experience that when you let go of the need to do everything perfectly you will feel happier, much more energized and much less stressed. You’ll also find that people will enjoy being around you so much more.
“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment and blame.” - Brene Brown
- Let go of Expectations
This goes with perfectionism - when you have unreasonably high expectations for yourself, you’ll also have those same expectations for other people, which means you will spend a lot of time feeling disappointed.
There’s nothing wrong with expecting the best of yourself – until those expectations become unreasonable. When your expectations are too high, you are putting too much pressure on yourself and setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.
Your expectations are set by the beliefs that you have. I’m sure you’ve all heard the saying “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” So it’s true that expectations can shape your reality.
Just like most things, expectations can be helpful or not helpful. So it’s important to be aware of the expectations you have and how they are serving you. You may have some unhelpful expectations that you’re not aware of, and they can make life unnecessarily difficult.
It’s particularly important for those of us who are empathic and/or highly sensitive to be aware of and pay attention to our expectations because we tend to have extremely (and often unrealistically) high expectations of ourselves, and therefore of others.
Also, because we see and experience things in a different way, with a lot more sensory input, we may have a tendency to expect that others see and feel what we do, when they don’t (and can’t). This sets us up for massive disappointment.
Other people are not like you, so don’t expect them to be. Releasing your expectations of others and unreasonably high expectations for yourself will allow you to relax and tap into happiness.
As with everything, it comes down to awareness. The more aware you become of your expectations, the more you will be able to see whether they are supporting you or standing in your way.
Where do you have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations for yourself and others and how are they affecting you? When you recognize them you can change them. This doesn’t mean you lower your standards, but it does mean that you stop punishing yourself, or setting yourself up for disappointment.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” - Donald Miller
- Stop Comparing Yourself
Your job is to be the best you that you can be. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what other people have or what other people do, you are not them.
You will never be truly happy if you are constantly comparing yourself to others because in many ways you’ll feel that you don’t measure up.
Comparing yourself to others will always leave you feeling dissatisfied. It’s a waste of your energy because by comparing you are giving your power away.
Focus on yourself, what you want, and what you need to do for you, rather than on what other people are or are not doing or do or do not have.
If you’re highly sensitive and/or empathic you are one of just 20% of the population. This means that the majority of people are not like you and so comparing yourself to others is really counter-productive. Not many people will have the same sensory perceptions as you or the same levels of empathy, and will not be affected by the same things. If you expect them to, you will be very disappointed and frustrated indeed.
Put your attention on yourself and don’t worry about what others are doing. Things are rarely what they appear to be, and there are always more sides to any story. Yes, things often seem to be unfair and others may seem to have things easier than you - but instead of focusing on them, focus on you and what you can do to improve things for yourself. I promise you’ll be much happier.
“The reason why we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” - Steven Furtick
- Do More of What You Love
What brings you joy? What do you love to do so much that time flies when you’re doing it? How can you bring more of this into your life?
You might think that you don’t have time or that you have so many responsibilities that it would be irresponsible to spend time on yourself in this way.
It’s important to find the time - not only for your own happiness, but you’ll find that it will benefit everyone around you as well.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. All you have to do is make sure you schedule regular time to do something that you really enjoy.
Let’s say you enjoy writing - you could set aside some time each day (15 or 30 minutes) or an hour or two each week and just allow yourself to sit and write.
Whatever it is, put it on your calendar. Schedule time for yourself to do something you love. It can be that simple.
Spend more time doing what you love and you’ll naturally feel happier and more energized.
“Do what makes YOU happy. Focus on what brings YOU joy. Appreciate and do more things that make YOU smile. Live your life for yourself. You matter! You count! You’re deserving of true happiness! This is YOUR life. Live it to the fullest! Live life with no regrets.” - Stephanie Lahart
Put Yourself First
Contrary to popular belief, putting yourself first is not selfish. It is if you do it at the expense of others, but making sure that your needs are met means that you will have more positive energy to share with others because you’ll feel good.
If you’re used to putting others first all the time, you will ultimately find your energy becoming depleted. So often we want to help others when we are struggling ourselves and then frustration and resentment can build as we become more and more depleted.
You might think it’s selfish to take care of yourself or put yourself first when others need help, but it’s exactly the opposite. When your needs are met and you feel good, you are able to help others from a place of strength, which means that you can help them even more.
I think this quote sums it up quite nicely:
"You cannot get poor enough to help poor people thrive nor sick enough to help sick people get well." – Abraham
Stop putting yourself last on the list. Put yourself first and then you’ll have more to give others.
“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”
- Parker Palmer
The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” It’s true – the most successful people know themselves very well and use that knowledge to their advantage.
How well do you really know yourself? For example:
- What energizes you?
- What drains you?
- What makes you feel good?
- What doesn’t?
- What brings you joy?
- What is most important to you?
It’s so helpful to develop extreme self-awareness and to get to know yourself at the deepest levels.
When you know what’s most important to you, have a clear sense of what energizes you and what drains you, and are familiar with your strengths and weaknesses you are less likely to be thrown off-track when difficulties arise.
How do you develop this level of self-awareness? By paying attention to everything you think and everything you feel. When something bothers you, be willing to explore and use the situation to learn more about yourself.
I think the more you know yourself energetically and emotionally, the stronger you become and the less threatened you feel by stressful situations or by other people’s behavior.
The more you know yourself, the more confident, empowered and happier you become, and everyone benefits.
“The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world.” - Toni Collette
- Learn to Embrace Change
If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that life is constantly changing. Nothing stays the same forever, no matter how much we might want it to.
The challenges come when you resist change or are afraid of it, because then you will experience more stress and anxiety. When you learn to embrace change and go with the flow of life you open yourself up to more possibilities and more happiness.
It’s the resistance to change that causes us to suffer. I used to be afraid of change, but now I truly embrace it. If things are going to change anyway, it’s much better to focus on what it is that you really want and allow things to change in that direction, rather than clinging to what you know.
I know it can be difficult when change is forced upon you unexpectedly, but even then it’s very likely that, if you don’t resist it, and you look for what’s good about the change, then it will lead you to something better.
Just like the saying “when one door closes, another opens.” How often has an unexpected change come about for you that felt really uncomfortable at the time, but now when you look back you can see it was probably the best thing that could have happened for you?
When you learn to accept and even embrace change, rather than being afraid of it or resisting it, you’ll find there’s a lot less stress in your life, which will allow you to feel much happier.
“Become a student of change. It is the only thing that will remain constant.” - Anthony D’Angelo
- Allow Others to Help You
How good are you at asking for and receiving help from others?
So often we think we have to do everything ourselves and that it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help, or it means we don’t know what we’re doing.
I used to be terrible at asking for help and I didn’t know how to receive it. Now I know that it’s not weakness to ask for help, it’s actually a sign of strength.
Not only that, I found that people really like to be asked. People feel good when they have an opportunity to help.
How often do you find yourself struggling with something because you don’t like to ask for help? How often are you disappointed when others don’t offer to help you or are not there when you need them?
You must learn to ask for what you want. Don’t expect others to guess or to know what you need. If you learn to ask, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll receive exactly what you need – or perhaps even more.
Sometimes you might not ask because you don’t want to bother anyone, or because you’re afraid they will say no. At least give people the opportunity to say yes. So often we deny people the opportunity to help us because we don’t like to ask for help.
When you try to do everything by yourself and you shut others out you put too much pressure on yourself and you’ll never be able to relax. Other people want to help you, and they will feel good when they do. When you take the pressure off yourself by allowing others to help, you can relax and enjoy life so much more.
“Asking is the beginning of receiving. Make sure you don't go to the ocean with a teaspoon. At least take a bucket so the kids won't laugh at you." - Jim Rohn
Perhaps you already do make your happiness a priority. If you do, I applaud you because you are putting out more positive energy into the world - which is truly needed.
If not, I invite you to consider those questions and allow yourself to bring a little more happiness into your life. Implementing any one of these strategies will make a significant impact on your health, happiness and general well-being. Don’t wait - start today!
In this case, it’s likely that you have invisible emotional energy and emotional pain that’s holding you back. I’ve put together a free min-course sharing the Top 10 Reasons That Energy Holds You Back, which will help you see if this is what’s happening for you.