Happiness seems like an elusive or unobtainable goal to many people. However, that’s simply not the case. It’s true that there’s no “roadmap” that can teach you how to be happy, but there are some small, everyday decisions you can make that will point you in the right direction. If you’re looking for ways to increase your own happiness, consider making these five decisions to get the process started.
Decide to like yourself.
No amount of external happiness will ever make a difference if you’re unhappy with yourself. From physical appearance to job performance, people have many reasons why they may hate themselves, but highly critical attitudes like these do nothing but harm you emotionally and prevent you from living a fulfilling life.
Personal growth isn’t an easy or short process, but it getting started isn’t too difficult—simply take the Golden Rule and apply it to yourself. You wouldn’t call a stranger on the street fat, would you? What about relentlessly criticizing a co-worker for their professional shortcomings? If you wouldn’t say it to another person, then you have no business saying it to yourself either. Being nice to yourself may feel awkward and undeserved at first, but the more you do it, the happier you will become.
Additionally, take some time to think about where your self-hatred is coming from. Often, people with low self-esteem have some sort of traumatic event in their past that spurred on the negative feelings. Learning to deal with the source of your unhappiness is a big step toward finding happiness.
Decide to create a sense of community.
Happiness is infectious, and if you surround yourself with people who are generally positive and upbeat, chances are you’ll find yourself with the same attitude. This is especially important if you’re dealing with low self-esteem—happy people can help build you up even when you don’t feel like doing it yourself.
Creating a sense of community with positivity at its core isn’t just about finding the right people, though. It’s also about eliminating the negative influences in your life. Obviously, it would be impossible to completely control who you interact with on a daily basis, but do everything you can to minimize your time around generally pessimistic or negative people. You’ll find that once you’ve eliminated their toxic influence, your general happiness will probably increase.
Decide to be grateful.
Being grateful can be difficult—there are more than enough terrible things going on in the world to make all of us sad and bitter for a lifetime. However, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness can actually make the bad parts of life seem more bearable, and there’s even some science to back up this belief. According to one study, participants who took time to write down what they were grateful for each week ended up being 25% happier at the end of 10 weeks than those who did not. There was no indication that the happier people led better lives than those who didn’t, though—the simple act of being thankful seemed to have the biggest impact on their attitude.
Decide to live a healthy life.
When most people think of diet and exercise, the last thing they associate with these activities is happiness. However, taking care of yourself physically may actually be a good way to improve your emotional life as well. Exercise has been shown to release feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, which can actually improve your mood—they’re the reason for the term “runner’s high.” Additionally, the foods you eat have a direct impact on your brain function, and some studies have indicated that people who eat a diet high in fresh, unprocessed foods are less likely to develop depression than those who don’t.
Decide to face your fears.
Fear does nothing but hold you back from being the person you could be. Whether it’s related to your professional life, like a fear of public speaking, or your personal one, like a fear of being rejected romantically, these negative thoughts keep you from happiness both now and in the future. Granted, facing your fears is rarely a fun or easy task, but the freeing feeling you get from doing so makes all the hard work worth it. When you find yourself afraid to try something new, acknowledge your fear and then push on through it. The happiness you feel at the other end will be like a well-deserved reward.