Do You Say "I Just Want to Be Happy"? Here's How
Do you just want to be happy but aren't sure how? We can all increase our happiness, at least a little bit. Here are a bunch of science-based strategies if you just want to be happy.
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What Is Happiness?
For most people, happiness means the same thing as subjective well-being (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006). Basically if we feel good emotionally and mentally, we are happy. But happiness can also be broken down into two parts: hedonia (e.g., pleasure, enjoyment, comfort, absence of distress) and eudaimonia (e.g., growth, meaning, authenticity, excellence) (Huta & Waterman, 2014). If you're saying. "I just want to be happy", you probably want both of these parts of happiness. So we'll talk here about strategies for developing both of them.
What to Do When You Just Want to Be Happy
There are so many strategies you can use when you just want to be happy. Keep in mind that these strategies take time to make meaningful postive impacts on your life. They are also not always easy to continue doing. But growing your happiness is very much like growing muscles. You have to work at it and continue to strengthen your "happiness muscles" over time. Only when you do this will happiness come automatically with little effort at all (just like when you get strong and can lift things easily). This is exactly what our happiness program shows you how to do.
The Basics When You Just Want to Be Happy
To increase our happiness, there are two distinct things we have control over: our thoughts and our behaviors. Both of these affect our emotions. For some of us, changing our thoughts may be harder. For others, changing our behaviors may be harder. That's why it's important to experiment to find out which strategies work best for you. Here are some examples of how thoughts and behaviors can be modified to increase happiness.
If You Just Want to Be Happy, Try These Thought Exercises
Because our brains are always growing and learning, by thinking postive thoughts we can go from saying "I just want to be happy" to actually being happy. Our brains actually learn how to think in ways that make us happy more easily. Here are some exercises to try.
1. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is about noticing and appreciating the postive things in our lives. Gratitude is strongly related to happiness (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). Luckily, gratitude is something anyone can practice and we can even get better at gratitude over time. Some ways to practice gratitude are with a gratitude journal or by writing gratitude notes, or words of appreciation for specific people. If you want to try a gratitude note, ask yourself:
Once you know your answers, write out a note to this person.
2. Practice Positive Reappraisal
Positive reappraisal is a thinking strategy where we look for the good things in difficult or hard situations. The goal is to try and find the hidden opportunities or benefits in our challenges. We can also reappraise by reminding ourselves that no matter how bad our situation is, it could be worse and often is worse for others. This thinking strategy has been shown to help us buffer ourselves from the negative effects of stress (Troy, Wilhelm, Shallcross, & Mauss, 2010).
3. Practice Self-Compassion
Sometimes the reason we say, "I just want to be happy" is because we're not happy with ourselves. If this is the case for you, it can be helpful to practice self-compassion. There are many ways to build self-compassion. One way is to write a self-compassion letter, or a letter where you talk to yourself kindly and give yourself the support you need (Shapira & Mongrain, 2010).
If You Just Want to Be Happy, Try These Behavioral Exercises
In addition to changing our thoughts, changing our behaviors can be really helpful when we just want to be happy. By taking actions that generate more positive emotions, our overall happiness level can increase. Here are some things you can do.
1. Do Fun Stuff
It may almost sound too simple, but one of the easiest ways to be a bit happier is to engage in activates you enjoy (Rohde, Feeny, & Robins, 2005). Do fun stuff, like spending time with friends, engaging in hobbies, or going to events. If you like to cook, draw, or play the guitar, then make time for these things in your daily or weekly routine. Schedule these activities in your calendar if you're afraid you'll forget or run out of time to do them.
2. Try Meditating
Meditating can shift your mood and help you stay in the present moment. Meditating regularly can contribute to long lasting increases in happiness by way of decreasing depression and anxiety (Khoury et al., 2013). Here's some of my favorite calming music below for a meditation.
If You Just Want to Be Happy, Read These Books
Below are some of the best books on how to be happy. You may also want to check out my book, Outsmart Your Smartphone, on how to develop a relationship with technology that boosts happiness, and our Happiness Skills Workbook, with a bunch of happiness exercises.
More Happiness Practices To Try
Here are some more practices that can help you increase your happiness:
Some Tips To Beat Negativity
If we just want to be happy, we're probably not only feeling unhappy, but also feeling stuck. It may feel more natural and comfortable for us to think negative thoughts and have negative emotions. To undo these habits, it can be helpful to question our thought processes directly. Here are some things to take a look at:
If you identify any of these aspects of negativity, they may be what's keeping you from being as happy as you might want.
Video: Why negativity is so easy
More Reading on Happiness
Here are a few more articles that you may be interested in:
In Sum: Learning to Be a Bit Happier
If you want to be happier, you can be. But just because it's possible doesn't mean it's easy. It takes time to build the skills that generate happiness, and as challenges come and go in your life, there will be times when happiness is easier or harder to come by. Still, if you practice these strategies presented here, you'll find over time that you feel a bit better and have a bit more control over your happiness & well-being.