How to be happy? It’s one of the most frequently asked questions in life. Yet, it all seems so subjective and vague.
That’s about to change. We’ve broken this topic down into clear and actionable tips and examples, to help you understand what happiness means. By understanding your own definition of happiness, you’ll actually be able to control your happiness more.
We compiled the best tips out of >175 articles on happiness and divided them into 9 actionable chapters for you.
Using the methods discussed in this guide will lead to a happier life, filled with self-awareness, purpose and fun. If you want to be happy, look no further: this page contains everything you need to know to improve your happiness.
- What happiness means to you
- Is it okay to be unhappy sometimes?
- Understand how happiness is not eternal
- Can happiness be controlled?
- Our study on controlling happiness
- Happier people are less a victim of their circumstances
- Defining your happiness
- Understand that happiness is different for everybody
- Consider your personal happiness definition
- The 9 best ways to be happier
- 1. Find your purpose in life
- 2. Journaling creates happiness
- 3. Self-awareness is the key to happiness
- 4. Try to spread more happiness
- 5. Don’t compare yourself to others and accept yourself for who you are
- 6. Exercise!
- 7. Focus on positive relationships
- 8. Try something new every once in a while
- 9. Track your happiness
- The How To Be Happy library
- Closing words
What happiness means to you
If you want to know how to be happy, you must first have an idea of what happiness really means to you. If you think you already know what happiness means to you, you can use the links above to jump right to the actual tips.
If not, continue reading here.
Is it okay to be unhappy sometimes?
Want to know something funny?
When I search the internet for “how to be happy”, Google tells me there are 4,810,000,000 results. I’m sure that when you do the same search, Google will have found more results already.
Additionally, when I type the words “being unhappy is” in the search field, Google tries to autocomplete it:
- Being unhappy is a choice.
- Being unhappy is a state of mind.
Meaning to suggest that we’re broken if we’re ever unhappy, and that we should be “fixed”.
Understand how happiness is not eternal
Even the happiest person alive has experienced sadness in his or her life.
The idea that being unhappy is a bad state to be in is just wrong. Everybody has his or her reasons to be unhappy sometimes, and those reasons can be perfectly valid.
Some examples of the things in our lives that we can’t fully control:
- The health and well-being of the people we love.
- The health and well-being of ourselves (everybody can get sick).
- The weather.
- The job market (which somehow always seems to be shitty).
- The moment our laundry machine decides to break down.
- The outcome of elections.
Can happiness be controlled?
There are some people who believe that they control 100% of their happiness.
How? By always being able to embrace a positive mindset, no matter what situation you may be in.
Do you believe this? Can someone choose to be happy all the time? Can happiness really be controlled like that?
Our study on controlling happiness
This led to an interesting and unique study we performed this year at Tracking Happiness. We surveyed over 1,000 people and asked them simple questions about their happiness.
It turns out that people who think that happiness can be controlled are 32% happier on average.
That is huge!
It means that people who believe they can control their happiness are happier than those who don’t.
There are some very efficient methods that will help you control the things that are most correlated to your happiness. These will be explained throughout the rest of this article.
Happier people are less a victim of their circumstances
We performed a follow-up study that focused on circumstantial happiness. In other words, we wanted to find out how much of our happiness is determined by external circumstances.
Our study showed that roughly 35% of our happiness is believed to be circumstantial.
But what was more interesting this statistic was correlated to the overall happiness of a person.
We found that happier people believe that their happiness is less a result of their circumstances.
The happiest people in our dataset (happiness rating = 10) believe that only 31% of their happiness is circumstantial. On the other hand, the unhappiest respondents (happiness rating = 1) believe that more than half of their happiness (53%) is circumstantial.
What does this all mean?
It hints at the fact that the happiest people have learned and implemented strategies that give them a better chance of having a happy day. Without being affected by outside circumstances.
Defining your happiness
When you consider happiness and look at it from a distance, you will find that there are 3 things that can determine your happiness:
- Your genetics.
- Your internal state of mind.
- Your circumstances.
In another survey we ran recently, we asked over 1,000 respondents to weigh these factors. Which one of these 3 factors determined your happiness the most?
Would you answer 10% – 50% – 40%?
Or maybe 50% – 40% – 10%?
We averaged all the answers and found the following percentages: 24%, 40% and 36%.
But that’s beside the point. If this study showed anything it all, it’s that our way of defining happiness is really unique and should not be compared to what others think of happiness.
Understand that happiness is different for everybody
If I asked you and your neighbor to define happiness right now, the two answers would probably be wildly different.
Why is that? What is happiness really? Is it a feeling, a state of mind or just an emotion?
What initially looks like a very simple question turns out to be one of the hardest questions out there.
Anyway, what I want you to realize is that your personal definition of happiness is unique. What makes you happy doesn’t necessarily make another person happy. In fact, your definition of happiness even changes over time. There is no universally agreed-upon definition of happiness.
That’s why it’s important to find your own definition of happiness.
Consider your personal happiness definition
Think back of the last week, and remember what things or events had a positive influence on your happiness. Think of the things that really made you smile or feel satisfied with where you were or how you acted.
What came to your mind? Was it a good day at work? Was it a movie you watched? Was it a book you read? Or was it when you went for a long walk? It could literally be anything!
Whatever crossed your mind, I want you to realize that you just measured a part of your happiness. By making an effort to think about the things that make you happy, you are forming your own definition of happiness. This is an extremely powerful step in the process of becoming happier.
How to practice this kind of self-awareness is explained throughout the rest of this article.
The 9 best ways to be happier
We’ve published >175 articles on numerous evidence-based happiness tips, studies and stories from our community.
We’ve filtered them down based on the feedback from our community of happiness trackers. Instead of having to read through dozens of articles, studies and reports, here are the 7 most effective ways to be happier.
1. Find your purpose in life
Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.
In order to find this harmony in life, you should be aware of what your purpose in life is.
An average person spends about 40% of her or his life at a job (including commuting, getting ready and other stuff). Chances are that you are doing the same.
It’s only logical that you try your best to make that time as pleasant as possible, right? It’s therefore increasingly more important that your occupation is something that is pleasant and endurable. Something that is in line with what you think, say and do.
Most people are not as lucky though. A survey by Mental Health America with over 17,000 respondents shows that only 21% of people in the US feel like they are paid enough at work. In fact, a lot of people simply hate Mondays, just for the simple fact that it’s the start of a new workweek.
If this is you, then it’s very important that you find some kind of intellectual satisfaction from other sources. Something that actually gives you satisfaction and that you can be proud of.
A purposeful life is a happy life
When you live your life with a purpose, you are much more in control of your long-term happiness. You won’t have the feeling like you’re just drifting, working towards some vague goal that doesn’t make you happy.
With a purpose, your long-term happiness, satisfaction, and sense of achievement are much better definable. You are able to steer your life in the best direction possible. And that’s the direction where long-term happiness can be found!
This is backed up by plenty of evidence-based studies:
- A team of psychologists from Poland and the US found that living meaningfully can boost feelings of harmony, peace, and well-being, which in turn promote happiness.
- According to researchers Kleiman and Beaver, having or looking for a meaning in life predicts lower levels of suicidal ideation and lower suicide risk.
- Another study found that having a high sense of purpose in life is associated with a reduced risk of mortality.
Find your “why”
You can’t copy & paste somebody else’s purpose in life and expect to be happy by doing the same things.
No, you have to define YOUR purpose.
Just as much as happiness is something that’s unique for every single person, the purpose of life differs from person to person.
Elon Musk’s purpose in life might be to develop futuristic ideas into reality, while your purpose can be to just provide the best life to your family and children.
Copy & pasting the purpose of somebody that you respect and like will probably leave you unhappy and unfulfilled. For example, I think Elon Musk is doing spectacular things, but I wouldn’t be happy if I were in his shoes. My purpose in life is wildly different from his!
I have defined my own purpose in life, and I advise you to do the same!
Know that your purpose in life can change
A life purpose can (and most likely will) change many times over your life. For some people, this means that whatever got you motivated and inspired yesterday might not provide you with the same itch tomorrow.
If you currently feel lost and have no idea what you want to spend the rest of your life on, then you can rest assured knowing that your purpose in life will eventually change anyway.
This is especially important for young adults, who have no idea what career to choose. Or maybe you just started your promising career and wake up every morning in a panic because you dread working and worry whether or not you wasted all your years in college?
At some point in my life, I also worried about picking the wrong field of study and career. Remember that in the end, your first career will rarely turn out to be your life’s career. So take a deep breath, relax and know that your life purpose can and probably will change at some point.
How to define your purpose in life
If you have no idea where to even start, try this exercise from Verywell Mind. It’s meant for people struggling with borderline personality disorder, but it works on anyone.
The exercise begins with making a list and ends with defining meaning. It’s a good place to start if you’ve never thought about your purpose or meaning in life before and need a structured way to gather your thoughts.
This exercise might seem at odds with the previous tip, but sometimes, you just have to get started somehow. Where some people need to stop looking, others simply have to take that first step.
Another good method of finding your purpose in life is to step out of your comfort zone.
Comfort zones are great, but unfortunately, development can only happen once you take a step into the discomfort zone. Sometimes you need to look at life from a new perspective to find meaning and purpose.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a mindless, purposeless rut in life, shake things up a little. Whether it’s traveling somewhere new and exciting, or trying to see life through someone else’s eyes, it may help you discover your meaning.
2. Journaling creates happiness
Gratitude, mindfulness, self-awareness and introspection. What do all these things have in common?
They are all significantly correlated to happiness.
But what does this have to do with journaling?
It’s easy: journaling – no matter in what form – helps you achieve these things.
There is plenty of scientific research on the benefits of journaling.
Journaling is perhaps the most powerful habit I’ve developed for myself. I’ve been journaling every day for the last 8 years. Here are 3 tips that I’m still using today:
Go deep into your feelings and use emotional language. Don’t just recount the story – describe and analyze it in as much detail as you can.
Remember how your high school English teacher cautioned you from using too many adjectives? This is the time to use all of the adjectives you couldn’t use in your essays. This is your memory. Write whatever you can and want in order to properly express it!
(This is what makes journaling fun, after all!)
Ask yourself leading questions
Ask yourself lots of leading questions.
- Why was it memorable?
- How did you feel at that moment?
- What were you thinking?
- What did it remind you of?
- Have you had other situations like that?
- How did you deal with those?
Step into the shoes of a therapist or interested friend for a moment.
This is the power of journaling – getting to step back from your thought process and write critical questions about it. Imagine a close friend is telling you the same story and looking for help figuring out what it means. What kinds of questions would you ask them?
Don’t panic if you skip a day
Okay, it happens. Nobody’s perfect (we’re all human, after all). You missed a day. Or two. Or a week.
Nobody, ever, in the whole history of journaling, since the beginning of time, has ever written every single day of their entire life since the day they first put pen to paper. Guaranteed. So relax. You’re in the same camp as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin and Frida Kahlo — all famous journalers who definitely missed a day or two.
You can get right back up on the horse. Today. It’s seriously never too late. Don’t let a few days turn into a month and a lost habit. Go grab your journal, and write a few sentences, right now.
Even if it’s just about the fact that you stopped journaling.
Grab a pen and notebook, write down the date and time, and go bananas.
I sincerely hope that between now and tomorrow, you’ll have written your first journal entry.
It may end up becoming one of the most powerful habits in your life (like mine).
Here are more interesting articles about learning to journal for happiness:
These are all packed with actionable advice that’s backed by research and studies.
3. Self-awareness is the key to happiness
Why is self-awareness so important?
Because it allows us to improve the quality of our lives just by being aware of how external factors influence us.
We can’t control 100% of our lives, but we can often control how we react to the stuff we can’t control. That is the key to self-awareness and why it is so important.
How self-awareness stops me from being negative
Being the introvert that I am, I tend to bottle up my emotions when I feel hurt by others. I then keep those emotions deep inside me until I can no longer hold them inside.
This situation has occurred before in my life, and it wasn’t pretty. I’ll leave the details for another email… Long story short, I could have decided to focus on positive things, but instead, I let my mind slip and choose something worse. I opened the floodgates of my negative thoughts and became a serious pain in the #[email protected] for my girlfriend for a day or two.
Has this ever happened to you?
It might seem really simple: you feel like someone hurts you and you feel bummed. You then hold onto that hurt feeling and turn it into something nasty: anger and hatred.
This is pretty normal behavior, of course. I mean, we all feel let down by others every once in a while. But it is still important to be aware of what’s happening.
Being self-aware about simple emotions is extremely powerful
If you are completely self-aware, you will be able to stop and bring it back to yourself first.
When you start to rationally question your own thoughts and emotions, you are much better prepared to get rid of the negativity inside.
This can be extremely difficult. But you can really improve the quality of your own life by simply being aware of your own emotions.
There are multiple methods to become more self-aware. What method is right for you depends on who you are.
It’s no coincidence that journaling is one of the most effective ways to practice self-awareness.
One of our long-time readers shared his thoughts with me:
“I found that writing about my emotional state and describing issues in detail forces me to confront them and take the time to deconstruct them. This usually allows me to understand the issue, and that calms the chaos in my head. You can think of this as clearing the RAM in your system.”
How to train your self-awareness?
Covering the best ways to train your self-awareness would not be possible in a post.
Luckily, we have some helpful links to some of the best articles on Tracking Happiness. These will show you how self-awareness can improve your happiness and mentality, and thus your life:
4. Try to spread more happiness
Your happiness can actually radiate to other people. Your smile has the power to bring a smile to someone else’s face! How can you put this to practice?
Why would you want to focus on the happiness of others while you’re trying to be happier yourself?
It’s because happiness is like a virus – it’s contagious.
I remember this one time, when I went running, a total stranger complimented me on my stride and technique. I found this odd since I’ve never had any training and I sometimes feel quite clunky. However, this random comment made me very happy.
Comments like these can be more impactful than you might think. A simple smile or compliment to a stranger can go a really long way.
Happiness is contagious
Humans are group animals. We tend to unknowingly copy the behavior of others, and as some of you might know: emotions can be contagious!
If your partner or close friend is sad or angry then there is a possibility that you will feel that emotion as well.
The same works for happiness.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal, scientists have found that happiness can effectively spread through your social ties such as your friends, family, and neighbors. The researchers found that being close to happy people is directly associated with your own happiness.
In this study, researchers sought to prove how “prosocial” behavior (meaning, the kind deeds that we do for others) can make toddlers happy. The children who participated in this study were introduced to a puppet monkey who likes treats. The next steps of the experiment are as follows:
- The child was given their own bowl of treats.
- The experimenter “found” a treat and gave it to the puppet.
- The experimenter “found” another treat and asked the child to give it to the puppet.
- The child was asked to give the puppet a treat from their own bowl.
The children’s happiness levels were tested in each phase, and it was found that giving to the puppet makes them happier than when they received treats for themselves. Furthermore, they were happier when they gave their own treats as compared to when they gave a treat “found” by the experimenter.
This proves that giving, sharing, and bringing happiness to others is rewarding and can totally add to our own happiness!
Smile to others more often
We already know that laughter and smiling is contagious, and that the act of smiling can help make you feel happier. Our tendency to mimic the facial expressions and body language of those around us can have a powerful effect on our moods.
The next time you go out, pay attention to how people look at you and interact with you as you move past one another. Try to smile at every opportunity. Then pay attention to how people respond and whether they smile back or not.
I can guarantee you that most people will smile back at you when you smile at them. And since we know that simply smiling can help boost your happiness, you can feel great knowing that you gave their well-being a boost.
Be more forgiving to others
Here’s a beautiful quote by Anne Lamott:
“Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
Making mistakes is part of what makes us human. By not being able to forgive, we’re hurting our ability to be happy.
In order to become better at forgiving, try to place yourself in the other person’s shoes.
When we try to see things from the other person’s perspective, we are able to more or less understand the motives behind their actions. Whenever we do something hurtful or bad ourselves, we can always justify our actions because we understand the reasons behind it. Since we know why we do the things we do, we usually find it easier to forgive ourselves compared to forgiving others.
Knowing that not everyone is perfect all the time allows us to cut them some slack.
This does not mean that you have to excuse their bad behavior. This concept is more related to the previous tip. When we manage our expectations towards other people, we will find it easier to forgive them when they let us down.
5. Don’t compare yourself to others and accept yourself for who you are
We often talk about the preferred version of ourselves – if I was 5 pounds lighter, if I was an inch taller, and if I was better at math… Some of these things are easier changed than others, and there’s no harm in wanting to change the things that we can change. After all, we all want to improve ourselves as a person.
But more often than not, we wish to change things that cannot be changed. We may even realize this, but that doesn’t stop us from dreaming. Sometimes it’s better if we would just accept ourselves for who we are. It’s self-acceptance that will bring you happiness, rather than trying to achieve the “ideal” version of yourself.
How comparison is the thief of joy
You probably know that it’s not always good to compare yourself to others. Everyone moves at their own pace and circumstances are different, and so on. But you probably find yourself making comparisons to others and wondering why you can’t stop.
Comparing yourself to others isn’t always bad and sometimes, it can maintain or even enhance your self-esteem. That’s what makes it so hard to stop, even if comparing yourself to others decreases your overall happiness.
Overall, however, comparing yourself to others is often damaging your mental health without your awareness. Luckily, it’s possible to refocus your attention on yourself and make negative self-comparisons matter less.
Get off social media
If your Facebook and Instagram feeds are anything to go by, your friends are constantly on vacation, eating healthy, getting married, getting promotions and generally living a better life than you are.
Deep down you know that you’re not getting the full picture, but it’s still difficult to feel good about yourself when you compare your own life to the highlight reels of others. While a little bit of upward comparison can be motivating, research has shown that in most cases, it just lowers your self-esteem.
So if you’re prone to such comparisons, the best gift you can give yourself is to log off for a while. If you can’t do that for some reason, then use the mute function and unfollow features that don’t add any value to your life and curate yourself a feed that lifts you up instead of bringing you down.
If nothing else works, keep in mind how you probably don’t share everything online. If you don’t give an honest picture of your day-to-day life on Facebook, why should others?
In the film Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods quips, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” It seems logical enough, but how happy do exercise and endorphins make you, exactly?
Based on evidence-based research, it turns out that the correlation between regular exercise and happiness is really significant.
How endorphins improve your happiness
Endorphins cause happiness. This has been observed in many studies over the past decades.
A study all the way back in 1984 talks about possible relationships between endorphins, pain management and exercise. That study, as it happens, was not wrong. We now know that endorphins play a crucial role in our nervous system, in particular in response to stimuli such as stress, pain or fear. These chemicals are especially good at blocking pain and controlling emotions, both of which can improve happiness.
Dopamine results in happiness too
Dopamine is a multi-functional neurotransmitter that is involved in everything from your emotions to your motor reactions. The chemical is closely related to the more widely known Adrenaline and indeed the two function in very similar ways and have similar effects. That buzz you get after your workout? There’s more than just Adrenaline at play there.
Dopamine is one of the hormones involved in our internal reward mechanisms. Basically, when you do something that makes you feel good, that’s dopamine at work. Food, sex, exercise and social interaction can all stimulate the release of dopamine and the good feelings that come with it. Sounds nice, right?
Regular exercise should help regulate dopamine levels and keep you feeling happier and brighter. Perhaps not directly after a workout, but I promise it will kick in eventually!
A healthy sex life is also important for the release of mood-boosting hormones, be it on your own or with a partner. The chemicals involved in sex are incredibly complex and not a topic for this article, but dopamine is in there. Technically, I suppose that counts as exercise as well… and social interaction too if you’re lucky enough to have a willing other.
How much exercising do you need to be happier, then?
Researchers from the University of Michigan may have the answer.
In their 2018 review, Zhanjia Zhang and Weiyun Chen analyzed the results of 23 studies published between 1980 and 2017 focusing on the relationship between exercise and happiness.
If you’re looking for that “runner’s high” endorphin rush, a good start might be to… you know… go running. But any form of exercise will do.
You don’t have to pump iron if you’d rather dance. For maximum happiness, choose the type of exercise that you actually like.
There are so many different workouts to choose from – from dancing to duathlons, running to rugby, basketball to boxing, you should be able to find something that works for you.
Don’t forget walking
Walking has an undeservedly low reputation as a form of exercise.
While it won’t give you the athletic benefits of jogging or weightlifting, it has many mental benefits that people don’t think about. From improving symptoms of depression and anxiety to increasing well-being, and giving you space to think, walking is a great activity. Especially in times when your whole life might be confined to your home.
So when I tell you to take a walk, I only have your best interests in mind!
7. Focus on positive relationships
In a world filled with negativity, it is obviously quite common for someone to be surrounded by negativity. In fact, spending time with negative people who continually see the bad in every situation is the quickest way to become a negative pessimist too.
Surround yourself with positive people
There’s this old saying:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
I couldn’t agree more. If you hang out with pessimists, it’s likely you’ll slowly turn into one yourself.
It luckily works the other way around too. Surround yourself with positivity, and you’ll slowly embrace that mindset yourself as well!
When it comes to friendships, it’s all about quality over quantity. A study investigated the role of best friendship and close friendship quality and conflict in happiness. The results showed that the quality of your best friendships is the only statistically significant predictor of happiness.
According to a 2010 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, the satisfaction of basic psychological needs is the mediator between the quality of friendships and happiness, and this applies to both best friendships and other close friendships.
Put simply: people have certain psychological needs, like companionship, intimacy, support, autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and good quality friendships help to satisfy those needs.
Nurture your friendships
It goes without saying that having friends makes our lives easier, happier, and more meaningful. Isn’t it nice to have someone you can laugh with until your stomach hurts? With friends around, we feel less alone during the tough times and more joyful during the good ones.
Having strong friendships and being in the company of people who care about us can actually be beneficial to our health, well-being, and overall satisfaction. Not only do friends enhance our lives, but they also complete it to some extent. Because, honestly, how do we even live without our best friends?
In order to nurture your friendships, it’s good to know how to be a good friend yourself.
8. Try something new every once in a while
Some people say that the biggest enemy of happiness is the hedonic treadmill. This term explains how we humans are quick to adapt to any changes in our lives, and that a similar subsequent change has a diminishing impact.
For example, if I take a hot bath today, I’ll probably enjoy it a lot. But when I take the same hot bath tomorrow, I will like it a lot less.
Try something new
A big piece of advice that a lot of people are not willing to take seriously is to try something you’ve never done before. I find this mind-boggling. How can you expect a change in your happiness by not changing any of the things that you do?
Think about it: whatever you’ve been doing until now has not resulted in you becoming any happier. You thought you were happy, yet here you are, reading an article after searching Google for new things to try.
Well, then doesn’t it sound pretty logical that you need to do something that you’ve never done before? Something that would make others say: “uuuuuuh, what now?”
Think outside the box here. What is something that you would like to do but never tried?
I want you to forget about the reasons why you shouldn’t do these new things. There are always reasons to not do something. You have to push through this mental obstacle.
What if you’re afraid to try something new?
One of the reasons why new things are scary is that they’re new and unfamiliar.
The fear of trying something new is often called neophobia, especially if the fear is irrational or persistent.
The important thing to remember about any kind of fear and anxiety is that they serve a purpose – to protect us from potential danger and keep us alive. So to an extent, it’s normal or even beneficial to be afraid of the new and the unfamiliar.
Most people have experienced some form of neophobia, usually in relation to food. Some people can be very hesitant to try new foods, and that’s completely okay. However, if your fear of new tastes causes you to go hungry, you have a problem. Usually, though, neophobia tends to be mild and it doesn’t bother people too much.
The key to conquering any kind of fear is to start small and gradually work your way up to the really scary stuff. If you’re afraid of public speaking, getting in front of an auditorium of thousands is a bad idea. Performing to a smaller crowd is essential to collecting positive experiences and little successes, which help you move on.
Think of overcoming your fear as a staircase – take it one step at a time. If you try to jump several steps ahead, your chances of losing balance and falling increase.
People often think that they shouldn’t be afraid in the first place. However, if you’re already scared, thinking that you shouldn’t be scared usually only makes the fear stronger. Accept that you’re afraid and focus your efforts on building up your courage, instead of beating yourself up for having a completely natural reaction.
Don’t be afraid of failure
The other reason is that new things have an inherent risk of failure, and for most people, there is nothing scarier.
Fear of failure, also known as atychiphobia, is fairly common. I’m willing to bet that you have experienced it, too. Whether it’s not joining the workout group you’ve been thinking of or applying for a new job, most of us have been held back by the fear of failure at some point in our lives.
The fear of failure is so common because failure is the most readily available option. Success requires a lot of work and effort, and sometimes, no matter how hard you work, you’ll still fail. It takes quite a lot of mental strength and resilience to keep working towards your goal despite failures and setbacks.
This isn’t to say that there’s no point in trying. I think that humans are quite admirable because we keep trying despite the odds not always being in our favor. We are resilient beings, and more often than not, we get back up again when life knocks us down.
Leave your comfort zone
When researching more about this topic, I landed on this article about the most frequent deathbed regrets. It’s a fascinating story since it uncovers what most people regret the most as they are near the end of their lives. Here’s the gist of it:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
The first thing that strikes me is that this list does NOT include anyone that said: “I wish I didn’t take as many risks as I did” or “I wish I lived a more uneventful life”.
Now, I don’t want you to go out and do the riskiest thing you can think of.
What I want you to do, however, is to answer these questions:
- When was the last time you really got out of your comfort zone? (I’m talking about moving abroad, having a first child, ending a bad relationship, quitting your job, etc).
- Is your comfort zone a product of yourself or your surroundings?
- Without comparing yourself to others(!), are you happy with your current comfort zone? Do you think it could be bigger? Do you daydream about doing something else?
- If yes, then what’s the first step you can think of that will make you leave your comfort zone?
Exiting your comfort zone is always scary. Thinking about it might already give you anxiety. But still, it’s a good idea to think bigger. If you want to be happier, you might have to exit your comfort zone in order to find it.
9. Track your happiness
This method focuses on a single habit that’s impacted my own life the most. It’s had the biggest impact on my happiness by far.
I started journaling 8 years ago, but I didn’t just journal. I also started to track my happiness.
What this means is that I answer 3 simple questions at the end of each day.
- On a scale from 1 to 100, how would you rate your happiness?
- What factors had a positive influence on your happiness?
- What factors had a negative influence on your happiness?
Even though this takes me only 2 minutes a day, this has given me extremely useful insights about my own happiness.
And even though I sometimes forget to track my happiness, it’s always easy to dig in my brain and write entries for the previous days.
If you’re already journaling, you should ask yourself these 3 questions and see what happens!
What I’ve learned from tracking my happiness
There are so many valuable things I’ve learned by tracking my happiness. Here are just a few:
- I’ve learned just how happy I am with my SO, even though we fight and argue sometimes. (my journal reminds me not to take this for granted and be grateful for what I have).
- About a year ago, at the end of 2019, I noticed just how badly I started to hate my job. In fact, I started resenting the entire industry I was working in… (my journal made it a lot easier for me to quit my job this year)
- I’ve learned how important my sleep really is. (I’m only ever really unhappy when I’m sleep deprived. Coincidence or not?)
- Money doesn’t buy me happiness. Or at least, spending things on materialistic items doesn’t make a difference to my happiness. (my journal was really clear on this one. Which makes saving money easier and more fun ?)
There are many more things that I’ve learned, but that list is never going to fit in a single post.
The How To Be Happy library
We’ve published >175 articles on numerous evidence-based happiness tips, studies, and stories from our community.
These articles are broken down into multiple categories. You can access each category by clicking the links below:
- What is happiness
- Internal happiness
- Purpose in life
- Journaling for happiness
- Social happiness
- Happiness tips
- Case studies
What is happiness
Here at Tracking Happiness, we are extremely fascinated by happiness. We are always on the lookout to answer questions such as:
- What is happiness exactly and how do people around the world define it?
- What makes you happy and how does that compare to someone else?
- What factors are most correlated to happiness?
Whenever we learn something new, we usually write an article about it.
You can find these articles in our “What is happiness” library.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- 5 Reasons why Happiness Can’t Exist Without Sadness (With Examples) (11/6/2021)
- Here’s Why Happiness is Difficult to Define (Survey Results) (9/24/2021)
- The Link Between Creativity and Happiness (How Does It Work?) (8/2/2021)
- How Can Happiness Be Defined? (Definition + Examples) (7/30/2021)
- Does Education Lead to Happiness? (Here’s What Studies Say) (7/22/2021)
If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it really frustrating when someone says: “just choose to be happy”.
A lot of people preach that happiness is 100% a function of your own mindset. That’s not true. It’s not like you can stand in front of a mirror and repeat “I’m happy” thirty-five times and then POOF you’re happy. It doesn’t work like that.
A big chunk of our happiness is simply out of our control.
But still, more often than not, happiness comes from within ourselves.
We have an entire library of articles specifically focused on these topics. You can find these articles in our “Internal happiness” library.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- 4 Actionable Ways to Be More Present (Backed by Science) (12/1/2021)
- 5 Ways to Overcome Nervousness (Backed by Science and Examples) (11/25/2021)
- 4 Real Ways to Value Yourself (and Why It’s So Important) (11/23/2021)
- 5 Actionable Ways to Show Self-Confidence (With Examples) (11/3/2021)
- Why Happiness is not Always a Choice (+5 Tips on Dealing With it) (10/28/2021)
Purpose in life
Long-term happiness can be found when what you do is aligned with your purpose in life.
But how do you find your purpose in life?
Find the answer to this question – and many similar questions – in our “Purpose in life” library.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- 3 Simple Steps to Find Meaning in Life (and be Happier) (9/17/2021)
- 5 Ways To Completely Reinvent Yourself (Starting Today) (7/27/2021)
- What Is Your Purpose In Life? (Real Examples Of Others) (6/19/2021)
- What Is Your Why? (5 Real Examples To Help You Find Yours) (5/6/2021)
- Guiding Words – 5 Examples And Why You Need Them! (6/3/2020)
Journaling for happiness
Have you ever heard the following phrase?
“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
Even though you much rather had started twenty years ago, that shouldn’t stop you from starting right now.
The same goes for journaling. Everybody started the same way: writing down that first word on a piece of paper. Even the people who are now known to be the greatest diarists around started the same way, by writing something along the lines of “dear diary…”
We have a lot of actionable articles that will help you get started in our “Journaling for happiness” library.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- 7 Things To Write In Your Journal (For Meaning And Self-Awareness) (7/28/2021)
- How To Journal For Self-Awareness (+Tips and Examples) (7/23/2021)
- 3 Simple Tips To Journal For Self-Improvement (6/2/2021)
- How To Do Future Self Journaling (With 4 Real Benefits) (5/28/2021)
- Can Journaling Replace Therapy? (Journaling As Therapy) (4/19/2021)
I consider myself to be an introvert, meaning that spending time with others may actually cost me energy. You can lock me in a room for a day and I might actually want to stay there longer. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t mind being alone every once in a while.
That said, spending time with people I love has a huge influence on my happiness. Whether I’m with my girlfriend, family, or close friends, I almost always notice that I’m happier after spending time with these people.
Over the years, we’ve built an entire library of articles focusing on topics like these. Access our “Social happiness” content library here.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- 5 Tips to Help You Forgive Someone Who Hurt You Emotionally (11/9/2021)
- 7 Ways To Heal People-Pleasing (With Examples And Tips) (10/22/2021)
- How Much Do Friends Make You Happier? (As Per Science) (8/20/2021)
- Will You be Happy in a Relationship if You’re Not Happy Single? (8/11/2021)
- Can You Be Happy Without Friends (Or A Relationship)? (5/12/2021)
The internet is littered with shallow tips on how to be happier. I mean, take a look at your social media feed and your friends will show you how it’s done, right?
But are there any actionable tips that you can use? Most of the existing guides on how to be happy are rather thin and uninspiring. For example, a lot of guides tell you to start meditating if you want to be happier. But where do you start? What actions should you take next? It usually stops there…
The articles we’ve written will give you a toolbox of tips, with actionable ways to implement them straight away. Find the best happiness tips in our “Happiness tips” content library!
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- Happiness Benefits Of Walking: Explaining the Science (12/3/2021)
- Pursuing Happiness Leads to Unhappiness? (How to Avoid the Chase) (11/30/2021)
- 5 Ways to be More Self-Disciplined (& 3 Major Benefits) (11/29/2021)
- You Are Good Enough: 7 Ways To Remember That You’re Awesome (11/22/2021)
- Fear Of Starting Something New? (4 Tips on What To Do) (11/19/2021)
Everybody likes a success story, a new study or an interesting survey (okay, most people at least).
Now that we’ve reached the last section of the Tracking Happiness Blog, it’s finally time to show:
- Actual case studies of people who have followed parts of this guide on how to be happy.
- New survey results and interesting data studies.
- Interviews with some of the most inspiring people from this community about happiness.
Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from all sorts of backgrounds and talk with them about happiness. What did we have in common? We all wanted to understand 100% of our happiness and get happier in the process.
Here’s a sneak preview of the 5 most recent articles in this library:
- The Happiness of Pet Owners: New Study Reveals the Happiest Pet Owners (10/4/2021)
- Eat Green, Be Happy: New Study Finds Vegans Are Happier (5/25/2021)
- The Meaning Of Happiness: Word Association Study Shows How People Describe Happiness (4/20/2021)
- Comparing Happiness To The Stringency Of A Country’s COVID-19 Response (Data Study) (4/6/2021)
- Men Are 250% More Likely To Associate Sex With Happiness Than Women, Study Finds (11/9/2020)
Tracking Happiness archives
If you just want to browse through our long list of articles, that’s totally fine too! 🙂
You can find every single post we’ve published over the past years in our archives.
If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this page, you should have a good idea of how to be happier.
If you liked what you read, make sure to join our community below. That way, you’ll be updated whenever we publish more interesting studies, actionable tips, and success stories!
Having said that, I now want to hear from you! What is missing from this guide? Have I missed steps that you think are just as crucial to be happy or not?
I’d love to hear what you think about it in the comments below!