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Internal Happiness: What Is It? (Complete Guide)

How often have you heard someone say: "just choose to be happy" to somoene who's sad? This kind of comment is usually not efficient, as it implies that we can just open up a bottle of "internal happiness" and drink it whenever we want.

If only that were true. You can't 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. There is a chunk of our happiness that is simply out of our control.

But how big that chunk is, is dependent on your mindset. No one can control 100% of their happiness, but some people come close. These people know exactly what internal happiness is, how they can cultivate it, and how they can recognize the difference between external and internal happiness.

This page is about the part of our happiness that is determined by our own outlook, or our own choices. We’ve published numerous articles on internal happiness, and have filtered the best information into this single page.

Most recent articles about "Internal Happiness"

Here are the most recently added articles that cover internal happiness:

What is internal happiness?

Internal happiness is the happiness that's not dependent on external factors in your life. For example, your genetics and state of mind are a big part of your internal happiness. In other words, it's the happiness that comes from within.

Here are some examples:

  • Internal happiness is when you decide to be grateful for a sunset at the end of the day.
  • Internal happiness is when you are proud of yourself for something you accomplished.
  • Internal happiness is when you focus on the positives rather than the negatives of something that influences you.

Here are some things that are NOT internal happiness:

  • When you miss a deadline at work and your boss is angry at you.
  • When you desperately have to go to the bathroom and you finally make it!
  • When you get a terrible migraine at work.
  • When you get hit in the stomach by someone that's not very kind to you and it hurts like hell.

You get the idea.

These are events that we don't have direct control over, no matter if they're positive or negative.

Internal happiness is when our happiness is influenced by something that comes from inside, like a realization, a mindset or a thought process.

Can you control your happiness?

The intro of this article claimed that no one can control 100% of their happiness. However, there are people who believe that they can control 100% of their happiness.

This might seem counterintuitive, and depending on who you are, you will agree or disagree with these people.

That's not the point, though. The idea of controlling happiness led to an interesting and unique study we performed in 2020 at Tracking Happiness. We surveyed over 1,000 people and asked them simple questions about their happiness.

We asked:

  • Is happiness something that you can control?
  • If you look back at the last year of your life, how would you rate your happiness on a scale from 1 to 10?

A stunning 89% of the respondents agreed that happiness is controllable.

can happiness be controlled general results tracking happiness survey study 2020
1,025 out of 1,155 participants think that happiness is something we can control.

This doesn't specify how much happiness they believed to control. Can you control 1%, 20% or 100%?

While our study doesn't answer those questions, it does show that people who think that happiness can be controlled are 32% happier on average.


It means that people who believe they can control their happiness are happier than those who don’t.

But what can you do with this info?

It implies that people who practice their internal happiness are more likely to actually be happier.

How do you find inner happiness?

Now that we know that practicing internal happiness is correlated to your actual happiness, the next question seems rather obvious.

How do you find this internal happiness?

  1. Learn to recognize when you can choose to be happy.
  2. Realize that you deserve to be happy.
  3. Develop your self-awareness.
  4. Focus on your self-esteem and don't focus on stuff that doesn't matter anyway.
  5. Embrace a positive mindset.
  6. Don't allow yourself to be bothered by minor inconveniences.

We’ve published >150 articles on numerous evidence-based happiness tips, studies and stories from our community. This article contains 6 of the best tips that will help you find inner happiness.

1. Learn to recognize when you can choose to be happy

Imagine this:

You are in a hurry after a long day at work. You need to get back home as soon as possible because you need to do groceries, cook dinner and head out to meet your friends.

But traffic is extremely busy so you end up stuck in front of a red light.

I'm sure we've all experienced a situation like this before. It might sound silly, but this is a very clear example of how happiness can be a choice.

There are a couple of things you can do here:

  1. You can be mad at this #*#@%^@ traffic light and be pissed off. This traffic light is ruining your plans!
  2. You can accept the fact that this traffic light is beyond your control and decide to not let it influence your happiness.

It's probably the easiest for you to go with option 1. It's the path of the least resistance, as you'll be placing the blame on something else. You're the victim here, right?! This traffic light is ruining your planning, and as a result, you're going to be late for your friends and that will only further ruin your night.

Sounds familiar? It's okay. We've all been there. As you may already know, your mental outlook on this situation is something that you can control.

Our happiness is influenced by an endless list of factors. Some of these factors are controllable (like hobbies, your work, or your fitness). However, most of these factors are out of our control. They are external happiness factors that we don't get to influence. The busy traffic is a perfect example of an external factor.

We cannot control the traffic. But we can control how we react to it. And that's why it's a perfect example of how happiness can be a choice. We get to choose how we react to events, and by choosing a happy outlook, we can vastly improve our happiness when dealing with these situations.

self awareness example red light

So instead of becoming frustrated by this busy traffic, why don't you try to focus on things that actually make you happy?

  • Put on some good music and just sing along.
  • Give your friends a call and talk about your plans for the evening.
  • Send a nice message to someone you love.
  • Just close your eyes and take a deep breath. Allow your mind to rest easy, instead of being focused on the busy traffic around you.

If you do any of these things, you're effectively influencing the part of your happiness that you can control. While that might not sound like a big deal, it can make a world of difference on your mental health.

If you are aware of these opportunities - where you get to decide how you react to external factors - that's when you can actively make happiness a choice.

2. Realize that you deserve to be happy

Some people feel like they don’t deserve a "happy ever after".

Instead, they’ll settle for a “can’t complain” kind of life and think, “I’m not happy, but I’m okay. That’s fine, right?”

Feeling undeserving - or even guilty - can get in the way of living your best life.

You need to get rid of these deconstructive feelings. Why? Because the world is simply a better place if you're the happiest version of yourself.

Need more convincing? Research has shown that happy people are healthier and more productive, achieving more. Happiness is even correlated to sustainable behavior! If you don’t believe that you deserve happiness, then think of it this way: a happier you can be more helpful to others and give back more to the community.

You deserve to be happy because your happiness will help others.

3. Develop your self-awareness

In a world that is full of external factors that we cannot control, it is becoming more and more important to at least control ourselves. Self-awareness is something you might have heard a couple of times, and rightfully so.

You see, despite this dynamic world we live in nowadays, there is still a lot that we actually can control. What we can control is how we deal with these external factors.

Why is self-awareness so important? 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.

Someone who is not self-aware encounters obstacles, sometimes the same ones repeatedly, and doesn't understand why.

Someone who is self-aware examines themselves honestly to get to the root of their problems. Maybe people don't like to talk to you.

A person that isn't self-aware would just get frustrated or accept it, or maybe not even notice people are annoyed by them.

A self-aware person examines their reality, maybe admits they ramble too much, don't listen enough, aren't engaging or being present.

The difference between these people is that one has the ability to diagnose the underlying issue. And with that comes the power to fix the true cause of the issue.

4. Focus on your self-esteem and don't focus on stuff that doesn't matter anyway

I think we've all heard the following quote in some form or shape:

Love yourself first

What does this mean? It means that we have to accept ourselves for who we are before we can expect to truly be happy with ourselves.

Self-esteem and confidence are fundamental factors of happiness. It's impossible to not encounter obstacles in our lives at all. Everybody encounters sadness every once in a while. We need to be able to deal with this as confidently as we can.

For example, since we're constantly bombarded with messed up social media posts and click-bait marketing, it's important to not let these stupid things influence our lives. We need to be confident while dealing with bullshit that we may or may not be able to control anyway.

Research has shown that self-esteem can definitely be trained. Different forms of therapy, like art therapy, solution-focused brief therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy have been found to be successful in raising self-esteem in different age groups. But what if you favor a more DIY approach? Things that you can try without having to make an appointment or spending a lot of money.

Can you still train your self-esteem without the help of a professional?

The answer is a resounding yes! (As long as you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort, of course.)

5. Embrace a positive mindset

Some people find it really frustrating when they hear: "just choose to be a little more positive!" A lot of people think that positivity is 100% a function of your own mindset. They think that we have the ability to choose to be positive from the inside anytime we want.

That's not true. If you found out your partner was killed in a highway crash right now, would you be able to achieve a positive mindset at the snap of a finger? Of course not!

That said, people aren't born a pessimist.

We all know that one person who always seems to have a positive mindset? That person who always reacts with bright humor, optimism, and a positive mental attitude? You can be that person.

If you embrace positivity instead of negativity, you can learn how to better influence the part of your happiness that's actually within your control.

6. Don't allow yourself to be bothered by minor inconveniences

if you're a pessimist, you will often allow yourself to be bothered by things that shouldn't really bother you. Here's a quote I always love to think of:

A pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Winston Churchill

A pessimist will focus on the negative aspect of things, which results in a higher likelihood of being bothered by stuff. Don't believe me? This was actually studied in the Journal of Research in Personality. The study found that pessimism and stress are highly correlated with each other.

All articles about “Internal Happiness”

Here at Tracking Happiness, we are extremely fascinated about 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.

Here’s a full list of articles we’ve written about “Internal Happiness”:

Closing words

I hope this article has improved your understanding of internal happiness. This article is updated whenever we publish a new and interesting piece of content, so make sure to check back every once in a while.

Now it’s time to hear from you! Do you have an example of internal happiness that you would like to share? Did we miss something important? Please share it in the comments below!

Hugo Huijer Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

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