15 Things You Can Do to Lead a Happier Life This Year

by Pam @ East by Midwest
Living Guides

Having a positive attitude and outlook helps us to achieve our goals, increase our personal happiness, and increase the happiness of those around us.

But having that positive attitude and outlook can be tough. We get caught up in our worries, day-to-day struggles, and to-do lists.

To help make this year your happiest year yet, follow the tips below for ways you can boost your positivity and increase your happiness.

1. Volunteer

Giving back to others is a great way to boost your spirits and increase your positivity.

One of my happiest memories is volunteering with the Special Olympics. The participants were so happy to be there and so thankful for the volunteers. You couldn’t help but feel buoyed up by the participants’ enthusiasm for life. Find out how to get involved with the Special Olympics here.

In your community, you can reach out to a local school, church, library, or the city government to ask for ways you can volunteer your time. If you have a special skill or specific interest, let the volunteer coordinator know so that they can place you in the best area.

If you’re a nature or wildlife-lover, check out volunteer.gov for opportunities to volunteer in the US National Parks and Forests.


2. Practice random acts of kindness

When you give happiness to others, it comes back to you tenfold. That’s the beauty of random acts of kindness. Simple actions to bring joy and happiness to others’ lives that brings you happiness in return. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Let someone check out in front of you in line at the store
  • Pay for the person in line behind you
  • Give up your seat on a crowded bus or subway
  • Hold open the door for someone
  • Compliment someone
  • Smile and say hello to people you walk by
  • Hold open the elevator door
  • Give to a GoFundMe campaign
  • Leave a big tip

3. Find opportunities to laugh

Laughter is one of the easiest ways to increase your happiness. And there are many easy ways to get laughter in your life. Here are some examples:

  • Read a funny book (I found this book both funny and motivating)
  • Listen to a funny podcast (Try this podcast for a good laugh)
  • Watch a sitcom or movie comedy
  • Watch funny YouTube videos (search for “funny dog” or “funny cat” videos)

4. Start a new hobby

Starting a new hobby can give you a sense of accomplishment that increases your overall positivity.

For me, starting a hobby (this blog) was a way to distract myself in a positive way. I was allowing myself to become weighed down by small things at work and in my personal life. I came to the realization that I needed a hobby as a way to keep me from dwelling on the little things.

Starting this blog has been an incredible way to boost my personal happiness. It’s given me a sense of accomplishment that I’ve created something of my very own and also served its purpose – to provide a helpful distraction from worrying about things I shouldn’t be worried about. You can read about starting your own blog here.

To get started on your own hobby, brainstorm on what interests you. Running? Photography? Cooking? I recommend identifying just one area and focusing you efforts on building that hobby.

Once you’ve identified the hobby you’d like to develop, look for ways you can build your skills in that hobby. You can search for how-to YouTube videos, find classes on websites like SkillShare, look for adult education classes offered through your local school, and find like-minded people through Meetup groups.


5. Exercise

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which increases your positive feelings. You can amplify this by exercising with a buddy or group of people to create an exercise community.

In a positive community, you’ll feel supported and motivated in both your exercise routine and other aspects of your life.


6. Travel somewhere new

I love to travel (and document them in my travel posts!).

My first really big trip was in 2014 when a friend and I went to South Africa for two weeks. It was an amazing trip that remains my all-time favorite trip. The incredible animals on the game drives. The spectacular views of Cape Town. The delicious seafood. And wine. And cheese. But most of all, I loved how happy I was. Happy to meet new people, try new experiences, and see new things.

Travel has a way of increasing your happiness and improving your general outlook on life. And it doesn’t stop when you return home. An incredible travel experience can be drawn upon for a lifetime of happy memories and reminiscing.

I recommend traveling somewhere new to help boost your happiness. It doesn’t have to be somewhere far. Is there a nearby town, scenic drive, or attraction that you haven’t explored yet? Take a day to explore something new. Even discovering a new place nearby can boost your overall happiness.

7. Surround yourself with positive people

People who are looking to eat healthier are often encouraged to surround themselves by healthy eaters. This way, the healthy eating habits of others will rub off on them.

The same is true with trying to be more positive. If you surround yourself by positive people, their positivity will naturally rub off on you.

And if you are a positive person, then your positivity will rub off on others.

This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon friends or family members who tend to be a little negative. Instead, you can encourage positivity in them. If someone makes a negative remark about someone else, say something positive about that person in return. In small ways, you can begin to send out positivity to your friends and family.


8. Seek silver linings

At some point, it’s going to rain. The washing machine is going to break. Your car is going to need repairs. You’re going to drop your ice cream cone on the ground.

It can be easy to dwell on life’s tough moments. But what if you instead sought out a silver living for those moments? Something positive that came out of it.

The washing machine technician gave you a great tip on a new restaurant in town. Your car broke down on a side street, not on the busy highway where you usually drive. That ice cream cone really wasn’t that good.

Turning the bad into good refocuses your energy on the positive aspects of life and cultivates happiness.


9. Talk it out

Being more positive doesn’t mean that you can’t complain. On occasion, you should vent! If something is bothering you, let it out. Find a friend, family member, or coworker and talk it through with them.

Use these conversations as a way to talk through what is bothering you. This way, you relieve some of your frustration. Less frustration paves the way for greater happiness.

10. Write it out

Writing about things that are bothering you is another way to relieve your frustration.

When things are bothering me at work, I take some time when I get home to write out my frustrations. I identify what the situation is, how I feel about it, and what I’d like to do to resolve it.

For me, putting my frustrations down on paper is a way to get the frustrations of my head and for me to stop dwelling on them. I can then refocus on more positive things.

11. Think it out

Taking some quiet time to yourself to think through your frustrations is also a good way to work through the things that are bothering you.

When something is bothering me, I like to go on a long walk. It gives me an opportunity to think through what’s bothering me and come up with a solution to address it.

12. Seek solutions

While it’s good to talk, write, and think out your frustrations, you can’t keep letting the same thing bother you over and over.

What steps can you take to eliminate or reduce what’s bothering you?

If your loud neighbor is driving you nuts, can you walk over with a plate of cookies and ask if they’d turn down the music after 8PM? If your commute is stressing you out, is there an alternative route that you can take that would be less stressful?

For me, the simple act of forming a plan to address my concern helps me to move forward. Knowing that there’s a way out of my frustration helps to reduce my anxiety and turn me towards a more productive and positive path.


13. Forgive

The trouble with holding a grudge is that it holds you down, too. Think of forgiveness as a gift to yourself – an opportunity for you to move on with your life and leave behind the anchors of the past.

Forgiving others enables you to let go of negativity and move forward in a positive manner.


14. Seek counseling

Sometimes when you’re grappling with life’s hardships, you need a third-party person to give you an unbiased perspective.

A professional counselor can help you to work through difficult issues that are weighing you down.

Many insurance plans or company benefit packages offer free counseling as part of their standard plans. Take a look at what your insurance plan or company benefit package offers for counseling.


15. Choose happiness

I’d like to say that I’m one of those naturally happy people for whom happiness is a natural, effortless state of being. But that’s not me.

For me, happiness is a choice. A conscious decision that I have to make every day to seek the silver-lining and pursue a positive outlook.

Some days, it’s easy to choose happiness. Other days, it feels like a monumental task.

The tips above are what I follow to help me choose happiness. I hope they help you to have your happiest year yet.

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