You already know that happiness isn't a switch you can turn on and off. And you shouldn't put pressure on yourself to feel happy every day, after all, we all have good days and bad days. But these rules to be happy can really change your perspective and help you out on the days that are more difficult.
Even amongst the bad days, life is still a pretty darn beautiful thing, and there is a lot to celebrate and be happy about. Sometimes, it can be hard to remember that.
That said, these 12 rules to be happy can help you flip the script, change your attitude, and learn to be happier in life!
Why you should prioritize happiness NOW
People don't just procrastinate on their homework, bills, or chores ... they procrastinate on happiness, too. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to live with the idea that: "I'll be happy when I get a raise ... or when I buy a house ... or when I get married ... or when I..."
Basically, they're trapped in the mentality that if they can just check one more thing off their to-do list, then everything else will magically fall into place and they'll be happy.
But life doesn't work like that. And why would you want it to, anyway? Why would you want to put off being happy?
Understand that happiness is a journey
It may sound a little cliché, but it's true: Happiness is not a destination.
Happiness is not a state you'll finally achieve. Rather, happiness is something you can prioritize daily throughout life's journey.
That doesn't mean you can necessarily feel happy every day of your life. But you don't have to feel like happiness is some elusive destination you must constantly chase.
12 rules to be happy in life
You don't need to wait for that raise. Or that relationship. Or that bigger house. You deserve to feel happy now.
Of course, if you're going through a hard time, you can't just flip a switch and start loving your life. However, you can make small, pointed actions every day to work towards happiness.
Once you start, you'll see that these small actions can actually make a big difference in your mindset. Get going with these 12 rules for being happy:
1. Stop the self-pity
It's easy to catch yourself playing the victim. Undoubtedly, you deserve to feel heard and have your emotions validated.
But it's also a smart idea to put a time limit on your pity party. When something bad happens, sure—let yourself feel bad.
Talk with a friend. Write in your journal. Eat your favorite comfort food.
But then you've got to move on. After your pity party, you need to put on your big-girl pants and come up with a plan to improve your situation. In the end, that's what will make you feel better—not sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself.
2. Practice gratitude
Even when you're having a terrible day, there are always things to be grateful for. So the next time you're feeling bad, remind yourself to practice gratitude.
Try this: Write down three things you're grateful for. It may seem like a silly exercise, but forcing yourself to reflect and write things down can really help put things in perspective and get you out of your funk.
Better yet, you can be proactive about practicing gratitude.
Instead of just doing it when you feel bad, try to practice gratitude every day. For example, you can start every morning by jotting a few notes in a gratitude journal to give yourself a little perspective and start your day off right.
3. Mind your own business
We all fall victim sometimes to the trap of comparing ourselves to others, whether it's their looks, their house, their job, their relationship, etc.
But ask yourself: Have these comparisons ever made you feel better about yourself? Have they ever made you feel happier?
No? Then stop it right now! Stay in your lane. Focus on yourself. Mind your own business.
Of course, this doesn't mean becoming selfish and self-absorbed. Rather, it means you stop playing the comparison game.
In this way, minding your own business goes hand-in-hand with stopping self-pity and practicing gratitude. Instead of constantly thinking how much better everyone else has it, remind yourself to be grateful for what you do have—and if you don't like something, then take steps to change it.
4. Try new things but also practice good boundaries
How many great experiences and opportunities have you potentially missed out on because you were too afraid to try them?
It's time to start saying yes to those experiences! For example, the next time you get invited to a party that you might not want to go to, say yes.
Who knows—you may have a great time that you didn't expect. Or you may end up meeting new people who become important friends in your life.
That said, some of us are serial people-pleasers who say yes a little too often.
One of the rules for a happy life is also learning how to feel comfortable saying no because it can help you stand up for yourself and set healthy boundaries.
5. Pursue financial wellness
One of the very best things you can do for your long-term happiness is to pursue financial wellness.
We're not saying that money buys happiness, but it can certainly open up the doors to finding your happiness.
For example, money can reduce stress, give you more free time, enable you to try out new experiences, and help others (which is important for your own emotional well-being).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) tells us that your financial wellness is your ability to direct your finances for each day and month and that you can make financial choices that make you happy, among other things.
6. Let go
Too often, we stop ourselves from moving forward because we are too focused on the past. For example, you may be holding onto things like:
- Relationships that no longer serve you
- Insecurities you've been telling yourself for years
- That old pair of jeans that don't fit anymore and just make you feel bad about yourself
Sometimes, we find comfort in holding onto things from our past. Even if we don't like them, they can give us a feeling of familiarity. But in reality, holding onto these things only holds us back and inhibits our ability to be happy.
When you let go of your old fears, insecurities, and anxieties about being perfect, you can let yourself focus on all the great parts of who you are right now. So let go of the stress, and let the happiness in!
7. Set manageable goals
Sure, you have some pretty big dreams (all clever girls do!). But the best way to achieve those big dreams is to break them down into smaller, achievable goals. In fact, doing so is actually one of the rules to be happy.
According to Rebecka Warren, Clinic Manager at Centerstone, “Goals can do wonders for your mental health." Making progress toward your goals (and ultimately achieving them), gives you a huge self-esteem boost.
The key to turning your big goals into reality is to break them down into smaller, more manageable steps.
For example, let's say you have a goal to save $10,000 in your emergency fund. Get started by breaking that goal into smaller steps, e.g., by siphoning $200 a month into a special savings fund.
8. Give back
When you do something good, you feel good. And it's not just us saying that.
It's pretty likely that you've heard this old adage before. Turns out, there are plenty of studies out there to back it up.
Studies about giving
For example, a study in PLOS ONE Journal reveals that doing things for other people can help with depression. In fact, volunteering is one of the better ways to give back.
A study from the University of New Orleans reveals that there's a much stronger correlation between happiness and volunteering than happiness and donating money.
Besides giving your mental health a boost, giving back is also good for your overall well-being. According to research from the Cleveland Clinic, giving back can give you a "helper's high," and can help you live longer and reduce stress.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, and start giving back! One way you can get started is by making a charity sinking fund.
9. Ask for help
One of the most important rules for being happy that too many people ignore is remembering to ask for help.
Sometimes, we can feel shame reaching out for help as if we're admitting that we can't handle life's challenges on our own.
People like to help others
What's nice to know, then, is that people are actually more eager and willing to lend help than you may realize. Remember how good you feel when you get the opportunity to help someone out?
Well, the feeling is mutual. According to research from Stanford social psychologist Xuan Zhao, "people want to make a difference in people's lives and they feel good -happy even- when they are able to help others."
This is what makes asking for help one of the key rules for a happy life. When you ask for help, not only do you, obviously, get the help you need to complete a task, but you also make someone else feel good.
Zhao's research also shows that this cycle of asking, giving, and receiving help leads to more meaningful experiences and strengthened relationships—a win-win for everyone involved.
10. Practice forgiveness
Similar to letting go, learning to practice forgiveness is one of the most impactful rules for being happy.
Holding onto bad relationships that no longer serve you definitely doesn't make you happy—but holding onto grudges won't make you feel any better, either.
We all make mistakes, and everyone needs to be forgiven sometimes. So even if you still feel hurt and even if you still think you're right, you need to remind yourself to practice forgiveness.
How forgiveness benefits you
Turns out, practicing forgiveness is pretty beneficial for your overall well-being, too.
A report from the University of Bolton reveals the many connections between forgiveness and happiness. It mentions previous studies that have made discoveries, including a connection between poor mental health and holding grudges, or unforgiveness, as well as forgiveness relating positively to optimism and self-esteem.
11. Focus on experiences—not things
You've probably heard it several times, but the old saying still rings true: Money can't buy happiness.
Or that is, things can't buy happiness. (Bear in mind that we're not talking about financial security, since pursuing financial wellness is definitely one of our top rules to be happy.)
Why experiences can benefit you
On the other hand, chasing material things, thinking that they'll one day make you happy, is definitely a dead end.
In fact, Elizabeth Dunn, Ph.D., a professor at the University of British Columbia, reveals to CNBC that "research shows that people tend to get more happiness out of buying experiences rather than material things."
12. Exercise regularly and eat healthily
Exercise regularly and eat healthily ... there's a reason you keep hearing this advice over and over again. Because it really can make a big difference in your overall well-being!
And we're not just talking about the obvious health benefits of doing these things. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can give you a serious happiness boost, too.
New research from the University of Kent and the University of Reading indicates that eating fruits and vegetables and exercising actually increases your happiness.
If you're concerned that eating healthily has to be expensive, don't fret! Learn how to live a healthy lifestyle on a budget.
The idea of happiness is different for everyone
Of course, happiness means something different for everyone. For some people, it may mean having a dynamic career; for others, it may mean starting a family or traveling the world or living in the countryside or moving to a big city or opening your own store ... you get the idea.
The point is that happiness is not a singular prize to fight over. We can all have it in our own ways.
And that's the best thing about happiness: It is an endless commodity, and there's enough.
Follow these rules for a happy life every day!
Like all emotions, being happy changes with the days. Some days we just can't stop grinning from ear to ear, while other days it can feel like a real struggle just to get up and go to work. But that's okay.
Above all, remember that happiness isn't an end destination you can reach one day. In fact, it's just the opposite. Happiness is something that can be part of your life every day—even in a small way.
When the going gets tough, turn to these rules to be happy. Need a mood boost? Remind yourself that some of the best things in life are free.