8 Easy Ways to Boost Your Happiness -- Permanently

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Are you very happy? If you are like most Americans, you would say no. Only one out of three Americans says he or she is "very happy." Of course, that's a tall order! What exactly is "very happy"? I think it's impossible to be "very happy" all of the time; however, there is no doubt that the amount of people who are happy could be much higher. And that's what International Happiness Today is all about -- trying to make people happier without the benefit of prescription drugs, illegal drugs, booze, sex, or other things we generally associate with a quick, easy boost of oxytocin. Here are eight ways to get happier!


1. Be social. It's been proven that people who have a support network, whether that is friends, family, or community, or all three, are happier and live longer than those who hibernate in front of their TV and scare off everyone with their gun. Get out there and meet new people; repair relationships with friends and family if they are worth repairing; and make time for those old friends you never see anymore because of your "busy" schedule.

2. Volunteer work. Science says that people who feel they are part of a bigger purpose in life are much happier, and a big part of feeling purposeful is helping others -- whether you walk shelter dogs, plant community gardens, feed the homeless, or get groceries for an elderly neighbor, helping others helps you too. If you are obsessing about your own problems, there is nothing like getting some perspective by helping those who have it worse.

3. Mindfulness. "Mindfulness" comes from the Buddhist concept that most of our suffering is caused by regretting the past or agonizing about the future. Studies have shown that living more in the present -- and letting the past go and not trying to predict the future -- will make you happier. You can learn to practice this just by doing something as simple as chewing your food slowly and taking in the smells and flavors rather than gulping things down.

4. Meditation. A main cause of unhappiness is the brain's tendency to be more chaotic than a popular toddler's birthday party. People often take drugs or drink alcohol because it slows down the restless loop of the mind. Meditation can do the same thing but without harmful side effects or the potential of getting addicted. You can find lots of guided meditations online -- sit comfortably in a chair or on a pillow, and listen to a meditation. The goal is usually to pay attention to your breathing and dismiss ALL thoughts that come into your mind. If you think quieting the brain is easy, you'll soon find out it's nearly impossible. But if you keep doing it, you will find that it really does help keep you calmer and more balanced. Do NOT get stressed that you didn't "do it right."

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5. Exercise. There is possibly no better and healthier cure for the blues than exercise. Exercise releases dopamine into the brain. It also destresses you, gives you more energy, and keeps you healthy -- and who isn't happier when healthy? If you're looking for cheap ways to exercise, go for a run, put on some music and dance around, go for a quick walk, join the YWCA, or work out to some exercise videos on YouTube. There is really NO excuse not to exercise -- you can get your kids involved too.

6. Attitude. Learn to adjust your attitude in life to something more positive. If there are Holocaust survivors who are positive about life, then there's no excuse for you to sit around whining and complaining. Try taking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy courses to learn how to change negative thoughts to neutral or positive ones.

7. Be careful what goes into your mind. I'm a firm believer that what goes into your mind is what rattles around in there, how could it be otherwise? Watch a horror movie or one filled with violence and killing, and you're sure to feel angrier and more edgy than if you watched something filled with positive, inspirational messages. Be mindful of what movies, music, books, and other messages you consume. You might think rapping hateful lyrics or reading about serial killers all day doesn't affect you negatively, but it does.

8. Acceptance. One of the main keys to happiness is acceptance -- learning to accept yourself for who you are, and life for what it is. That doesn't mean you should roll over if someone is mistreating you, or not fight hard to gain back independence after a health problem, it just means to accept that bad things happen to good people, and that is part of life. If things don't work out, it doesn't mean you did something wrong. Strive to be better, but also be realistic. Not everyone can be the richest, prettiest, most athletic, smartest, etc. -- and in fact if you talk to Bill Gates or Miss America or whomever, you will soon find he/she has as many problems, heartbreaks, and disappointments as anyone else. Stop seeking validation and approval from outside sources -- those are limited, conditional, and can be taken away at any moment.

For more tips on how to be happy, check out Action for Happiness.


Images © My Good Images/Shutterstock and © Ollyy/Shutterstock

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