How to Give Yourself the Gift of Happiness

In her bestselling book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware shares that people wish they’d let themselves be happier during their lives.

Do you want to be happy? I bet you do, but I have a feeling you don’t always give yourself permission to feel happy. You can change that. It starts with understanding why you have this big disconnect between wanting happiness and feeling happy. Then, you can take super simple steps to welcome more joy and positivity into your life.

Negative Feelings are More “Comfortable”

As strange as it sounds, I believe many of us are extremely used to feeling negative. Negative thoughts, negative self-talk, negative narratives, negative experiences it’s what we’re used to. And even if they don’t feel good, at least they feel familiar. Happiness, on the other hand? It’s new and different. And because we’re not used to it, we’d rather stay in our comfort zone even if it’s negative.

You Have to be Vulnerable to be Happy

Life can be painful, and as a response to trauma, misunderstanding, rejection and other negative experiences, we build walls to defend ourselves from getting hurt again. Behind our walls, we’re jaded, we protect ourselves, and we avoid intimacy because we don’t want to risk being rejected or betrayed. We self-sabotage and we stay small. Happiness doesn’t really fit inside this defense system.

Letting Happiness in Makes You Feel Anxious

Allowing yourself to feel happy can feel like going out on a limb even if it’s a teeny, tiny limb. Why does this first step feel so scary? Because you’re not used to it. There’s that old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” and it’s no different with happiness. But the more you allow yourself to feel happy, the more comfortable you’ll become with this experience.

Feeling Happy Makes You Feel Guilty

Do you believe you don’t have a right to be happy when other people are unhappy? Do you think that if you feel happy now, it denies all the bad things that happened in your own life? These are all limiting beliefs, and they’re simply not true. You can be happy even if other people including your parents are unhappy. You can be happy even if negative things happened in your past.

Happiness is an Inside Job

The fifth and final reason we don’t allow ourselves to feel happiness is because we depend on outside factors (people, places and things) to make us happy. But here’s the deal: Happiness is a choice, and you can choose to be happy. Happiness starts inside of you, not outside of you.

How to Give Yourself the Gift of Happiness

I invite you to get up off the bleachers and move onto the field. It’s time to join in the joyful dance of life, rather than watch it go by. These eight tips can support you in doing just that.

#1: Believe that you can create your own happiness.

This is the most important step. If you don’t believe you can choose to be happy and create your happiness, it’s going to be challenging, and maybe even impossible, to feel happiness. Sure, you’ll experience quick fixes and temporary highs, but it will depend on outside factors. It’s time to believe that you can create happiness from the inside out.

#2: Accept your negative emotions.

One of the surest ways to feel unhappy and stay unhappy is to feel ashamed about your negative thoughts and feelings. Guess what, you’re allowed to have a wide range of emotions and to feel every single one of them. So, when feelings other than happiness come up, allow them and accept them as your present moment experience. Then, have confidence in yourself that you can feel happiness again after these negative emotions pass.

#3: Value yourself.

Do you think it’s selfish to take time for yourself, purchase good things for yourself, or say no to things that don’t serve you? It’s hard to feel happy when you don’t value and prize yourself. Can you entertain the belief that you are worthy and good? And no, I don’t mean “good enough.” I mean good, whole and beautiful. You don’t need to become better to be worthy. Who you are is worthy enough, and who you are is worthy to feel and experience all the beautiful things this life has to offer including happiness.

#4: Meditate.

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor writes that “Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment…and research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.”

Try practicing meditation for just 10 minutes a day. This simple practice can create joyful shifts in the mind.

#5: Move!

The quiet practice of meditation can help us feel happier, but so can moving! According to Harvard University, exercise is an effective treatment for depression. In fact, for some, exercise is just as effective as antidepressants.

The more you move, the more likely you are to feel happy. The key here is to find a type of exercise you can commit to. Don’t do HIIT workouts if you hate them. Similarly, even if everyone is walking around with their yoga mat, if that’s not your jam, don’t feel bad. Find what feels good for you, and allow yourself to feel happy doing that.

#6: Smile.

Smiling is a super simple way to sneak some happiness into your day. And if you want to supercharge your smile, put a positive thought behind it. In other words, try a genuine smile, not a fake one. One easy way to infuse your smile with a positive thought is to tap into some gratitude, which is next on our list.

#7: Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is pretty popular right now, and honestly, that’s a great thing. Sure, it might be trendy, but gratitude isn’t just a fad. It’s a life-changing attitude. I encourage you to jump on the bandwagon, too.

When you practice gratitude, you focus on the good. And when you do that, you automatically switch your focus away from the negative. Research shows having a gratitude practice can increase happiness and life satisfaction. What’s more, gratitude can lift depressive symptoms.

#8: Be social.

On the one hand, happiness is an inside job. It has to start inside us, but this takes practice. So, in the meantime, don’t be afraid to tap into the power of friendship. Just consider the 72-year Grant Study that looked at the lives of 268 men. They found that close relationships kept people happy throughout their lives more than money or fame.

Check-in with yourself: Do you tend to put friendships on the back burner? Consider that your friendships can support you in feeling happy.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to feel happy. As you can see, allowing yourself to feel happy comes from practicing very simple habits every day. Choose one that resonates the most with you and give yourself the gift of happiness.