Use these ideas to become happier, instantly. 

By Lindsay Tigar
Updated December 23, 2019

If you seek the negativity in the world, you will surely find it. But if you actively seek silver linings, they’ll outshine any cloudy skies. Even though we, logically, understand that positive thinking is more effective than being a naysayer, it’s sometimes hard to find pleasure in the everyday, particularly after losing a loved one or during a stressful time. The keyword is hard, not impossible. Without adding another item on your (already overflowing) to-do list, there are ways to add more joy to your daily routine. Small phrases, acts of kindness, mind hacks, and movement are among the 12 strategies to become more blissful right now.

woman watering plants
Credit: Lumina Images/Getty Images

1. Find Someone to Compliment, at Least Once a Day

When you're feeling at your prime—and especially when you aren’t—a sincere compliment from a stranger can shift your whole mood. But those good vibes also flow when you return the favor to someone else. That’s why business consultant Rebecca West suggests taking a moment to show your appreciation to random people, your friends, partner or family is a way to create joy around you. “Find something to compliment—like the vibrant color of someone's hair, or their fabulous skirt, or their hilarious t-shirt. Perhaps you noticed the earrings the clerk is wearing, or the socks your banker has on,” she says. Though it may feel awkward at first, West insists it’s a wonderful gift to give since so many people are their own worst critic. She says this act will bring sunshine to someone else's day, and also help you notice things that make you smile.

2. Make Your Bed

Your parents probably insisted on you doing this chore every day when you lived under their roof. But now that you have your own home, do you always follow this rule? If not, it’s time to start, according to yoga instructor Maggie Costello. Though making a bed seems like a small task, doing so actually develops a habit that signals the start of your day. Seeing the sheets pulled up, the pillows fluffed, and the throw neatly folded tells your brain that it’s time to begin another 24-hour stretch. “If you have done nothing else for the day, at least you have accomplished making a blissful bed for a good night's rest, to dream of joyful tomorrows,” she says.

3. Browse Old Photos

Though it may irritate you when Grandma wants to show you (for the millionth time) a photo she loves from your childhood, science backs up her pastime. In fact, studies show that retrieving positive memories increases positive emotions and helps with mood regulation. Josh Axe, a doctor of chiropractic, certified doctor of natural medicine, and clinical nutritionist explains this is likely due to our memory’s ability to activate the brain-reward circuit, supercharging feelings of joy. One way to engage your mind is to look at images from happy times. “It’s easier now more than ever because most of us have thousands of photos at our fingertips, stored in our phones. Every day, do a little scrolling to photos that represent a meaningful and happy moment in the past,” he says.

4. Write to a Loved One

You don’t have to be Shakespeare to pen a pretty poem. And you don’t have to be in a relationship to scribble a love letter. Arianne Traverso, a holistic lifestyle and business coach, says the act of writing to someone you care about—partner, friend, or family member—helps you to slow down and focus on the here and now. What do you admire about them? What have they brought to your life? Why are you so thrilled to have met them? Think of someone you were friends with or still are but don't get to see or speak to often. She says this creates a deeper connection as you know when that person opens the letter they will feel joy, which in turn, brings you joy, too.

5. Play Every Day

If you’re a parent, you know how amazing it is to witness your child experience joy and how they can find wonder in the simplest things—a cardboard box, a mirror reflection, or rolling in leaves. As we blow out more candles on our birthday cake, we stop making time for play. Therapist and author Antonia Hall, M.A., says spending time engaging in activities like running, jumping, dancing, or crafting can elevate our mood while decreasing anxiety and stress. “Interestingly, playing like a child can prevent signs of aging like dementia. Implementing even a small amount of playtime into your day will leave you feeling more nourished, creative, and joyful,” she says.

6. Embrace Color

Color surrounds us all day. The sky, your partner’s hair, your car, and so on. But psychic and medium, and color expert, Linda Lauren says that most of the time we take the palette for granted. Different shades have the ability to turn our mood or evoke joy, depending on how we feel about them. Harness that result by making simple changes like wearing clothes that you feel flatter your features or other areas of your appearance. Lauren suggests lighting candles in colors that inspire a certain emotion. She says blue improves communication and fosters calm. Red may make us feel passionate and/or secure. “I like to start my day by lighting a candle of a color that makes me feel joyful. It becomes a reminder of how I wish the day to unfold,” she says. “You don’t really have to know what a color means in order to take advantage of the energy. You just have to know how the color makes you feel.”

7. Create a Gratitude Practice

Focusing on what we have, rather than what we’re missing or seeking, is a powerful way to foster joy. However, like any other habit, we have to practice it consistently to teach our brains to stay on the positivity track. That’s why Judy Ho, Ph.D., a triple board-certified clinical and forensic neuropsychologist and author, suggests creating a gratitude box. Each morning (or evening, depending on your schedule), write down something you’re thankful to have. It doesn’t have to be big—‘I’m grateful for my coffee!’ or ‘I’m grateful my baby slept for three consecutive hours!’—but you do need to write it down. For a happiness boost, Ho recommends going through the gratitude box and selecting some random items to review every couple of weeks. 

8. Take Time to Pause

Stop and smell the roses or admire a cool art mural. Or look your barista in the eye when you order your coffee. Author and coach Ivy Slater says the act of pausing will bring instant gratification. How? It grounds us in the moment, rather than allowing our brains to worry or fret about the future. “It could be as small as noticing a flower blooming among the weeds or seeing someone pay for the person behind them at the store. Reading a sweet note our child wrote you or watching your grandma cook her favorite recipe in the kitchen,” she says. “It's so easy to rush by and get to our next destination. Stop and live! These are the joyful moments.”

9. Do What Makes You Happy

You don’t need us to remind you of the simple saying: Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. Even if you can't make money doing what you love, reserving time—even 10 minutes—to do one thing that makes you happy will improve your level of joy, according to life coach Alionka Polanco. “We're so bombarded with responsibilities that we forget we're allowed to have fun on a daily basis. It's not something we have to wait for the weekend to do,” she says. “Taking time to sing a song, read a book, talk to a friend, and so on can make a world of difference in your emotional health.”

10. Book Your Next Vacation

How many times do you find yourself scrolling aimlessly through Instagram, growing more envious with each post, wishing you could have a tropical vacay, too? Though your budget may not allow for a trip to Bali, if travel brings you happiness, start saving today and reserve the time. As West explains, having something to look forward to will get us through long, demanding days—and the worst winter weather forecasts. If you have the funds, book the flight now and slowly start planning. “Then you can start living the adventure by counting down the days, planning what you'll pack, and anticipating what you'll do,” she says. “Life may be about living in the moment, but sometimes we need a little escape. If we don't take action and get that escape on the calendar, the years can fly by.”

11. Tune into Your Senses

Most people have a meal that’s a special kind of comfort on rough days. Take a moment and think about what yours. Is it mashed potatoes? Chocolate cake? Now, consider its smell, taste, and texture. Go through a similar sensory exploration with other things that bring you happiness. Hall says we are wired to experience joy in a myriad of ways, but our busy lives prevent us from stopping to tune-into those feelings. “Experience more joy by bringing more attention to your senses throughout the day. Take pleasure from the food you eat, the warmth of the sun on your shoulders, the sounds of a loved one laughing,” she says. “It's all there waiting for you to notice it, and doing so is an excellent and easy way to bring more joy into your life.”

12. Embrace Being a Plant Parent

The houseplant craze that has swept social media has merit. Watching these green beauties flourish thanks to your effort is a way to improve your mood, according to Axe. As he explains, being in contact with the earth boosts positive energy and—no pun intended—helps us stay grounded. “This is really so important today, when we all live modern, fast-paced lifestyles,” he says. If you don't have luck with many houseplants, there are varieties like succulents that are ridiculously easy to care for.


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