Hacking Happiness: 19 Ways to Feel Good

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In This Post

  • Unhappiness is common, and chasing happiness isn’t a good idea
  • 19 easy, free, and simple ways you can boost your happiness

If you’re looking for reasons to be unhappy, you’re going to find them. Especially during this current time where life seems to throw us one unprecedented event after another. There’s a lot to complain about, and a lot of genuinely awful stuff happening. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there will always be things in our life that bring unhappiness. Much of this is out of our control. Happiness, therefore, is kind of a choice.

Choosing happiness and a life where you create moments of happiness for yourself, rather than waiting for them to happen to you is crucial. We talk a lot about happiness here, despite also encouraging you to decentralise happiness in your life because we know it’s so important. The happiness industry is huge, with a lot of misinformation.

The tips today are really part two of a recent article all about the hedonic treadmill. Here we talk about how you can focus on creating long-lasting happiness in your life. As opposed to the never-ending cycle of short-term happiness but long-term unfulfillment. Today we’re not focusing on the philosophies behind happiness hunting, but instead, we will give you some little happiness hacks to help remind you how to keep feeling good.

Again, these tips alone won’t make you happy forever. This is why it’s important to understand your human motivation for seeking happiness, and why eventually you have to kind of let the concept go. You won’t always feel happy and pursuing it to that extent is detrimental. However, these tips still have their time and place. Come back to them when you need a little refresher.

Without further ado, here is your quick list of 19 ways to feel good!

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1. Practise Gratitude by Regularly Taking Time to Appreciate the Good Things in Your Life

Very cliché starting point I know! But we will keep reminding you about the benefits of gratitude until the end because of how important they are. Gratitude, particularly when practised daily, has been scientifically proven to help raise your mood and general sense of well-being. For more tips on gratitude specifically, look here where you can learn more about how to incorporate it into your daily life through journaling.

2. Set Goals and Work Towards Achieving Them, as This Can Give You a Sense of Purpose and Accomplishment

Setting goals that are achievable yet still provide you with a sense of accomplishment is a great place to start if you’ve been in a slump, or are struggling to get things done. When we don’t feel good and our happiness is low, we often experience a lack of motivation and productivity as a knock-on effect.

The annoying thing is that a lack of motivation and low productivity can also trigger you to feel worse. This cycle is most easily dealt with by setting small (even really small) goals that help you get the ball rolling. Think of brushing your teeth, or making your bed as a valid step to start with. Being able to tick something off a list helps you feel good about yourself and can boost your happiness.

3. Spend Time With Loved Ones, as Social Connections and Strong Relationships Are Important for Happiness

Spending time with people can either bring you immense happiness or suck the life out of your soul. So, this obviously only applies to people you actually enjoy seeing! Regardless of your levels of extraversion and introversion, we are all social creatures. Making time to bond with others and share moments together is a core part of the human experience. So, call that friend, reply to your Mum’s texts, and make sure you’re not becoming an unhappy little hermit by accident.

4. Engage in Activities That You Enjoy, Such as Hobbies, Sports, or Creative Pursuits

We’re allowed to have guilty pleasures in life – because after all, they’re pleasures! Making time to do the things that bring you joy is an obvious (but often forgotten) method of creating happiness in your life. Set some time each week to do something for fun that you can actively look forward to. We can sometimes get bogged down in our work, our studies, or our responsibilities. Spending time, money and energy on things that aren’t necessarily ‘productive’ can feel like a waste. But your happiness is important for your quality of life, and as such you should make doing things you enjoy a priority.

5. Take Care of Your Physical Health by Eating a Healthy Diet, Regular Exercise, and Enough Sleep

Eating broccoli and going to the gym doesn’t bring most people an immediate sense of happiness or satisfaction. Unless you’re the lucky few who have built up the routine so you do – if so, congrats. Regardless, it is crucial for your physical ability to feel good. Did you know your gut is incredibly important for your ability to function normally and produce the right hormones associated with happiness and other healthy functions? The benefits of the health basics should never be forgotten.

Taking care of your physical health through all the things (diet, sleep, exercise blah blah I’m sure you know) is something that has long-term and immediate benefits. You deserve to feel happy now, but you should also be trying to live a life where your health and happiness down the line are taken care of.

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6. Practise Mindfulness, Which Involves Paying Attention to the Present Moment and Accepting Things as They Are

Mindfulness is so cool! We’re trying to grab your attention here because mindfulness (and meditation) can often appear…a little boring. Like taking care of your long-term health, practising mindfulness has long-term protective effects on your happiness. It allows you, with consistency, to feel calmer. It helps with navigating more difficult emotions and allows you to feel more balanced and happier.

Mindfulness can help you see the bigger picture and put your concerns into perspective. A calmer, more zen you is almost certainly a happier you. If you want to learn more about becoming more mindful, look here.

7. Show Kindness and Compassion to Others, as Helping Others Can Bring Joy and Fulfilment

Serving your community is something that we often forget to do. Unless you’re living in a tight-knit community (lucky you!) we can often be very detached from the people we live next to, or even work with. Volunteering for others, or even just doing some litter picking locally can help you feel a sense of purpose, connection and fulfilment. Ultimately helping you feel happier. The benefits of your good work can be enjoyed by others around you too. Plus a little pride in something you’ve done for others is okay!

8. Spend Time in Nature, as Being in Natural Surroundings Has Been Shown to Improve Mood and Well-Being

If you live in the countryside or a rural area with access to green spaces, take some time to truly appreciate what a great thing that is. Humans aren’t really designed to live in concrete blocks. Seeking out your closest green space is essential for your mental well-being and your happiness. If you can take a weekend out of the city to go somewhere green and experience nature that’s great. If all you have access to is your local park, then make sure you go! It doesn’t matter what type of nature it is, pick your favourite scenery and make it intentional.

You can multiply the beneficial effects by practising mindfulness and gratitude when you’re there. Perhaps you try going for a walk without your phone or choosing not to check your emails while at the beach. Whatever it is, make some intentional time for yourself in nature to feel the benefits in your happiness levels.

9. Practise Forgiveness, as Holding Grudges and Resentment Can Weigh Heavily on Your Happiness

Forgiving others is hard, and sometimes not relevant or helpful. Moving on from a situation, with or without forgiveness is up to you. Making peace with your past (not necessarily the people involved) and choosing to focus instead on the future ahead of you can help free you up from the emotional weight that is hindering your happiness and holding you down.

Some things, and people, don’t deserve your forgiveness, and you do not have to give it to them. Choosing to acknowledge what happened was unacceptable is all you need to do to move on. Some things will always impact you and you may not be able to remove all the pain that has been caused. But, you are still able to add happiness on top of whatever you’re working with. You can always choose to believe the future will be better and will contain more happiness.

10. Seek Out New Experiences and Try New Things, as This Can Bring Excitement and Novelty to Your Life

Human beings need new experiences to grow. If you aren’t growing and developing, it’s hard to imagine that your happiness and satisfaction in life will continue to be at satisfactory levels. New experiences are the core element of human growth and fulfilment.

The new experiences that you seek can be totally up to you. Ideally, you’d want to do a mixture of things you love and things that make you nervous. Within reason! Doing something that expands your comfort zone is key to growth, and therefore key for happiness. Actively seeking out things you know you enjoy can feel great, but doing things that are totally new and exciting is helpful too.

New experiences don’t have to be grand, life-changing events (but totally do those crazy dreams if you have them). Even small new things in your daily life can be effective. Try that new recipe. Go on a new route during your walk. Meet up with a new friend. There are lots of small ways to create novelty and little bursts of happiness in your life.

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11. Practise Self-Care, Such as Taking Time to Relax and Recharge, and Setting Boundaries to Protect Your Time and Energy

When we think of self-care for happiness, we often think of the luxurious image of a bubble bath, maybe a trip to Rome, or wine with friends. These are all valid examples of prioritising yourself, but there is often an overlooked, slightly less exciting version of self-care.

Setting boundaries with people in uncomfortable situations. Saying ‘no’. Scheduling therapy sessions. These are all things that can be crucial for our long-term happiness and the prevention of burnout. Protecting your energy and time by not allowing others unfiltered access to it is important. If those boundaries don’t already exist in your life, setting them can feel pretty awkward. But, your overall well-being and happiness require these types of unglamorous acts of self-care.

Oftentimes we are reminded to take part in self-care, but a specific type that usually involves buying something or a commodified experience. Sometimes self-care can look like not buying yourself something because you know you need to put more in your savings. Or it can look like not eating that unhealthy food because you know you have nutritional goals to meet. Self-care sometimes feels like tough love and parenting ourselves, rather than treating ourselves and giving into every desire we have for the sake of ‘treating ourselves’.

I’m super guilty of allowing myself complete freedom for the sake of ‘I deserve it’, or for ‘self-care treats’. But, when these actions are not monitored carefully, they can often be counterproductive. So, take this as your weekly reminder to try and do the ‘right’ thing, rather than the ‘easy’ thing, even when it comes to your self-care.

12. Surround Yourself With Positive, Supportive People Who Lift You up and Encourage You

Similar to the point about making sure you socialise with others, actively seeking out positive influences in your life is important for your happiness. If you know the people you surround yourself with bring you down, or aren’t living the life you want to, it might be time to move on. You don’t have to cut every negative person off all at once! Just see how creating some space between people who don’t add to your happiness feels. Remember, we are the people we surround ourselves with, as much as we are the things we do daily. Take a moment to reflect on how your happiness levels feel after spending time with certain people and adjust!

13. Take Breaks From Screens and Technology, as Too Much Time Spent Staring at Screens Can Be Draining

Ironic as I know you’re reading this on a screen, but it is well-established that too much technology is detrimental to our physical and mental health. Happiness included. Whether it’s your awful neck posture (guilty), the excessive hours you spend (guilty), or the actual content you consume (guilty) that make technology a problem. Too much screen time isn’t good!

My Experience With Technology Breaks

Personally, reducing the amount of time I spend using technology has had a substantive impact on the general feeling of anxiety I have day to day. Annoying I know, because we all know these things can help us improve our lives. It’s just a hard habit to break. I didn’t realise how tense I was just doing daily things like commuting or waiting to go into the lecture hall at university. It’s only a personal example, but by not being on my phone as much, I felt a general sort of calming effect which has helped me become happier.

I am also happier when I’m not on my phone as I’m more likely to be doing something fun or meaningful. Whether that be spending time with friends, my partner, family, or my hobbies and studies. This is for 4 main reasons:

  1. I literally have more time because I’m using my phone less.
  2. The extra time I have that is freed up goes slower than when I’m using my phone so it feels like I have even more time than I actually do. Have you ever spent an accidental 2 hours on your phone without even realising it?
  3. There is much less mental resistance to doing tasks I would usually avoid and use my phone to procrastinate.
  4. Since I have more time and less mental resistance, the outcome of my work is higher. This leads to more success and more happiness from fulfilling the goals and intentions I previously set.

14. Practise Deep Breathing and Other Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress and Promote Calmness

So, maybe classic meditation isn’t your thing. Perhaps you’re struggling to find ways to reduce stress that aren’t distracting and numbing things like scrolling on your phone. To boost your happiness by reducing your stress you can instead try relaxation techniques. Enter breathing techniques!

Breathing techniques are great because they’re easier for beginners than more advanced meditation styles. Once you’ve got a pattern you like, you can practise it literally anywhere, any time. It’s useful when you need to calm yourself down, for example before an interview. But is also something that’s good for you to do for a few minutes every day. You probably won’t get a rush of endorphins or happy mood-boosting hormones to such an effect that it makes you feel happier in the moment. But, a general feeling of calm is good for your long-term emotional and mental health.

There are some cool apps out there that have cute little timers that help guide you through different techniques. There are plenty of videos on YouTube too. There are probably some good books on breathing techniques as well, but I find the ‘follow along’ versions more accessible.

I personally like (what I think) is called square breathing. It goes something like this:

  • Breathe in for 4 counts.
  • Hold for 4 counts.
  • Breathe out for 4 counts.
  • Hold for 4 counts.
  • Repeat.
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15. Find Ways to Laugh and Have Fun, as Laughter Has Been Shown to Have Many Positive Effects on Mood and Well-Being

Not being so serious and taking things easy is something that I have struggled with. But, learning to laugh at yourself, particularly in embarrassing situations is a very healthy way to deal with them – for yourself and socially. You can feel happy through laughter by engaging with things that make you feel that way. Seeing your token funny friend, reading your favourite comic, and also just trying to take life less seriously are some good first steps.

Chronic stress (aka never finding the funny side to things) is incredibly damaging to your long-term health and lots of health conditions are related to this. It’s hard to be happy with heart disease, so take our word for it and lighten up where you can!

16. Practise Self-Acceptance, as Being Kind and Compassionate Towards Yourself Can Improve Your Overall Well-Being

Learning to become more self-accepting is very challenging. Simply being reminded that you should come to terms with your entire being, flaws and all, is probably not going to instantly get you on that path. However, kindness to ourselves and giving ourselves grace are incredibly important for our overall happiness.

Sometimes a little tough love is a good motivator, and only you can know what type of tone you respond best to. But in general, your inner monologue should be as encouraging and optimistic as possible. If you don’t love and cheer for yourself, it’s difficult to do the same for others or have them do it for you. A little self-love can help you become a happier person – beating yourself up constantly for things you are trying to improve is unpleasant and often ineffective.

17. Seek Positive Role Models and Mentors Who Can Inspire and Guide You

As mentioned earlier, we are social creatures and we are the combination of the people we spend the most time with. If you don’t already have your ideal social network, consider ways in which you can grow it. Whether it’s positive role models for your health, work-life, or friendships, having people who are doing the things we want to achieve is a great way to be inspired, to learn and to put their lessons into practice. Surrounding yourself with people who are going to support you and have similar goals to you ensures you maintain a happy, healthy social circle.

18. Seek Out Opportunities for Creativity and Self-Expression, as This Can Bring Joy and a Sense of Accomplishment

If you’re an artistic or creative person, you probably already thought about your self-expression hobbies when we mentioned them earlier. If you’re not artistically inclined, consider this your invitation to try it out! Creating something, particularly something physical rather than digital, with our hands is a process that really connects us with the core nature of our humanity. Humans have created art for literally our entire existence and there’s no reason why you are an exception to that rule.

If you haven’t done something artistic or creative since high school, now is your chance to have a go. It’s incredibly fulfilling and can bring you a lot of happiness. The process is the most important here, the outcome is almost irrelevant. The purpose of creating something is to lose yourself in the process, to experiment, and to try something new. You can literally spend 10 minutes drawing something and throw it away immediately if you feel like you really hate it that much. The point is to use your brain in a different way for a little bit to add some cognitive variation to your day – something that is essential for human happiness.

19. Take Breaks From Social Media and the News, as Constant Exposure to Negative or Stressful Content Can Hurt Your Mood

It is a privilege to be able to turn off the news when you’ve had enough of hearing about the bad stuff. If the majority of your ‘negativity’ in life is stuff you hear about what’s happening to other people, in another country, you are incredibly privileged and have a lot to be grateful for. However, we are all only human. Sometimes you need a break from the constant doom and gloom cycle of media and news. It is important to stay aware of what is happening in the world and not bury your head in the sand, but constant scrolling will hurt your happiness and well-being.

Try setting some boundaries for yourself around the time and type of content you consume. Taking a break now and then to reset yourself and rest is an important strategy for long-term happiness and avoiding becoming overwhelmed. Side note – there are some cool social media accounts and articles that post positive content, like the little weekly wins for climate change etc., which can help spice up your news feed. Consider searching for those types of accounts if you want a little optimistic boost.

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A Final Reminder for Happiness Hunters

So, hopefully, after those 19 suggestions, there are at least a few you feel like you could have a go at. Remember, the hunt for happiness is a never-ending cycle, and adjusting your understanding and relationship to it is essential. Only then can you consider actively seeking out little moments, knowing that it won’t last forever, but in the moment, it feels pretty good! To live a life in a constant state of happiness is impossible, but you are entirely capable of creating moments of happiness and choosing happiness that really adds up.

To Put it Minimally

  • Happiness will come and go in your life
  • By constantly chasing happiness, you make it an end goal, rather than a state of being in the moment
  • You can create intentional happiness in your day to day life with any of the 19 suggested methods
  • Take it one day at a time – you can’t always be happy, but you can (and should) create intentional happiness in your life