How to Be Happy Again 2023 (30 Scientific Studies)

Happiness is different for everybody. You might desire just to be at peace with yourself. Some value a circle of friends that unconditionally accept them.

Then others might just want the freedom to fulfill their dreams. No matter what your vision of true happiness is, a happier life is available to you.

If you can consistently maintain specific habits in your life, you have a good chance of getting it. Our habits shape the lives that we have. You may have tried to break a bad one before and seen how hard it is to get rid of.

Fortunately, you can make good habits a part of your routine. Try following these daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly habits to start your journey of happiness today.

Be mindful that it’s okay if your path to true joy requires achieving different habits than someone else’s. Don’t feel you or someone you care about has to follow all of these actions.

If you strongly feel any of these habits don’t fit your lifestyle or adds stress to your life, don’t do them. Over time, you’ll know what works best for you.

Woman outside yellow flowers how to be happy

Daily habits

1. Smile often

While smiling is generally due to happiness, the reverse can be true too.

A paper published in Psychological Bulletin combined data from 138 studies which tested 11,000 participants.

Based on the data, psychologists concluded smiling can make people feel happier.

Smiling releases dopamine, which is a chemical that helps us you feel good.

It’s understandable that some don’t like the idea of putting on a fake smile. We all want our smiles to happen when something does make us happy.

Still, it’s a good habit you can do just because you want to feel happy. Whenever you feel down in life again, just try putting on a smile.

If you’re up to it, start your morning looking in the mirror and smiling at yourself. See how it affects the way you feel.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercising is generally viewed as an activity designed to benefit us physically.

However, it also benefits us mentally and emotionally be reducing stress, anxiety, and depression, and boosting happiness and self-esteem.

Best of all, it doesn’t have to take that much exercise, according to a University of Michigan study.

Just 150 minutes a week, which can be broken down to 25 minutes a day, can be enough to boost our happiness.

Here are some activities you could do for 25 minutes a day:

  • Walking around your neighborhood after dinner
  • Taking a beginner’s dance class
  • Taking a beginner’s yoga class

The best way you can get yourself to do an exercise is to pick that you find fun and enjoyable.

3. Get an adequate amount of sleep

Unfortunately, our modern culture tends to value staying up late to finish a project or partying all night.

That doesn’t change the fact that sleep is an important part of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine concluded in a study that sleep regularity results in higher morning and evening happiness, wellness, and calmness.

According to the Mayo Clinic, adults should get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Struggling not to nap in your day or feeling in a fog can be a sign your body needs more rest.

Here are a few of the recommendations given by the Sleep Foundation for getting better sleep:

  • Have a target bedtime
  • Have a fixed wake-up time
  • Adjust your sleep schedule gradually
  • Take 30 minutes to wind down

They provide many more tips that will hopefully help you get much better sleep throughout the week.

4. Eat foods that boost mood

Much like exercise, most people are aware that food affects our physical wellness. But it’s important to recognize it affects your mental and emotional wellness too.

A USA Today article listed these food items as ones that can make us happier:

  • Quinoa
  • Mushrooms
  • Salmon
  • Dark chocolate
  • Foods with probiotics such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut
  • Grapes
  • Foods with folic acid such as turnip greens

You probably might have noticed that many of these foods are ones that are considered good for us.

They contain good carbs and proteins that release mood boosting chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, in your body.

Certain foods can also put you in a bad mood too. Some of the items we’re recommended to avoid include processed foods, sodas, alcohol, and sugary drinks.

Don’t feel you need to make a complete diet overall overnight. In fact, it would be wise if you consulted with your physician first.

Once you feel comfortable to start making some changes, you can try making different food choices throughout your week.

5. Practice being grateful

Over and over and over, in study after study after study, gratitude has been proven to make us feel good.

But unfortunately, we often spend more time focusing on what we lack rather than appreciating what we have.

When you wake up in the morning, think of a few things you feel grateful for. Throughout your day, pay attention to something good you can be glad for in your day.

It can be something small like your commute to work going smoothly, or something big like knowing you’ll be going home to someone you love.

As you practice feeling thankful every day, you might recognize that your life is much better than you realize most of the time.

I made a gratitude list of 101 things to be grateful for that can help you be more thankful in your day.

6. Try deep breathing

We all have moments when our body feels tense and tight. You’ve probably been told when you were angry or worried to take a deep breath.

Michigan Medicine notes that deep breathing can be an effective way to lower our stress. Among the breathing techniques they offer tips on include:

  • Roll breathing
  • Morning breathing
  • 4-7-8 breathing

You can try a little deep breathing to see if it helps you to feel less stressed, more at peace, and thus more happier.

7. Compliment someone

Research over the last few years has proven that when we’re being kind to others, it can make us happier.

Giving someone a sincere compliment can be one way you can express kindness towards someone and boost your mood.

You can read about some tips on how to give a good compliment.

8. Do some journaling

A Psychology Today article noted that journaling helps to boost happiness by getting us to focus on creativity, connection, fun, beauty, and love.

Additionally, the article cited research that suggests journaling can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

A journal can help you to get your thoughts organized and analyze how you feel. Every night, you can sit down and write down some of the thoughts in your mind.

9. Accept your negative emotions

A Scientific American article noted some studies that proved ignoring your negative emotions can do more harm than good to you.

It’s recommended that we choose to be more mindful about the things we’re thinking and feeling. It allows us to cope better with those emotions

A part of being a little more content in life is not just maximizing positive emotions but learning to being okay with negative emotions.

After you acknowledge the emotions, you can ponder why you’re feeling it, and then think of what you can do to feel better.

You may decide journaling could help, or you may just realize you need some time with your feeling before it can pass.

In your journey to experience more happiness in life, remember that nobody can be happy all the time.

10. Think kind wishes for others

Have you ever walked around and thought when you saw a person, “I hope they’re happy.” Turns out, this can actually make you feel happier.

Iowa State University conducted a study evaluating three techniques in how well they improve our mood. The groups were as followed:

  • Kind group: Students were told to think kind wishes for the people they see.
  • Interconnected group: Students were told to think of what hopes and feelings they share with people they see.
  • Downward social comparison group: Students were asked to think of how much better off they were than the people they encountered.

There was also a control group where students were told to only focus on what they saw on the outside, such as the clothing people were wearing.

The results were that the people who thought kind wishes of others ended up feeling happier. The next time you’re out and about, think kind wishes about the people you see.

Here are a few examples of what you could think:

  • “I hope this person is having a good day.”
  • “I wish for this person to be successful in their work.”
  • “I hope this person enjoys a pleasant surprise.”
  • “I wish for this person to find true love.”
  • “I hope this person is mentally and physically well.”

Weekly habits

11. Declutter

A This article found a connection between the way wives talked about their homes and the level of stress they felt.

Those that talked more about the clutter tended to feel more stressed than those didn’t. While the affect wasn’t as strong for men, as the old saying goes, “happy wife happy life.”

While decluttering may seem overwhelming, if you just do a few minutes a day, you can have your space organized in no time.

Try these decluttering tips to help you reduce the amount of the clutter in your home.

12. Plan a trip

Not everyone likes to travel, but perhaps this study might make some of you reconsider it.

Two professors from South Korea conducted a study to see how travel affected happiness in 225 tourists.

The results showed that subjective well-being had not only increased 15 days before travel, but a month after travel.

According to the study, a large part of it has to do with your expectation that your trip will be a happy one.

And then your actual satisfaction with your trip determines how much you feel happier in the time after you traveled.

You could try planning a trip you know you’d look forward to and then simply enjoy your time as much as possible.

13. Have good relationships

A Harvard Study found that good relationships were the single biggest predictor of whether someone was happy in life.

It’s also a key factor which predicted the longevity of life that people had. So not only do good relationships make you happy, they make you physically well too.

It’s not always easy having a good connection with people in life. We all have different tastes, desires, and needs in life.

Do your best to find people in your life that care for you, understand you, enjoy you, respect you, and are a positive energy in your life.

Perhaps more importantly, if you strive to be that type of person, you’ll be more likely to attract those type of people.

14. Limit phone use

Research in recent years has shown a connection between smartphone use and depression. Teens who spent more time on their phones tended to be more lonely and sad.

Unfortunately, tech companies have learned to keep people addicted through bright color designs, pinging sounds, and other questionable tactics.

I wrote an article on this topic that might help you have better control of your phone habit and be less stressed:  7 Powerful Ways To Break Your Phone Addiction and Have Freedom Again

In the interest of fairness, there is still much to learn on this topic, as one study suggests it’s actually our worry about our phone habits that can stress us out.

Strive to limit your phone use but also not worry yourself over it too much to help you maintain more happiness in life.

Related: Why I’ve Never Owned a Smartphone

15. Meditate

A recent study concluded that even just doing one mindfulness meditation session can help reduce anxiety.

Meditating is as simple as just sitting down, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breath and the thoughts that go through your mind.

Here’s a good guide that you can read on how to meditate.

16. Doing new and diverse things

Two psychology professors conducted a study that found those who have more variety in their day to day routine felt happier.

The way these professors did this study was pretty interesting. So, they got participants to agree to GPS tracking for three to four months.

They asked participants to share their positive and negative emotional state during the time period by text message.

On days when people had been to a variety of physical locations for a proportionate amount of time, they felt happy, excited, relaxed, and other positive emotions.

MRI’s were even conducted with results suggesting a link between diverse and novel experiences in our day with subjective sense of well-being.

Here are some suggestions you can consider to change up your daily routine:

  • Try a new recipe for dinner
  • Visit a location in town you’ve never been
  • Try an activity you’ve never done
  • Take a different route to school or work
  • Learn a new skill

17. Nature experiences

You’ve probably heard about nature giving people increased happiness numerous times before.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore dived more into this idea in a unique way.

They analyzed multiple photos on social media. They found that the ones that were most often tagged as fun were more likely to show nature images.

The researchers believe this suggests we have an innate desire to be connected with nature. It feels like that makes sense since humans lived in nature before houses.

The study also discovered that the amount of nature experiences in a specific country determined the overall satisfaction of the residents.

These findings would seem to make it worthwhile for us to consider being in nature more.

18. Home gardening

Princeton University researchers compared home gardening with other activities considered to increase happiness.

They found that people who spent time gardening felt happiness similar to people who dine out, walk, or go biking.

In particular, the research found it most increased the happiness of women and those who were of low income.

People felt the activity of gardening was meaningful because they were able to produce their own food.

If you have the opportunity to do so in your own yard, you can try starting a garden and see how it makes you feel.

Monthly habits

19. Give

Just as handing out compliments can make you feel good, giving overall can bring more happiness into your life.

Make it a monthly habit to do some kind of significant selfless act. It can be donating your blood, volunteering at a homeless shelter, or just babysitting somebody’s kids.

Research published in Psychological Science found that the joy of giving lasts longer than the joy of getting.

20. Consider seeking therapy

Therapists are trained to help you sort through your thoughts and feelings and providing you coping skills. One particular type of therapy you might find useful is cognitive behavioral therapy.

One study found that CBT helped to reduce stress in parents taking care of chronically ill children.

If you decide to pursue counseling, be sure to take time to research different counselors before you choose one.

Here’s a helpful article on how to find the right therapist and a directory you can use to start searching.

21. Saving

Research done in Scotland found that those who saved more enjoyed greater life satisfaction. Make it a habit to create a monthly budget for your finances.

Do your best to cut out unnecessary expenses where you can. You could make it fun by trying to save more than you did in the previous month.

Related: 12 Minimalist Budget Tips for Better Spending Habits

22. Be hedonistic sometimes

Hedonism is the philosophical idea that seeking pleasure is the most important pursuit and highest good of life.

A University of Zurich psychology researcher wanted to know if hedonism can make us happier.

Katharina Bernecker, along with her colleague, Daniela Becker of Radbound University, sent out a questionnaire to measure people’s ability to enjoy short-term pleasures.

They found from the responses that people who fully enjoyed their hedonistic desires in the moment had a higher sense of well-being.

The key, according to the researchers, is to have a balance between enjoying short-term pleasures, while also pursuing long-term goals for fulfillment.

23. Spending on experiences

Those of us who practice minimalism are very familiar with this idea.

A marketing professor at the University of Texas, Austin, along with his research team, found that people are happier when they make experiential purchases rather than material ones.

2,635 adults were assigned randomly to either the experiential or material group. They were told to monitor their purchasing behavior or emotions at random times in the day.

Material buyers bought items such as clothing and jewelry. Experiential buyers bought experiences such as dinner at a restaurant or tickets to a sporting event.

Even with comparing experience purchases that were the same price as a material purchases, the results were still the same.

Experiential buyers were happier from their purchases than material buyers. Here are some other examples of experiential purchases you could consider making:

  • Going to a theme park
  • Going to an escape room
  • Taking dance classes
  • Taking cooking classes
  • Going to a concert

You can find more ideas of experiential purchases in this article: 21 Clutter-Free Gifts for Minimalists

24. Treating the weekend like a vacation

Many people have busy work schedules that don’t allow them to get much time off. But for those workers who are lucky to not work on weekends, there might be a solution.

A group of researchers from UCLA Anderson School of Management found that people who treated the weekend like a vacation, instead of like a “regular weekend”, experienced increased happiness.

Here are a few ways you can treat the weekend more like a vacation:

  • Do less housework
  • Eat more than you normally would
  • Listen to fun music while running your errands
  • Focus on enjoying the present moment

25. Spending on others

We expect spending money on ourselves would make us happy, but you’ll be surprised to learn that spending money on others might make us even happier.

In one experiment, 712 students were either told to buy something for themselves or buy something for a stranger.

The participants who made purchases for strangers had more momentary happiness than those who spent on themselves.

There was another experiment where some people were asked to recall spending on others vs spending on themselves.

Though the differences weren’t large, those who recalled buying something for someone reported having more happiness as well.

Yearly habits

26. Set ambitious goals

According to a University of California study, those who set ambitious goals tend to be more satisfied in life than those who set conservative goals.

The authors concluded that people often don’t recall their goal to evaluate their performance. Instead, they focus on a higher comparison point, causing dissatisfaction.

Though in one scenario when researchers reminded the group of participants they met their goal, the satisfaction between the two goal setters wasn’t that far off.

So, if you do set conservative goals, be sure to keep them in mind so that when you met them, you experience satisfaction.

Related: What Does Success Mean? 9 Ways To Achieve It

27. Be forgiving

According to the Mayo Clinic, people who imagined forgiving someone felt more positive and relaxed afterwards.

Lack of forgiveness has been associated with increased muscle tension, high blood pressure, and feeling like you’re less in control.

Practicing forgiving all those who hurt you throughout the year to feel more positive and joyful in life.

28. Have hope

A University of East Anglia study found that those who have hope for the future can make you happier.

The basis of this conclusion was that hope can protect against harmful behaviors like drinking and gambling.

Strive to be hopeful about your direction in life to be more responsible in your decision-making and make happiness in life more likely.

29. Develop your grit

In a study on whether grittiness was connected to happiness, researchers concluded those who exhibited perseverance and adaptability had increased life satisfaction. An article in Inc provides great tips to develop more grit.

30. Make other people feel good

Research published in the Journal of Positive Psychology concluded that people can feel happier making others feel good rather than making themselves feel good. Take time to do something that you know will make someone feel good and see how it makes you feel.

Don’t focus too much on pursuing happiness

While it’s understandable to want to go after happiness as much as possible, it’s important to understand that it takes time and effort

Researchers found that often people who pursued happiness tended to feel they didn’t have enough time in the day to do it. As a result, they felt unhappy.

It’s recommended to try worrying less about pursuing happiness as a never-ending goal. None of us will ever reach a point of always being happy.

Just do as best as you can, accept the good and bad in life, and embrace the journey of life.

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  1. Maria Pinto says:

    Thanks Eric for bringing Science into the picture when we all need it! I love #3, Be Hedonistic Sometimes. It reminds me of the library book I just read, The Frugal Hedonist, and a song by Bjork, Violently Happy.

    I think also this is like stepping out of your comfort zone, letting your hair down so to speak, allowing your silly side to come out & just get crazy. That also goes back to not worrying what other people think. It is like one time when I worked for a bank & we were allowed to wear a Halloween Costume to work. I went as a clown wearing overalls, riding the bus to work. We had a costume contest, I won & the customers just loved it!

    1. You’re welcome, Maria! That frugal hedonist book sounds interesting. I’ll have to look it up. Ha, sounds like you had a fun Halloween. It’s definitely good to step out of our comfort zones and build ourselves up in that way.