14 Small Things That Lead To Major Happiness

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If we do more of the things that make us happier, we will be happier. Pretty obvious, right? So, what's the holdup? Maybe the thing that makes you happy feels too time-consuming, too expensive, too daunting, or something else. Rather than let your fear paralyze you, though, why not start with the little things?

Taking small steps toward happiness energizes us and gives us the confidence we need to make more profound changes over time. With that in mind, here are 14 easy, fun ways to get happier right now:

1. Pet an animal.

Spending time with pets can be therapeutic and relieves stress. Don't have a fluff-ball of your own? Pet-sit for a friend or volunteer at a local animal shelter. The animals will appreciate your TLC, and their cuddly way of showing gratitude is a major mood boost.

2. Envision someone having the best day of their life, right now.

Someone somewhere is marrying the love of his/her life, celebrating a promotion, or has just won the lottery. By focusing on the good in the world and the lives of people around us, we begin to feel more optimistic about our own happiness. Just try it.

3. Take a walk (or a run).

Elle Woods wasn't wrong in Legally Blonde when she said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” (I'll bet you can finish that line for me.) Truthfully, though, if you're in search of a quick buzz, a 20-minute circuit workout is going to have a more positive effect than a glass of wine: It's that simple.

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4. Flex your creative muscle.

A lot of these things we know make us happy (you know, the things we aren't doing?) involve expressing our creativity. Feeling the urge to paint, but have zero skill? Don't make yourself take a class first. Try finger painting. Who needs a brush to re-create a sunset? You could even try a coloring book or sticker collage. Start where you are. The idea is to get outside of your comfort zone without going so far outside it that you get discouraged by failure.

Love woodworking? Maybe you can graduate to building a doghouse. Are you a karaoke fiend? Try writing a song. If you're your own favorite chef, challenge yourself to cook something extra fancy. Clear your schedule and give your undivided attention to this creative endeavor. When you're in a flow state, nothing else matters. Learning how to get there is a gift you'll never stop appreciating.

5. Watch a feel-good movie.

There are so many uplifting movies with inspiring messages out there. When you can't imagine doing anything but diving into the couch and hibernating under the covers, at least pick a movie that'll make you feel better about life when you're done. The Mighty Ducks, Legally Blonde, Ferris Bueller's Day Off—all worthy places to start. Grab your favorite snack and let the inspiration take you away.

6. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Spending time with people who make you feel good will brighten your day and keep you in a cheery mood. Sharing smiles, memories, and hugs are all activities proven to improve your mood. Surround yourself with positive people who love you and remind you that life is meant to be enjoyed.

7. Pump up the jams.

We all have songs that always put us in a good mood—even when we'd rather wallow. So, if you're trying to stave off (or climb out of) a stale mood, make a playlist specifically for this purpose. (Or borrow some of mbg's playlists.) Start injecting music into your day—while you work, walk, drive, or cook. You might even let it replace some of the stress-triggering stimuli in your life like traffic reports or news broadcasts. If being informed is ruining your life, it's not worth it.

8. Stop procrastinating.

Stop putting off doing things that make you uncomfortable. Have that tough discussion with your friend, partner, or co-worker. Go to the doctor and get that lump checked out. Go to the dentist and have your tooth filled. Stop letting things loom over you like some harbinger of doom. It's hard to feel good when you're staring down the barrel of unpleasantness constantly. Get the things you dread out of the way as soon as possible.

9. Meditate on and cultivate a positive feeling for two whole minutes.

Find a feeling of joy, and don't let it go. Try to extend that feeling for two minutes or longer. This exercise can help you release negative emotions and cultivate optimism. You can repeat it as often as necessary. And with this strategy in particular, the more frequently you do this, the better you'll feel.

10. Read something inspiring.

Self-help books transform millions of lives, but if that's not up your alley, there are countless works of fiction and other genres to draw on for their inspiring stories. We all have libraries, e-readers, Amazon. Why not read something motivational, inspiring, or therapeutic? Absorb the wisdom and advice from a book like this and just see if your life doesn't get better.

11. Plan a vacation.

Don’t worry about saving the money or asking for time off yet. Just have some fun planning your dream vacation. Create a whole itinerary—continents, countries, cities, and activities. Don’t focus on the impediments to the trip of your dreams. Instead, just imagine how great it will be when it happens. Let yourself play.

12. Make peace with something or someone.

Make peace with a situation that has been bothering you, then focus that attention on something that makes you feel better. Forgive someone who has wronged you and release any negative emotions or grudges you're holding on to.

13. Smile.

Smiling tells your brain you're happy—whether you feel that way or not. Next time you need a boost, smile until you notice a change in your mood, and make it a habit to smile more often. It really does keep you happier.

14. Laugh.

It may sound silly, but if you force yourself to laugh, it will eventually result in genuine laughter. If that feels too weird, try to find something funny to watch or listen to, or spend more time with people who make you laugh. Laughter is healing. It releases endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that alleviate pain. The more laughter you can bring into your life, the happier you'll be.

Life isn't always easy, and our circumstances aren't ever in our control. Regardless, we can always control our own responses to them. We can choose to engage in activities that remind us life is good and remain appreciative of all the things that are going right. There are infinite ways to add joy to your world. These just scratch the surface.

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