You don’t have to travel around the world or spend years in a monastery to find happiness. Happiness is all around us—within us. That means it isn’t some far-off, unimaginable destination. It's something you can cultivate through small, consistent actions.
These nine small adjustments will help you tap into happiness more and more with every passing day.
“Happiness is not ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” —The Dalai Lama
1. Choose to appreciate rather than to complain.
You can complain until you're blue in the face. You can complain that you’re reading this article, that it’s too cold outside, that life isn't fair. But it's a surefire way to feel lousy about yourself and everything around you.
When you have the option of complaining—don’t. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I appreciate about the circumstances in front of me? What is good about my work or where I live?” Refrain from complaining and spend more time in gratitude for the many good things in your life.
Appreciation is happiness at your fingertips.
2. Choose people over things.
How much of your day do you spend focused on things? How much of your time is spent earning more money to pay for cars, houses and shopping? Having more stuff seldom makes us happy.
Saying “hello” to a coworker, neighbor, or grocery store clerk, on the other hand, will help you connect with others and spark a moment of humanity and cheer.
3. Choose compassion over judgment.
Think about how many judgments you make each day. Next time you find yourself judging, flip the judgment to compassion. Instead of condemning with your mind, see if you can find the good. Can you help? Can you uplift? Can you understand?
4. Choose generosity over selfishness.
In an all-about-me culture, doing something selfless for someone else is an instant mood-booster.
If you’re feeling down, help a coworker. Let someone cut in line, say hello to a stranger, or give your afternoon snack to the homeless veteran.
Any time you give, you get happiness in return. Give without expectations.
5. Choose to focus on solutions rather than problems.
You can focus on failure, roadblocks, etc., or you can look for answers, find solutions, and overcome the obstacle in front of you. When you look for solutions, you're being proactive and optimistic. That always encourages happiness.
6. Choose acceptance over resistance.
If you go around resisting everything that comes into your life, you’ll always be angry and frustrated.
Accept that things won't always go your way. Deal with the disappointment and then try again. If you resist pain, you can’t deal with it. If you accept it first, you can find a way through it.
7. Choose the high road rather than being petty.
Someone cuts you off on the road or takes your leftover sandwich from the fridge. Let go of grudges. Forgive quickly and choose the high road. When you don’t respond to snarky emails in kind, or treat rude waiters with condescension, you'll feel happier quickly, and might even be able to perk up the people who upset you.
The high road always wins when it comes to happiness.
8. Choose your truth over society's demands.
The easiest way to feel unhappy and frustrated with life is to play by life’s rules, follow and do what everyone else is doing—just because they're doing it.
As years go by, the more you conform and blindly follow society’s lead, the more miserable you’ll be.
Choose to live your truth; follow your heart’s lead, bow out of unwanted obligations and live the life you desire. Ignore cultural noise, or demands for you to conform.
9. Choose to take achievable daily actions rather than make grandiose bucket lists.
Bucket lists are where dreams go to die. You may put your most-wanted dreams on your bucket list, but don’t put off your happiness till some future experience is realized.
Pick a few small things you really want to change or do and start taking the steps toward making that happen today. Save up for that trip, start on that passion project, write that book. By the time you’re ready to dive into your bucket list, you might not be here!
Working on your most treasured dreams today is maybe the best way I know to be happier immediately, and every day.
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Vishnu Subramaniam is a writer, coach, and author of nine self published books, including The Sacred Art of Letting Go: Walk 12 Steps with Spiritual Masters to Let Go of Past Relationships and Find Peace Today. He attended UCLA and worked as an immigration lawyer, but left the legal professional to help people overcome breakups, get out of a rut and build a life they've always wanted.