International Day of Happiness: 13 things that will make you a happier person
While happiness may mean something quite different to everyone, it's often the little things that make us happy. On International Day of Happiness (March 20), here are 13 things that happy people do.
Having grown up with incredibly patient, supportive parents who are good listeners and always give the best advice, I've been told time and time again that while material goods might make us happy in the moment, that feeling is fleeting. With time, I've learned that people who are the happiest don't have the most money, or aren't the most attractive, but they all share one thing in common: they practice gratitude every day. While this may seem simple enough, our minds tend to focus on what we're missing out on, instead of being grateful for everything we already have.
Good news: there are ways to practice gratitude and be happy every day.
On International Day of Happiness — started by the United Nations in 2013, it takes place every year on March 20 to emphasise the pursuit of happiness as a "goal for all human beings" — here's a look at the small things that happy people do to make life just a little bit better. And while everyone is different, hopefully they'll inspire you to make some positive changes, too.
1. Go offline
Obsessing over social media sites is a bad habit that we all have, but looking at pictures of other people's amazing vacations and delicious desserts isn't doing anything for you. "Make a pact with yourself to unplug every day — you can read a book or call a friend — but just signing off allows you to live your life instead of watching other people live theirs," says Dr Upasana Ghosh, a certified relationship expert from Kolkata.
2. Turn mistakes into lessons
As much as we try to strive for perfection, mistakes are an inevitable part of life. While it's easy to beat yourself up when a new job just isn't working out or a relationship falls apart, focusing on learning from what went wrong will help you turn a mistake into something productive, says Dr Ghosh. "When something goes wrong, consider it an opportunity to grow and become an even better version of yourself," she says.
3. Say 'thank you'
Saying 'thank you' is an easy way to pay it forward and make everyone's day a little brighter. "During a busy day, take a second to stop and be grateful for the small stuff. It may not come naturally, but in the long run, it really will increase your happiness," says Dr Ghosh. Whether it's a friendly salesperson at the chemist or a co-worker who holds the elevator so you can jump in, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and appreciate the little things.
4. Don't sweat the small stuff
"There are plenty of instances where anger, disappointment, and anxiety are totally reasonable reactions, but they don't have to be your final reactions. Learning to let go of the little things you can't control will allow you to focus better on the positive aspects of life," says Dr Ghosh. While bad things happen, there's something great around the corner that is more worthy of your time and energy.
5. Take a break
Putting in long hours at the office is draining, but there's a little trick that will help you to be both happier and more productive: take a break. Even if you bring your own lunch, step out for a brisk walk after lunch. "Getting your body moving and taking your eyes off your screen will help you come back after just five minutes, feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever task is up next on the agenda," says Dr Ghosh.
6. Plan getaways
Even if you can't afford a fancy vacation, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to get out there and see the world. "Experiencing a new culture or food or a change in scenery is a great way to bring a little extra happiness into your life," says Dr Ghosh. Whether you book a trip alone or with friends and family, travelling helps you to create memories that you will never forget, she adds.
7. Build relationships
Dr Ghosh says that maintaining friendships is an important part of leading a happy and full life. Whether you have a few close friends or a big social circle, keeping in contact and having a buddy to cheer you up can make a huge difference.
8. Don't blame the past
"Instead of dwelling on the things that went wrong in your past, make your time more meaningful by looking to the future. When you stay positive and think about the things you can accomplish, you're able to find peace with the things that may not have gone your way before," says Dr Ghosh.
9. Get sleep
Dr Ghosh says that catching a few extra hours of sleep can make a big difference. When you're feeling groggy or under the weather, it's hard to put your best foot forward. While you definitely shouldn't sacrifice your plans for getting shut-eye, Dr Ghosh says, "make sure you make time to catch up on your sleep".
10. Take chances
Instead of waiting for opportunities to fall into your lap, take control, says Dr Ghosh. Putting yourself out there can feel like a challenge, but once you take a risk, whether it's searching for a new job or asking a friend out on a date, you will be rewarded.
11. Get moving
While a marathon may not be on the horizon, physical activity is an important part of leading a happier life. "Working out releases endorphins and help you banish a bad mood for good, says Dr Ghosh.
12. Be honest
They say "honesty is the best policy," and when it comes to health and happiness, this couldn't be more true. "Lies cause stress and anxiety," says Dr Ghosh, and life is too short not to live authentically.
13. Don't compare themselves to others
"Everyone has their own path in life, and when you start to compare yours to others', you take focus away from personal progress," says Dr Ghosh. While jealousy can be hard to beat, learning to let go of how you stack up to others will ultimately help you to focus on your own successes, she suggests.