Creating Your Own Happiness

Document your memories to enjoy later.

Some people assume that happiness is matter of your inherent temperament. You’re either and optimist or a pessimist and that’s it. While genetics do play a big role, about half of your happiness level in within your control.

So why do some people seem so happy? Maybe they remember a thing or two that others have forgotten along the way. After all, between work stresses, family issues and life’s little ups and downs, snatches of joy may seem elusive. The thing is, upbeat people don’t wait for happiness to find them—they seek it out. Here are some of their methods.

Don't Compare

One of the fastest ways to rob yourself of happiness is to compare yourself to someone else or to who you think you should be. Every time you find yourself thinking or saying a comparison, stop and think of either 1) something that you are grateful for in your life or 2) something that you love about yourself.

Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself helps you feel better physically and emotionally. Exercise, eat well, and practice good hygiene. When you look and feel your personal best, your confidence will automatically go up.

Go Easy on Yourself

It’s bound to happen. You say the wrong thing, flub the big meeting or fail to meet standards you set for yourself. You’re not alone—there are about 6 billion other people who make mistakes, too. If you spend time regretting the past or worrying about the future, you won’t have time enough to enjoy the here and now. Focus instead on what you can do to change a negative situation—and create one that will bring you joy.

Be Grateful

Maybe it’s the way your friend listens to all of your stories. Or the fact that the woman at the market always remembers your name. Or knowing that if you had the option, you’d choose the mother you’ve got, hands down. Be thankful for what makes your life special, unique and irreplaceable.

Have a Generous Heart

Nothing feels better than making someone’s day, and you’ll certainly be doing that by pitching in at a local shelter or keeping an elderly neighbor company. Even giving someone an unexpected compliment can make your day as much as theirs.

Conquer Fear

Have the confidence to try something new or challenging. It’s better to try and fail than to regret never making the attempt. Imagine the great joy and pride you’ll feel when you succeed.

Seek Novelty

The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. People who do new things — learn a game, travel to unfamiliar places — are happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well.

Forgive Others

Holding grudges can affect your physical as well as your mental health. Anger, hurt, and a desire for vengeance keep you in a pattern of negativity. Let go and focus your attention on the things you can and should enjoy.

Nuture Relationships

Make an effort to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Having warm, close bonds with other people is important to happiness.

Share Your Home

It’s not just the dog-eared book and well-worn chair that help make a house a home. Your favorite creature comfort may come with a wet nose and furry feet. You may find adopting a four-legged friend makes those empty corners vanish. If you’re not quite ready for a fuzzy companion, a family of fish can raise your spirits—and lower your blood pressure, too.

Create and Keep Traditions

Rituals don’t have to center only around the holidays. Stay home, pop popcorn and compete in family game night. Institute a yearly block barbecue or holiday party. Small traditions, too, are enriching, like an after-dinner stroll with your neighbor or brushing your daughter’s hair before bed.

Document Your Memories

Preserve special and everyday moments on film, through drawings or in a journal. Take photos, pull out the video camera, or take up scrap booking. If you’re not a writer, buy a small calendar and jot short entries beneath each date, like "January 9: Went ice skating with the Smiths." Leafing through your calendar, book or journal years from now will call up pleasant memories.

Appreciate Details

Joy is not hidden away: It’s everywhere. Little things never fail to surprise us with their beauty—and the immense place they hold in our lives. Begin your own mental list of unique and unforgettable details each morning and see how long it has grown by the end of the night.

Make Private Time

Has it been a long time since you turned off the TV and tuned in to your thoughts? An empty page will listen without judgment and bear the burden of your worries. Write, sketch or paint your emotions. Compose music, dance or take a walk and enjoy how good it feels to be part of nature.

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