7 practices toward living a happier life

Habits for Happiness

November 1, 2020
Author: Sharon Kelly, VIU Success Coach

7 practices toward living a happier life

Being happy affects both your brain and your body in positive ways. Cultivating personal happiness is something you can do every day. There are many actions we can take to improve our mood, build our resilience and our sense of well-being.

Here are 7 practices toward living a happier life to try:

Adopt a Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is where you believe that “if there is a will there is a way” and you can tackle almost anything. When we possess a growth mindset that supports the belief that we can grow in our skills and capacities, then it is much easier to take the steps to change our ways of thinking, feeling and acting to create habits and practices that support happiness in our lives.

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Do you believe you have to be hard on yourself to accomplish anything? Or do you believe that self-compassion is more compelling and effective than judgment? According to Harvard Health, self-compassion yields a number of benefits, including lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, self-compassionate people recognize when they are suffering and are kind to themselves at these times, which reduces their anxiety and related depression. Kristen Neff, a thought leader on practicing self-compassion, suggests putting your hand on your heart and repeating kind phrases to yourself. Other ideas for treating yourself with compassion include:

  • Treat yourself to a break and a walk
  • Put on a cozy sweater
  • Treat yourself to a cup of tea
  • Listen to your favourite music
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Don’t isolate yourself; focus on our common humanity
  • Create an image of a safe place with a compassionate individual and think about what the idealized and wise source of compassion would say to you when you are suffering.
  • Cultivate close, authentic, mutually supportive relationships.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude tends to breed happiness. There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful for. Think about someone for whom you are grateful. Name all that you are grateful for regarding this person. This activity can noticeably enhance your mood. You can develop this practice further by establishing a “spot the positives” ritual. Each night before you go to bed try to remember three things that happened during the day you are grateful for.  They can be small, like eating a delicious sandwich, or of bigger importance to you, like a soul-filling coffee date with a good friend. Try it for a week, writing down all of those positive points. It might be difficult at first, but as you persist, it will get easier and easier and when you read your notes at the end of the week, reflect on how what you have written makes you feel. 

Optimistic Thoughts

Optimistic people tend to be happier. How responsible do you feel for your own levels of optimism? Is that something that can be learned or is it a fixed feature for you? If you have a growth mindset, you would believe that you can learn optimism. An activity to try is to picture your life 10 years from now and imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. What is your best-possible educational attainment, personal interests, romantic life, family life, career situation, social life, community life, and physical and mental health? Now write about what you imagined for approximately 15 minutes. Try to do this once a week for about eight weeks – or longer if you wish. If you choose to carry out this activity regularly and apply effort, you are likely to experience a satisfying boost in happiness.

Get More Sleep

Sleeping 7-9 hours a night supported by a regular sleep routine enhances daytime mood. There is a lot of research to support the notion that adequate sleep enhances mood regulation and that sleep deprivation hurts emotional health. Exercising regularly and silencing your mind daily through prayer, mediation or simply doing box breathing enhances our capacity to get regular, deep sleep. Exercise can grow brain cells and helps lessen the effects of stress hormones such as cortisol, and it relaxes us. Physical activity can also release endorphins and hormones that improve our mood and our personal feelings of well-being. Even the act of walking out in nature can boost our happiness and help us to empty our minds of racing thoughts. Simply focus on the colours, the scents and the sounds of being out in the woods or sitting by the ocean.

Stay Social

People who are more socially active tend to live happier lives. They cultivate networks of friends and acquaintances. When times are tough, they seek people out rather than cut themselves off. One way to get happier is to hang out where people are happy and immerse yourself in the vibe. Try challenging yourself to do more socializing for at least one week. We are living in a time of physical distancing, but please don’t make it a practice to be socially distant from others. 

Cultivate Positive Relationships

When we take steps to consciously create positive relationships, we take steps to enhance our own happiness. Improving our communication skills, cultivating our ability to be present, to truly listen and ask open-ended questions with curiosity strengthens our relationships. Conflict is inevitable but taking responsibility for our own feelings and asking for what we need instead of blaming or criticizing creates better relationships.


Start a kindness day. Choose one day a week over the course of six weeks to perform five acts of kindness that benefit others. Doing things for others creates a feel-good emotion for you personally as well. Here are some concrete examples: giving blood, donating your time, helping a friend with their paper, visiting an elderly relative or writing a thank you note.


In your quest to create more happiness in your life, I challenge you to evaluate your behaviours and practices and see if there’s anything you can change or add to help create a sense of meaning, well-being and happiness in your life.


Need some help? Reach out and make an appointment with me if you want some coaching on a topic related to your well-being.

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