happiness a habit

8 Things to Do to Make Happiness a Habit

Happiness. That elusive, sunny disposition we all crave. That end-game we envision without a realistic route of getting there. That “thing” most people say they want out of life. “As long as I’m happy…” they say, honestly admitting that hopes and dreams only amount to one emotion making it all worth it. Most of us have noticed by now that happiness is not as easy to come by as it seems. In fact, each year, about 6.7 percent of the American population ages 18 and over suffer from major depression. And that’s only looking at those who are diagnosed.

Social Media and Depression

With social media being used to showcase users’ curated highlight reels, it’s no wonder that heavy use of social networks such as Facebook is also linked to depression. It makes sense: we’re in a state of constant comparison, whether or not you are conscious of it. So, in a world full of seemingly happy people, it can feel even lonelier to be experiencing sadness.

On a personal note, I’ve been there. Though I haven’t been diagnosed with depression, I definitely have bouts of highs and lows that might seem abnormal to outsiders. Maybe it’s a combination of my introversion and the ridiculously high expectations I set for myself, but sometimes I get pretty damn sad.

But don’t worry. This isn’t a pity party (although I do love parties centered on me! Hint! Hint!). This is just a little post to share with others that it’s OK to be sad. Yeah, dude, I said it. Social media makes it feel like everything you do is on display, but the truth is, it’s not.

Your 500 followers aren’t with you when you realize you forgot to switch the laundry over to the dryer for the third time in a row. Your thousands of viewers aren’t next to you when you receive the news that a family member is, like, really sick. Your constant commenters aren’t there to witness the layers of concealer you’ve applied, then wiped off, then applied again, unsuccessfully trying to cover up that stubborn pimple that popped up the day before your big speech.

The truth is, it can be hard to be happy at times.


And sometimes, the more you’re focusing on happiness, the more aware you are of the happiness void you’re trying to fill. Kind of like how sometimes you try to diet, but you’re thinking about food too much and you end up eating more than usual. (I’m talking to you, low-carb diet, when, instead of eating carbs, I just eat multiple bags of salami. Which is obviously not conducive for looking svelte.) Stupid how that happens, huh?

Well, I do a lot of research. It’s part of my job as a journalist, after all. So I thought I’d share some of the best tips for cultivating happiness and making it a habit. See, ’cause that’s the thing–you’ve almost got to train yourself to allow happiness to enter your life. You’ve got to feed yourself the right ingredients to produce happiness, and in doing so, happiness no longer becomes an unattainable goal, but instead a behind-the-scenes habit. Which is the way things should be, my homies. (Do you guys like being called homies? Should I try another term of endearment?)

The tips below are a result of both my neverending research as well as my own trials in establishing the happiness habit. I hope you’ll try them and see if you can get a little permanent smile going, too.


8 Things to do to Make Happiness a Habit

1. Smile

The easiest rule in the book. It’s actually been proven that if you force a smile on your face, your muscles recognize the motion to mean happiness and thus releases some of those feel-good vibes even if you’re feeling like a big pile of you-know-what. You’re literally tricking your brain into being happy. So, when it doubt, smile it out.


2. Exercise

To quote the intelligent Elle Woods: “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.” If you have a hard time believing this decorated Harvard law graduate, perhaps you’ll believe this evidence. Anyway, I can personally attest to this one. As a runner, I can tell you I mostly continue running because the runner’s high is WORTH IT. And even if I’m ~heavier~ than I unrealistically wish to be, I still feel like a trillion bucks after completing a sweaty workout that may have featured a few curse words. Something about knowing you are doing something to improve yourself, your health, just makes you feel inherently proud and accomplished.



3. Notice when you’re happy

In order to cultivate a happy lifestyle, you’ve first got to acknowledge what happiness feels like when you experience it. Every day, write down five positive things that have happened. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative, you’ll start to say ‘see ya’ to that lame stuff you used to dwell on. Boom.


4. Do that thing that you love

If this tip sounds simple, that’s because it is. We all have interests and passions. Some people live for church on Sundays, some need to kick the soccer ball around, and others like to spend time by the sea. Whatever it is that truly feeds your soul, go do that thing. Doing the thing you love allows you to break away from the humdrum of life and gain some perspective, resulting in a more fulfilling sense of being. Find your thing and do it more often than not.


5. Eat well

 What you put into your body has more to do with it than how it looks on the outside. It also impacts how you feel on the inside. Junk food makes you feel lazy and unsatisfied, whereas fueling your body with the correct nutrients not only energizes you, but it also sends you the important message that you’re worth wellness.


6. Help others

Studies have shown that those who are altruistic (see: being unselfish) are generally happier people. Why, though? First, this article describes that any activity is a good activity. Depressed people often cannot leave bed… let alone go out into the world. Engaging in any ‘ole activity is a great way to help lift your spirits. Volunteering also fosters social connection, which is usually a positive thing for humans. (Haven’t you heard? Loneliness can kill you.) Oh, and helping others just feels damn good.


7. Hang with your homies

There I go again, using the word “homies.” Will I ever stop? The world may never know. In the meantime, use this moment to ring up your bestie and plan a hangout sesh. Seeing your friends is linked to happiness for some of the same reasons as volunteering. You know, the “social interaction is good” and “loneliness is a killa” things? Yeah, those.


8. Know that others don’t make you happy

So this is where it gets tricky. Being with others can definitely boost your spirits, but it’s important not to have your happiness depend on others. Too often, people seek happiness in a significant other and inevitably get burned if the relationship goes south. They believe that the person makes them happy, which results in a lot of anxiety. It’s great to have a partner who increases your happy levels, but don’t tell yourself that you’re only happy because of that person.


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happiness a habit

happiness a habit

  • Show Comments (28)

  • Romy

    Love this post, so true!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Thanks, girl!

  • Erika Palmer

    What’s a bag of salami?

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Erika, you know what a bag of salami is.

  • Rojielyn

    Smile is the simplest and the easiest way to be happy. It is true. And being happy is also choice.

    • Alyssa Ruane

      You’re so right. You can’t wallow in your unhappiness and expect anything to change!

  • Cecilia Cannon

    these are great to the point tips!! love it but will admit watching the guy on the treadmill made me happy

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Haha same here, I’m glad someone else appreciates it!

  • Debra

    I like the one about noticing when you are happy! Those are the best times and if you are paying attention you can make sure you put more of that into your life!

    • Alyssa Ruane

      Exactly! 🙂

  • Brandi with Big Fit Fam

    YES! These are such great tips, and so easy when you really think about them. It’s surprising how easy it is to fall off of many of these and find yourself getting down…

  • Theresa

    I agree that smiling and exercising make a huge difference. With beautiful spring weather around the corner, it’s good to have a reminder to be happy!

  • CourtneyLynne

    Omg just love this!!! I’m one that preaches positivity all the time!! My number one piece of advice is to stop comparing to people on social media. Stupid to compare your crappyday to someone else’s best day ever.

  • Blythe Alpern

    Such great tips for keeping the happy in your life. When you are feeling down, you need an outlet for relief. Having a great support system in place helps a lot, as does working out. Also, putting the computer down and getting outside or treating yourself to a favorite activity or treat can make you feel so much better.

  • Nikki

    These are really great tips. I suffer from depression, have since I was a teenager, and sometimes I have to force a smile until it feels real. I like your 3rd tip, I never really thought to do that.

  • Bill S

    I love this!!! Not a lot of people remember that they control and contribute to their happiness in a lot of ways.

  • Angela Ricardo

    This is absolutely amazing! I love your 8 list on how to be happy especially the first one. Smile! Simple yet so helpful. This is really worth sharing!

  • Ana De- Jesus

    Yes I love Elle Woods! I have depression too and hanging out with friends really does help me feel happier, especially if they make you laugh x

  • Kiwi

    Great information on how to stay happy! I love hanging with my friends or by you “homies” and especially if they are upbeat people with positive energy!

  • Krystal // The Krystal Diaries

    Working out always helps get me out of a funk when I’m in a bad mood. These are such helpful tips to stay happy!

  • Jennifer (JenuineMom)

    These are great reminders, and I agree with all of them. It is hard to be happy at times. Noticing when we are happy is really helpful, though. The more I do it, the more I remember that I will be happy again when I’m feeling down.

  • Stephanie Lee

    These are perfect ideas. Even the smallest action can have a huge improvement in our moods.

  • Heather

    These are great tips! I’m currently in a little gross routine of not eating well and not exercising. That obviously equals not feeling great. It spirals so quickly so making a conscience effort is so important!

  • amber

    All such good reminders, thanks for posting this… I am sure it will be very helpful to many! I especially have to remind myself to hang with friends… as a business owner and introvert, sometimes I find myself along for long stretches!

  • Jean

    You make some really good points! I definitely agree to the social media part and this quote springs to mind: “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” I try my best to pracise gratitude daily and find that helps with my happiness levels.

  • Toughcookiemommy

    It’s not always easy to be happy but I think it is something that one has resolve to do. After all, life is too short to spend it unhappy.

  • leslie rossi

    I turn to exercise too when feeling depressed. really helps me get out of a funk and the house

  • Vaishnavi

    Awesome reminders and sound advice to make happiness a habit. Love the tips to get there slowly but surely!!

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