To try our hand at feeling happy, we often aspire to relive extraordinary experiences—those true moments of pure glee. Think about the first time you rode a rollercoaster or the butterflies in your stomach when you first kissed. That’s how we are wired: happiness is mainly a chemical reaction. Once you understand how those happy hormones work, you can influence your ways of feeling happy. Here’s how that works.
Happiness can be humble
Presumably, the so-called highlights of your life are very present in your memory. More so than those subtle moments of joy. That’s why we, humans, tend to seek happiness in exceptional experiences. While actually, that feeling of joy is just around the corner, and it can be humble, too. Once you discover how to find delight in every single day, life will become more of a joy. In this guide, I share my most-loved methods for feeling happy by influencing those happy hormones.
How to feel happy all the time
You might think it’s undoable to feel happy all the time. And you don’t even need to be feeling happy always, as the less joyous feelings help highlight all the brightness. Without sadness, it would be hard to truly recognize joy. But it is possible to experience a glimpse of happiness at least every day, by surrendering to how you’re feeling (more on that here) and by practicing tiny acts of self-love throughout the day. Let’s get you underway.
1. Revisit joyful memories
Feeling happy doesn’t always mean you need to be here and now. Revisiting happy memories from the past might also trigger joy. I find pleasure in watching pictures of my most wonderful vacations or reliving silly moments I experienced with friends. Other ways to tap into beautiful memories are watching your dearest childhood movie or listening to a playlist of your most-loved teenage songs.
2. Trigger your senses
Triggering your senses is a brilliant way to comfort yourself. Enjoy the warmth and softness of a hot water bottle, smell the spices in a cup of fresh tea, or stroke a cuddly fabric (anything velvet will do). What always helps me is lighting my favorite scented candle, smelling the perfume I love the most, or browsing pretty compositions.
A cuddle for your eyes
For pretty compositions, I often visit Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Aesthetics of Joy Instagram page. Ingrid aspires to help us find joy through design. Being typically Type A, I love how the structures, compositions, and colors match completely. I’d compare it to a cuddle for my eyes 🙂 So, think about things that trigger your senses and enjoy the comfort it provides.
3. Spread happiness for more joy
On the days that you are already in a good place, you can positively impact the ones around you. How? By spreading your happiness along. So, smile, say thank you, offer an embrace, or write a note of gratitude. Give money or food to someone in need or provide an unasked-for helping hand. If you live by setting an example for kindness on this planet, you’ll cultivate a wonderful baseline for experiencing joy.
4. Learn a new skill
Learning something new is not only good for your confidence, but it also benefits the health of your brain. By learning – whether a new language or a new type of sport – you improve your brain’s cognitive function. Thus, you activate your brain’s ability to focus. This renewed concentration also benefits other aspects of your life.
How learning triggers your happy hormones
Learning new skills mainly has to do with allowing yourself to wonder. I proactively reject negative thoughts as ‘I will never be able to’ (learn to surf, climb mountains, speak Spanish, fill in the gap) and reassure myself that I can learn to do these things. The positive effects? Your learning curve stimulates the production of dopamine. And let that be one of the hormones for feeling happy. So, listen to that voice in the back of your head and start learning that one thing you’ve always wanted to.
5. Practice compassion to spark feeling happy
Compassion means being able to distance yourself – if even for a moment – from any biases, opinions, or thoughts. A compassionate mindset means that kindness, patience, and acceptance, prevail over judgmental behaviors and thought patterns. Practice compassion by allowing enough time for yourself and not pushing yourself to meet unrealistic expectations. Try being open-minded to the people you encounter and seek spontaneity and flexibility in the situations you find yourself in.
6. Set intentions for feeling happy
By setting intentions you allow yourself to focus on small bits, and thus, enable yourself to celebrate milestones throughout your day, week, or month (more on that here). Through achieving those predefined intentions you’ll cultivate confidence. Consecutively, confidence triggers serotonin, one of the hormones for feeling happy.
Feeling happy intentions
Here are a few examples of intentions you can set for feeling happy on any given day:
- Today I will say 3 words of gratitude.
- Today I will focus on at least one thing that sparks my joy.
- Today I will take small steps and small steps only.
- Today I’ll do a tiny thing to work toward my dream.
- Today I’ll take time to look back and acknowledge my accomplishments.
- Today I will say ‘no’ when I need to.
7. Practice gratitude and joy
Even on days that everything is off, you can access gratitude by the following simple exercise. Seek out a spot where you feel comfortable. This may be a nook or corner in your house where you practice yoga or meditate. If you don’t have a set space or you just want to hide for the day, you may also curl up under a blanket in bed. If it’s a beautiful day or you feel better outside, find a quiet spot outdoors and settle down there.
Let’s get started
- Sit or lie down in a position that feels effortless to hold, so you don’t need to pay attention to your posture.
- Get rid of any distractions: put your phone on silent mode and write down any last-minute thoughts or actions that come to mind.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep, long breaths.
- Practice counting your blessings: the things that you feel lucky to have in life.
- Count the blessings on your fingers: every finger stands for one blessing.
- Spend some time in your being with each blessing or thought. Try to truly feel gratitude. Then welcome that blessed feeling and keep it near your heart.
- After you are done, repeat all the blessings by summing them up one by one.
Do you need inspiration because you have no idea what to be thankful for? Don’t worry; it’s easier than you think 🙂 You can try feeling happy about the simplest things as ‘being able to enjoy sunshine’, ‘a roof over your head’, or ‘having a loving friend’.
8. Try ‘The relaxation response’
Being able to unwind is crucial for your capability of feeling happy. As long as you experience anxiety or stress, those dominant feelings will block your ability to enjoy. Besides practicing yoga or meditation, a technique called ‘The Relaxation Response’ can increase your GABA, your anti-anxiety module, and calm down your mind.
How the Relaxation Response works
The Relaxation Response was brought to light by Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. He developed this technique to counteract chronic stress that we nowadays experience in daily life. To try it out, you only need to follow these two steps:
- Pick a word, mantra, saying, phrase, or movement to focus on. Set a timer for 10 minutes and focus solely on that what you chose.
- Dismiss all other thoughts that come to mind during those 10 minutes, and keep driving your attention back to your chosen focus point.
The relaxation response that is triggered through this practice is said to make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to your brain. Intrigued yet? Check out The Relaxation Response book on Goodreads to learn more about how this technique contributes to feeling happy.
9. Challenge yourself to feel happy every day
A happiness challenge is designed to do just that: spark at least a tiny amount of happiness on every day that you partake. You can shape your own happiness challenge by writing down random happiness ideas and executing them one at a time. If you’re in need of inspiration, you can adopt my ideas for your 7-day happiness challenge so that you can start today.
7-day happiness challenge
- Write down 3 things you are grateful for and repeat them 5 times out loud.
- Write a thank-you message to a loving friend or family member.
- Do something with your hands for 15 minutes: sketch, paint, clay, doodle, or just potter about.
- Watch the sun rise or set. If you can’t, this 10 minute Amazing Nature Scenery Compilation is just as awesome, better even in most cases.
- Give away a sandwich, a warm cup of coffee, or leftover good food.
- Learn 5 positive words and how to count to 10 in a new language.
- Compile a feel-good playlist with 10 of your favorite childhood songs (checking with a childhood friend is allowed :)).
Want to read more about feeling happy?
For all things happiness, I find Greater Good Magazine a remarkable source. The magazine published by the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley, provides science-based insights for a meaningful life. Their article How To Feel Like You Have More Time, taps into finding greater well-being when you value time over money and tells how to be more time-smart.
Dive even deeper into feeling happy
Another great GGM read (or watch, as there’s a video, too) is What Makes Us Happier Than Money? Here, happiness is directly linked to relationships and pro-social behavior. But there are many more happiness must-reads on the platform, like this one on practicing the Hygge lifestyle, so start exploring if you like. If you want to take matters into your own hands, try using affirmations to feel more joy. My post How to use affirmations: become positive, confident, and strong explains how to get there.
Did you enjoy reading this post?
I sure hope you did 🙂 If you have any questions, recommendations, or experiences you want to share, I’d be more than happy to read your thoughts! You can leave your comment in the field below. Do you know someone who could benefit from this guide to feeling happy? Feel free to share this post (via the URL bar or any of the social share buttons) and get the positive energy flowing!