Happiness is tricky. There’s an old saying about happiness that goes like this: “Happiness — a butterfly, which when pursued, seems always just beyond your grasp, but if you sit down quietly may alight upon you.” If you treat happiness as something you should constantly be reaching for and obsessing over, you’ll never actually obtain it. If you chase certain goals, believing when you reach them, and only when you reach them, that you’ll be happy, you never are. You’re never satisfied. You are, always, chasing the wind.
But happiness doesn’t have to be difficult to obtain. The secret to being happy is changing your perspective. Happiness isn’t a goal to reach; it’s a practice to live in. And you practice happiness every single day. Ideally, the more you practice, the happier you’ll be. Here are 4 daily routines you can add to your life to work on becoming a happier person.
1. Go on a morning walk.
There’s a reason why all the old folks do it: They have the wisdom to know just how valuable a morning walk is. Going on a morning walk does three big things for you all at once: One, going on a walk is good exercise, and exercise makes you feel good, plain and simple. Two, it gives you a moment in the day that is unplugged and free of invasive and distracting technology. Three, it gives you fresh air and sunlight, both of which your body desperately needs for your well-being. Let yourself wake up slowly, physically and mentally, without immediately checking your email and stressing out over what’s in it. Work hard to make this a habit, and when you do it, remind yourself: I am going on this walk to take care of myself. I’m going on this walk because I deserve the exercise, free time, and fresh air and sunlight. Enjoy every bit of it, and pay attention to everything — how good it feels to walk without trouble, the wind on your face, the sweat on your brow, the feeling of your feet on the solid ground.
2. Make a list of things you’re grateful for.
And I mean, really, write down a list, even if it’s only three things per day. Actively acknowledging that there are things to be grateful for in this life helps you become more grateful throughout the day, and a feeling of gratefulness is a large part of happiness. Keeping a small gratitude journal on your bedside table is a great way to work this into your daily routine. When you list what you’re grateful for, make sure to be as specific as possible. It’s one thing to say you’re grateful for your mom’s presence in your life. But why? What did she do for you, and how does her love enrich your life? Really dig into an attitude of gratitude, and eventually even little bad things — like a red light — will turn into good things — like a reminder to slow down.
3. Make a Done List.
It’s easy to stress out over everything you didn’t get done on your to-do list. Instead of spiraling into stress over what didn’t get checked off, check in with what did get done. Even if what you “did” was take a nap because you needed rest or watch a TV show because you needed some stress relief, that’s worth celebrating some days! Give yourself a pat on the back.
4. Do one thing that makes you happy.
You could easily add this to your gratitude journal with an extra line. Today, I: _______. It doesn’t matter how small it is, but it does matter that you do it. Some days it’s so easy to get wrapped up in work and stress that you don’t even take time to do something that makes you happy. Even if it only means meditating for ten minutes or getting ice cream for the hell of it or catching up with a good friend on the phone, make sure there’s at least one thing you did to make yourself happy today.
Forget about that happiness is like a butterfly quote. It’s not always true. Happiness isn’t unobtainable, and you don’t have to stop trying to become happy for it to alight upon your shoulder. Happiness can be really easy, and you can work for it, if you know how to do it right. Could you use a pick-me-up? Add these four steps to your daily routine and see if you don’t start feeling a little better.