12 Habits of Blissful People

Can you actually train yourself to be happy? Here are some surprising daily practices to increase your happiness set point.

  1. Create a playlist of personal anthems. Put on your favorites and sing along when you need a boost.
  2. Make small goals. Forget about making big goals! Research says that making long-term goals can actually be DE-MOTIVATING. Focus, instead, on present-moment evidence that your life IS on track, no matter how small.
  3. Practice storytelling. Author Anne Lamott says that “sometimes people are more hungry for a story than they are for food.” Look for opportunities to share stories that are funny, absurd, or uplifting, and encourage your friends and loved ones to share them, too.
  4. Shake your booty! For two weeks, only do exercise that feels enjoyable. In fact, research has also shown that activities that are unusual in some way raise even more endorphins. Challenge yourself to do something that moves your body AND makes you laugh, like dancing, jumprope, or something goofy (like the annual Gorilla Run, below!).
  5. Spend time in nature. Researchers Zelenski and Nisbet conducted two studies that showed that “nature relatedness has a distinct happiness benefit.” Make an effort to breathe fresh air every day: sit on a park bench, go for walks, moongaze.
  6. Flip the switch. Choose to redirect your thoughts from something that makes you feel unhappy to something positive – but RELATED to that thought. For example, if your thought is, “I want to write a book/start a business/create art that does ________ ,” but then the next series of thoughts are “but people have already done that, who am I to…” STOP! Don’t try to force the thought out of your head. DO flip the switch to “I have something unique to share, and it’s time to share it!”
  7. Keep a journal. Studies have shown that people who keep journals are actually happier. Journaling allows you to release difficult emotions and reinforces the happy ones. Be sure to express gratitude often (see below) in your writing.
  8. Perform random acts of kindness. Open doors, help a neighbor, offer to bring dinner to a friend who is going through a hard time. Pay it forward, sweet and simple.
  9. Practice Gratitude. At the end of every day, express at least three “gratitudes.” Keep a the list in your pocket, on your bathroom mirror, or your phone. Add to it often.
  10. Learn to meditate. We all have a natural “set point” in our brains for both good and bad emotions (located in the frontal lobe), and one study showed that that after only eight weeks of meditating for approximately one hour each day, six days a week, test subjects reported they had become happier. Start with 10 minutes and train your way up.
  11. Spend time with people who love you and know your story. Human connection is a critical part of how you see yourself and your place in the world. Keep in touch, and do it often.
  12. Call Bliss by name when you see it. “This is so amazing! Wasn’t that beautiful?” Bliss doesn’t happen every day, so when you experience a moment of pure euphoria or joy, give it the attention it deserves.

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Gorilla Run

This article was written by Leigh Hopkins, Director of Viva Institute. She has made a lifelong habit of cultivating happiness, and she teaches two courses on Bliss at Viva Institute.