Welcome back! Let’s start this off with the 8 obvious things that we should all do to make our lives happier.
- Get outside more
- Eat healthier
- Sleep more
- Find a hobby
- Get a dog
- Spend more time with the people you love.
These are all great things that will absolutely make you happier, but you’ve heard them a million times.
You don’t need me to tell you those things are good for you for the millionth time and I don’t want to talk about them. Frankly, they’re kind of boring…
Instead, I want to talk about the eight ways that you can think differently, act differently, and relate differently to the world around you. The bare-faced truth is that your happiness and your unhappiness all come from the same place — your mind! You can improve all of the other stuff, get outside more, exercise more, eat right, blah, blah, blah, but if your mind is still fighting to keep you unhappy, none of it will work!
The good news is that these mindset shifts don’t have to be difficult. Often, the only reason that we get stuck in these unhappy thought patterns is that we are not aware that we are in them in the first place. Once you’re aware of these patterns and you begin to see them in your life, everything gets so much easier. So let’s jump right in with our very first tip.
1. Replace condemnation with curiosity
You have been trained since birth to react in a very black-and-white way. Both towards yourself and toward other people. When something unpleasant happens or someone does something that we don’t like, or even if we do something that we judge as bad or negative, we tend to jump straight into condemning ourselves or other people for this behavior.
While this is understandable, it’s not actually helping you be any happier.
All condemnation does is create more distance between yourself and other people and more internal fragmentation and self-judgment within your own mind. A lot of people approach this condemnation problem with the idea that we should be completely accepting and loving of other people no matter what they do. This is total garbage. You should not automatically forgive and ignore other people’s shitty behavior. That is definitely not a recipe for happiness.
Instead, when you notice yourself going into a judgmental or condemning frame of mind toward yourself or anyone else, all I want you to do is get curious. Start asking questions.
- Why did you or this other person do that?
- What could have made them think that was the right move?
- How might they be trying to protect themselves in the situation?
- What would make you do that thing?
- Or if you’re judging yourself, what in your life has taught you that was the correct way to act?
See, we’re not trying to forgive the other person, completely love and accept their behavior or any of that love and light crap.
Instead, all we want to do is create understanding. By approaching ourselves and other people in this way, with a curiosity and a desire to understand, we short-circuit the negative and unpleasant thought patterns and create room for reconnecting, problem-solving, and establishing a new understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
The reality is that much of our unhappiness comes from confusion.
Our judgment and condemnation are a way of trying to avoid the deeply uncomfortable reality of having no idea what the problem is and thus, having no idea how to fix it! This curiosity-first mindset puts you in a problem-solving space and when you can solve your problems, you will immediately find yourself happier.
2. Drop the “shoulds”
Our next tip is one of my favorites and if you watch any of my other videos, you’ve probably heard me say it before.
Stop “should-ing” all over yourself.
So many of us live our lives constantly in the realm of what we should do, or how we should be, or how the world should act, or how circumstances should unfold. This is inherently always an unhappy place to live.
When you exist in the realm of should, what you’re really saying is “I do not accept this reality”. This stance on life is a non-starter.
You cannot create anything, solve anything, or connect with anyone from a place of denial.
This especially applies to how you “should” on yourself. When you tell yourself that you should get up early and go to the gym, you should eat healthier, you should call your mom more, you should try harder at work, and on and on and on, all you’re doing is repeatedly reinforcing to yourself that you are not the person that you want to be.
Instead of living in the realm of should, start getting really clear on why you think you ought to do these things, whether you really want to do these things or not, and where this expectation for how you “should” be even came from.
You might discover that this should is something you really want but are struggling to actualize, if this is the case you need to figure out why you are resisting that thing and find real solutions.
This does not mean forcing yourself through it!
This means finding ways to make doing that thing possible, enjoyable, or rewarding. To learn more about this, read my blog post Do This To Overcome Laziness Forever (No Discipline Required). If you discover that you don’t have a good reason for trying to do that should, it’s time to drop it!
I don’t care if every productivity expert ever tells you that you should block schedule your time and wake up at 5 AM. If you can’t think of an actual, compelling reason why doing those things would make your life better and happier, don’t do them!
There is no singular correct way to live your life.
You get to decide what tools, habits, and behaviors are truly beneficial to you and make your life a more pleasant, fulfilling place to live. Stop letting other people dictate what your life “should” be.
3. Start using discipline as a tool for self-love
This tip might seem like it flies in the face of the last tip so just bear with me for a moment. Self-discipline, that is, being able to make yourself do something even when you do not feel like doing that thing, is one of the most loving things that you can do for yourself.
So let’s say that you’ve decided that waking up at 5 AM is something that you actually want to do and it would truly benefit your life by giving you an extra two hours in the morning of interruptionless creative time. But you don’t really like getting up early and struggle to hold yourself to it when that alarm goes off.
This is a time to apply self-discipline.
There is nothing self-loving about consistently failing yourself when you decide that something is good for you and will greatly improve your life. That is actually an act of self-sabotage! Think about it, you just decided that the thing that will make you happier, more fulfilled, and more engaged with life and the world around you is waking up at 5 AM but when your alarm goes off if you decide to stay in bed you are actively working against your happiness, fulfillment, and engagement with life.
When you shift your concept of self-discipline from a force of will that is unpleasant, difficult, and just all-around draining to something that is self-loving, empowering, and uplifting, you make discipline so much easier. Now, this isn’t to say that suddenly being a disciplined person will be a breeze and it won’t take any effort at all. Discipline is still hard. But you’ve now changed your relationship to that difficulty from one that is negative to one that is positive and empowering.
4. Stop worrying about WHY it happened and start wondering what you can do about it
Another thing that can get us stuck in unhealthy mental loops is trying to figure out why bad things happen to us. If you find yourself getting stuck constantly in trying to figure out why someone did something, why the universe let that bad thing happen to you, why your husband said that, and it never leads you anywhere productive, you need to shift your thinking.
I know I said before that going from condemnation to curiosity is an improvement, but it’s not an improvement if you stay stuck in curiosity. If you find yourself stuck, it’s time to shift your thinking to “what can I do about it?”
When you get stuck trying to figure out the why, you are giving up all of your power to the external forces at play in the situation. You’ve completely given up your ability to impact and change the world around you and this is going to feel bad! Feeling trapped in futility is always a negative experience.
But the cure for it is incredibly simple.
All you have to do is stop wondering about why and start thinking about ways that you can change the situation in a way that will feel better.
You may not be able to solve everything.
You probably won’t be able to make people behave differently.
And you can’t turn back time to change everything that happened.
But you can change something, even if that something is only the way that you respond to that negative situation. That is a space of empowerment, which will always, always feel better than a space of futility.
5. Start seeing your rest as productive time
This next one is for all of my workaholics out there. You need to start seeing your rest time, your recovery time as something truly productive. That’s right, I said productive. I didn’t say necessary, I didn’t say good for you, I said productive.
Just because you are not actively working on whatever it is that you think you should be working on, whether that’s your job, always being on for your kids or your husband, or whatever else you might have going on, doesn’t mean that down time is a waste. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is go take a nap, feed yourself, or get a massage.
Expecting yourself to be able to constantly work, constantly produce, and constantly be in an active state is completely unreasonable.
You would not expect this from anyone or anything else.
You wouldn’t take your car and expect it to be able to drive indefinitely without stopping to put fuel in the tank. That is a great way to end up stranded on the side of the road.
And when you do stop to put fuel in the tank, you have to turn the car off. You can’t keep the engine running, you can’t do it at a rolling stop. Your car has to be stopped, turned off, and completely at rest.
You are the same.
There’s nothing unproductive about putting fuel in your car. That is a necessary task to ensure that the car continues to function in the way that you need it to. Start looking at your rest and recovery time in this exact way.
Your body and your brain require rest to be able to perform at the level that you need them to perform.
This is especially true if you are a workaholic, a high performer, or anyone with big goals. Just because your capabilities and your goals are bigger than everyone else’s does not mean that you can just run the car with no gas in the tank.
In fact, if we continue with this car metaphor, if you are a high-performance vehicle, you require more rest and higher quality rest to maintain your high level of performance. You would not expect a Lamborghini to be able to run with no fuel, crap quality fuel, or without ever going in for maintenance. You would expect that vehicle to fall apart in those conditions.
This is exactly what happens to high-performance people who never give themselves the rest, recovery, and maintenance time that they need.
Your rest and recovery is the thing that makes everything else you do and achieve possible. It cannot be anything but productive.
6. Prioritize your pleasure
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how people will come to me complaining that they are unhappy and when I ask them what they’ve done recently to feel good, they come up with nothing. They haven’t done a single thing for their own pleasure and happiness and enjoyment.
This is crazy!
It’s like expecting yourself to be able to perform at a high level of fitness when you never take yourself to the gym. Of course you’re going to feel weak and unfit if you never work out. And by the same logic, of course you’re going to feel unhappy and unfulfilled if you never do anything for your own pleasure and enjoyment.
If you want a happy life, you have got to start prioritizing the things that bring you pleasure, things that bring you fulfillment, and the things that you enjoy. This goes for the small things like eating foods that you truly enjoy and that make your body feel good and the big things like choosing a relationship, and choosing a career that you love and feel good about.
So many of us build our lives with this idea of deferring pleasure and enjoyment until we get wherever it is that we’re trying to go, but this doesn’t work!
If you don’t build pleasure and enjoyment into your life, any life you build will inherently be lacking in pleasure and enjoyment!
So start making your pleasure a priority.
- What do you love doing?
- What makes you feel good?
- Which relationships make you feel nourished and lit up?
- Which hobbies are most fulfilling to you?
- What sensory pleasures have you given yourself recently?
This is not a call for all-out hedonism, but we also can’t expect to live lives that feel good if we never actually prioritize feeling good.
7. Find your edge
In contrast, if you find yourself always prioritizing staying comfortable because pushing yourself is uncomfortable, it’s time to start finding that edge. I have an entire video about this, but you cannot find happiness if you’re constantly staying in your comfort zone.
Staying in your comfort zone is like telling the world that you want nothing more, that you’re totally fine exactly where you’re at, and you don’t want anything to change.
If you’re reading this, you obviously want things to change because you’re trying to be happier. Staying in your comfort zone will screw you.
It is okay to choose to do things that are difficult, uncomfortable, or scary if doing those things gets you into a life and a state of being that brings you real joy and fulfillment.
You can’t experience the joy and intimacy of a truly wonderful relationship if you’re too scared to ask anyone out.
You can’t experience the freedom of being your own boss, being location independent, or being able to work on your own schedule if you are unwilling to put yourself out there and take the risks of entrepreneurship, freelancing, or having that uncomfortable conversation with your boss.
Building a happy life inherently requires some level of discomfort so start figuring out where that edge is for you and go for it. If you’d like to learn more about this, watch my video titled You’re Looking For Happiness In All The Wrong Places.
8. Try more stuff
So many people are unhappy in their lives and have no clue what would actually make them happy. They feel like they should just know inherently exactly what is going to bring them joy without ever having tried it and they just get stuck trying to think their way through this problem to find the thing that will make them happy.
This doesn’t work because happiness is a feeling!
This means that happiness is not something you think, it’s not in your mind, happiness is something that happens in your body, which means you can’t think your way to whatever is going to make you happy.
You have to actually try it and experience it and see how it makes you feel!
Stop trying to think your way to happiness and start just trying stuff. I mean, really, actually, this is one of the fastest ways to find the things that make you happy and bring you fulfillment.
Just try stuff!
It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, you don’t have to like it.
It’s totally fine if you try a dozen things and none of them are quite right.
You are at least creating the momentum that will allow you to eventually stumble onto those things that will bring you the real happiness that you’re looking for.
So what interests you?
It can be literally anything. Start learning guitar, take a pottery class, learn computer coding, read more, join a club or meetup group, literally do anything as long as it sparks some level of interest. It’s fine if you hate it after you try it. The point is that the more things you try, the more opportunities you have to find something that really does it for you.
These tips are all great ways to improve your life and make yourself significantly happier, but you don’t have to implement every single one of them to achieve that happiness.
Start by only focusing on one or two of these tips, pick whichever one appeals to you the most, and start there.
Happiness is not an end state! It’s not a place or a goal post, it’s something you cultivate every day through every action you take. You do not have to achieve perfection to have a happier life. All you need to do is start focusing on doing something, any little action you want to take to move yourself in the direction of happiness.