Psst! Here’s a secret that could make and live happy life and even a pessimist smile: Minor shifts in your regular habits can add up to serious joy. We’ve collected tips and insights from sunny personalities (famous and not) to help you discover more moments of pleasure in your everyday life.
1. Streamline your mornings
“The beginning of your day shapes how you feel the rest of the time. If you start out discombobulated, it’s tough to clean your mental palate and begin again. So look at your morning patterns and think about what the snags are—the moments that make you scramble. Are you always struggling to find your keys? Commit to putting them in the same place. Are you always a little late to work? Time your commute for a week. If it really takes 27 minutes, giving yourself only 20 to get there will leave you feeling rushed.”
2. Love the skin you’re in
“When you’re larger-bodied, you’re taught to approach physical activity thinking, ‘This is not for me.’ But when you talk to yourself like that, you don’t stand much of a chance.
The first time I did yoga, I was 16, and it felt so new and scary. I really got beaten down. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how big a role I had played in my own miserable experience. It took me seven years to even try yoga again.
We’re all so obsessed with how others see us. I’ve been asked, ‘What if people stare at me?’ They’re going to. They just are. But you have to check yourself: ‘Why am I here? To worry about all the body issues other people are projecting onto me? Or to do my own thing and exercise?’ I just ignore the looks and focus on my practice. If you empower other people’s judgment and negativity, it brings you into their mental space. I want to live my life so out loud that I don’t give a f–k if anyone is staring.”
3. Don’t save your good undies for date night
“Underwear is the first thing you put on in the morning and the last thing you take off, so it should be something you love to wear. I think of a pretty bra and panties as a way to take care of myself. They help you feel comfortable, sexy, and luxurious. If someone else is lucky enough to see them? That’s even better!”
4. Invite people over
“I get such happiness from hosting friends, and I’ve learned that the parties I love most are the ones where you can take your shoes off, like a casual dinner party or a game night. I like having some sort of shared activity. We did a clambake recently, and it took the pressure off of making small talk.”
5. Make room for the not-so-happy feelings, too
“When someone asks how my day at the hospital was, I feel like I could either dump for 15 minutes and kill the conversation or keep it superficial and say, ‘Fine.’ It’s easier to keep it superficial. But you can’t be superficial with yourself. Sometimes at the end of one of those hard days, I’ll want to work out or take my dogs to the park. Other times I’ll shower and have a good cry. As sad as that sounds, it’s a release of emotion. Allowing space for my sadness lets me move forward. After five years of taking care of sick kids, there are still more days that I come home feeling happy and deeply satisfied than not.”
6. Halt a stress spiral
“The things that we fret about are often the things that are outside of our control: ‘My plane is late, I’ll miss my connection, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.’ When I notice my thoughts starting to spin out of control, I say to myself, ‘Something will happen.’ It’s a reminder that I can’t figure out what that will be, exactly. But I’ll still be OK. Something will happen. There’s no sense in worrying that I’m going to evaporate in the meantime.”
7. Pencil in time for pleasure
“Even if you work 60 hours a week, you probably still have time to do the things you love. The trouble is, most busy women assume they don’t. So they make nebulous goals for some distant future, like ‘Exercise more’ or ‘Catch up with friends.’ That doesn’t help.
But if you decide you want to grab coffee with your neighbor Beth, that’s a very clear goal and you’re more likely to do it. You’ll call Beth and pick a date. When I studied the time logs of professional women, I realized that planning specific activities was key.
This Friday, take 10 minutes to set priorities for the next week. Then look at your calendar. You want to exercise more? How about a spin class on Tuesday at 7 p.m.?”
8. Act like a big shot
“If you have an extra $20 to burn, our research suggests that you can get even more joy from the money if you spend it on someone else. And, ideally, you’d spend it in a way that allows you to see the difference your generosity is making. Treat a co-worker to coffee, or take a friend who’s in a rough patch out to a meal. You’ll make them feel good—which will make you feel good.”
9. Smile at a stranger
“Children in preschool get so happy about the littlest things. When they’re squeezing orange juice, they’re excited about how much they’ve squeezed. When they’re growing pumpkin seeds, they’re amazed by every half inch. It’s a constant ‘aha!’ reminder about the uplifting impact even small moments can have. So I make it a point to try to brighten someone else’s day. I might compliment the store clerk’s sweater or stop to chat with a homeless woman. I might offer a smile to a stranger—and wind up getting one back.”
10. Love a plant
“I find that having some greenery in my space gives me a little spirit boost. Try an autograph plant. They grow in sun or shade, in droughts or floods—and they’re gorgeous. The real deal is awesome, but you can get the same lift from faux greenery. I have two dozen white tulips in a beautiful vase with water right now, and they make me smile every day. They’re also fake as hell.”