How and How Not to Be Happy

Let’s Talk About How and How Not to Be Happy (A Guide)

Have you wondered about how and how not to be happy? It’s a question we all grapple with at some point. Happiness can feel incredibly elusive despite being something we all crave.

Our fast-paced, modern world is filled with supposed quick fixes and self-help fads promising lasting joy and contentment. Yet, all too often, these leave you feeling just as unfulfilled as before. So, how can you separate fact from fiction when seeking true happiness?

This guide outlines some top strategies for cultivating happiness while examining common pitfalls that can lead you astray.

How and How Not to Be Happy in Life

When learning how to be happy, remember that we are all wonderfully unique individuals. What brings you deep satisfaction and contentment may differ vastly from what makes someone else happy – even your closest loved ones.

However, some general principles and practices can help guide anyone to a more joyful life. Human beings yearn to feel happy, loved, and at peace. This universal desire transcends circumstances, gender, age, and culture.

While your specific sources of happiness will be unique to you, here are five foundational elements for cultivating a happy life:

How to Be Happy

1. A Healthy Body

For most of us, happiness means engaging in the activities we enjoy. This is only possible when we have a healthy, functioning body that allows us to interact with the world around us. 

Our bodies enable us to go to work, walk on the beach, take our dogs for a stroll, and participate in sports and hobbies that bring us joy. Without a healthy body, we would be limited in our ability to experience life to the fullest.

But our bodies exist for more than just interacting with the world around us. They are also vessels for our minds and spirits. 

So treat your body with the love and respect that it deserves!

Eat nourishing food that builds you up and boosts your immunity to disease. Get regular exercise, and improve your fitness levels so that you can lead a more active life. Also, get enough quality sleep, manage stress, and stay hydrated. Take care of your body, as it takes care of you.

2. A Calm Mind

Do you ever feel so bombarded by all the noise in the world that you feel like fleeing to the hills? It can be challenging to figure out how and how not to be happy amid all the chaos. 

Spending time in nature, pursuing creative outlets, or simply engaging in solo activities you find replenishing can quiet your busy mind. The key is identifying practices that allow you to become grounded in the present moment and release tensions and worries. Breathwork, gentle stretching, or listening to soothing music provide an access point. Journaling, prayer, or cuddling with a pet can also facilitate instant relaxation.

Meditation is a powerful yet straightforward tool worth considering. Happiness studies have shown that regular meditation practice can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing emotional well-being and self-awareness. By focusing your attention on your breath or a mantra, you can train yourself to observe the natural ebb and flow of your thoughts without getting caught up in them. 

It is vital to prioritize activities that melt away stress and restore calm. When you unburden your mind of restless thoughts, you open up space to live wholeheartedly in each moment.

3. Kindness and Compassion

One of the most effective ways to find happiness is to show kindness and compassion toward others. When you extend a helping hand, offer a listening ear, or treat others with respect and empathy, you uplift their spirits and nourish your own soul.

Kindness and compassion are essential for building and maintaining strong, positive relationships. Consistently showing care and concern for others creates trust, support, and mutual appreciation. This, in turn, leads to deeper connections with family, friends, and even strangers.

To truly experience the joy that comes from being kind and compassionate, it’s crucial to make these qualities an integral part of your life. Engage in random acts of kindness, volunteer for causes you believe in, and always strive to put yourself in other people’s shoes. By considering others’ happiness and well-being, you’ll discover that your own happiness multiplies.

Remember, kindness is contagious! When you consciously spread positivity and compassion, you inspire others to do the same. As more people embrace these values, the world becomes a brighter, happier place for everyone. So, let kindness start with you and watch as it creates a ripple effect of joy that touches countless lives.

4. Gratitude

Just as showing kindness can cause a happiness revolution, so can gratitude. 

A grateful soul is a happy soul. When you are thankful for all you have, you attract more abundance. Gratitude is like a magnet that pulls more to be grateful for into your life. The more grateful you are, the happier you will be.

Can you be happy without gratitude? Sure, but you will be settling for incomplete happiness without it. Gratitude fills up your happiness cup, so it overflows. Gratitude is the sunshine that makes your soul grow.

Gratitude makes you happier because it pulls you out of the past and into the present. The more you focus on what you have to be grateful for, the less time you spend dwelling on past hurts or worrying about future problems. Gratitude allows you to be fully present in each moment and savor all that life offers.

So, cultivate gratitude! Write down things you are grateful for in a gratitude list, say “thank you” more often, and participate in Thankful Thursday. Be grateful, and let happiness abound!

5. A Spiritual Connection

When discussing a spiritual connection, it’s important to distinguish between religion and spirituality. While religious affiliation can be a path to spirituality for some, it is not a prerequisite for a spiritually fulfilled life. Spirituality is a deeply personal journey that involves connecting with something greater than ourselves, whether nature, the universe, or a higher power.

Thomas Aquinas, an Italian Dominican priest from the 13th century, was a notable happiness theorist who believed we can only find true happiness through knowing a higher power. In his Treatise, Aquinas argued that our ultimate happiness lies in cultivating a strong spiritual connection. When we have spiritual wealth, material possessions and external validation become less important. Instead, we find joy and contentment in pursuing wisdom, self-discovery, and alignment with our higher purpose.

Nurturing your spiritual side, however you define it, can provide an unshakable foundation of inner peace. As you strengthen your connection to the sacred – through practices like prayer, nature immersion, meditation, or study – the pull of ego-driven pursuits like chasing status, wealth, or superficial approval loosens its grip. You seek happiness by living in coherence with your deepest values and callings according to natural and divine law.

Aligning with spirituality in this way allows you to navigate difficulties and joys with profound poise, marveling at the magnificence of the world around you. By fostering a spiritual connection, you open yourself up to uncovering lasting fulfillment and discovering the true essence of happiness.

How Not to Be Happy

Just as important as knowing how to be happy is recognizing the common traps that can lead to unhappiness:

1. Speeding Through Life

Technological advancements have made our lives more convenient and efficient. However, less than a quarter of American adults consider themselves very happy despite these improvements. Life satisfaction has hit a record low, and it’s clear that we are facing a happiness crisis. But what is causing this widespread discontent?

One of the main culprits is our constant pursuit of imperfect happiness through instant gratification. We seek joy in fast food, on-demand entertainment, and the immediacy of social media likes and shares. While these things may provide a fleeting sense of pleasure, they often leave us feeling unfulfilled and yearning for more.

In our rush to keep up with the frantic pace of modern life, we often neglect the simple things that bring us genuine happiness. When was the last time you took the time to prepare a wholesome meal for your loved ones or baked a cake from scratch to celebrate a special occasion? How often do you set aside your devices and engage in meaningful, uninterrupted playtime with your children?

The secret to happiness lies in slowing down and savoring life’s precious moments. No one ever looks back on their life with regret for spending too much time doing the things they love and cherishing the people they care about. So, make a conscious effort to spend time on the people and activities that truly nourish your soul.

2. Living for Others’ Approval

One of the most common pitfalls is living to please others and gain their approval. While we should consider the advice and opinions of those we love, we cannot ignore our own hopes, dreams, and aspirations in the process. Trying to mold ourselves to fit someone else’s expectations is a recipe for unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

It’s crucial to recognize that pleasing everyone is impossible. No matter how hard you try, someone will always disagree with your choices or disapprove of your actions. Constantly seeking external validation is exhausting and wastes your precious time and energy. When you live your life based on others’ expectations, you risk feeling resentful, unfulfilled, and disconnected from your authentic self.

Stop relying on others for happiness. Instead, acknowledge and embrace your own desires and passions. Take time to reflect on what truly matters to you and what brings you joy. Be true to yourself and have the courage to pursue your goals, even if they don’t align with what others think you should do. When you live authentically and unapologetically, you’ll naturally attract people who respect and admire you for who you are.

Remember, the most important relationship you have is with yourself. When you prioritize self-respect and stay true to your values, you create a foundation for genuine happiness and fulfillment. True happiness comes from within, and that is a priceless gift that no one can take away from you.

3. Holding Unrealistic Expectations

In pursuing happiness, keeping your expectations grounded in reality is essential. Setting unrealistic goals or holding yourself to impossibly high standards can harm your well-being. While it’s admirable to strive for excellence, it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be an expert in every aspect of your life.

One common trap is falling into the cycle of workaholism, believing that you can only achieve success and happiness through constant work and sacrifice. However, this mindset often leads to neglecting the very things that bring joy and meaning to your life, such as spending quality time with loved ones and nurturing your personal interests.

Instead, focus on setting manageable goals that allow for a healthy work-life balance. Break down larger objectives into smaller, achievable milestones, and celebrate the small wins along the way. Recognizing and appreciating your progress, no matter how incremental can help maintain motivation and a positive outlook.

It’s also crucial to avoid the pitfall of comparing yourself to others, especially in the age of social media, where curated images of “perfect lives” are abundant. Remember that these representations are often misleading and fail to capture the whole picture. By chasing these false ideals of happiness, you will never attain perfect fulfillment. You’ll only end up perfectly unhappy.

Instead, focus on yourself and own unique journey. Define success and happiness on your own terms. Embrace the challenges and imperfections that come with personal growth, and find joy in the process of continual self-improvement.

4. Disconnecting From Nature

In today’s digital age, we often find ourselves trapped indoors, our eyes glued to screens and our minds consumed by the virtual world. This growing disconnect from nature can affect our mental and emotional well-being, leaving us stressed, anxious, and unfulfilled.

Studies consistently show that spending time outdoors, surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of the natural world, can significantly reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression while promoting feelings of joy, contentment, and inner peace.

When we step away from our devices and allow ourselves to be fully present in nature, we give our minds a much-needed opportunity to unwind and recharge. The gentle whisper of the wind through the trees, the melodic songs of birds, and the soothing warmth of the sun on our skin can help to calm our frazzled nerves and ground us in the present moment.

Furthermore, engaging in physical activities amidst nature’s splendor, such as hiking through a forest trail, tending to a garden, or simply taking a relaxing walk in a nearby park, can provide a refreshing break from our sedentary lifestyles. Not only does this physical activity benefit our bodies, but it also elevates our mood, boosts our self-esteem, and instills a sense of accomplishment.

So, make a conscious effort to spend time in nature. Start by dedicating a few minutes each day to stepping outside, taking a deep breath, and savoring the fresh air. Gradually incorporate longer nature walks or outdoor hobbies into your routine. Pay attention to how these experiences shape your perspective and enhance your well-being.

Remember that we are deeply interconnected with the natural world. By nurturing this bond, we open ourselves to a wellspring of happiness, resilience, and inner tranquility. Let nature guide you and allow yourself to rediscover the simple joys of being alive in this beautiful, awe-inspiring world.

woman walking in a park

Final Thoughts

While this guide has outlined many well-researched principles of happiness, seeking a universal solution is ultimately wishful thinking. We are all unique individuals, and true happiness stems from finding what genuinely resonates with each of us. 

So, instead of prescriptive advice, ask yourself the right questions about happiness. What activities light you up from within? Which relationships allow you to be yourself unapologetically? How can you design a lifestyle optimized for your core values and personal sources of meaning and contentment?

Rather than unquestioningly accepting societal notions of how you “should” be happy, we encourage you to embrace your quirks. Reject the noise of external pressures and the happiness lie that there is one universal path. Have the courage to wrestle with your authentic truths and forge your own personalized blueprint for lasting joy – even if it looks radically different from conventional norms.

The insights here are simply a framework. The real journey involves compassionate self-discovery to uncover the combination that allows your spirit to truly thrive!


We hope you’ve gained some sound wisdom from this article. For more insightful content, check out the a little dose of happy blog and download the Do Happy App to help invite happiness into your life – the right way.