20 Simple Ways You Can Feel Happier Today

Updated: May 15, 2021

Who doesn’t want to feel happier?

It’s the universal quest that spurs each of us on each day and the deep desire that God himself has placed in our hearts--a longing that only he can fully satisfy.

But, while our ultimate happiness will come from our relationship with God (and eventually our eternal beatitude as saints in heaven), God has designed our bodies and brains to work in certain ways that we can tap into right now in order to feel happier.

And while God’s relationship with each human soul is unique and personal, there are some very universal truths that lead to human flourishing. Basically: what’s good for your body is also good for your brain--and thus your subjective feelings of happiness.

When trying to live a happier life, you can dive right in with the big things that impact your happiness: sleep more, get some daily exercise, eat better--in short, start taking really good care of yourself (you deserve it, after all). This will help balance out your feel-good brain chemicals and give you the best shot of feeling more happiness.

However...this can feel overwhelming--especially if you feel as though you’re barely scraping by right now.

The good news is: there are also lots of little “hacks” you can do to bring more joy into your days without making sweeping lifestyle changes. (Ideally, you’d both make changes to your lifestyle and incorporate these tips, but realistically, you have to start somewhere!)

So here are 20 simple things you can do to feel happier today:

  1. Smile as big and broadly as you can for about 30 seconds (you’ll feel goofy--just go with it!). This causes your brain to look around for something to feel happy about and actually works to start releasing feel-good chemicals in your brain.

  2. Look people you're talking to in the eye and smile at them (especially your spouse and kids!) Not only will this improve your relationships in the long term, but it’s also an easy act of charity in the short term.

  3. Every day, call to mind one thing you're looking forward to. It doesn’t have to be something that’s happening that day or even a very big thing (like a vacation). It can be as simple as looking forward to reading a good book in the evening, to a family movie night on Saturday, or meeting a friend for coffee.

  4. Write down three things you are truly grateful for every day for a month. Keep a notebook or journal next to your bed to write in and let yourself really savor each thing you’re grateful for. Thank God for them. Challenge yourself to write something different every day so you really have to search your heart and be honest with yourself.

  5. Do something new. Your brain thrives on novelty. Take a new route to work or school, sit in a different place, try a new recipe, find a new musician, etc.

  6. Learn a new skill. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a language, or a dance step, or how to play a musical instrument, or maybe there’s a technique for work that will improve your efficiency or skills. Whatever you want to learn, you can probably find a Youtube video or an app that can teach you, usually for free or in just a few minutes a day.

  7. Give someone a sincere compliment. Not only will you make someone else’s day, but looking for the good in others will also boost your mood and your positive feelings towards that person.

  8. Do a little act of kindness for someone else. This doesn’t have to be big. Jesus told St. Faustina that he was giving her 3 ways to be merciful: in deed, word, or prayer. So be looking for opportunities to do a kind deed, offer a kind word, or say a kind prayer for the people you interact with today.

  9. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths when you're feeling especially tense. This “mini-break” will help slow down your stress response and bring down your cortisol levels.

  10. Allow yourself to feel your negative emotions without running from them. Emotions are meant to be felt, and then (often) they dissipate. Afterward, you can think about what is making you feel that way and what you may need to do to help the situation be better--or maybe you just need to allow yourself time to feel it and then the negative emotion may go away on its own.

  11. Change your attitude about stress. Stress can be a very good thing that helps you grow depending on how you think about it. Instead of thinking “I’m so stressed out!” you can think “This is hard, but I’m growing.”

  12. Next time you feel nervous about something, tell yourself, “I’m excited.” Your brain actually can’t tell the difference between being excited or being nervous, so what you tell yourself here matters. Frame it in a positive way for yourself.

  13. Plan to call a friend every time you fold laundry or do some other boring routine task. Go ahead and schedule it. You’ll enjoy the routine task more, and you’ll probably feel a lot closer in your friendships. (You may also fold more laundry :)

  14. Set a 5-15 minute timer and declutter something. There’s something so comforting about bringing order to chaos!

  15. Stop watching or reading the news (at least for a time). I’m not saying you should never know what’s happening in the world, but the truth is, it really will keep on spinning with or without you. You have a choice about what you focus on though, and most news tends to be extremely disheartening and depressing--in fact, it’s designed to get an emotional reaction from you so that you’ll stay tuned in. Just opt out of it for a time. Or forever. Your choice.

  16. Put down your phone (or keep it in a separate room). Being constantly connected to your phone trains your brain to be distracted and to crave the constant dopamine hits that you get from receiving notifications. Deliberately separating yourself from your phone will allow you to train your “attention” muscle and help you focus better.

  17. Go outside and get some fresh air as often as possible. Fresh air and sunshine are undeniably good for you. To really boost the benefits of being outside, take a walk.

  18. Write a thank-you note or tell someone how much you appreciate something they have done. This is another instance of making someone else’s day that will also leave you feeling much happier. You could also send a thank-you text or email, but writing by hand has its own powerful benefits.

  19. Forgive someone. You might still feel angry, and you don’t actually have to talk to the person if you don’t want to or if it’s not possible. But do offer a prayer for them and ask for God’s grace to soften your heart toward them so that you can start to let go of the anger that is hurting you.

  20. Try to give whatever you’re doing your full attention. If you’re playing with your kids, pay attention and don’t be making a to-do list in your head. If you’re making dinner, focus on what you’re doing. Try to engage as many of your senses as possible and just really be present (this is basically the essence of mindfulness). This present moment is also where you’re most likely to encounter God if you’re open to him and paying attention.

So there you have it! I hope that these happiness hacks will be helpful to you.

What are your favorite go-to mood boosters? Which of these tips have you tried? Let me know in the comments :)

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