You wake up at a certain time, eat X meals a day, check your phone X times a day because somehow you have turned all these things into habits.
Similarly, you tend to react to good or bad news always in the same way because your first reaction is conscious but following ones happen subconsciously.
Not only is our entire life made of habits (important and unimportant), but we can all agree that once a habit is developed, it can be very difficult to let go of it.
And this can work in your favor. Choose and master your habits and you’ll already be living much more consciously than the average person.
Why happiness can become a habit
Perhaps it won’t be as easy as, say, the habit of having dinner. But it’s certainly easier than waking up at 5am and going for a run every morning. It can be done.
What gets in the way isn’t your own willpower or ability to turn happiness into a habit, but rather conventions, stereotypes and misconceptions that make us believe happiness is so elusive.
So really, the first step is to suspend judgment, at least for the sake of this article, and just try it out (we’ll have a look at the ten tips in a minute) and see what works and what doesn’t.
Scientific studies like this one and this one would prove that a certain percentage of our happiness is actually genetic — and I’m not going to argue against that.
But still, what about the remaining percentage? Is it really just luck or circumstances? Hardly. If that was the case, circumstances would determine everything you think and feel. But they don’t.
How long does it take to make happiness a habit?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the 21-day rule, the 30-day rule, and so on. It turns out that, scientifically, on average it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to develop a new habit.
That’s a wide range, isn’t it? But that’s because it all depends on the habit you’d like to form. For example, for a relatively simple habit the 21-day period may well be enough.
For anything related to happiness and a better state of mind, it may take a little bit longer. But here’s the key thing to remember — it all starts with a decision, and that decision happens in an instant.
So although it may take you a week, or a month, or even three months to make happiness a habit, all you really need to do right now is decide. The decision itself is the fastest and most important part.
How to make happiness a habit
1. Let go of misconceptions
I’ve already mentioned this. It really is important. Ever heard of phrases like “happiness never lasts”, “too good to be true”, “life sucks”, etc?
The first step toward happiness as a habit is to completely ignore these misconceptions. No law says that happiness must be hard to achieve or maintain — it’s all about our mindset.
2. Start a gratitude journal
The second tip is to develop the habit of noticing the little things around you. Appreciate them — never take them for granted. What is normal to you isn’t normal to someone else.
The easiest way to do this? Start a gratitude journal. Each morning or night, write down something you are grateful for. It only takes a minute or so, and it’s powerful.
3. See everything as positive
How do you interpret events in your life? The pessimist tends to see everything as negative; the optimist tends to see everything as positive.
Since the choice is yours, and yours only, it makes all the sense in the world to be an optimist — in other words, to choose to see what happens to you as an opportunity or a blessing (or a blessing in disguise).
4. Understand your mind
You don’t need to be a psychologist; the goal is to have a basic understanding of how your mind functions and what you can do to improve your mental health.
For example, try to be aware of your thoughts; pay attention to them; notice what makes you angry or sad, and ask why; and so on.
5. Avoid or ignore negativity
Be very aware of what you allow into your life. Drama, negativity, cynicism, toxicity — these have nothing to do with you and you have every right in the world to avoid them.
Can’t avoid them? Then at least don’t pay attention to them; ignore them. For example, you may have to see or hear something but you can still choose not to dwell on it. And yes, this can become a habit too.
6. Take care of your body
Prioritize your sleep. Work out regularly or at least move your body. Treat your body like a temple and eat consciously. And so on.
Take care of your physical health and you’ll be halfway there in terms of making happiness a habit. You have no idea how much body and mind are interconnected — a great physical state inevitably leads to great mental health.
7. Know what makes you happy
Alright, tip number seven: make a list of the things you love. This can be done in your head, although I would always prefer pen and paper.
Once you are clear on what makes you happy (it’s likely to be different than what makes everyone else happy), then you can actually go do it, and build all the “happiness blocks” to create a better life.
8. Lower the happiness standard
TV and social media can be disastrous because one who is constantly exposed to them may learn that happiness has to be the most colorful, craziest, most euphoric state ever.
The truth? It’s far from it. Real happiness isn’t smiling and laughing all the time. Not even drugs could achieve that. Lower your standards — think of happiness as a calm, positive state of being.
9. Be in a happy environment
Out of all ten tips, this may be the easiest. Not necessarily the easiest to implement, but the one that benefits you the most once you are able to implement it in your life.
We are social beings and this means we tend to copy those around us, subconsciously. So do anything you can to be around happy people and you’ll find that happiness will also come naturally.
10. Work toward a dream
The fastest way to make a dream come true is to work toward it. If you are working toward a dream, you are already living the dream! Although obviously there will be a delay in terms of tangible results.
It doesn’t have to be the biggest goal ever. It could be as simple as setting an intention for the day, or having a purpose, or even having a to-do list. Work toward something you love.