You might be wondering how you can be happy and content with your life, and while this might be a difficult question to answer, it is worth asking. In our lives, we are often pushed to seek out material solutions to our spiritual problems.
While looking into this topic, I came across a person named Paul Krismer; he is a positive psychology expert who occasionally appears on television and is credited as a happiness expert.
Relying on his reputation, I checked out his content and compiled a list of 12 ways to improve happiness and contentment in our lives.
1) Practice gratitude
Gratitude is all about appreciation for what you have and what you’ve got. So often, when good things happen, we ignore them or forget about them. Instead, we should be thankful and appreciative of all the good that occurs during the day.
Paul suggests that we keep a gratitude diary, where we log at least three good things that happen during each day. This way, we teach ourselves to be on the lookout for positive outcomes. Put another way; we get more of what we look for or see.
If we look at the positives things that happen, we will learn to notice them more, so they will appear to happen more often.
Every day is filled with good and bad events, but luckily, we get to choose which ones we pay attention to. While it might be our nature to focus on the bad, we can train ourselves to watch for the good and so we will find more good in our lives.
Practicing gratitude helps us live a happy and meaningful life.
2) Buy experiences rather than things
Paul recommends that we spend our money on experiences rather than things. This is because things can only make us happy for a short while, while experiences can be remembered for a lifetime.
This isn’t to say that we will always have positive experiences, but when we buy a trip, we know that we will enjoy it the whole time that it is happening, whereas the joy of buying something new may only last for a short time.
In my own life, I’ve never been all that interested in buying lots of stuff; in fact, I only got a car when my daughter was born and only bought a house recently because she needs stability at school.
On the other hand, I’ve gone on lots of exciting vacations and seen places that I’d never visit otherwise. On top of this, while those experiences were long ago, I still have lots of fond memories that I enjoy talking about.
Most of us already have too much stuff that we don’t need and doesn’t contribute to our happiness. To live a happier life, it is best to invest in positive experiences that expand our horizons.
3) Develop a meditation practice
Paul emphasizes the importance of mindfulness meditation and its ability to help us live happy and content lives. Meditation helps us clear our minds and see past our destructive emotions.
While it might be challenging to develop a meditation habit, it is something you can work at whenever you have a chance.
For myself, I find the best way to get into anything is to commit to it and do it every day, no matter what. This might not be easy if you have many responsibilities, but the long-term benefits of meditation outweigh the effort it takes.
While we can’t know for sure how well the practice will work for us, we can see the beneficial use of meditation in different religious practices for potentially thousands of years.
What is essential is that regular meditation allows you to gain some control of your mind and work on the things that are causing you stress, making it easier to be happy.
4) Keep your head in the here and now
Too often, we get caught up in what we regret from the past or fear about the future. To get the most out of your life, you need to focus on being here and now. It is easy to let your mind take you on daydreams about things that you could have done better or wishes you have about tomorrow.
And while having goals is excellent at keeping us motivated, thinking about things that we can’t control will distract us from what we are doing right now.
In a sense, being happy with life comes from actively participating in it, and the best way to do that is to be here now. This is also a benefit of meditation; it helps us control our minds or learn how to understand what is going on.
Having a sense of where your thoughts are coming from makes it easier to ignore or think about other things instead.
Being here now makes you happy because it frees you of past regrets and future fears and lets you enjoy the moment as it happens.
5) Be purposeful in what you do
Paul suggests that one way to be happy and content in your life is to keep busy and be purposeful. When I think back to times when I was the most unsatisfied, it was often where I wasn’t doing anything meaningful. It can be easy to sit on the couch and play video games for a whole weekend, but then, in the end, you don’t have anything to show for it.
Keeping busy is important because often when we aren’t doing anything, we tend to think about what is bothering us, what is going wrong or what we want to change.
This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t sometimes think about these things, but the more we think about them without taking action or changing, the more miserable we will feel.
Doing things with purpose is the best way to get satisfaction out of them; having a plan and working towards it will always make you happier about your situation because you are working to improve yourself and the things around you.
6) Calm yourself down
Paul tells us it is crucial to calm ourselves down. Often we get caught up in the little things that don’t matter and give them too much of our energy. If you want to be happy and content with your life, you need to learn to keep calm in times of difficulty and confusion.
Often, if we take a step back, focus on our breathing, and try to slow our minds down, we will be able to gain a little peace.
At times, I know that when I’m out of my routine and doing different things, I can sometimes feel like I’m not myself. But when this happens, I try to remember to take a sip of water or go for a walk if I have the time. So often, when things get too stressful, we feel like we will explode, but if we try to calm ourselves down, we can get past anything.
If we let our stress or anxiety about what is going on get out of control, we will have trouble with everything else. So if we want to keep content and calm, we need to do things like meditation or walking, as they will help us keep our cool.
7) Learn from your suffering
Some people say life is suffering, but I’d disagree; however, I wouldn’t deny that suffering is a part of life. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, sometimes we have up, and other times we get downs. As long as we are willing to learn from our suffering, it will always be possible to live a happier, more fulfilling life down the road.
Paul tells us that we need to learn from our suffering; when things don’t work out, we must accept it and move on to other things.
At the same time, we can’t pretend that there is no lesson, there is always a lesson, and we need to be willing to listen and watch for it if we want to gain anything from our experiences, especially the difficult ones.
The good and bad are a part of life, but as long as we are willing to learn from our mistakes or when things go wrong, we will continuously be improved and working towards a better life.
8) Spend time and invest in friends and family
Humans are social animals; this means that it is in our nature to be with other humans. We are often pushed towards technology and interactions with screens rather than real people in real places in our modern world. While it is easier to talk to your finds online, it is more natural and in line with nature to meet them in person and interact for real.
Paul emphasizes the importance of family and friends; he also sees them as something worthy of our precious time. I know that when I am stressed out or feeling blue, I need someone to talk to. If you value your friends and family, then you will have them when you need them. But that is only possible if you dedicate time to those people in the first place.
Because we humans are social beings, we must cultivate and work on our relationships. When we put in the effort, we get effort in return, which helps us live happier and more content lives going forward.
9) Believe in a higher power
Paul suggests that we should believe in a higher power, but what is essential about this belief is the hope that it gives us. Having hope helps us get through the tough times because we feel like everything that happens leads to better outcomes or opportunities.
For myself, it’s been a long time since I went to church, but I’ve always felt there was something more to all of this. Whether that’s a person in the clouds or something else doesn’t matter to me; what does matter is the peacefulness it gives my life.
We recently purchased a house, and the whole process felt like destiny, and while I can’t explain it, nor do I understand how it works, I feel that it was divinely influenced.
Finding happiness in life doesn’t always have to come from events or happenings. Sometimes it is just the feelings of hope that come from the belief in a higher power.
10) Overcome your negativity bias by avoiding distractions
This one is related to the first one, of working on a gratitude practice; as we mentioned earlier, we get more of what we watch for. So if you spend your time focused on the bad things that are happening, you will see more and more bad things happening.
You could say our society has a negative bias; things are always going wrong if you watch the news. For this reason, I’ve done my best over the years to avoid the news as much as possible. These days that has been a little more difficult because I work for a news organization, but that is a part of life. But even if you don’t watch the news, it is easy to get distracted by the internet.
Worse of all, when we get distracted, it takes away our focus from the things that truly matter to us.
To live a happy and content life, we need to be willing to see past our negative bias; simultaneously, we need to avoid distractions and put our attention on the things that bring us meaning a purpose. If we can get this part right, then happiness will follow.
11) Cultivate flow by work on areas where you have skills and abilities
Paul recommends that we cultivate the state of flow. He says that we can get into this state when we work at things that we have skills and abilities. Put another way, when we work at the thing that we are good at, we can get into a state of flow, which means we are getting lots done, doing it well and feeling good about the process.
When I am writing, I can get into a state of flow; when this happens, I can sit for hours and not stop, as my mind is locked into what it is doing. I can’t think of anything else when this is happening, but it gives me an incredible feeling of satisfaction and joy.
That said, I can also get into this state when I am doing my job, just as long as I have a project that consists of stuff that I’m good at and enjoy doing, but the key is it has to be both.
Teaching yourself how to get into a state of flow often comes with practice and dedication to a skill or hobby. When we accomplish things that we can be happy about, that feels great, but it is even better to enjoy the process itself.
To feel satisfied and content, work at getting into flow whenever possible.
12) Do kind things for other people, even if they don’t know it
As we talked about earlier, we are social animals who require social interaction, but related to this is helping others. Paul suggests that we do kind things for other people, even if they don’t know that we are doing them. This might mean donating money to a cause or anonymously returning someone’s lost wallet; whatever it is, doing nice things for other people feels good and makes the world a better place.
There is something on the internet called virtue signalling, where people do things to signal that they are a good person. But the problem is that these acts are often shallow and only done for their recognition. To flip this idea on its head, when we do things for other people who don’t know, we are instead being rewarded internally for the good deed rather than the recognition it could bring.
Doing the right thing can sometimes be challenging, but we will make our lives better if we do good things for other people.
And in return, we will feel better about what we have done. At the same time, if no one knows, then we get a better sense of satisfaction because we know our intentions are pure.
While I have never met or spoken to Paul before, he has many good ideas that can help us live happier and more content lives; you can check out some of his videos.
Thanks for reading about how to live a more happy life. If you are also curious about how to live a meaningful life, I’ve got a few articles on that:
- What does it mean to live a meaningful life?
- Living With Purpose and Meaning
- Why Can’t I Find Meaning in my life?