No matter who you ask, what part of the world they live in, what job they do for a living - what is the one thing that most people are looking for? When you ask someone, "what do you want most out of life?", what do most people answer? "Happiness".
The idea of happiness can seem elusive and indefinable, but in reality, it's the simplest changes to your lifestyle that can make it attainable. Here are a few steps to help you on your way.
1. Start a happiness journal.
Every few days or once a week, write down a couple sentences about what you're grateful for. It could be anything from going for a laughter-filled coffee date with a friend to scoring a promotion, and everything in between. Finding things to be grateful for, and appreciating what you have, has been scientifically proven to increase your overall contentment.
2. Spend time with people you love.
There are so many things that get in the way of spending time with people you love - work, errands, adult responsibilities. But it's important that you go out of your way to make time. This is especially important if you're in an unhappy place in your life where you don't want to do anything, see anyone, or even leave your house - it may seem like a daunting task, but spending quality time with people you love, and who appreciate you, can make an enormous difference.
Make a conscious effort to make plans with someone you love every week, despite your schedule. It doesn't have to be a huge commitment - it could be something as simple as having them over for tea for an hour or two just to touch base.
3. Buy less Things.
We live in a society where we are told that objects bring us happiness. That piece of clothing will make you feel better about yourself; that new car will make your kids happy on long trips; that wide-screen TV will bring you and your significant other closer together on movie nights. But once you buy these items, do they actually make you happier? Or do you just start looking for your next purchase?
Instead, try spending money on experiences with people you love. Spend money on cooking dinner for your friends on the weekend instead of buying a couple new pairs of shoes. Spend money on a vacation with your significant other instead of a fancy new car or an expensive new laptop. You will end up feeling significantly more fulfilled.
4. Care about the world, not just yourself.
It's so important to care about yourself and practice the idea of "self love" - take selfies, wear what makes you happy, get a massage once in a while - whatever you need to do. But one way to make life more difficult is to forget about the world around you, and focus too much on yourself.
It takes effort to call friends & family, check in with their life, and make time to see them, despite your busy schedule. It takes effort to volunteer for a local organization. It takes effort to contribute your knowledge and time to a worthy cause. But these are the things that increase not only how you feel about yourself, but how you feel about the world around you. Ask yourself, "do I give more than I receive"? If the answer is no, maybe it's time for a change.
5. Enjoy the little things.
For a long time, I struggled with the idea that I always had to be doing something. Doing something fun, doing something epic, accomplishing something. And while these things are definitely beneficial to your overall well-being (seeing friends, going for dinner, playing sports), it's important to remember to enjoy the little things as well. Napping on your sunny couch all afternoon with your significant other, cleaning your house while you dance around to your favourite music, having a hot bath at the end of a long day... these are the little things that we often forget to appreciate. It's recognizing your gratitude for small, seemingly-inconsequential moments that will increase your overall life contentment.
6. Focus on how it feels, not how it looks.
It's important to focus wholly on the idea of cultivating a lifestyle that brings you happiness, and not one that just looks happy from the outside. I recently went to a house party where one half of the party was busy dancing and playing games, laughing, and making conversation. The other half of the party was on their phones the whole night, Snapchatting and Instagramming and Facebooking the whole experience, but in reality, they weren't even a part of it.
It's important not to confuse documenting what makes you happy with documenting something to make you happy. Taking a photo of a friend when you go for breakfast together doesn't mean you're not in the moment, it means you want to remember it. I fully encourage documenting the everyday moments of your life that bring you joy. It's when you disregard the moment to document something and try to make it look wonderful (even if it isn't necessarily) so you can post it to social media immediately - that's when the issue arises.
Despite how daunting it can seem to cultivate happiness in your everyday life, these small changes can make such a huge difference. That's bang for your buck right there.