How to Be Happier: 4 Easy Mental Exercises

We all have those days when nothing seems to go our way. Then sometimes we have those weeks… or months. When sadness is your routine, how can you become happier?

I’ve made the transformation from an unhappy life to a happy one. Nobody is ever 100% happy, but you can do things to help. Here are a few tips and exercises to make life a little more enjoyable.

4. Imagine Your Goal

Take a moment and ask yourself: “What would I do if I were trying to be unhappy?”

Take a moment to think about it. How would you behave?

You might say that you’d go to bed late or spend your time scrolling through your phone for hours in bed. Perhaps you’d procrastinate until the last minute on important tasks. Maybe you’d also spend lots of time complaining without taking action. In addition, you could isolate yourself and only focus on people who drag you down.

Now analyze what your habits are now. How much of it matches your “unhappy” behavior?

Next, imagine how you’d act if you wanted to live a happy life. How much time would you spend with friends and family? When would you go to bed? What would your work-life balance look like? How much time would go towards hobbies, and how much time would go towards social media? What would you talk about the most?

Now that you’ve imagined two possible lifestyles, you can start thinking about your habits. What is helping you become happier? What works against it?

Chances are, you already know what you need to do.

3. Address Negative Thoughts

you're beautiful today just like always
Sorry, negative thoughts. You’re a beautiful person.

What if you’re a failure? Maybe your coworkers were judging you when you made that mistake last week. What will you do if your financial situation falters? Not to mention all those problems with your love life…

Thoughts like these are normal. It’s the brain’s way of trying to learn from mistakes and protect you from future problems. After all, you can’t protect yourself from threats if you never recognize that they exist. However, if these thoughts take over, it can make you miserable.

Try to start noticing when your thoughts turn negative. If it’s overwhelming, you don’t have to fight it right away. Just focus on noticing.

Next, ask yourself about these thoughts. Are they true? Is now the right time to focus on them? Will addressing the problem make you happier, or should you let this one go? If you want to address it, then what actions could you take?

Try not to let yourself get stuck in these thoughts. (A good night’s sleep can help.) Instead, start directing them towards what actions you can take. That way, you can address the negative parts of life without letting them overtake you.

2. Attitude of Gratitude

Making time to fix the negative can help with your happiness. So can making time to reflect on the positive.

The next time you notice something good in life, take a moment to appreciate it. Try saying it out loud too. It never hurts to say “The sky is so beautiful today” or “I love your shirt.” After all, that way you can share your positivity with everyone.

Start keeping a gratitude journal if you have time. Every evening, write 3 things you’re thankful for today. They can be general (like “my family”) or specific (like “the breakfast my partner made this morning”). Reflecting on the positives of a day can help shift your mood towards something more positive. Even if it’s not a daily habit, try to do it often.

If you struggle with keeping journals, then you can find other ways to show gratitude. Tell other people about nice things. Or just enjoy them while they last.

Gratitude can’t erase your problems. However, it can remind you that your problems aren’t your whole life.

1. Being Happier with Others

Katie, a young woman with Down syndrome, grinning and showing a scrambled Rubik's cube to the camera
She makes me happy.

When you feel lonely, don’t stay lonely. Reach out to someone. If they’re not available, try writing a letter, sending a meme, or doing something else for them.

Above all, make time for the special people in your life. This could be family, friends, a partner, or anyone else who makes life seem brighter. Humans are social creatures, after all. Look for the people who make you happy.

If you feel like you’ve been too busy to connect lately, then find a way to change that. Could you adjust your routines? For example, a few months ago, I started taking morning walks with my sister every day. It helps us share our thoughts and bond over conversation.

Think about the people you love. How could you include them in your day? Try inviting them to spend time with you.

Doing Your Best

Better thought processes may be only part of your story. To improve your life, you may also need to change circumstances, relationships, and/or career paths. This is up to you. You know what’s hurting you and what’s helping you.

This is meant to be a starting point, something you can do even if your external situation doesn’t change. We have partial control of the world around us. While we do our best with the outside world, we can also work on our inside worlds to be happier.

Make time for things that are important to you. Don’t put off your happiness. See what you can do today.

12 thoughts on “How to Be Happier: 4 Easy Mental Exercises”

  1. I find myself avoiding my negative thoughts all the time, so that’s definitely something I have to work on. I loved this post! thank you for sharing 😀

    1. Thanks, Shayla! Yes, avoidance is easier in the short-term, but buried thoughts tend to grow underground. I find it helps to talk them over with someone or make time to address them. That way, the problem feels smaller and more solvable.

      1. how is your sister.people never see the every day effects of ANY Disability .i have long list health issues …migraines .ibs list goes on. i take part in a lot lot Research .have you had any Bullying BECAUSE Disability in your family .i live in England .Cambs / Mark

        1. That’s great that you take part in research! So many research studies are studying things that can make life easier for disabled people.

          We’re pretty lucky. My sister hasn’t been bullied much at all. There was an incident when she was a little girl, but the school took it seriously.

          To answer the question in your other comment, there’s no snow here. We’re in Arizona in the US, and we haven’t ever had snow here. It’s actually the best weather of the year. We can go outside without getting too hot most of the time. My brother and I took a long walk this morning and the weather was great.

          1. have you ever seen snow then IN PERSON . your from America ooh my .two my favourite music artists are from America ,,ELVIS PRESLEY AND NANCY SINATRA .,Mark

          2. Yes, I grew up in Wisconsin, which is farther up north. It snows there a lot every winter. At my elementary school, when the snowplow cleared the parking lot, it made a snow hill over one story high.

            I’ve heard Elvis before, but never Nancy Sinatra. I listened to “These Boots Are Made for Walking” and I enjoyed it. What do you think are the best songs of hers?

            I like oldies too. Carly Simon, Elton John, and James Taylor are a few of the ones I enjoy.

          3. nancy sinatra was very good with Lee Hazlewood ..SUMMER WINE ..best song ..i am a fan of Elton John..carly simon as well .i have heard of James taylor …THEIR IS A VERY RECENT AMERICA GROUP THAT ARE REALLY VERY VERY GOOD…..FUTURE ISLANDS .. have you Watched/Seen Any Disability FILMS …. my e.mail [REDACTED] Any time a Chat Mark

          4. the very BEST Disability film i have ever seen ,PUMPKIN ..the music is fantastic as well ..IT IS NOT ON DVD HERE ..so so sad about that ..have you ever seen a comedy film .Casper ..the girl who stars in this .IS THE LEAD LADY IN .PUMPKIN … so upset can not get it on dvd here in England …MARK

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