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How to Be Happy: 15 Ways to Make a Change

February 26, 2021

Follow this helpful guide to change your mindset and find great ways to increase your happiness.

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1. Write a Philosophy of Life

If you resolved to be happier this year, the good news is that a huge part of your overall satisfaction with life is entirely within your control, even if very little else is. Dr. Steven Toepfer, an associate professor in the Human Development and Family Studies department of Kent State University, says one big way you can improve your overall happiness and well-being is to sit down to write a philosophy of life. That's a set of guiding principles you can lean on when life gets hard. This is different for every person, and may take you 10 minutes or 10 days to write. Focus on what's important to you — family, community, education, passions that bring you joy — and not on changing your life circumstances, like your job, your relationship or your city. This is a challenging but worthwhile exercise, Dr. Toepfer says. Think of some things that are important to you, and then unpack them. “My interest in education is a lot about helping people find meaning, and that’s what a philosophy of life should get you to: meaning,” he says.

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2. Don't Actively Chase Happiness

Dr. Toepfer has students in his Building Family Strengths class write their own philosophies of life early on in the course. The first time around, most people fall into the same trap, saying that their life philosophy is to be happy. But you can’t just pursue that feeling, he says — you need something bigger. "You probably shouldn’t pursue happiness, honestly,” he says. You want your life to be rooted in values that bring you joy and satisfaction, not just in the pursuit of a feeling. “When someone has a real philosophy of life,” Dr. Toepfer says, “the stressful things outside of that — money, materialism, which can be devastating in a person’s life — those things fall away when they’re troubling and come knocking on your door because you have a philosophy of life that’s more important.”

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3. Find a Hobby or Passion

Instead of actively trying to chase happiness, Dr. Toepfer suggests finding passions and hobbies. “You should pursue things you love, things you like,” he says, and then the happiness will come. If you don’t have much disposable income right now to spend on hobbies, you can try singing or dancing at home, running, taking long walks in your neighborhood, writing short stories or journaling about your life or sketching or drawing. Start small and keep it up if it makes you happy, even if you think you’re not particularly good at it — just because some people sell their crafts on Etsy doesn’t mean you have to create with selling in mind, too.

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4. Get More Houseplants

The benefits of houseplants are almost too good to believe: Aside from being pretty and cleaning the air we breathe, studies have shown they may actually boost our concentration, productivity and mood, and decrease stress. Physically working with them, like transplanting them into different pots, is soothing to people and can decrease their stress, according to a 2015 National Institutes of Health study which found interaction with houseplants reduced psychological and physiological stress in young adults. If you’re not an experienced houseplant parent, start here with some advice from the experts at the Victorian Atlanta plant shop, then head to your local garden store.

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