Living a happier, more satisfied life is within reach for all of you. A few changes to your habits can help you get there.

happy mature woman jogging
Getty Images/The Good Brigade

Habits matter. You know how ingrained bad habits are if you try to break them.

Good habits are ingrained. Positive habits are part of your routine.

Here are some daily, monthly, and yearly habits to help you start your quest. Everyone has a different version of happiness and their path to achieving it.

If you find that some of these habits are not in line with your lifestyle, then you should ditch them. You can figure out what works for you with a little practice.

The following daily habits can help you achieve more happiness.

1. Smile

You smile when you are happy. It is actually a two-way street.

We smile because we’re happy, and smiling causes the brain to release dopamine, which makes us happier.

While not completely foolproof, researchers have found that the link between smiling and happiness could be attributed to the “facial feedback hypothesis,” where facial expressions may have a modest influence on emotions.

“You don’t have to have a fake smile plastered on your face all the time. If you find yourself feeling low, smile and see what happens. Start each morning by smiling at yourself.”

2. Exercise

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Regular exercise can help reduce stress, feelings of anxiety, and symptoms of depression while boosting self-esteem and happiness.

Even a small amount of physical activity can make a difference. You don’t have to train for a triathlon or scale a cliff — unless that’s what makes you happy, of course.

The trick is to not overexert yourself. If you suddenly start doing strenuous work, you may end up frustrated.

Consider the exercise starters.

  • Walk around the block after dinner.
  • If you want to learn yoga or tai chi, sign up.
  • Start your day with 5 minutes of stretching.

You should remind yourself of the fun activities you used to enjoy. You could start activities you always wanted to try, such as golf, bowling, or dancing.

3. Get plenty of sleep

Most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep every night. If you find yourself fighting the urge to nap during the day or just generally feel like you’re in a fog, your body may be telling you it needs more rest.

No matter how much our modern society steers us toward less sleep, we know that adequate sleep is vital to good health, brain function, and emotional well-being. Getting enough sleep also reduces your risk of developing certain chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, depression, and diabetes.

Here are a few tips to help you sleep better.

  • Write down how much sleep you get each night and how rested you feel. You should have a better idea of how you are doing after a week. You can use an app to track your sleep.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • It is a good idea to reserve the hour before bed. Take a bath, read, or relax. Heavy eating and drinking can cause serious health problems.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Good bedding is a good investment.
  • Limit your nap to 20 minutes.

If you consistently have problems sleeping, consider talking with a doctor. You may have a sleep disorder that requires treatment.

4. Eat with mood in mind

You may already know that your food choices have an impact on your overall physical health. But some foods can also affect your state of mind.

For example:

  • Carbohydrates release serotonin, a “feel good” hormone. Just keep simple carbs — foods high in sugar and starch — to a minimum because that energy surge is short and you’ll crash. Choosing complex carbs, such as vegetables, beans, and whole grains, can help you avoid a crash while still providing serotonin.
  • Lean meat, poultry, legumes, and dairy are high in protein. Protein-rich foods release dopamine and norepinephrine, which boost energy and concentration.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fatty fish, have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects that extend to your overall brain health. If you don’t eat fish, you might consider talking with a doctor about possible supplementation.
  • Highly processed or deep-fried foods tend to leave you feeling down and so will skipping meals.

If you want to eat with your mood in mind, you should start with one food choice each day.

For a sweeter breakfast, swap a big, sweet pastry for some Greek yogurt with fruit. You will still satisfy your sweet tooth, and theProtein will help you avoid a midmorning energy crash. Add in a new swap each week.

5. Practice gratitude

Simply being grateful can give your mood a big boost, among other benefits. For example, a two-part study found that practicing gratitude can have a significant impact on feelings of hope and happiness.

You might try to start each day by thanking someone. You can do this while you are brushing your teeth or waiting for the alarm to go off.

Keep an eye out for pleasant things in your life. They can be big things, such as knowing that someone loves you.

“They can be small things, such as the co-worker who offered you a cup of coffee or the neighbor who waved to you. Maybe it’s the warmth of the sun on your skin.”

You may become more aware of the positive things around you with a little practice.

6. Give a compliment

Research shows that performing acts of kindness may also help promote your overall well-being.

A compliment is a quick and easy way to make someone happy.

Say it with a smile and they will know you mean it. You might be surprised by how good it is.

If you want to offer someone a compliment on their physical appearance, make sure to do it in a respectful way.

7. Breathe deeply

You are tense, your shoulders are tight, and you feel like you might lose it. We all know that feeling.

You can take a deep breath and calm yourself down.

Turns out, that instinct is a good one. Research supports the fact that slow breathing and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress.

The next time you feel stressed, try these steps.

  1. Close your eyes. Try to imagine a place that is happy.
  2. Take a deep breath and exhale.
  3. Slowly breathe out through your mouth.
  4. You should feel better after repeating this process several times.

If you are having a hard time taking slow, deliberate breaths, try to count to 5 in your head with each inhale and exhale.

8. Acknowledge the unhappy moments

A positive attitude is generally a good thing, but bad things happen to everyone. It’s just part of life.

“Don’t try to pretend you’re happy if you get bad news or just feel like you’re in a bad mood.”

Allow yourself to experience the feeling of unhappiness for a moment. Then you should think about what it will take to recover from this feeling.

Would a deep breathing exercise help? A long walk outside? Talking it over with someone?

Take care of yourself and let the moment pass. No one is happy all the time.

9. Keep a journal

“A journal is a good way to organize your thoughts. You don’t have to be a genius to benefit.”

It can be done as simple as writing down a few thoughts. When you finish writing, you can always shred it if you put certain things in it. The process is what counts.

10. Face stress head-on

It is impossible to avoid all of the stressors in life.

There’s no need to. Stress isn’t always harmful, and we can even change our attitudes about stress.

“If you can’t avoid stress, remind yourself that everyone has stress and that it’s not your fault. You might think you are stronger than you are.”

Try to address the stressor head-on instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed. The sooner you confront it, the sooner you can start to eat.

11. Avoid comparing yourself to others

Whether it happens on social media, at work, or even at a yoga class, it’s easy to fall into a place where you’re comparing yourself to others. The result? You may experience more discontent, lower self-esteem, and even depression and anxiety.

It can take practice to stop comparing yourself to others, but it’s worth it for the benefit of having your inner peace and happiness.

You can start with some of the other tips on this list, such as deep breathing and journaling, to draw your attention to yourself. You may want to talk to a therapist.

The following tips can help you feel better.

12. Declutter

Decluttering sounds like a big project, but setting aside just 20 minutes a week can have a big impact.

What can you do in 20 minutes? Lots.

“If you want to tidy up a specific area of a room, you can set a timer on your phone and do it in 15 minutes. Throw away any extra stuff that isn’t serving you anymore.”

“It’s a good idea to keep a designated box for giveaways to make it easier to find.”

If you have time, walk through your living space and put away any stray items that end up in your path.

You can do this trick once a week, once a day, or whenever you feel like your space is getting out of control.

13. See friends

Humans are largely considered social beings, and while the research is mixed on how exactly socialization impacts happiness, the consensus is that having social relationships can make us happy.

Who are you missing? Reach out to them. Either you have a long phone chat or you can make a date.

In adulthood, it can feel next to impossible to make new friends. But it’s not about how many friends you have. It’s about having meaningful relationships — even if it’s just with one or two people.

Try to get involved in a group. Both can help you find people in your area. They are likely looking for friends as well.

Companionship doesn’t have to be limited to other humans. Pets can offer similar benefits, according to multiple studies.

Can you have a pet? Consider volunteering at an animal shelter to meet new people.

14. Plan your week

Are you flailing about? Try to sit down at the end of the week and make a basic list.

“If you don’t stick to the plan, blocking out time where you can do laundry, go grocery shopping, or tackle projects at work can help quiet your mind.”

Even a piece of scrap paper in your pocket can do the job if you have a sticky note on your computer.

15. Ditch your phone

Plug it in. Really.

There’s mounting evidence to support the fact that excessive phone use can lead to changes in the brain and impact your mood, with one review even revealing more serious cognitive and emotional changes in adolescents and young adults.

Put the earbuds away for at least an hour once a week. If you want them, they will still be there for you.

“You might be surprised at the difference it makes if you haven’t unplugged in a while. Let your mind wander for a while. Read. Meditate. Take a walk and pay attention to the surroundings. Be friendly. Or be alone. Just be.”

Sound too daunting? Try unplugging for a shorter amount of time several times a week.

16. Get into nature

Spending 30 minutes or more a week in green spaces can help lower blood pressure and the chances of developing depression, according to one study.

“Your green space could be anything from a park to a backyard, and it’s up to you.”

Adding some outdoor exercise into the mix will give you more benefit. The study found that people who spent time in green spaces were more likely to exercise for longer.

17. Explore meditation

There are many methods of meditation to explore. They can involve movement, focus, spirituality, or a combination of all three.

Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as sitting quietly with your own thoughts for 5 minutes. Even the deep breathing exercises mentioned earlier can serve as a form of meditation.

18. Consider therapy

We are happier when we learn how to deal with obstacles. Think about what got you through the past when you face a problem. Would it work here? What else can you try?

If you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall, consider speaking with a mental health professional like a therapist on a weekly basis. You don’t need to have a diagnosed mental health condition or overwhelming crisis to seek therapy.

People can improve their cope skills with the help of mental health professionals. There is no obligation to continue once you start.

A few sessions can help you add new things to your emotional toolbox.

19. Find a self-care ritual

It’s easy to neglect self-care in a fast-paced world. But trying to find time to nurture yourself as much as you can is important in supporting your body’s responsibilities of carrying your thoughts, passions, and spirit through this world.

Maybe it is relaxing with a hot bath. It could be that you are adopting a skin care routine that makes you feel guilty. Or it could be that you set aside a night to watch a movie and put on your best clothes.

Make time for it. If you must, put it in your planners, but try to make it a priority.

You might want to try these monthly habits to improve your happiness.

20. Give back

If you find that giving daily compliments provides a needed boost to your mood, consider making a monthly routine of giving back on a larger scale.

“Maybe that is helping out at a food bank on the third weekend of every month or offering to watch your friend’s kids one night per month.”

21. Take yourself out

“No one to go out with? What rule says you can’t go out alone?”

You have always dreamed of going on a trip, so consider going to your favorite restaurant, taking in a movie, or going on a trip.

Even if you’re a social butterfly, spending some deliberate time alone can help you reconnect with the activities that truly make you happy.

22. Create a thought list

You arrive for the appointment in time. What do you do with the time? Pick up your phone and use it to check out the social media sites. Do you worry about the busy week ahead?

Trying to take control of your thoughts during these brief windows of time can offer benefits.

At the beginning of each month, make a short list of things you are looking forward to and write them down on a piece of paper or on your phone.

Break out the list when you are waiting for a ride, standing in line at the grocery store, or just with a few minutes to kill. You can use it when you need to change your thoughts.

Try to follow a habit for a year or more.

23. Take time to reflect

While the start of a new year is a good time to stop and take inventory of your life, you can set up yearly habits at any point in the year. Try setting aside some time to catch up with yourself the way you would with an old friend:

  • How are you?
  • What have you been up to?
  • Are you more happy than a year ago?

Try to be kind to yourself. You have made it to another year, and that is a reason to celebrate.

If you find that your mood hasn’t improved much over the last year, consider talking with a doctor or mental health professional. You might be dealing with depression or even an underlying physical condition that’s affecting your mood.

24. Reevaluate your goals

If you want to go, consider if that is still where you want to go. Changing your plans is not a shame.

Let go of any goals that no longer serve you, even if they sound nice on paper.

25. Take care of your body

You have heard this before, including in this article. Your mental and physical health are interdependent.

It is important to make regular appointments to take care of your body as you build your happiness habits.

  • seeing a primary care physician for an annual physical
  • Discuss and address any chronic health conditions with a healthcare professional and see recommended specialists.
  • seeing a dentist for an oral cleaning and dental exam, and follow up as recommended
  • getting your vision checked

26. Let go of grudges

This can be difficult to say. It is possible that remembering that you are not doing it for someone else or for anyone else may help you be more open to begin the process.

Sometimes, offering forgiveness or dropping a grudge is more about self-care than compassion for others.

Take a good look at your relationships. Are you resentful towards someone? If so, try to bury the hatchet by reaching out.

“This doesn’t have to be a reconciliation. You may need to end the relationship.”

“If you can’t reach out, try writing a letter. You don’t have to send it to them. It is possible to get your feelings out of your mind. You can shred the letter after that.”

27. Plan a trip

It is easy to forget to schedule time off when you are constantly on a schedule. You can get more benefits by planning a trip, even if it is close to home.

What’s more, research also backs both the mental and physical benefits of taking that much-needed vacation. In one such study, researchers looked at stress and heart rate as it relates to taking a vacation. They found that not only did the vacation itself reduce stress, but the weeks leading up to that planned trip had similar effects.