A happy elder couple laughing on a bench

Happiness. You hear the word all the time. Especially in today’s modern world where there is more and more focus on people’s health and wellbeing. Because ultimately, it’s what everyone is striving for, right? But what does it mean to live a happy life? From studies exploring how those live happily to social media imploring you to live your happiest life, is there a one size fits all formula? Or does happy living mean different things to different people?

Living a happier life can mean a multitude of things and what it takes to make a person happy can also change over time. As psychologist, Laura Cartensen looks to prove that people become happier as they age – even with ever-growing life-expectancies.

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And whilst for many people, the pursuit of happiness is a lifelong focus, lifelong happiness is born out of conscious thinking and there are certain lifestyle changes you need to make to get there. There are also lots of things you can immediately put into practice to live your happiest life. Here are 5 ways of doing so…

Start thinking positively

In order to find true, long-term happiness, one of the things you can start focusing on right away is the act of positive thinking. Of course, there will be days and events that automatically stir up negative thoughts and it’s good to express them, but on the whole, thinking positively is one of the most powerful things you can do to get happy quickly. Take it from Abraham Lincoln, who famously said: “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

But how can you practice such positivity? Try the following:

  1. Clear your mind and dedicate 5 minutes to finding the positives in your life. This can range from doing well in a work project to facing a fear, no matter how big or small. Try to put aside this time three times a day each day and eventually, your brain will start to follow suit.
  2. Pick a positive quote or thought for the day and repeat it over and over to yourself – either out loud or in your head. From “I believe I can” to “I have the power to control my thoughts”, check out this handy list here.

And there’s even more reason to stamp out those negative thoughts and focus on a more positive mindset. Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain explains that “Happiness isn’t just a personal experience, it is actually affected by the individuals around you,” So in the same way that others negative emotions may be affecting you, the same can be true of your own state of mind. The power of positivity indeed.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is another buzzword that seems to be cropping up at every turn these days. But there’s a reason. Some studies have shown that learning to be more mindful can have a dramatic impact on your state of mind and overall happiness. How so? It works by bringing your awareness and attention to the forefront, leaving all other thoughts behind and being present in the moment.

Defined as “openly experiencing what is there,” it’s about having an awareness of what’s around us – what we can see, hear, touch and taste. And the good news is that it’s easy to start practising mindfulness whenever you get the chance. Whether you clear a space inside or head outside to be at one with nature, all you need is yourself.

Get a little creative

Whilst it’s often true that artists and creative types work in isolation and can come across as more than a little moody, actually, the opposite can be true when injecting a little creativity into your daily life. According to a recent study, “engaging in creative activities contributes to an “upward spiral” of positive emotions, psychological well-being and feelings of “flourishing” in life.”

And if you’re not a performer or you struggle to get creative by putting pen to paper, it’s no problem. Experts state that anyone can be creative. “It really has to do with open-mindedness,” says Dr. Carrie Barron, co-author of “The Creativity Cure,” who says creativity applies to everything from making a meal to generating a business plan. It’s all about coming up with new ideas and solutions to problems as a way of achieving life satisfaction.

Find ways to give back

The Greek philosopher Aristotle once said that “the essence of life is to serve others and do good.” And looking at ways in which you can give back is a great way to start living a happier life whilst also feeling like you’ve achieved something tangible. Whether this means volunteering for a local charity or helping out a friend or family member, there are lots of ways in which to offer your time and generosity to others in need.

Need more proof? The 2016 World Happiness Report also showed just how important social support and generosity are in terms of overall wellbeing. So get giving.

Get out there and meet people

From meet-up groups to travel clubs and singles events, there’s no better way to feel happier than by getting out there and getting a little social. In fact, a study conducted by universities in the US, indicates that the relationship we have with our friends can affect our health and overall happiness.

Try searching through local newspapers and circulars to find clubs and organisations with like-minded interests or head online to find local groups to meet new people. From arts and crafts to trips away, there will be something for everyone. It’s also important to surround yourself with happy, positive people, and try to avoid the ones who are prone to negativity and could bring you down.