10 Things Happy People Do to Stay Happy

Happy Hands

“Here's a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don't worry, be happy.” ~Bobby McFerrin 

I was one of those people that when asked what they want in life, would say, “I just want to be happy…”

In my past, I suffered from debilitating depression. There was a period when getting the dry-cleaning and buying toilet paper was difficult enough.

So, I made it my mission to study what happy people do to stay happy, then I started doing what they were doing. And my happiness increased until I became one of those people I used to be envious of.

Here’s a list I use now on a daily basis as a reminder to increase my happiness:

1. Give yourself permission.

Permission to be who you are; permission to laugh big, to cry when you need to, to fail brilliantly, to make stuff; permission to fall apart, breakdown, and get back up again; permission to be different and unique; permission to go too far and reach your dreams.

2. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Hold yourself with a “light hand.” Laugh at your foibles with amusement.

When things get tough or stress arises, lift your shoulders with an “oh well…” Know that it’s never as big or life devastating as your mind thinks.

Happy people trust that whatever glitch happens will work itself out.

They give a “Ha! Ha!” and a “So what? Who cares? Big Deal! Why not?” when met with resistances.

3. Don’t self-ruminate.

I remember a friend of mine from Mississippi saying, “Lynn, when are you gonna' stop starin’ at your own belly button…?” (Insert: Southern drawl.)

I learned happy people don’t fixate on themselves and their problems. They don’t over-analyze the issue du jour.

When they start to get stuck on a problem or in their head, they put their attention on something else.

I remind myself to not have to have it all figured out: Get outside. Go back to your work. Plan something fun.

4. Don’t compare.

Comparison has been compared to a little death. When we compare ourselves to others, we harm ourselves.

Happy people know that they’re no better or less than another person. Someone will always be at a “more evolved place” and someone will always be “less-evolved.”

Note to self: Be concerned with only how to do your best and that’s all.

5. Make adjustments.

When something isn’t going your way, when your mood dips, or when you feel “off,” stay curious and self-aware. Fine-tune the energy in your body by making adjustments.

If you eat something that makes you feel poor, why eat it? Pay attention if that glass of wine the night before makes you feel crappy in the morning or that slice of pizza made you bloated or that ice cream caused you to crash, losing your focus and energy.

When you’re feeling stuck or heavy, take a walk, do something different than your normal routine, meet up with a friend.

If feeling anxious or stressed, tune-up with extra sleep, meditation/yoga or a hot bath…

6. Be of service and know how to take care of yourself.

Happy people want to give back. They have plenty to share. They volunteer, take time out to help a friend, offer to connect people to others for their betterment, and aren’t in need of getting anything back.

Commit to service but also stay aware of how to take care of yourself. When your energy gets depleted, remember to not give away to the point that you lose focus on your own emotional/mental/physical/spiritual health.

Have loving boundaries to care for yourself so that you have more to give.

7. Choose uplifting friendships.

When we have friendships and conversations that are uplifting, supportive, and loving, with people interested in our betterment, we are on a faster track to our own enlightenment.

If you hang out with someone and don’t feel great afterward, see less of that person and seek out other friendships.

Know which friends increase your happiness and nurture those relationships.

8. Be less interested in being happy and more interested in your peace of mind.

I used to think happiness was about being totally ecstatic. In order to balance out my feelings of hopelessness and depression, it seemed natural that my goal would be to be maximally blissed.

But with all the highs there’s a low—we eventually come down from it.

Remember not to get attached to the highs and focus more on experiencing peaceful aliveness.

When your life is at peace, there’s a relaxed balance; and the chances of sustained happiness and contentment increases.

9. Use your senses.

As they say, the ordinary is extraordinary.

Happy people receive pleasure from enjoying the simple joys in life, and usually they’re connected to our senses. This subtle awareness creates significant moments of happiness.

I discovered the pleasures I receive in the:

  • Warmth of a teacup in my hands on a cold winter day
  • Taste of a square of dark chocolate melting on my tongue
  • Dance music in my cycle class that wakes me up
  • Smile of a stranger on the street
  • Aroma of my favorite essential oil and when people say, “You smell so good!”

Continue to mark pleasant sense experiences in your mind and carry them throughout your day to increase your spirits.

10. Don’t make your intimate relationships the end-all-be-all.

I used to think the person I was in a relationship with was there to give me my happiness rather than increase it.

Happy people understand that those they are in relationship with are an “addition to,” not a completion of them. They live full lives so that at the end of the day they have so much more to share.

A loving reminder: Don’t rely on your partners to shift your moods, heal you, or fill your empty spaces. And remember it’s not your responsibility to do that for your partner either.

Support is an important part of relationship. We’re there on the bad days with compassion and a loving embrace. We’re there on the good days to cheer.

But mostly, we rely on ourselves to give that to ourselves. We trust that our partners can wrestle with their own demons. We offer space for them to discover his or her happiness, while we focus on creating our own.

What might you put your focus on to continue to increase your own happiness?

Happy hands image via Shutterstock

About Lynn Newman

Lynn Newman has a Masters in Counseling Psychology, is a writer, painter, and game creator (like The Game of You & The Game of Insight – An Interactive Way To Know Yourself, Create The Life You Want). She’s big into unleashing the truest, free-est parts of you, to experience more joy, purpose, and passion in life. Visit her at

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  • Peace Within

    Thank you for the great article. One of the biggest things that helped me was when I befriended myself. I learned how to be kinder to myself. It really changed my life.

  • How cool! Thank you for sharing. That’s awesome.

  • LOVED this article Lynn! Just what I needed to hear today. Everything you point out is so vital to feeling more fulfilled. Thanks for the wise reminders!

  • Thank you Adele. Appreciate your share:)

  • Angela Marie Rogers

    I have changed so much recently and really like the advice on friendship…In the past I have tried to fix people as I didn’t want them to feel sad….my intentions were good but I neglected my own happiness…I now realise I am allowed to feel happy and have nice things…I will always be there for people but not to my own detriment any more…takes a bit of doing as struggle with not wanting to upset people…I have realised that this is a flaw on my part…Thanks for the great advice..I will endeavour to put these gems in to practice…Angie 🙂

  • Angie – This is terrific! I too have struggled with this and get it… our intentions ARE good xoxo

  • I think the hardest part for me to be happy was to finally understand that it is ok to be me. That I don’t need to be more, I am good the way I way. And most of all – let it be! Thank you for great article!

  • YES! Thank you for sharing Lolita:)

  • #10 = spot on! And probably one of the most common reasons for (unintentionally) perpetuating unhappiness.

  • Right Linda? I totally agree:) xoxo

  • Lotus Happiness

    Yes, happiness is indeed inner peace. Peace, serenity and equanimity are true happiness that are not reliant on any external conditions. 🙂

  • YAY! Love THIS:) xoxo

  • PithHelmut

    That is a very helpful article. Boy, I’ve been through it too. It was painful. From depressed to whooppee everyday. I think that we can feel high every day though because we have so much around us to feel high about. But our society is so deeply wounded that it’s no wonder we suffer from depression. We’re like human angels but we can see that everyone is expendable in our society and each one is alone. Loneliness is part of our culture, each one in their separate neatly-landscaped residence. Humans have become too “neat” that we’ve lost our wild joy and exuberance. From birth, we’re injected with toxic chemicals and ideas that are all messaging that someone outside of yourself is more important than you. But that’s not true, we each are the center of our own universe! I absolutely love that picture of the brightly-painted hands!

  • I’m sorry for the difficulty you went thru… xoxo

  • What a great article – some of these I’d already identified in myself but others not so much, so thanks! My husband is a very happy person, and I can see a lot of these principles in how he lives his life. I, on the other hand am prone to ruminating, comparing myself to others and not giving myself permission – but I’m working on it!

  • Awesome Rebecca! So many of us are:) Thanks for sharing. xoxo

  • Lauren Marie

    I loved this article! I’m on the path to peace in my life after mental health issues and I have 1, 2, 7 and 8 down, thanks for sharing the others. I will definitely be coming back to this article.

  • Wow Lauren! I envy you:) Keep up the good work!!

  • Aakanksha Kalla

    This is a really nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  • Athena Frenier

    That is amazing, sincerely that is how I try to live, however I know I am just scratching the surface

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  • Sonika

    Love the article…So much of positive energy in your writing. Specially the last one has transformed me. Thanks:)

  • yay!! xoxo

  • happiness is a practice:) xoxo

  • You are welcome:) thank YOU!


    Just let go. Very easy and free.

  • Pri

    I made a point about a year ago to put these steps into practice, although I’m still just scratching the surface, I can definitely see a difference! Less stress and definitely much happier! Great article, will definitely be sharing this 🙂

  • kathee

    I remember lying in my room when I was in high school and writing in a journal to my future husband. I’d write all sorts of notes and questions and things I’d wonder or ask this man when I eventually met him. I would wonder where he was and what he was doing and if he was thinking about me too. It has always been such a strong desire in my heart to find a wonderful man to marry, someone who would love me and cherish me and appreciate me for the person I am. I always thought I would get married right out of college, just like my parents, so when that plan didn’t work out, I started to get discouraged. A school mate snatched my future husbdand away from my arms just because she had spiritual powers, all hope was lost to me before i came across the help doctor (
    ) who i confided in, i told him my long story and he helped me regain back my lover with his prayers which is now my husband today. if you have any problem email the help doctor (

  • rumicat

    Agreed with much if this, except the part about not relying on you

  • Michael Fortin

    Number 2 has saved my life on numerous occasions and every day I try to stay mindful of that truth. Stop taking myself so seriously, go outside at night and just look up. I swear that works every time for me, sometimes I get stuck inside my own head bogged down by the details of life forgetting the bigger picture. That is when I look up and see how small my problems really are on the global scale and how out of proportion my and most others egos are. You putting this out there is excellent and a great way to spread awareness. Keep at it!
    Mental Vault

  • Awesome Pri! Thank you:)

  • Michael, I appreciate this. And for the reminder to “look up”. It certainly puts things in perspective… Thank you!

  • mo

    Nice article, But what do you think it’s the simple way to forget person!! Cause I’m suffering from being away from that person and is not care at all !!!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    Thank you Lynn, for sharing this awesome article. There’s nothing wrong with being happy. Your happiness tells the whole world what you’re thankful for, and no matter how much drama is dished out, you can find a way to go through those obstacles.

    Life’s too short to be unhappy.

  • You are welcome:) And thank you for sharing LaTrice!! xoxo

  • Thank you for the great article. I think having a circle of uplifting friends is one of the best way to be a happy person.

  • ifiwasabird

    I must say that I am so glad to have found this. I have been struggling living with my boyfriend, thinking that we were responsible for the others emotions. I am usually on his case or consistently asking if he is ‘OK’ or needed anything. In all reality, it is not my duty to make him feel anything other than what he feels with me naturally. The answers lie within him. I can only hope that if he needed me, that he would come to me.

  • Thank you for this! It’s so true. And something I work on all the time. The truth is we are loveable regardless of what we receive without. xo Lynn

  • I agree! Connection is the key! Thank you for sharing. xo Lynn

  • Mayra Calix Lopez

    For me,this is easier said than done. I’m surrounded by the most horrible CO workers. I have no friends in the job and my contstant surrounding make it hard to be happy. I’m working at this plant till I finish my studies but I’m like a mirror and their bad attitudes have been running off on me lately.