51 Ways to Feel Happy in 5 Minutes

Happy meditating guy

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~Buddha

For the longest time I lived in the future.

I had a grand list of all the big things I wanted to do…

Build a multinational company, become a philanthropist, go on long vacations all over the world with my wife, have a big house with a lovely garden…the list goes on!

It’s great to be ambitious, I still believe that.

However, the more I made plans and worked toward my ambitions, the more I reinforced a concept within my mind—that the present is not okay. 

“Who I am, where I am living, what I look like, how much money I have—none of it is enough for me to be happy now.”

I had made my happiness conditional on my success, on the “big” things in life.

One morning, after finishing my Tai Chi session in the park, I noticed a lovely bed of flowers. I had been going to that the park for months but had never noticed those flowers before.

Being the goal-oriented person I am, I was focused on perfecting my Tai Chi moves. So focused, that I had forgotten that one of the key purposes of Tai Chi is to be more in the present, to be satisfied with life.

That’s when I realized that my ambitions were blinding me to all that I already have in life.

I asked myself: Can I be happy with what I already have now, be happy with the little things in life?

I began to consciously make an effort to realize how beautiful my life is, to be aware of the little things that make the present moment special. We all experience such moments every day. We just don’t notice them. We let them pass by like strangers on an elevator exchanging polite smiles.

Rather than just smile, I started to give those fleeting moments a hug. I really began to live them.

I became happier, my energy levels rose, and I became more productive. I stopped worrying about my business—my grand plans for the future!

My mind still has a habit of flitting between the past and the future, but sometimes it takes only five minutes to bring it back into the present moment, to just feel happy.

If you are wondering how to do that, try one of these tiny ways:

Enjoy Nature in the City

I used to feel like heading out into the lap of Mother Nature every other weekend. Then I asked myself, how could I enjoy nature right in the city?

1. Watch the leaves fall on a windy day.

2. Wake up early and listen to the silence.

3. Look at the clouds and try to find shapes and maybe even faces.

4. Listen to the birds chirping.

5. Check out some breathtaking photos on National Geographic.

6. Watch a butterfly flutter away.

7. Listen to the thunder on a rainy day.

8. Sit on a park bench and enjoy the greenery.

9. Walk barefoot on grass.

Be Grateful for What You Already Have

There’s so much in life that we take for granted that many can only dream of. Let’s remember how fortunate we are when we experience these ordinary moments.

10. Enjoy drinking a glass of water. Eight hundred million people in the world do not have access to clean water.

11. Be grateful for the food on your plate. Over eight hundred million people do not get enough to eat.

12. Be grateful for the people in your life.

13. Just be grateful that you are alive.

14. Think of ten other things you are grateful for.

Bring Out the Child in You

How difficult is it to regain that carefree nature of childhood when you are older? Go ahead, do something silly and have a good laugh!

15. Read an Archie comic book.

16. Blow soap bubbles.

17. Catch snowflakes with your tongue.

18. Take a walk in the rain.

19. Lick a fast melting ice-cream.

20. Practice your Kung Fu moves or air guitar in front of the mirror!

Enjoy a Hobby

Do you have time for hobbies? I used to feel that I didn’t, until I figured that a hobby does not require half an hour a day. Five minutes is enough.

21. Play a song on your guitar (or any instrument).

22. Listen to a song you love. (Keep a playlist in your phone).

23. Better still, sing aloud.

24. Learn a new dance move from YouTube.

25. Capture an urban scene with your camera phone.

26. Read your favorite part from that novel you really love.

27. Read a new book for just five minutes before you go to bed.

Take Care of Yourself

You might be giving time to your work, your ambitions, and your family. Are you taking good care of yourself?

28. Exercise for just five minutes—skip rope, jog, do five pushups and squats. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you happier.

29. Relish a delicious serving of fruits.

30. Pen down your thoughts in a journal.

31. Tidy up a corner of your house.

32. Mediate for five minutes.

Love Yourself

Before I felt that I had enough in life, I had to love myself enough.

33. Think of five things that you love about who you are as a person.

34. Every night before going to bed, think of at least one thing you achieved on that day, however small or insignificant it might seem.

35. Give yourself a hug. (It works.)

Do Something for Someone Else

Giving creates a feeling of abundance like few other things do.

36. Feed a stray dog or cat.

37. Help a neighbor with an errand.

38. Help out a coworker with your expertise.

39. Send flowers and a card to that relative you haven’t spoken to in years.

Connect with People

Work was an excuse for me to not find time for my loved ones. Does it really take much to cherish these relationships?

40. Call a friend and say hello. (Don’t text!)

41. Cuddle with your partner in the morning.

42. Call your parents.

43. Remember a happy moment with your loved ones.

44. Forgive someone for a small offense. (This makes it easier to forgive people for the big offenses.)

45. Apologize to someone.

46. Look at old pictures that bring back memories.

Indulge Your Senses

No, you don’t need to go to a spa!

47. Slowly sip a good cappuccino.

48. Listen to the sound of an ocean track (on the internet).

49. Sit in the sun (on your terrace or backyard).

50. Light aroma candles or incense sticks, like lavender or lemongrass.

51. Feel the wind in your hair as you drive.

None of these things are grand or profound, and that’s the whole point. I now believe that life becomes happier and so much more special if we start to enjoy the little things.

There are, of course, times when I still worry about the future. That’s when I just go ahead and do something on this list. It usually doesn’t take me long to realize just how lucky I am, and I stop worrying.

What other tiny ways can you think of to feel happy in just five minutes? What will you try out today?

Smiling woman image via Shutterstock

About Peter Banerjea

Peter is co-founder of SuccessIsWhat, a coaching firm that helps people achieve their goals faster by building life changing habits and conquering time. Get his latest free e-book “Productivity Secrets of 7 Billionaires that YOU can put into Action Right Now” here.

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  • Jayati Ghose

    Hey Peter, loved the post. I am usually a ‘living in the future’ kind of a person and sometimes I worry myself sick wondering if I would be able to make it big in the future. This really annoys me and prevents me from enjoying what little success I have earned now. Thank you for reminding me about blowing soap bubbles. I used to love doing that as a kid! I will try it again and be happy for now. What say?

  • Thanks! Most of us are ‘living in the future’ I suppose. What’s surprising is that it isn’t too difficult to make it a habit of living more in the present. There are 51 ways after all!

  • Hi Peter
    I really loved this post and you gave some great suggestions. I think that we are put on this earth to create all the things that would bring us joy in life, so I think we are always going to be wanting something…this does not mean, however, we are fated to never feel satisfied. It can be tricky to manage that innate desire to do, be and have all we are capable of, and feeling happy with how things are now. I agree with you about gratitude and appreciation being a core element of navigating this space. Another thing that helps me is learning to cultivate a sense of detachment around my desires…not only will that help them flow into my experience more easily, it reduces that tendency to feel like we can’t be happy or feel better until something we don’t currently have comes into our orbit.

    Great post!

  • Thanks for your insightful thoughts Kelli,
    I really like what you say about detachment. Many religions advocate detachment as a means to ultimate realization. However, I believe that on a very practical level, detachment actually helps us enjoy life a lot more as well as be more productive.
    Yes, we will always have wants. The trick is to make sure that our brains understand the balance between ambition and contentment.

  • Hi Peter,
    I love all of these (almost: waking up late makes me happier than waking up early 🙂 ) and I relate particularly to Be Grateful for What You Already Have. I worked for some time in South America, and we had water only 3 times a day, plus it wasn’t that warm. When I came back home, I spent lots of time in the bathroom marveling at having hot water ALL day long. And I am really grateful for everything I have, food, home, etc. on a daily basis. I also teach my kids to be grateful for what they have; it makes us so much happier.
    Thanks for this great post!

  • Hi Anne, that must have been a really life changing experience! It’s sounds really strange when someone says that they are grateful for plumbing or 24 hour water availability, but that fact is that these are luxuries for a significant percentage of the global population. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  • Hey Peter,

    great post! Really enjoyed it. I need to do a lot of these things a lot more often 🙂


  • Zarayna Pradyer

    Hello Peter,
    What a wonderful, comprehensive list from your treasury of precious things! It lifted my spirits. Thank you!
    Made me smile, particularly the very beginning of your journey – we eventually learn not to be too earnest, don’t we?.
    I look forward to more of your posts, Peter. Meanwhile, kindest regards.

  • Marge

    Thank you so much Peter i’m definitely going to glance at these daily and do several of them. Even reading them made me feel a whole lot better 🙂

  • Laurinda

    Hi Peter,

    How funny to read your post ” I had made my happiness conditional on my success, on the “big” things in life..” rings home to me. I do feel grateful for what I have, but at the same time frustrated for what I don’t have and wish I did have and deserve. The latter leaves me feeling unachieved and a failure, which in turn leads me to feeling anxious, irritated and angry with myself and towards those who I feel wronged me. Still I can see, I have a good standard of life compared to many others . Today, I have taken the time to try and understand why I feel so anxious and angry- hence your post rings home.

  • Ellie

    Bless you for sharing this wonderful philosophy! I try to remember these things, but your list has reinforced these thoughts. I’m going to print it out and keep it with me.

    I’m moving from a beautiful small town to the city of Chicago next month and have been concerned that I won’t be able to connect with nature. But now I’ll look forward to appreciating and respecting the beauty to be found in parks, giving attention to the trees, birds and clouds.

    And I realized that despite living in one if the most breathtaking places in the world, I do not always appreciate its beauty because I don’t take the time to be present to it.

    Thank you for helping me change my perspective!!!

  • Ellie

    I love what you said… “I think we are put on this earth to create all the things we enjoy in life.”!!

  • Steve


  • Thanks Robert! Great to see you here. I would love to hear about your experience about trying these out.

  • I am really happy to hear that Marge!
    I love your idea about glancing at these everyday.
    A few of my clients make their own lists and stick them on their workstations / refrigerators. That acts as a visible reminder to get a quick ‘happiness break!’

  • Hi Ellie, that’s so true. I can really relate to that. Chicago might not be in the lap of nature, but it has it’s own treats (and I am not talking about pizza! 🙂
    I am sure that if you look for nature in the city, you will find it.
    Wishing you a fantastic time exploring your new home.

  • Hello Zarayna,
    Thanks for your kind words and your continual support! Always great to interact with you.

  • Hi Laurinda, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
    Yes, it’s funny how we keep asking for more. Being ambitious is important, but I believe that it’s more important to enjoy the journey rather than the end goal. This is more practical than philosophical unless, as you say, we want to feel anxious, resentful and so on.
    Looking back, I can see how much more I could have done, if I had just enjoyed the journey.
    Wishing you a great time in your journey ahead.

  • Ellie

    Haha! Thank you! I’ll will try and find present for all of Chicago’s treats!

  • Dipjyoti

    Thanks Peter for these simple yet life changing steps. It helps a lot to feel grateful for what we have than for those which we don’t.

  • Thanks Dipjyoti, which ones will you try out today?

  • mags

    love this post great tips,

  • Hi Peter. You have presented the important things in a simple but effective manner. These things are so basic that we forget to embrace them in our life. We take them so lightly that we don’t realize their real weight in totality. Thanks for spreading a wonderful message…

  • Hi Yatin, thanks for commenting!
    You are so right… these things are so basic that we don’t even notice them. Life would be far more exciting if we can make it a habit to notice these things everyday.

  • Thanks! Glad you liked it.


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