How to Live a Happier, More Meaningful Life

professional living a happy life

Have you been feeling down in the dumps, unmotivated, or just like you might need a change?  Perhaps your life feels stagnant, or uninspired. Or maybe you just want to feel as though your life has more purpose. Living a life that is more meaningful is one of the most widely held goals. Indeed, it is something by which we motivate and measure ourselves.

While there is no easy answer, research indicates that there are several factors that affect our ability to find satisfaction and meaning in life. Essentially, there are a number of things you can do to fill your life with more meaning and act in a more purposeful way. 

 Give Up Your Bad Habits

Throughout our lives, we all develop bad habits, which typically form as a way of coping with the “tough stuff” that comes our way.  Bad habits (such as smoking, drinking, gambling, biting your nails, trolling, sexual promiscuity, etc.) can help us deal with the stress or boredom that is inherent to everyday life.  These habits tend to create a sense of false reality, which sounds nice, but is problematic, as it only provides a brief reprieve from whatever we are seeking refuge from.

Also troublesome is that bad habits are particularly hard to break, especially if they are alleviating you from your struggles.  Yet hard does not mean impossible, as there are things you can do to work towards breaking bad habits, like:

  • Make the decision
  • Face your reality: recognize that life is sometimes unsatisfying, boring, etc. Rather than trying to cover up those things up with bad habits, start to understand
  • Replace with healthy coping: begin to integrate things into your life that may alleviate some of that dissatisfaction.

Be More Present

This means stop focusing on the past and the things you may regret.  I’m sure you have heard someone say, “live without regret” but to be honest, that just isn’t realistic.  Most of us have regrets.  But that doesn’t mean those regrets need to stagnate us.  Instead of letting your regrets take a toll on you (physically and emotionally) use them as a learning opportunity to make the present a more positive experience.  Also important here is realizing there are many things out of your control, especially things that occurred in the past.  So, in essence, the past isn’t irrelevant, in that you can learn from it.  But if not approached in a healthy way, the past can hold you back from living in the present.  And don’t forget to forgive yourself for things you regret.

Stop complaining

There are so many things in this lifetime that are out of your control, and if you cannot control them, that means you cannot change them.  So, what is the point of complaining about them?  Life is inherently stressful, and complaining just keeps you stuck in a rut, reviewing all the reasons you have to be unhappy.  Sure, venting is normal, and sometimes even healthy.  But complaining can become overwhelming and impact you not only mentally, but physically as well believe it or not.  Complaining keeps you stuck in a negative space, and negativity ages you quicker, causes more physical discomfort, and increases your chances of becoming depressed.

Practice a few of these tips to see if your complaining decreases:

  • Vent, a little at a time
  • Participate in mindfulness practices
  • Do a daily gratitude list
  • Accept responsibility for your part in things
  • Find one good thing in everything you want to complain about

Stop comparing

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  But unfortunately, everyone still tends to compare.  Whether it is your house, your car, your body, your spouse, there always seems to be something someone has that you deem as “better.”  Does this ring true for you?  If so, comparing is probably impacting you more than you know.  If you want to try to decrease how often you are comparing, try some of these things:

  • Become aware of personal successes
  • Do a daily gratitude list
  • Remind yourself that no one is perfect, and everyone is unique

Smile more

It may seem like a natural reaction to something nice or funny, but smiling is so much more. Research shows that smiling – forced or not – can lower your stress and anxiety levels, strengthens your immune system and improves your overall well-being. It will also even have a positive effect on everyone around you and make you more attractive and approachable. Endorphins which are chemicals in your brain that increase happiness and positivity, increase when you smile.  Endorphins are the same chemicals you get from working out or running. Smile more to get that natural high without running. Smiling is also an attractive expression that tends to draw people in, which can improve your social life.

Get out more

Getting out more will help you feel more socially connected and allow you the opportunity to have more support when times get tough.

Stop Putting Others Down

Everyone does it at one point or another and it usually has nothing to really do with that person.  Often we put others down as a way to build ourselves up. As Israel Salanter once said, “Promote yourself but do not demote another.” Unfortunately, for many it has become instinct to do the exact opposite especially in the age of social media when it is so easy to say whatever you like hiding behind an alias.  While putting others down might make you feel better momentarily, the feeling is fleeting and somewhat empty. But even if this has been your pattern, there is possibility for change.  Humans are incredibly trainable, and the more you can “train” yourself to stop putting others down, the better you will feel.

Stop Judging Others

This is hard, as everyone has the propensity to judge others in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.  But this tendency to judge people is actually hurting us.  A helpful hint when trying to decrease judgment is to remember that whether or not you agree with a person’s opinions, actions, lifestyle or motives, there is a good chance that person is doing the best they can at the moment.  As an outsider, you never have the whole story, and thus, do not know what is truly going on in his or her life. Have some compassion.  Life can be tough at times, and you never know when someone else is struggling.

Make Eye Contact

The more eye contact you can make, the warmer and approaching you will appear to others.  Increased eye contact also gives off an aura of confidence and competence.  This tends to make people more certain of your abilities, which is important when doing things like applying for a job, chatting up a woman or trying out for a team.

Improve your posture

Relax your muscles and stand as tall as you can. Hold your head up and shoulders back, just like your mother used to tell you.  Studies have shown the connection behind better posture and increased happiness.  Plus, having improved posture shows the outside world you are confident and capable (even if inside you may doubt yourself a little)!