essay

8 Habits for Happiness

Illustration by Aileen Torres-Bennett

March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, inaugurated in 2012 by the United Nations to recognize the importance of happiness in everyone’s life.

Happiness may be a universal feeling, but its construct is personal.

It’s an apt time to ask: What makes you happy?

I’ve discovered some fundamentals for my own happiness, and I’d like to share them. If you’d like to experiment, you can try to form at least one of these eight habits and see if it helps you feel more settled internally, which, for me, is a state of happiness.

Exercise
Moving my body regularly is essential to my happiness. Movement brings me joy. I work out five days a week, and I aim for about 30 min. of cardio, followed by 10 min. of strength training, per session. This varies depending on energy level and time. It’s important to work your heart to build endurance, and it’s important to build/maintain muscle so you can function well physically in your daily life. And the mental benefits of regular exercise (increased focus and better memory retention) are an all around boon.

Sleep
I need at least eight hours of sleep a night to feel good and function well during the day. Ideally, I get 8-10 hours a night. Like regular exercise, it boosts my mental health.

Nutrition
Junk food is a rarity in my diet. I’ll eat it on occasion, but I don’t crave it. I love to eat, and I don’t count calories, but I do make it a point to eat a lot of veggies and/or other foods full of fiber every day. You’ve got to keep the plumbing in good order if you want to stay healthy.

Priorities
What are your priorities in life? I suggest taking time to figure this out, including an examination of your relationships. Who and what are most important to you? If you have a clear idea, you’ll be able to live the life you want because you’re actions will have intention and focus.

Inspiration
I’m an intellectually curious person. Learning fuels my spirit, and I love deepening my knowledge of stuff I’m passionate about and acquiring new knowledge of stuff I’m curious about. I get inspired in many ways–by books, movies, music, travel, being in my garden, etc. The world is big. There’s something to explore every day.

Reflection
There is a saying that happiness is living in the present moment. I think happiness is also arriving at understanding. By taking time to reflect, I deepen my understanding of myself and life in general, and this adds to my bank of internal stability.

Gratitude
I have been practicing gratitude for a few years, and I find that it helps me feel better. When something isn’t going your way, try to think of what you’re grateful for in that situation. It can put things in perspective.

Humor
Life is dull without a good sense of humor. If you can find the funny in a situation, you’ll do wonders for your state of mind. If you can laugh at yourself, even better. It puts you in a good place.