Happiness is misunderstood. It’s an intrinsic and consistent state of well-being. It’s not a fleeting sensation⎼that’s joy. Joy is a temporary pleasure from external forces. Buying clothing brings you joy. Taking a vacation brings you joy. But once the activity ends, the joy drops alongside it.
And as you seek joy more frequently, more activity is required to reach a baseline level of joy. Happiness is internal and consistent. If you wake up, do absolutely nothing and find that nothing negative happens, this is happiness. Happiness is difficult to acquire because it requires immense levels of effort. However, this same degree of effort is also what makes it so valuable. In this article, I want to share with you several methods I’ve used to become a happier person. Once upon a time, I wasn’t very happy. In fact, I hated myself. While in college, I constantly battled with depression and feelings of inadequacy. However, using the strategies I share below, I managed to overcome my depression and currently live a very happy and fulfilled life. Again, I must reiterate, there is no quick fix or easy-to-consume pill that would make you happy. Anything that you can buy that directly creates a euphoric sensation is simply giving you joy and pleasure. But joy is not happiness. And too much joy too consistently will actually rob you of joy. Please keep this in mind as you read this article. Take time to do each of these and I guarantee you’ll feel great about yourself over time. If you utilize these strategies, you’ll find yourself being a much happier person.
Exercise for at least 20 minutes
Exercise is a drug. It’s just a bit hard to digest. Back when I had depression, I found myself watching Dwayne Johnson's interviews. He explained how he also went through depression after being cut from the Football team in Canada. He later described how he rebuilt himself. During the interviews I watched, he credited weightlifting as a major catalyst for his transformation. I figured if it could work for him then it could work for me. And it did. Later on, I realized many of the reasons why exercise made such a massive impact on me. For one, it makes you unique. I think humans have an innate desire to feel special and unique. We want to feel as though our lives have value and meaning. Deep down, we want to stand out from the crowd and be revered. If you exercise, you accomplish this quickly. Even if you haven’t built up the physique yet, understand that most people don’t even exercise. If you live in the US, most people around you are overweight and likely obese. I don’t write that to ridicule those people. But I do want to point out that simply doing what others aren't willing to do will give you a higher sense of self-esteem. Use this advantageously. Besides that, the neurotransmitters you release from exercise will also make you feel better. Plenty of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin will be released in your brain which will naturally improve your mood. If you can overcome your brain shying away from beginning the workout, you’ll find that your mood is much higher when you’re finished.
As you begin to transform your body, amazing things will happen. You’ll likely receive validation from the external world before you notice changes in yourself. Think about this--you’re with yourself every day. You likely don’t notice when you change gradually. It’s only an extreme change that stands out. But others notice gradual changes much faster. If you gain weight, others notice. But, if you lose weight or gain muscles, others notice as well. And people will certainly give you praise for your accomplishment. This will make you feel better as well and cause you to exercise more to earn that validation. Ultimately, this creates a positive feedback loop in which you’re constantly improving your physique. You’ll be happy in and outside of the gym. Finally, this has a trickle-down effect. It requires consistency and discipline to exercise and accomplish fitness goals. But that same discipline and consistency will show up in other areas of your life. If you need to make more money, imagine what you could accomplish with more discipline and resilience toward your money-making goals. If you want to attract a better partner imagine what your boosted confidence and better physique would do for your dating life. Do you think you’d be happier if you could earn more promotions, make more money, and find more attractive, higher-quality partners? Exactly! Now, don’t make things too complicated. Start today with just bodyweight workouts. Remember, 20 minutes a day is all it takes to achieve positive results.
Have a long-term, definitive goal
One of the fastest ways to feel unhappy with yourself or your life is to not have goals. I believe that we, as humans, intrinsically enjoy the feeling of progression. And having a purpose in life allows us to more readily track our goals. If you have a map, it’s easy to determine if you’re on track. But without a map, you’re almost guaranteed to get lost. If you’re lost, the odds of finding the treasure you seek are slim to none. A goal is like a map of your life. Now, don’t assume that you can’t find other maps. Perhaps you’ll get a map and decide that the treasure you initially sought wasn’t worth it. That’s completely okay. Just make sure to get a new map and look for new treasure. When I was going through depression, I had no goals. I had no dreams. And I had no ambitions.
Every day felt pointless. I was just going through the motions. And I wasn’t living up to my potential. Once I wrote down some goals, things changed. It made each day meaningful and it allowed me to track my activities. If I had a fitness goal, for example, I could track if I was eating properly or exercising. With that being said, here’s an exercise. Write out 5 goals. They can be big or small. But I recommend at least one goal be small enough to accomplish in the next 30 days. This means that it needs to be measurable and within your control. Trust me, being the kind of person that accomplishes goals will certainly make you happier.
Optimize for money
They say money doesn’t buy happiness. To an extent, I agree. But being broke is guaranteed to make you miserable. I made the mistake of listening to society whenever they told me not to seek out money. I don’t think this advice will serve you very well. Instead, take plenty of time to optimize for money. This means that a major focus of yours should be to increase your income and live below your means. I’ve almost been homeless on several occasions due to money issues and trust me when I tell you that not having enough money to pay the bills will make you extremely stressed out.
Now, besides the nice experiences and goodies that money can buy, the true reward is preventing a disaster or quickly solving problems. Imagine you have a sick pet at home. He’s suffering but a quick trip to the vet could fix his problems. Well, not having enough money will guarantee that your pet will continue to suffer. Or, imagine you get hurt. Perhaps you slipped and fell and damaged your back. Maybe a chiropractor could fix you up in no time. Well, that requires money. And without it, your injury will likely persist or take a longer period of time to recover. Keep these ideas in mind when optimizing for money. Find out how to increase your income. Find out how to reduce spending. Find out how to purchase assets. Keeping these 3 things in mind will keep you on track and ultimately prevent an unhappy life.
Embrace your Family/Friends
We’re social animals. As social animals, we have an innate desire to be around others, especially friends or family. Even an introvert enjoys being around the right kinds of people. Not too long ago, I reflected on my experience in college. My sophomore year was the most fun year I had. However, at the time, there were no bars to go to, no nearby movie theaters, the campus didn’t offer anything special with regard to entertainment, and there weren’t many parties. Basically, everything that society considers fun was absent. I wondered what exactly made my Sophomore year so much more fun than every other year. Especially considering future years gave me access to an absurdly large campus with endless bars, parties, clubs, and social events to attend. In hindsight, I realized that simply spending time with my friends was the most valuable experience I had. Playing video games like Call of Duty and Halo, watching movies together on a Friday night, and bonding over a new TV show while ordering Chinese food were all memorable experiences.
In hindsight, I realized that simply being around people you like and truly enjoying their company was extremely pleasurable and valuable. Are these types of experiences exclusive to being on a college campus? Absolutely not! These are actually extremely replicable experiences to have at any phase in life and even at any income. However, the main thing to consider is that you’re likely able to bond better by removing all of the distractions such as bars, clubs, etc. A simple board game, conversation, and removing distractions such as your cell phones are all you need to have a fantastic day and enjoy the company of your friends and family.
Go outside more
A wide variety of medical research indicates that a lack of sunlight and natural vitamin D has massive impacts on one’s overall mood and energy levels. Unfortunately, the modern world is designed to restrict access to natural sunlight as much as possible.
With that being said, do your best to find ways to be outside more. If you can find a job that allows you to work outside or at least near natural lighting, do it. If you can take a shift that allows you to leave your job with enough time to have access to sunlight, go for it. Take more time to enjoy activities outdoors rather than spend all of your time inside working, watching TV or movies, at bars, or any venue with a lack of outdoor seating or windows.
Several years ago, I started a company that allowed me to work flexibly. My schedule was consistent but satisfying. I’d wake up, exercise, and spend about 3-4 hours in the morning at a local coffee shop that provided outdoor seating. It was quiet, it had great wifi, it had strong coffee, and it gave me several hours to absorb plenty of Vitamin D. I noticed that my mood the entire day was immensely high. I looked forward to working since it meant being in the sun. Trust me when I tell you that a few hours in the sun will make you feel far happier and will keep your mood elevated throughout the day. Don’t dismiss this tip. Make more of a habit of being outside in the sunlight.
Be Mindful of Mental Health
The most valuable tool in your body is your mind. A mind that’s not adequately functioning is hurting you. Your mental health defines your reality and the key to a happy, healthy life is a positive and healthy mind. Overall, I suggest finding ways to decrease your anxiety and cortisol levels throughout the day. One way to do this is by understanding that most things in life don’t matter that much and are of little importance. By understanding this, you can keep yourself grounded in the present. By being grounded in the present, you can better grasp your current circumstances and determine if your stress is reasonable or if you’re simply making an issue out of what’s truly a non-issue. Another strategy I’ve used to control my mental health is to allow myself to always be in a positive setting. The state you’re in most often becomes your default setting. Do your absolute best to keep yourself in a positive state throughout the day and, over time, you’ll no longer need to actively make yourself positive. You’ll simply return to that state quickly. Even when your mood takes a dip.
I’ve made it a habit to surround myself with positive people and allow myself to laugh or find humor in things as often as possible. This keeps me in a positive mindset. In the past, I’d bark, shake, or wave around. Whatever allowed me to amuse myself enough to keep my state high until it became a habit. This is my challenge to you. Set a timer for every hour. Whenever it goes off, audit your mood at that time. If you’re in a great mood, make a note of that. If you’re in a less-than-great mood, quickly fix that by playing music, listening to something funny, pretending to laugh (which will be so ridiculous that you end up laughing), or anything that will quickly elevate your mood.
At the end of the day, take note of how often you were in a positive state and how often you had to make yourself positive. Keep doing this until you begin to see your default positive state trend upward. Finally, keep the following idea in mind: Positivity elicits positivity. Negativity elicits negativity.
I tend to find that social media is the cause of so much unhappiness in the majority of people. By design, it’s addictive. And as you drift into the endless scroll of social media apps such as TikTok or Instagram, you’ll begin to find yourself comparing your lives to others.
Chances are, you’re comparing yourself to people that you know nothing about or people you’ve never met in real life. Or, you’ll find yourself sucked into the controversial side of these apps where politics and the atrocities of the world are always on display. It’s important to understand that as humans, we’re wired to look for negativity in the world. It’s a defense mechanism that is used to keep us alive.
Unfortunately, due to the way the algorithm is set up on most of these social media apps, the more negativity we watch, the more it’s pushed on us. It’s a never-ending cycle that is guaranteed to keep you in a negative state of mind. The best advice I can give is simply to limit your time on these apps or stop using them completely. If you have a business, use the tools as a producer and not a consumer. Otherwise, besides staying in touch with friends and family or perhaps being inspired, there aren’t too many reasons to endlessly scroll through the lives and content of others.
Find work that’s Fulfilling
At least a third of your life is spent working. And this refers to the work you do in your job or career. Once you begin to factor in more intense jobs or people that work multiple jobs, you’ll notice that many people spend most of their time working in some fashion. You’re either at a job, transporting yourself to or from a job, or doing some kind of chore or activity that’s not pleasurable, but rather to maintain some aspect of your life such as your house, car, groceries, errands, etc. Basically, most of your life involves doing random activities that aren’t necessarily enjoyable. But who said work can’t be enjoyable? I’ve found that most people are typically excited about the weekends. They’re excited to have 2 days away from their office or place of work to relax or have fun. I believe that it’s difficult to be happy in life if you don’t have true control over your time. In my opinion, spending 5 days out of 7 doing something you don’t enjoy doing is a recipe for disaster. My suggestion, try to find work that’s fulfilling and enjoyable. Perhaps it won’t pay as much. That might be a tradeoff, but less stress and a pleasurable day should be a valid upside. Remember, a large portion of your life is dedicated to working so make your work meaningful.
Craft a Life Story
This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned. Surprisingly, I don’t hear too many others share this insight. You need to craft a story for yourself that’s worth reading. You need to be able to see the finished product 30, 40, 50 years down the line and know that it’ll be a story worth sharing with others.
One of the best thought experiments I’ve ever heard is the Funeral Test. Here’s how it goes. Imagine you’re at a funeral. Everyone you know is there. They’re all sad. They’re mourning. As you approach the casket to see who’s inside, you realize it’s you. This is your funeral. As you listen, what is everyone saying?
Are they telling stories about how amazing and inspirational you were? Or are they generic in their description of you? Whatever you’d like them to say, work backward. Make the stories they tell about you a reality. Use this thought experiment to craft the version of yourself you’d like to be.
In a sense, crafting such a story gives one purpose in life. And I truly think having a purpose is what keeps people motivated and excited about life. Does this make sense? Take at least 10-20 minutes to sit down and plan out how you’d like your life to turn out. Then reverse engineer the process to figure out what you need to do to achieve the desired results. Someone out there has done it. It’s likely possible. So, why can’t you live your dream story? Keep all of these ideas in mind in your quest to become a happier, more fulfilled version of yourself. Remember that you only live life once. Chances are, you’re not going to come back. There are no extra lives like in a video game. So, make the most of your life.
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