20 Ways to Improve Your Happiness

We live in a time—despite all the advancements—when so many feel lonely, angry, anxious, and depressed. Many people are simply not happy, let alone joyful. I admit, I have experienced bouts of depression. The following list, although won’t cure a person of unhappiness, are of great help in maintaining a measure of happiness. 

  1. Be grateful. Many of us have far more than we realize, and sadly, we live in a day when many feel they are “entitled” to having things. However, the reality is we are to work and contribute to society. Furthermore, the world is unfair. Some have more, whether money and/or opportunities. Still, many of us have more than others. Learn to be grateful for the job, schooling, food, health, etc. you do have.
  2. Help others. It is true that some people suffer more than others, but no one goes through life without experiencing some form of pain, loneliness, loss, heartache, fear, etc. Take time to visit the lonely at an elderly care center, minister to the poor at a food shelter, or help out at a youth program. You just might find that as you help others, you are helped in return.
  3. Forgive. Perhaps nothing else impales one’s own soul as a sword than that of bitterness and the refusal to forgive. Strangely, forgiveness has little to do with perpetrators but with the wounded. One does not forgive for the sake of the offender but for one’s own sake. To forgive is not that the offender is set free, but allowing one’s own self to heal and be set free. If you refuse to forgive, the one you’ll torment is yourself. Your bitterness and unhappiness will only deepen and tighten until you are willing to forgive.
  4. Appreciate the “little” things. Take the time to “smell the roses.” There are many blessings we receive that have no monetary value but can so enrich our lives if we take the time to appreciate them. For example, a cup of coffee in the morning, a warm shower, shared laughter with a friend, an encouraging word, a warm smile from a stranger, a door held open as a kind gesture, the love of dog, a beautiful morning, etc. Appreciating the “little” things will do wonders.
  5. Don’t surrender to fear. Each of us experience fear from time to time; however, there are those who are afraid every day. They trust no one, they’re afraid of catching Covid, they’re afraid of the future, they’re afraid of running out of money, they’re afraid of dying, etc. Such fears torment them daily. So tormented are they of what could, but unlikely will, happen that they can’t enjoy the present. Jesus tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:33-34).
  6. Smile and laugh more. There are those who take life so seriously they’ve forgotten how to laugh. There are some Christians who seem to think it’s a sin to laugh and find enjoyment. Granted, there is a time to weep and a time to be serious. But there are also times to laugh and experience festivity. Enjoy the laughter and silliness of friends, the birth of a child, marriages of friends, and baptisms of others. These, too, are gifts from God to be received with thanksgiving.
  7. Extend and receive kindness and respect. One of my pet peeves os people who have no problem treating others like dirt but expect to be treated with respect. Learn to treat others with kindness and respect. So what if they’re a doctor or janitor, a man or woman, an adult or child, black or white, rich or poor, religious or non-religious? Treat everyone as persons who are created in the likeness of their Creator. For that is what each of us is, nothing more and certainly nothing less.
  8. Learn to be content. This is a difficult one that takes time—learning to be content no matter one’s situation. The apostle Paul writes, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11-13).
  9. Trust God’s promises. The Bible does not promise things will always go our way, but tells us to expect difficult times. After all, we live in a fallen world. Still, for the redeemed who truly love God, He gives this promise: “for those who love God all things work together for good, good day for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
  10. Delight in God. The psalmist doesn’t deny the the fact that the wicked often prosper, etc, but he also warns against being envious of them for their time of judgment will come. Instead, he says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). The things our hearts truly long for the things of this world cannot satisfy.
  11. Let go of your hurts (don’t live as a victim). There are some who forever nurse their hurts and hardships, constantly blaming others for their misery. This is not to say the hurts or past injustices are not real, but persons refuse to move on, to heal, to stop blaming. Instead, they live life as a victim rather than striving to become a conqueror. To do so requires work, but it can be done. Having a victim mentality will only perpetuate unhappiness.
  12. Stop criticizing yourself. Learn to accept yourself. Stop calling yourself stupid, ugly, clumsy, worthless, and unlovable. Each of us have faults and weaknesses, but we also have strengths and skills uniquely given by God. Paul says we are like members of a body, some applauded others hidden, some attractive some less attractive—but each is vital. (see 1 Cor. 12:12-26). Excel as the person God created you to be.
  13. Let go of the past. There are those who are so stuck in the past they cannot enjoy the present. For some, it’s because of abuse, while for others it’s because the past was their glory days. Let go of the past. No, you might not ever forget it, but learn to be present in the present. Glory in the blessings of the moment. Allow yourself to heal. Become someone’s hero today, even if you don’t hear an applause.
  14. Don’t let regrets define your future. Many of us have regrets and have done things we’re now ashamed of. Much of life is learned through trials, errors, and hard knocks. But these should help us to learn, grow, and improve. No, we’re not who or what we had hoped to be or hope to become. Paul, writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
  15. Understand that you are not a mistake. No matter your situation, failures, guilt, or shame, you are no accident. In Christ, there is complete redemption for those who genuinely desire it and receive it by faith. The psalmist writes, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). And we read in Acts, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (17:26-27). We find our greatest joy when we know Him and understand our purpose and being.
  16. Don’t be so easily offended by differing opinions. Some people allow their whole worlds to be unraveled because others have differing views and opinions. Why? And just because someone disagrees doesn’t make them a bigot, xenophobe, or any other kind of (?)-phobe. Even if they are, so what? So many are busy starting fires or adding fuel to them. Again, why? While there is a time to speak up, there is also a time to hold your peace. Knowing the difference requires wisdom. There is a peace that can come when one minds his own business and allows others to have a completely different view.
  17. Quit complaining. Most people complain from time to time, but some people complain all the time, like a Goldilocks who never finds a “just right.” The weather is either too hot or too cold. The atmosphere in a restaurant is too loud, the food is either over or undercooked, the waitress is too slow, the menu is too expensive, etc. There is always something to diminish the beauty of anything. Complainers lack both gratitude and appreciation. Complainers miss the 97% of positivity because they are fixated on the 3% negativity. If you want to improve your happiness, quit complaining about everything. 
  18. Get some sunlight. There are numerous benefits of sunlight, but one is it helps boost the body’s release of serotonin, which helps a person’s mood.
  19. Exercise. This should be a no-brained, but exercise is good for a person physically and mentally. It doesn’t need to be strenuous, just going out for a walk and getting some fresh air is good for the spirit.
  20. Turn off the news and social media. Last but not least, for goodness’ sake, turn off the news and social media. Rarely are politicians honest, and celebrities are not the gods and goddesses they think themselves to be. Furthermore, not everyone is fighting like piranhas in a frenzy. Not everyone is a criminal. Most people’s lives are not picture perfect, and there is still a lot of beauty and kindness in the world. 

Life is filled with trials and pain, but in and through Christ even these can be redeemed and be seeds to later joy. Again, this list is not a cure for unhappiness; however, if you look beyond yourself and put these things into practice, then you will find a measure of genuine happiness and joy. Do these and refuse to be a victim of your own unhappiness.

Ingratitude and the Accompanying Unhappiness

Entitlement (the sense of) and ingratitude are so prevalent today. Connected to these is discontentment—never satisfied with what one has, the continuous of always wanting more. Such selfish thinking and attitudes come with a costly price, however. 

First, these erode one’s happiness. How can a person be happy if he is always upset about what he does not have, but not truly appreciative of what he does have? How can he be happy if he is always cuddling a grudge because someone has what he wants but does not, or cannot, have?

Second, peace is eroded. Like a person with OCD, one cannot enjoy the beauty of a painting because there are scratches on the frame. One cannot enjoy a delicious meal because a family member’s hair is found on his plate. 

Third, one’s perception of others—and even life itself—is distorted. Seeing the specks in others’ eyes, a person fails to see the big oak tree in their own eye. Those who “have” are viewed as selfish and bad, all the while an individual is oblivious to their own selfishness and the toxicity of their covetousness.

I have had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa twice for mission trips. On my first trip our team visited a refugee camp. It was heartbreaking as we saw all these people who were malnourished. Many of them, like the young boy we met, had family who were killed by “rebel soldiers” from Sudan. This boy witnessed some horrible things, traveled by himself day and night, and was now in a “safe” place, but did not have a home, food, education, video games, phone, etc. Nevertheless, he did not have an angry or bitter spirit.

On both trips we met people who did not have much. In fact, we met some who only had beans and rice to eat—and that was on a good day! Many did not have the luxury of having a house (many still live in huts), variety of nice clothes, or glasses to see better. There is not a Target or Walmart where they can buy food and supplies, nor do they have a sterile hospital to go in case of an emergency. Yes, these people would like to have some of these; nevertheless, they are a delightful and hospitable people. 

It is strange to see the unhappiness and anger in so many people in America who have so much. One might have a roof over their head in a safe neighborhood, but it is not one of the “nice” ones on the other side of town. One has a good variety of food to eat each day, but it is not Red Lobster. One has nice clothes from a department store, but they are not designer brands. And on and on it goes. Instead of gratitude there is griping. Instead of appreciation, there is anger. Instead of being content there is contempt. Thus, those who have are viewed as “bad” because they have, regardless of the work or sacrifices they made to get to where they are and what they have.

Gratitude is a choice, and it will play a huge part in one’s happiness and peace. No, it will not cure every ill or fulfill every need; however, it will help one’s perception, and it will help establish a foundation for contentment and hope. Is life fair? No. But it is not as bad as many make it out to be. For sure, there are people who have far more than many of us; yet, many of us still have far more than others. 

Jesus asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” ~ Matthew 16:26 (ESV)

Paul writes to Timothy, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:7-9

Elsewhere we are told, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” ~ Hebrews 13:5

If one’s focus is on everything that he does not have or what is bad, he will miss out on what he has and what is good. If one feels entitled to things, he is going to be upset when others tell him they do not owe him anything. 

What about you? No, life will not always go your way, and you will experience bumps and bruises along the journey. But do you have friends and family who love you? Do you have clean water and food to eat? Do you have a home where you are safe and warm? Can you read and write? Are you in good health and in your right mind? If you can say yes to these, you have more than you realize, and still much more than many. Be grateful. Be content. Do not allow ingratitude and discontentment to suck the joy, peace, and happiness from your life.