My birthday is this month and I'm turning 29. So in honor of that and as a little birthday present to myself to see how much I've learned, I thought I'd share the things I've learned about happiness over the years. Here are my findings:

  1. Happiness can take a lot of hard work. Sure there is happiness and joy in the little things, the simple moments, and the big events but lasting happiness means taking a hard look at your habits and working to better yourself every day.

  2. Your habits shape your happiness. This is a reoccurring theme here but that's because it is worth noting again and again. Your daily routines and happiness habits make a huge impact. 

  3. You can't be happy all the time and that's not the goal. We can not know happiness without knowing sadness. We can't strive for perfect happy emotions every second of the day. Instead, we must have a goal of happiness abound by living our fullest lives. And full lives feel a range of emotions and have a plethora of experiences.

  4. Relationships are crucial to your happiness. Studies have shown that the people that are happiest (and subsequently have longer healthier lives) are those with strong, loving relationships. So take the time to work on your relationships (family, friends, romantic)... you'll be happier for it. 

  5. Stagnation is the enemy of happiness. If you aren't learning/growing, you're dying. Isn't that how the saying goes? Well, it's the same for happiness. If you aren't pushing yourself to do better and to learn more, you're stagnant. Stagnation leads to depression, anger, poor relationships and more... all counterintuitive to happiness.

  6. Health and happiness go hand-in-hand. Several studies have found that our happiness can be greatly affected by the foods we eat and if we exercise. Health is the foundation of everything. I've spoken about taking care of my body before (read that here) and that's because your body and how you function are critical to how you perceive the world and yourself. 

  7. Getting outside has proven to increase mood and happiness levels. Spend 10 minutes sitting in the sun or talk a walk around the block. Just get outside for a few minutes a day and see the difference it makes. 

  8. Pushing your boundaries leads to long-term happiness. Have you ever done something you didn't think you could do? And once you finished it, you were beyond happy and proud of yourself? That's because you pushed yourself, you grew! And even better, every time you remember that moment or activity or situation, I bet it makes you happy all over again. 

  9. Cleanliness is next to happiness. A clean, organized house can free your mind up to focus on learning and growing, on living in the moment, and on experiencing joy instead of worrying about how messy the house is. 

  10. Turn off the phone, tv, and computer. It's amazing how much free time you have and the benefits reaped when you walk away from your electronics. I've written about what happened when I gave up Netflix and now I'm starting to shut down my computer and work at a certain time. It has made such a huge difference!

  11. You can't wait for it to just happen. You've got to take control of your life. You can't wait for the motivation (hint, if you wait, it never comes), you have to make your own happiness happen.  

  12. Write down your goals! The journey of reaching goals and accomplishing the goals themselves offer us so much in the realm of happiness. But it's tenfold if we write our goals down and refer back to them regularly. 

  13. Comparing will kill your happiness. Your life equals your happiness and everyone else is trying to be happy too. Stop comparing and start living! 

  14. Cut out sugar if you can. Every time I eat sugar my emotions get all out of wack and I feel terrible.  I'm happier if I just avoid it all together. A fleeting moment of joy should not override your long term happiness. 

  15. You can't just tolerate your job. I'm not saying quit your job without a backup but it's so surprising how much hating your job can drain you and deplete your happiness. Make the moves to do something you enjoy for 8-10 hours every day (while still making the money).

  16. Happiness and debt are not friends. Debt totally sucks and no matter how small, it does hang over you. I personally love Dave Ramsey's book, "Total Money Makeover" and if you have any debt, I highly suggest it (this is my own opinion, I'm not being paid to recommend this book). Once you are debt free, you can focus on the important stuff and be happier overall. 

  17. Embrace who you are. Stop trying to be someone you aren't. If you like to go to bed at 8:30 (me), say it proudly. If you are a neat freak or a bit "high maintenance," own it! These things make you, you. Sure, you can decide to work on them for whatever reason but in the end, any changes you make must be because you want to, not because you are pressuring yourself to be someone you aren't. 

  18. Know yourself. Similar to embracing who you are, you have to know yourself. Gain an understanding of what you like and don't like. How you enjoy spending time and when you are at your best. Stop putting yourself in situations that force you to be someone you aren't. 

  19. Pets and plants boost happiness significantly. Studies have found that "pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than nonowners." And plants have been shown to lower stress, boost creativity, and improve overall wellbeing. As a parent to 2 dogs and 54 plants, I can safely say, yes the benefits are amazing and deeply impact your happiness in a positive way. 

  20. Live your love languages. My love languages are quality time and touch. A simple hug or a five-minute phone call can help me feel happier but I have to remember to do those things and set aside time to live my love languages. 

  21. Happiness is not selfish. For some reason when we dedicate our time to our own happiness or undergoing self-care, we think it's selfish. It's not. If we are happier, those around us will be happier too. 

  22. Limit your time with negative people as much as possible. Negative people are unavoidable (sometimes you can't just walk away from a co-worker in mid-sentence) but try to limit those interactions as much as possible. They just bring you down. And when you do deal with negative people, try your best to not get sucked in while at the same time not judging them for being in a different space than you. 

  23. Gossip doesn't do anyone any good. This falls in the same category as limiting your time with negative people. If someone is a gossip (we all do it at times) do your best to not get sucked into it. It doesn't do you, the person you are talking to, or the person you are talking about any good or raise any happiness levels. In fact, gossip is shown to diminish relationships over time, not build them up. 

  24. Prioritize your time. Do you need to get shit done? Workout? Want to read the latest Happiness Abound article? (Ok, we know that was supposed to be "the latest happiness book.") Then spending time watching tv or scrolling through Instagram won't help you do those things. Prioritize your time to get more done and be happier in life. 

  25. Make time for play. When prioritizing your time, don't forget to make time for play. Make time for the things you love to do. Have fun! 

  26. Make your morning. Morning person or not, a morning routine will help you set your day off to the best start possible. Make your morning and you'll make your day. Make your days and you make your life- make it a happy and good one. 

  27. Learn from others. One reason autobiographies, biographies, podcast interviews, and speaking events are so popular is because we can learn from the experiences of others to be happier. Don't go through life letting things happen to you, learn from others, broaden your experiences, and try the things that have worked for others. 

  28. There are many schools of thought about happiness. In the same vein as learning from others, happiness looks different for everyone. Try out different thoughts and ways of doing things to find what works for you. I'm all about habits, hustle, and happiness while others embrace spiritual schools of thought. It's all about what works for you. 

  29. Get enough sleep. Grumpy and sleepy or happy and active? Which would you rather be?

What do you agree with? What do you disagree with? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts with me on Facebook or Instagram

Photo by Bethany Legg