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Secrets to Happiness: 10 Practical Ideas That Work

“Happiness doesn't depend on any external conditions, it’s governed by our mental attitude.” Dale Carnegie, the self-care guru, offered that insight into the human condition. He accurately observes that happiness comes from within us, not from outside forces.

So, what steps can we take to govern our mental attitudes and pursue happiness?

Try these helpful tips.

  1. Make a conscious choice to be happy! It sounds simple, but think of how many times you’ve heard someone say something like, “I’m having one of those days.” Sometimes we can live a self-fulfilling prophecy. Decide to make your self-fulfilling prophecy to have a great day.
  2. Spend time with cheerful people. We can’t always choose the people around us, but when you can, choose to spend times with happy people. A smile can be contagious. And laughing prompts a number of positive responses in our bodies.
  3. Spend time doing things you love. Of course, there are lots of demands on our time. Most of us can’t spend all of our time doing things we love. But when you can find the time, do what you like doing. Oh, and don’t let others tell you what you like doing. Make that decision for yourself.
  4. Be grateful. Gratitude shouldn’t be set aside for just one day each year. It can be a good exercise to write down a few things you’re grateful for. This can help you focus on what you have going for you.
  5. Don’t carry emotional baggage. If you think about it, holding a grudge leaves you empty handed. Author Dr. Everett L. Worthington Jr. offers these steps to forgiveness:
    – Objectively recall the hurt. Don’t demonize the person who hurt you. Don’t think of yourself as a victim.  
    – Empathize with the person who hurt you. Try to understand their perspective. 
    – Recall a time when you hurt someone else. Think about giving the gift of forgiveness. 
    – Publicly forgive through something you say or write down. Don’t keep forgiveness to yourself. 
    – Hold onto the forgiveness. Don’t hold onto the grudge.
  6. Accept good. Don’t wait for perfect. Look at your life and take stock of what’s going pretty well. Even small positives are positives and they can add up!
  7. Imagine things going well. We mentioned self-fulfilling prophecy. Make your prophecy that things will go well for you. Elite athletes often use this technique to imprint success in their brains. You can use this tool, too.
  8. Volunteer for a cause you care about. A number of studies have found when people give back to their communities, they take away more than they give. Find a way to serve your community in a way that’s relevant for you.
  9. Be open to change. We can’t avoid change, so we may as well take it on with a positive attitude. If you think about it, you’ve already dealt with countless changes in your life. What’s one more?
  10. Celebrate simple pleasures. Family, friends, pleasant moments, positive memories, nice days. Don’t overlook the positives, the good people and good times in your life!

Other practices can improve your frame of mind and happiness. It’s up to you to find what works for you. You might try meditation, yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi or another relaxation technique.

Being happy extends beyond your mood. Your state of mind can affect your overall health and wellbeing.


If you have questions about how mental health relates to physical health, visit with your health care provider. Your mental health is as important as your physical health!

Meet the Author

Mark Jensen is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and manager of the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital Mental Health Intensive Outpatient program in Wauwatosa, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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