Mental health is more than the absence of mental illness. It is more about living a satisfying life. Of course, we all want happiness and bursts of positive emotions. But we do not want to be in a state of excitement or even be pleasantly surprised all the time. More often, we rather want a stable sense of satisfaction and serenity in our lives.
We mostly know how to get those temporary boosts of happiness – going to a party with friends, buying a new phone, taking a trip to a holiday destination. But how do we raise the base level of our life-satisfaction?
9 Ways To A Remarkably Satisfying Life
Here are some science-backed and research-based, yet practical ideas from positive psychology – a branch born in 1998 – to do that. When you practice these steps with purpose, they will raise your satisfaction levels.
1. Count Your Blessings
It is perhaps the easiest on this list. Take a moment after reading this, close your eyes, and remind yourself of one thing you are blessed with. It could be simple things, as getting up this morning and smelling the fresh air. Or looking at your child and feeling proud of how they are growing up.
Counting your blessings means thinking about how lucky you are instead of complaining about something that went wrong or something you don’t have. It is finding something positive in a difficult situation. It shows you are grateful for a good thing in your life. When you count your blessings, you stop taking things for granted.
Another way to do this is to start a gratitude journal. Take a notebook and write three to five things you are currently thankful for. You could do this once a week, say, on Sundays. Keep your entries fresh by entering new things as much as possible. Read this easy guide to learn The 3 Good Things.
2. Practice Acts of Kindness
Kindness comes to all of us instinctively. But we are often so busy that we forget to do it in a way we would be proud of. Try doing one random act of kindness today. Like buying some food for a homeless guy, or making a coffee for someone working under you. If you let that harried mother of a small kid go ahead of you in the checkout line, that counts too.
Your act of kindness could be systematic. Like taking Sunday dinner to an elderly neighbor, or volunteering for a charity in your area every Saturday.
Whenever you are consciously kind to others, whether they are your friends, family, colleagues, or strangers, it triggers a cascade of positive effects—making you feel more generous and capable, giving you a better sense of connection with others, and winning back grateful smiles and often a bounce-back kindness.
3. Savor The Joys of Life
Savoring is relishing what is going right in the moment. When you savor, you pay close attention to the pleasures and wonders that are presently happening.
It is you focusing on the sweetness of a red and ripe strawberry, or feeling the gentle warmth of the sun on your face when you look up. There are many other ways of doing it. Like taking “mental photographs” of the pleasurable moments to recall in less happy times. Sharing your good feelings with others. And giving yourself a pat on the back for an extra dose of hard work on your passion project.
Find out how you could boost your savoring.
4. Thank A Mentor
There would be someone in your life to whom you owe a debt of gratitude for guiding you at one of your life’s crucial crossroads. That mentor could be your parent, an older sibling, a good boss, a wise friend, a benevolent teacher, or an experienced master.
You have been thinking of thanking them personally, but have not got around to it somehow. Do not wait anymore to express your appreciation and thankfulness to that mentor—as a written note that, if possible, you deliver in person.
Here is a sample note you could write to your mentor:
I am always grateful to you for your kindness and support. You made it possible for me to come this far in my career. I cannot imagine what could have been my achievements if it was not for your wise and timely advice. Thank you so much for all that you have done for me. Please feel free to ask for anything you need, and I will try my best to fulfill it. Thanks for being a great mentor and guiding me on the right path.
5. Learn To Forgive
Forgiving never means you condone or excuse the act. The people who wronged you do not need acceptance from you. Probably, they do not even think they did anything bad, and never long for your forgiveness. Still, you forgive them for your own peace of mind.
Despite what popular wisdom says, you do not have to forget to forgive. Forgiving someone who has hurt does not mean you should also forget their serious injustice. The idea is to not erase them from your memory, but focus your attention on the more important things in your life.
Also, let go of your anger when you forgive. Your anger is justified, but it does not help to carry it around. Anger keeps you restless in your mind and agitated in your body. Anger burns away your peace, not theirs.
Finally, forgiving them does not mean you announce it to them. They do not need to know at all. Forgiveness is for you, as it allows you to move on instead of dwelling on the hurt.
6. Start A Passion Project
A passion project is an activity you decide to take on—in your free time–to learn something new or get some other benefit. You do it to fill your spare hours with things that make you or your life better. A 30-minute daily activity can help you gain personal growth and social recognition.
In the short term, they are usually a distraction from a humdrum life. They give you the fun of creativity while satisfying your curiosity. In the long term, they often turn into something valuable. For example, a blog might make you an authority in your domain and become your second business.
A passion project can also become a meaningful activity that sustains you. As Nelson Mandela advised, “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
For example, if you start a single-person community project to feed the stray dogs in your area, in time it might get other dog-lovers to join you and contribute to a greater cause in your lives.
7. Invest Time In Friends and Family
Where you live, how much money you make, your job title, and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.
Of all our relationships, our friends give us the most pleasure. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%. A happy friend who lives within a half-mile (0.8 km) makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself.
Friends are vital to your health and happiness, more so as you age, according to research. Having supportive friendships in old age was found to be a stronger predictor of wellbeing than having strong family connections.
Find out more scientific facts on Friends And Happiness.
8. Develop Strategies For Coping
There is no avoiding hard times. Now, who would have thought that a pandemic could disrupt our lives so extensively?
In such times, researchers have shown religious faith to help people cope. Also, the secular beliefs in time-honored axioms like “This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” helps one bounce back better from adversities. The trick is that you have to believe in them.
9. Take Care of Your Body
Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling, and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying. One highly beneficial way to tend to your body is to eat with mindfulness.
How many of us have failed to show up within a few weeks of an annual gym membership? If you find it hard to make exercise a daily habit, grab this guide: How To Make Exercise A Daily Habit?
Why does happiness matter at all? Because happier people have many advantages over those less happy. Research shows happiness doesn’t only feel good, but happy people are more successful across many areas of life – marriage, friendship, income, work, charity, and health.
Plus, happiness is a skill that can be learned and honed by practice.
By the way, did you chance upon this splendid book on how to be happy from one of the first female positive psychologists, Sonja Lyubomirsky: The How of Happiness?
[This post may contain affiliate links. Disclosure.]
• • •
Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
√ If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn.