In 2019, I traveled to all 50 states to find out how Americans achieve internal happiness regardless of external circumstances. During my journey, I interviewed more than 500 self-described happy people to learn how they create more joy in their everyday lives and chronicled my journey and learnings in the "American Happiness" documentary.
We often complicate happiness, but what I discovered by talking to many people who’ve achieved positive habits was that there are a number of simple tweaks you can make to improve your mood right away. It all starts with focusing on what you can control, rather than what you can’t.
If you’re looking to create more happiness in your daily life, here are a few positive habits that will help:
1. Start Your Morning On Your Own Terms
Starting your morning on a positive note is one of the most impactful things you can do to develop day-to-day happiness. This doesn’t have to be a long morning routine; it only takes a few minutes of your time. Instead of immediately rushing into the day or grabbing your phone to scroll through social media, take a minute to yourself without any distractions, and set intentions for the hours ahead. I recommend asking yourself three morning questions:
- What can I look forward to today?
- What has the potential to stress/worry me today, and how will I choose to respond to it?
- How do I want to feel at the end of the day, and what do I need to do (or not do) to make that a reality?
2. Create a “Words to Live By” List and Revisit It Daily
Many of us allow external factors to dictate our happiness levels—what is or isn’t happening in the world, the money in our bank account, our relationship status, etc. If you look deeper, you’ll find that what we often crave is the emotion associated with the external thing instead of the external thing itself. Make a list of emotions you want to be experiencing daily, like joy, inner peace, excitement or discipline. Once you have your list, you can start to shift your activities, thoughts and content to align with those words. When you’re making a decision about what to do or prioritize, revisit the list to examine if the activity fits in with creating that emotion. This helps to create a more positive, purposeful day.
3. Express Appreciation Regularly
When was the last time you got a text from someone saying how amazing you are? Human beings crave appreciation, recognition, and connection—but many of us don’t get it as often as we would like. Sending appreciation texts, letters, emails or voice memos to the people you care about make a tremendous impact and create happiness for yourself and others.