Disclaimer: I am not a therapist, nor do I have any certified authority on this topic. However, as someone who personally struggled to feel happy for several decades, I feel I’ve learned enough on how to feel happy again to share some thoughts and tips.
How do we lose our sense of happiness?
There are endless reasons why you might find yourself sad, unhappy, or even depressed. If anything is certain in life, it’s that no person is immune to hard things happening to them or around them. And those things can take a toll! It’s easy to fall into the trap of never feeling happy again because things that can bring a person down happen all the time. For me, stress played a big part, but I think my struggle truly centered on deep feelings of unworthiness.
What have I done to make myself feel happy again?
1. Get outside.
Fresh air does wonders. If at all possible, get outside every day. Even five or ten minutes of sunshine on your face can improve your mood. Whenever I start to feel antsy or like I’m feeling my emotions head south, if there’s anything resembling sunshine outside, I get myself out there ASAP.
There have been tons of scientific research done on breathing and deep breathing. A quick Google search will provide you with hours of research on the topic. But basically, it can be summed up by slowing down enough to take deep breaths from your belly. The general rule is to make your exhale a couple of counts longer than your inhale when you want to relax. When you need an energy boost, reverse it and make your inhale longer than your exhale. Try breathing in for five counts and exhaling for six. Repeat this 8-10 times and there’s a good chance you’ll feel at least a little bit happier. There’s a bonus to consciously deep breathing–the more you do it intentionally, the more it becomes a habit and your body will do it without even needing to think about it.
3. Move your body.
Roll out your yoga mat. Put on music and dance. Lace up your hiking shoes. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. Go roller skating! Anything that gets your body moving helps clear your head and bring focus to your body. Being in your body helps you feel better. Here’s something to try: the next time you find yourself at a playground with your kids or grandkids, hop on a swing! I can’t stop grinning when I’m flinging myself through the air on a swing (at least until my hips start to feel the squeeze–haha!).
The great thing about moving your body is that it naturally incorporates breathing and many times will include getting outside too. Moving your body has an almost magical effect. Well, it’s science, really. As you find your groove, endorphins, the feel-good hormones, are released so exercising really can help you feel happy again.
4. Practice gratitude.
Finding things to be grateful for when you’re not feeling great can definitely be a challenge. However, it is SO worth the effort. You always, always, always have something to be thankful for. Are you breathing? Find gratitude in the air that surrounds you– it is your life force after all! Feel how good it feels to be able to breathe freely. Do your hands work? Or your legs? Is your blood circulating through your body? There is always something to be grateful for. Acknowledging specifics makes this even more impactful. Why are you thankful that your legs work today? The deeper you can go here, the better because it helps you feel. This brings me to my next point…
5. Process your feelings.
As a lifelong feelings stuffer, this has been and continues to be a place of improvement for me. However, as we are humans and not robots, our ability to feel makes life worth living. When you’re trying to find happiness again, clearly, you don’t feel happy. But what is it that you DO feel? Try to identify that emotion and then feel it. Yes, it is uncomfortable and sometimes scary to let yourself feel what you need to feel, but feeling your emotions is the first step to healing them. As one of my coaches, Kathrin Zenkina, always says, “What is coming, is going.”
Once you have identified the emotion, try journaling out your feelings, look into the Emotional Freedom Technique (also known as tapping), raise your hands above your head and throw them down while exhaling sharply (and repeating half a dozen times), or even dance those feelings out! And you can always seek the help of a professional therapist. Although, coming from personal experience, using the techniques I just mentioned has been far more effective than talking to a professional. There are other ways to process your emotions too. The trick is to find what works for you. And what works one day for one issue may not work the next time, so I encourage you to develop competency in several emotion processing techniques so that you have what you need when you need it.
We are humans and humans need connection. Sometimes simply being in the presence of someone you love (or a beloved pet) can help you feel happy again. Extra bonus points if you meet them for a walk (outside + breathing + movement + connection)! It can sometimes be helpful to vent…just be sure your companion knows you’re only looking for a listening ear and NOT advice. Talking your feelings out can make you feel better. But the point here is to just let yourself enjoy being with someone you love. As I’ve been frequently reminded in this past year, we are human beings, not human doings. Be. And there’s nothing like seeing the beautiful face of someone you love to help you feel happy.
7. Do something you love.
Now I realize this contradicts what I just said above about being. But doing something that brings you comfort can be just the thing you need to bring you some of those happy feelings you’re searching for. For me, this includes knitting, painting, coloring, or sewing something simple. Honestly, even just touching my craft supplies by cleaning up my craft room can bring back good feelings. These are the quick choices if I’m at home and aren’t able to get out of my house. If I can plan an outing, then I choose hiking, kayaking, or swimming (and someday I’ll add cross-country skiing back on my list when my kids can ski independently). Activities like reading, or an in-depth sewing project can sometimes be beneficial, but I’ve found I usually need my brain free to help me process. That said though, sometimes reading a good book is exactly what my heart needs to help me find happiness again.
Why do these things make you feel happier?
Well, again, I am not a professional, so take these thoughts as you will, but here’s what I think.
I think these are some of the key elements of being human. They are things often taken for granted (such as the ability to breathe or move our body), and slowing down and taking intentional time to care for ourselves, naturally brings us happiness. Taking care of ourselves reminds our heart, soul, and mind that we are loved. Hopefully, it reminds us of our own love for ourselves. But even if we aren’t feeling it at the moment, someone loves you. There is always someone who loves you. I love you! If you are reading this then, yes, I love you! I truly do.
Knowing that you’re loved. Taking care of your body and your mind. Connecting with other people. These are all things that make us feel good. And even if they don’t immediately make you feel happy again, they at least help you feel a little better. And feeling a little better leads you down the path of feeling even better and then even better. Start throwing in some meaningful affirmations, and you’ll be happy again in no time! And if you’re struggling beyond the scope of this article, please, please, please seek help. YOU are important and needed in this world. Dial 988 to speak with someone at the Suicide & Crisis Hotline.
If you found this helpful, please share to help spread some happiness =)