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How to Feel Happy: 9 Habits for a Happy Life

Radiance Talley | Jul 1, 2022

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Radiance Talley | Jul 1, 2022

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

“I want you to be happy…to laugh, smile and rejoice in order that others may be made happy by you,” said Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, at a talk in New York in 1912.

Unfortunately, according to the 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness, only 33% of Americans are happy. 

RELATED: How I Found 9 Spiritual Solutions for Deep Sorrow

Happiness is crucial for our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being. Abdu’l-Baha explained:

In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness.

But when sadness visits us we become weak, our strength leaves us, our comprehension is dim and our intelligence veiled. The actualities of life seem to elude our grasp, the eyes of our spirits fail to discover the sacred mysteries, and we become even as dead beings.

So, here are nine tips and habits that will help you live a happier life.

1. Smile to Make Yourself Happy

Sometimes, when I’m emotional and upset, my mom tells me to force a big smile, because the simple act of smiling can make you feel happier. 

Dr. Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, a human and artificial cognition expert, explained, “In our research, we found that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala – the emotional center of the brain – which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state.”

A study in “Psychological Science” also found that participants who held Duchenne smiles — genuine grins that made the corners of their eyes crinkle — had decreased heart rates after stressful events. So, if you want to feel more relaxed and happy, fake a big smile until it becomes a real one.

2. Reduce Your Stress With Laughter

Abdu’l-Baha said:

Laugh and talk, don’t lament and talk. Laugh and speak. Laughter is caused by the slackening or relaxation of the nerves. It is an ideal condition and not physical.

Laughter is the visible effect of an invisible cause. For example, happiness and misery are super-sensuous phenomena. One cannot hear them with the ears or touch them with his hands. Happiness is a spiritual state.

Whether you decide to watch funny videos or spend more time with humorous people, creating habits that will make you laugh more often will definitely make your life happier. Research has shown that laughter boosts your mood, relaxes your muscles, and relieves pain and stress.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep to Improve Your Mood

If you feel tired when you wake up and sleepy throughout the day, you’re not getting enough sleep. Abdu’l-Baha wrote that we should “rest the body in order to do better, to speak better, to explain more beautifully, to serve the servants of God and to prove the truths.”

Not only does sleep loss impair your memory, focus, and judgment, but it can also make you more aggressive and increase your risk of depression. Getting quality sleep every night is crucial to feeling better — mentally and emotionally.

4. Exercise to Make Yourself Happy

Psychologist Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar said, “Not exercising is like taking depressants.” 

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins — neurochemicals that mask pain and produce a euphoric feeling. Also, like antidepressants, exercise increases the synthesis of new nerve cells in the brain and has been proven to alleviate symptoms of major depressive disorder.

5. Eat Foods That Will Boost Your Mood

If you’re experiencing mood swings or depressive symptoms, you may be deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral. For example, vitamin B3, B9, and B12 boost your mood by producing serotonin and dopamine — neurochemicals that create positive feelings in your body.

Research has shown that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is linked to lower rates of depression. Berries, for instance, are high in anthocyanins — pigments that make some fruits appear red, purple, or blue. One study found that a diet rich in anthocyanins was linked to a 39% lower risk of depression.

6. Do What Makes You Happy

The average person spends one-third of their life at work, and yet, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work.

Our time in this world is too fleeting to waste on work that doesn’t make us happy. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:

The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds.

Consider thinking about what work excites you and what skills come naturally to you. Not everyone can do what you are called to do.

7. Get That Helper’s High From Community Service

Have you ever heard of the “helper’s high”? It’s the positive emotions that arise after selfless service to others. 

Baha’is believe that our lives should revolve around working for universal peace and serving humanity. That’s what gives our lives meaning and purpose. 

Abdu’l-Baha wrote that “the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.”

8. Practice Gratitude to Find Happiness

Often, when we feel sad, we’re thinking about what we’ve lost or what we don’t have. When we create a habit of thanking God each day for everything we have and everyone we love, we will feel happier and have a more optimistic outlook on life.

And, Abdu’l-Baha said that “the best way to thank God is to love one another.” So, remember to show your appreciation and love to everyone around you.

9. Turn to God to Feel Happy

Pray for spiritual growth, meditate on the verses of God, and read about those spiritual souls who were happy despite all the challenges and suffering that they endured.

Remember the example that Abdu’l-Baha set. He was imprisoned for forty years, because his father, Baha’u’llah, announced that He was the latest messenger sent from God. Yet, he never let his environment and physical conditions dim his spirit. He said

I myself was in prison forty years—one year alone would have been impossible to bear—nobody survived that imprisonment more than a year! But, thank God, during all those forty years I was supremely happy! Every day, on waking, it was like hearing good tidings, and every night infinite joy was mine. Spirituality was my comfort, and turning to God was my greatest joy. If this had not been so, do you think it possible that I could have lived through those forty years in prison?

Thus, spirituality is the greatest of God’s gifts, and ‘Life Everlasting’ means ‘Turning to God’. May you, one and all, increase daily in spirituality, may you be strengthened in all goodness, may you be helped more and more by the Divine consolation, be made free by the Holy Spirit of God, and may the power of the Heavenly Kingdom live and work among you.

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