How to Cultivate Happiness in 2017

We all want to be happier, but too often the feelings of bliss and contentment seem to be sensations that come and go as they please.  Thankfully, science has shown that happiness can be increased through a few simple activities and mindset shifts.  To make 2017 your happiest year yet, choose to cultivate joy in your everyday life.

Take Care of Yourself

As women, we often feel the need to put others before our own needs.  It can be difficult to prioritize ourselves, but it’s time to make self-care a non-negotiable.  We deserve it!  Exercising isn’t a chore, it’s a way to release endorphins.  Choose real foods to show yourself that you deserve to be nourished.  Whatever taking care of yourself means to you – a soothing bath, a manicure, or staying in on a Friday night – make time for it.

Be Present

Meditation and mindfulness are all the rage, and for good reason.  You can literally rewire your brain just by sitting comfortably, focusing on your breath, and doing your best to tame the thoughts in your head.  It’s no easy task, but the benefits are well worth the struggle.  This can transfer over to being present in your everyday life and finding joy in something as simple as the smell of your morning coffee.  10% Happier by Dan Harris is a great read about the benefits of mindfulness and the author’s personal journey with meditation.

Invest in Relationships that Matter

Call your mom just to chat. Make the effort to meet up with your friend that makes you laugh until your stomach hurts.  Strong relationships and a commitment to spending time with loved ones have been linked to increased levels of happiness and decreased feelings of depression.  Evaluate who makes you feel good and prioritize them on your social agenda.

Practice Forgiveness

The new year is a wonderful opportunity to have a clean slate by letting go of old frustrations.  Forgiving people is a powerful tool for creating the life you want and choosing your own path to happiness.  Besides, in the words of Jen Sincero, “Holding onto resentment is like taking poison and waiting for your enemies to die.”  It’s futile and hurts no one but yourself.  

Donate Your Time

Volunteering and getting involved in your own community offer an opportunity to make a difference.  You can feel good about having a positive impact while putting your own life and problems into perspective.  The act of kindness also results in higher self-esteem and improved health for the person volunteering.  Interested?  Check out volunteermatch.org to connect with nonprofits in your area.

Take a Digital Detox

We live in a world of distractions made up of buzzing smartphones and a thousand emails a day.  Unplug for a few hours or even an entire Saturday to be present in the moment.  We all know comparison is the death of happiness, so appreciate the bliss of not seeing someone else’s perfect life on social media.  Turning off my phone notifications for Instagram and Facebook was one of the most freeing things I’ve done because it allows me to be in control of when I log on.

Practice Gratitude

Grateful people appreciate what they have and experience greater levels of contentment and satisfaction.  Practicing gratitude can be as easy as listing five things you’re grateful for before falling asleep.  Starting a gratitude journal is another simple practice to cultivate appreciation.  According to the Law of Attraction, what you focus on you attract.  Sending out positive vibes of appreciation can only bring more good into your life!

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Claire Marie Carter is passionate about self-improvement as a catalyst for change in the world. A yoga class in middle school sparked her interest in all things wellness and she's practiced ever since. She writes about motivation and life lessons at clairemariecarter.com.
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