How To Live Life To The Fullest And Change Your Mental Outlook

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated April 25, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Most of us have experienced times when we felt like we weren’t embracing life as completely as we’d like to be. The busyness that often accompanies modern living can prevent us from taking time to pursue our passions, focus on self-improvement, and enjoy ourselves. If you feel that you aren’t getting the most out of certain facets of your life—whether it’s your career, relationships, hobbies, or other areas—taking steps to do so may help your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Below, we’re going to discuss how you can change your mental outlook to find ways to live life to the fullest and flourish. 

What is a full life?

Because the characteristics of a full life can change based on the individual, it is hard to nail down an exact definition. Many people place a high value on making a difference in the world, while others may find purpose through self-improvement. People have long put forth theories on what it means to experience fulfillment, and extensive research has been conducted by people seeking to enumerate the qualities that constitute a full life. 

In fact, researchers recently developed a metric for quantifying an individual’s level of fulfillment—the Fulfilled Life Scale. Through their research, they identified three overarching sources of fulfillment—self, life, and impact/legacy—each of which itself contains three facets, for a total of nine components. These components include achieving important goals; making a difference in the lives of others; living a life true to oneself; undertaking authentic pursuits; engaging in worthwhile activities; finding one’s purpose; making a valuable contribution to society; combining one’s skills, values, and passions while contributing; and experiencing a sense of wholeness as a person.

In a separate study, the same researchers identified traits associated with fulfillment, including a positive attitude, agency over one’s life, and curiosity. Additionally, they linked fulfillment to tangible sources, including relationships, parenting, work, leisure activities, learning, and spirituality. Overall, the research seems to suggest that a full life is a varied, authentic, and meaningful life. 

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How to live life to the fullest

While what defines a rewarding, meaningful mental outlook on life can change depending on the individual, there are several strategies that may help you develop a healthy, positive outlook. The following are some tips on living life to the fullest. 

Take inventory of your life

If you’ve decided to embark on a journey toward self-actualization, it can help to know which areas of your life you’d like to improve. Taking inventory of your life can help you identify facets in which you’d like to feel more fulfilled. For example, you may find that your relationships are strong but that your career is not as rewarding as you’d like. Or you may discover that you aren’t pursuing your interests in a satisfying manner.   

Consider writing a list of various facets of your life, including your work, relationships, mental health, physical health, mental outlook, and leisure activities. Then, try to rate these activities (e.g., on a scale of one to five). You can add as many categories as you’d like so that you can get a broader picture of your life. The areas you’ve rated the lowest (assuming there are any) may be a good place to start if you’ve decided to make changes in your life. 

Live authentically

We often feel pressure—whether from society, loved ones, or ourselves—to pursue a particular career path, take up specific hobbies, or behave a certain way. When we do not embrace the qualities that give us a unique mental outlook, however, it can be hard to experience a full life. We may end up eschewing our passions in favor of a path we think we’re supposed to be taking or adopting beliefs that are not in accordance with our morals.

Think about areas of your life in which you aren’t being true to yourself. Do you frequently scroll social media instead of pursuing a hobby you’re passionate about? Are you spending a lot of time with people whose principles do not align with your own? Making changes in these areas could help you live authentically. 

Living authentically can mean making decisions based on your values. If, for example, you feel strongly about helping the unhoused, you may dedicate a large amount of time to volunteering, donate money to shelters, or even base your career around addressing homelessness. Making decisions based on the beliefs that are important to you and the qualities that make you unique can help you build a rewarding, content life.  

Contribute your skills

An individual’s job can be a significant source of fulfillment. Beyond providing you with financial stability, it can give you a sense of purpose, allow you to utilize your skills, and help you live authentically. It may help to ask yourself whether your work is as meaningful as you’d like. While there is some debate about whether we should pursue our passions in our careers—and moving jobs is often difficult—engaging in work that you do not find rewarding can make you feel as though you aren’t living life to the fullest and lead to a negative mental outlook.

If this is the case for you, consider whether there are other avenues you can pursue. Ask yourself what you would prefer to do, where you would like to work, and how you can take steps toward that career path. Take, for example, a situation in which you work at a bank but have always wanted to be an architect. In this scenario, you may need to find out what type of architecture you’d like to practice, look for master’s programs, and make a transition plan. 

Find your purpose

Having long-term goals that align with your values and the feeling that you’re working toward something bigger than yourself can help you shift your self-perception and develop a positive mental outlook. A sense of purpose refers to the feeling that our contributions—and, more broadly, our lives—are meaningful. Research has linked a sense of purpose to an array of positive outcomes, including improved symptoms of depression, reductions in loneliness, and even a decreased risk of mortality. 

If you’re unsure about your purpose, think about what motivates, interests, or affects you. Are you passionate about teaching others? Education could be part of your purpose. Are you strongly drawn to cinema? Filmmaking could be part of your purpose. Aligning your actions and pursuits with your values can provide meaning to your life. 

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Practice gratitude

Even when things are going well, we can sometimes fixate on the negatives in our lives, resulting in a less than stellar mood. Research shows that gratitude can shift your mindset and improve your mental well-being. Try telling yourself or writing down three things every day that you appreciate about your life. Taking a few minutes for gratitude can help you focus on the positive and take note of how full your life already is while improving your mental outlook.

Know that change can take time

Though the prospect of finding meaning quickly and growing rapidly may sound appealing, such changes often happen gradually. Studies suggest that it can take 2-3 months for behaviors to become habits. As you incorporate new activities into your life or take other steps toward self-improvement, try to do so incrementally. For example, if you’d like to volunteer more, consider setting a goal of donating your time to a specific cause one day a month for a few months; then try doing so two days each month, and so on. Taking small, consistent steps toward change can help you make sustainable progress.  

Developing a healthy outlook with online therapy

Studies show that online therapy can help individuals navigate life challenges and foster a healthy mental outlook on their life. In a study on the effects of online cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, participants reported experiencing positive changes in both lifestyle and outlook. Additionally, researchers note that participants developed “a renewed sense of self-belief that they are the agent of their own change”. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely utilized modality that can help individuals reframe negative thought patterns, such as those that may get in the way of fulfillment and happiness.

If you’d like guidance on your journey toward living a meaningful, rewarding life, consider connecting with a licensed therapist online. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you have the option of reaching out to your therapist anytime, which can be helpful if you’d like to address topics like your purpose or mindset between sessions. You’ll likely find that online therapy is also an affordable option—BetterHelp subscriptions start at $65 to $100 per week (based on factors such as your location, referral source, preferences, therapist availability and any applicable discounts or promotions that might apply)—so you can put more money toward pursuing your passions and living life to the fullest. 


Taking steps toward a purposeful, satisfying life can help you build a positive outlook and may lead to benefits in widely varying facets of your life. Though it can feel difficult at times, living life to the fullest is possible when you take inventory of your life, understand what brings you fulfillment, and prioritize those pursuits. Part of living a full life can be tending to your mental well-being. An online therapy platform can help you connect with tools and support as you learn how to live in a more positive mental state. With the right resources, you can take the next steps on your mental health journey and live the life you deserve.
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