5 Habits That Encourage Happiness

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated August 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Happiness is a relative, subjective term. What it means to be happy for one person may not resonate with the next, and the things that bring us happiness are just as diverse as we are. For some, the meaning of happiness can be very elusive, and they may not know what it looks or feels like.

Regardless, science has found some consistencies in the things that make us happy by uncovering the connections between physiology, psychology, and sociology that determine why we want happiness in the first place. 

Happiness Is Possible For Everyone

Here are a few suggestions from the experts for habits we can cultivate to make ourselves a little happier, and because happiness seems to be contagious, they might make those around us happier too:

Cultivate Gratitude

Research suggests a strong correlation between expressions of gratitude and feelings of happiness and well-being. Whether we make it a point to express gratitude to others or take the time to contemplate the things we are grateful for, there are many ways to make gratitude a daily habit. 

  • Send a thank you note to someone who deserves it.
  • Express sincere thanks to the people around you who treat you with kindness.
    • For instance, if someone goes out of their way to be friendly or helpful at the grocery store or holds the door for you at work. No expression of thanks is too small. 
  • Write down at least three things you are grateful for every day.
    • Even better if you do so twice a day- once in the morning and once at night. They don’t have to be big things; even recognizing how comfortable your shoes are or the pleasant smell of hot coffee in the morning can make a big difference.

Engage With Others

As social animals, humans tend to seek out other humans for support in challenging times and celebrations when things are well. Connection with others benefits us in several ways. It promotes not only happiness but also better physiological health and longevity. Emotional connection triggers the release of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine- all hormones associated with pleasure and happiness. Even just laughing with a friend triggers endorphins, which are also associated with joy. 

Not only is it essential to have friends, but it’s also important to be a good friend to others. Laughing and crying together promote lifelong bonds, better health, and happiness. Reach out to your friends when they’re having difficulties, but don’t forget to stay in touch in good times, too.


Help Others

Showing compassion for others and engaging in opportunities to give back to people going through a hard time can go a long way toward boosting our and others’ sense of happiness and well-being. It’s rewarding to watch someone gain something from the skills and kindness that you have to offer. 

Although this may not be the entire solution to someone's happiness, it does allow us to see firsthand the positive impact we have on the world. Try seeking out volunteer opportunities within your area- positively impacting someone's life can do wonders for your own.

Practice Self-Care

In a happiness-dominated society, self-care has gotten increasing attention in psychological circles for helping people understand the importance of taking care of themselves. It’s also central to how you live and your overall quality of life.

Self-care means ensuring that your needs are not ignored while you meet the needs of others. Here are a few suggestions for taking care of yourself so you can care for others:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise daily
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Take regular breaks at work and recharge at home to avoid burnout.
  • Practice mindfulness exercises
  • Cultivate a hobby that you find enjoyable
  • Try new things

These aren’t universally guaranteed ways to ensure you’re happy and fulfilled, but with some trial and error, you’ll find the things that resonate for you and better prepare you to approach the world with happiness so you may spread it to others.

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Happiness Is Possible For Everyone

Do Your Best To Make Sure What You Do Is Fulfilling And Meaningful

Habits are built over time and often persevere because we lose our sense of awareness of how we acquired the habit. In a sense, our routines are one big habit, and many of us likely do the same thing each day. This routine can create a rut that’s easy to get stuck in and detracts us from the things we find purposeful or fulfilling.

Consider examining and reflecting on your daily activities. Do they serve a positive or productive purpose? If not, think about ways you can change them. For instance, if rushing to work in the morning causes stress, think about ways to implement a morning routine that gives you more time. It may seem simple, but these are the kind of habits that we take for granted and can create barriers between us and contentment.

However, you can also work towards things that may be more difficult. For example, does your job give you purpose and fulfillment? If not, what would you rather be doing? If you cannot easily quit your job, try to find the positives in it and work with them.


Even though happiness seems to be our most sought-after goal as humans, it’s virtually impossible always to be happy. Perhaps one of the best ways to cultivate happiness is to understand that this is the case and appreciate it while we have it. 

For people with mental health disorders, finding happiness can be more complex than others. If you feel you’ve looked everywhere and tried everything possible to find happiness, yet it’s still elusive, it may be time to explore more thoroughly why this could be. Virtual therapy is an excellent place to begin. 

BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that easily connects certified therapists to individuals looking for a happier, more fulfilling life. You can speak to a therapist virtually from the comfort of your home or anywhere with reliable internet via call, text, video chat, or online message. 

Virtual therapy is as effective as in-person therapy and is often more affordable than in-person treatment without insurance. Online therapy is a convenient way to look deeper into what makes you happy and how to get it. 

If happiness doesn’t seem like a possibility at all, a therapist can work with you to uncover potentially unhealthy thoughts and behaviors that don’t serve you or contribute to your happiness.

Find your happiness with professional support

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