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How to be Happy Graphic | Problematic Issue

CULTURE | How To Be Happy

Life Tips and Practices to keep Happy

Alexander Winter Managing Editor

by Alexander Winter
Published March 2014 | The Problematic Issue


“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws will be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings.” —Henry David Thoreau, Walden

How to be Happy Graphic | Street Sign

Make Decisions

It’s better to take action and make a decision than to feel stuck or to miss out on an opportunity because of inaction.
Make your circumstances your friend

This is a point often reiterated to exhaustion, but it’s crucial. If you hate your work, then you’re going to start seeing the world through the emotional lens you’re exposed to daily. The same holds true for the people in your life. Trying to stay happy is exponentially harder when you are surrounded by negative emotions and people. It can make you blind to the things worthy of appreciation in life, even if they are right in front of your eyes.

How to be Happy Graphic | Organized


Your mind is adapting to your surroundings just as your surroundings are adapting to your mind. If you find the motivation and the time to clean up your living and work spaces, then you’ll be able to see things with much more clarity—plus feel an added sense of accomplishment.


Another obvious one. Eat healthy foods, whatever that means in today’s oversaturated world of health articles, diets, promises, and scientific discoveries. We live in a flawed food system, but there is access to enough knowledge and produce in most places that you can do your homework and eat right. Simply put, it’s best to focus on whole foods: preferably organic, because they don’t carry pesticides and other toxins. Leave out fillers like flour and starches where you can, and stay away from processed foods. Cook your own meals to control what goes in. Diversify the foods you eat with moderation in mind. Eat fewer red meats, and preferably go for grass fed and free range. Steer away from genetically modified organisms (GMO), since we don’t fully understand how they will affect our bodies in the long run.

How to be Happy Graphic | Heart


Let yourself be vulnerable every once in a while; it will help you connect with others in ways that are deeper than if you guard yourself. This comes with fostering trust, and people with strong and deep social relationships are generally happier and live longer.

(Brené Brown makes a great case for vulnerability in “The Power of Vulnerability,” another TED talk that can be found here:


Imagine yourself at the end of your own life, no matter what age you are. Reflect back on your life, and think about the things you regret not doing. Write them down, and make it your goal to take action and accomplish them. This perspective will also allow you to remember the things in your life that were actually important—and the ones you spent way too much time worrying about. When it comes to worrying and stressing, ask yourself a simple question: Will this still be affecting me in a month? A year? Five years? If not, maybe it’s not worth your time.

How to be Happy Graphic | Shoppoing Bag


When you use your time and resources and go out of your way to help someone else, they have a reason to be grateful, they are more likely to see the world in a more positive light, and their behavior toward others may be positively influenced. Make someone’s day to alleviate them from their stresses, and maybe you will inspire others to do the same. Helping others also leaves you feeling good about yourself, which will make you more susceptible to seeing the world in a brighter light and believing that the world can be a good place.


Ralph Waldo Emerson’s response to Henry David Thoreau’s “simplify, simplify” hits the nail on the head. Get rid of stuff that clutters your life but serves no other purpose. Sure, you have a sentimental attachment to some things from your past, but the more stuff you keep, the more there is to weigh you down.

How to be Happy Graphic | Half Empty Half Full


What you believe to be true about the world determines your behavior. If you think something is good for you, then in a lot of instances, your body will process this belief on a chemical level to produce actual physical ramifications. Now, don’t go swallowing poison and expect to not be poisoned because you believe it won’t. But, for example, if you must eat junk food, really believing it is good for you and enjoying it may be more beneficial than eating something you were told is healthy but absolutely hate. The same holds true for stress: If you think it’s killing you, there’s a good chance that your belief is the real cause of the problem, not the stress. A study conducted with nearly 30,000 Americans over the course of 8 years found that people who claim they experience a moderate to high amount of stress in their lives have a 43% increased risk of premature death, but only if they believed that stress negatively affected their bodies. When you change your mind about stress, you can change its effect on your body’s health.

(A fantastic TED talk on the subject by Kelly McGonigal entitled “How to Make Stress Your Friend”
can be found here:

Get perspective

A lot of it comes down to perception. In the Buddhist view, everything is inherently empty, meaning neither good nor bad. We infuse the world and its objects with meaning by attaching these labels and consequently acting accordingly. Meaning is based on context, and issues are often two-sided. Try to see both sides, and realize where you are able to change your perception about something, especially in the light of what you find to be genuinely important in life.

How to be Happy Graphic | Single


Are you seeing someone? Are you single but desperately trying to find someone to date? Happily single, coupled, married, or any other possible status? Whatever it is, figure out what you want out of your love life, and enjoy it—without hurting anyone else. If you know what you want, you can communicate that to others so you’re on the same page, or at least let them know where you stand. The less that’s left off the table in your style of communication, the less room there is for assumptions, and everyone involved will be able to make more-educated decisions. Uncomplicate as much as you can, so you don’t have to worry about it at night.

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