Learning how to get happy is an ongoing process throughout life. And it’s never too late to start or re-fire. Some people, researchers now know, are born with a sort of happiness gene — a 5HTT gene, which helps transport seratonin in the brain.
Its malfunction or mutation can be involved in bringing on depression. And not everyone has a strong happiness gene, it seems.
Yet happiness is crucial to good health, and is tied in with brain chemistry. But a lot of it also has to do with habits of thinking.
And habits can be changed at any age. I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes, and it truly can make a difference in dealing with many elderly issues that come up as we age.
(One of these issues is depression. If this is suspected, before a person can take further steps in how to get happy, we would first need to be sure clinical depression is being managed, by seeing a health practitioner).
To get an excellent understanding of the physiology of joy and depression, I suggest reading The Chemistry of Joy, by Henry Emmons, M.D.
My Dad has a favorite philosophy — “a person should wake up every morning satisfied and cheerful.” And what an example he is, at age 96 and being almost deaf and blind. I asked him how he developed such a great attitude. He said it was a process that’s happened over time. He also firmly believes his basic regiment of exercises for the elderly helps a great deal.
But he was largely influenced by three important books in his life. One was How To Live 365 Days A Year, by John A Schindler, MD. This is a classic and I remember in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s how Dad used to rave about this book and got us all to read it.
Another book is The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck. You may be familiar with this one as well. His third favorite is Think And Grow Rich, a classic by Napolean Hill. How to get happy is the basic premise of all three of these books.
Now I read these books to him, as he can no longer read himself. I’d read them all in my younger years. And oh if I’d only assimilated all of the wisdom…
How To Get Happy Studies
Perhaps you’re familiar with the famous experiments NASA has done in the past with astronauts, is testing to see how the body handles stressors.
One involved special convex goggles that were put on the astronauts in training, making everything look upside down and backward. They could not take them off at all for at least 30 days, not in the shower, not even when sleeping. This was to purposely disorient them and see how they would cope and if they would become depressed. Needless to say, it was stressful to adjust at first.
Lo and behold, around Day 26 to Day 30, everyone experienced an amazing phenomenon. The brain adjusted itself so that they could suddenly see right-side up again.
The brain had made a neural adaptation. So they tried it again, and had the astronauts take off the goggles after about 14 Days. But by Day 30 nothing happened. They had to start all over.
After much more testing, NASA came to realize that absolute consistency for the new perceptual information was needed, with no break, for about 30 days before the subconscious and brain would adjust.
This is called neural reconditioning. It’s the same with forming new habits. You can build a new neural pathway in your brain – programmed for how to get happy.
The key is consistency. How to get happy involves consistency of attitude and habits. This is makes the difference.
There are all kinds of helpful, positive attitude ideas out there. And they help for awhile. But if we do not consistently practice them for at least 30 days (and ideally longer) our subconscious and brains do not register the new pattern.
So what are some how to get happy hints? Here are some of the favorites we have come across over the years. You may be familiar with many. But remember, the key is to them consistently without break for at least 30 days.
Gratitude — Before going to bed each night, and upon rising, think of 5 things that you are grateful for in your life and in Life in general. They can be very small. Often it’s the small things that make us happy anyway.
Take this a step further and write them down in what folks call their Gratitude Diary. That way you have something at your fingertips to read over, again and again, when you need a lift. This amazingly simple exercise is one of the most powerful for how to get happy in a snap.
Wonderful You — It seems we tend to remember the crummy stuff about ourselves, dwell on it, and the good stuff goes on the back burner. Not a good way of how to get happy.
Make a list of all the wonderful things about yourself. Sometimes we are programmed to think in terms of others: helping others, complimenting others. Making others feel good or better. While this is of course important and meaningful, it has to start with ourselves first. And once we’ve got it down about ourselves, it is so much easier to let it flow towards others.
Make this list as long as you want it. The longer the better. Put down all your wonderful qualities, your talents and skills, your contributions, your accomplishments – over your lifetime. Being happy about yourself is key in how to get happy in general. You will have another tool to check in with whenever you need a lift. And keep adding to it on a continual basis.
Sunshine and Vitamin D — According to the National Institutes of Health, we need sun for Vitamin D, and its lack is becoming a big problem. We also need both to keep our mood balanced. You may be familiar with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is common in climates with less sun, especially during the winter. I have had a problem with this myself.
But a good way of how to get happy despite dark and gloomy weather is using a full-spectrum light. We have a Day Light by Uplift Technologies, and I can say it truly helps. Both Dad and I use it.
Since I have started taking a Vitamin D supplement (which is not a good as the sun, but does help) I have also felt more energetic. As always, you may need to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Make a difference — We can do this at any age, even in a small way. This is a really great way of how to get happy almost immediately – by making a difference to another person (or animal too).
Whether through an actual volunteer activity, being especially helpful or kind to someone down the hall, or participation in a prayer group, even giving a compliment — there are ways for everyone.
What you have and know can be shared with the younger generation as well. Pass it on. And you may like to check out our volunteer ideas. Set a goal that each day you will find a way to make a difference to someone. And don’t forget to let yourself be the receiver, so that you can allow someone else to make a difference – to you.
Interact with animals
— It is a known fact that interacting with animals is healing to our psychology and an excellent way of how to get happy. Especially holding and petting them.
If you cannot get a pet at this point in your life, see if you can have an animal come in to visit you regularly, or go on regular trips to a pet store. Perhaps volunteer at a shelter. Walk someone’s dog or take care of their cat for awhile.
Visuals — Surrounding yourself with visually uplifting things is key to how to get happy. Get rid of anything that you have to look at that does not make you happy (if you can). Paint your rooms a favorite color if you are in a place that you can paint. Even just one wall helps.
The power that color has on our psyche is amazing. But it has to be your favorite color. Not one you think you’re supposed to like, or one that some study says is the best.
Arrange your rooms with pillows, throws, art work and wall hangings, plants and flowers, anything visually happy to look at. And did you know an aquarium is particularly calming to the nerves?
Make a wish book — You may be familiar with the concept of visualization. Well it is indeed a powerful way for boosting how to get happy.
Get a 3-ring binder and some plastic page sleeves. The start cutting out pictures and photos or things that are uplifting to you, and things that you would really love to do or have. Look at it every day. Especially those that you’d really love to attract into your life.
See them in your life now. This may be a car, a new dress, a special concert or function to go to, a trip, better health, even more money. Remember, it’s consistency of staying with your visualization of it.
Use your best stuff
— And again, get rid of anything you don’t like, don’t use, or don’t really want. Get out those good dishes and use them. Put them out on display too. Get out those nice clothes and wear them. Doing anything that’s a pick-me-up is how to get happy quickly.
Do something creative — Creativity has a way for generating a happy mood. And being creative is not just about the arts. Certainly painting, clay, music, writing, woodworking and the like are great.
But if you know how to fix things, how about fixing something for someone. Or teaching others about it. We have lots of activities on our web site. Just take a look at the Menu Bar.
Nature — Being in nature and doing things with and in nature helps us keep balance and is a sure-fire way of how to get happy. This can be taking a walk, getting your hands in the soil, or making a small garden for your windowsill and taking care of it.
Sometimes this means forming a new habit — like getting out and taking that walk, maybe with a friend. And combining nature with a little exercise is ideal.
Exercise — No matter what our situation (almost), there are ways we can exercise. Even if it’s sitting down. Getting the energy going in your system. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Number One benefit of exercise is improving your mood, which of course is how to get happy.
Including just taking a walk for 15 to 30 minutes a day. And if you happen to have arthritis (or want to prevent it) one of the best programs I’ve come across is called “Easy Yoga For Arthritis,” by Peggy Cappy. It’s great for stress as well.
Get a hobby — Having something interesting that you like to do every day is crucial to how to get happy. If you’ve had to give up a hobby for some reason, or never really had one, now it the time to get going with something new.
(See our page on Finding A Hobby). There’s nothing like having something fun to look forward to. And it will be inspiring not only to yourself but others.
Laugh Daily — This seems easy. But it isn’t always. I’ve read many a study about how laughter therapy helps patients with serious illness recover faster. Or helps us sleep better. Or gets the blood flow going. We know it relieves stress. (The Mayo Clinic says so).
They also say stimulate the endorphins in your brain, plus your organs overall. And your immune system. All these physical benefits are important in how to get happy.
The trick is, discovering what can make you laugh — whether a joke book, funny person, movie, or TV show. But it is important enough to make it a daily practice, just like exercise. (And probably a lot funner).
Read An Inspiring Book — Reading something inspirational is one of my favorite ways of how to get happy. I’ve lately come across a really good one, sure to become a classic. It’s Happy For No Reason, by Marci Shimoff. I think it’s a masterpiece.
And if you really want to go deep (and also be amused), try Steering By Starlight. Or anything written by her. She is one of the most profound and hilarious authors I’ve read.
Create A Get-Away — Some people can go on a great vacation regularly. Others can’t. But we can make ourselves a comfy little get-away right in our own homes. I, in fact, try to make my whole home a get-away.
This means getting rid of anything that does not truly make you happy, re-arranging, and filling it with things that you love. Especially the little things.
love art, plants, pillows, special bedding, patterns and color, books, delightful and whimsical accessories, antiques, flowers, music, lighting that makes a statement. And a lot of it is from sales, thrift stores, and things I’ve made myself. Your environment, even color alone, can make a huge difference in how to get happy.
You may be familiar with columnist Regina Brett’s 45 Life Lessons and 5 to Grow On – published in The Plain Dealer on Sunday, May 28, 2006. I’ve made a separate page for these at 45 Life Lessons. Be sure to read them — they are inspiring and timeless.
Some people are born with the happiness gene or the gift of a special personality (which is a true gift). But for many, how to get happy sometimes takes a little effort and developing a new attitude. And it does take consistency.
It’s not something you try out for a couple days and then say it didn’t really work. That is a cop-out. It is true some folks seem to be born with a positive attitude, and others have to work on it. But to have quality of life (no matter how long you live), finding ways of how to get happy is the best anti aging advice we’ve found.
Also be sure to read:
Senior Activity Ideas — A nice variety of senior activity ideas (baby boomers too!) for those with more mobility or a higher ability level. Some great to do alone, and some in groups.
Elderly Activities — Have some fun! A wide range of activities, including for those who may have limitations or need more help. Includes indoors, outdoors, games, food projects, crafts.
Easy Crafts and Gifts You Can Make — Our book! Looking for easy crafts and gifts you can make? Find out how to get loads of quality ideas — consolidated all in one place. Includes dozens of brand new projects not on this web site. Plus FREE dozens of new templates and patterns for your designs. Great for fun, gift giving, selling.