Regardless of someone’s personal definition of happiness, research suggests that some adjustments to a person’s habits and outlook may improve their sense of well-being and mental health in both the short and long term.

Most, if not all, people have felt unhappy at some point in their life. Feelings of unhappiness may come and go, and some emotions that people often consider negative, such as grief, are a natural part of life and the human condition.

However, there are habits a person may adopt in order to improve their mental health in both the short and long term and to feel more fulfilled with their life.

This article discusses six tips that may help an individual feel happier and when they should consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

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According to a 2020 study, higher levels of physical activity significantly relate to increased feelings of happiness and life satisfaction in younger, middle-aged, and older adults.

The researchers suggested that the amount of physical activity a person did was more important than the type of activity they did. This means a person can practice whatever activity or sport makes them the happiest and see the same benefits, provided they do so regularly.

Types of physical activities that people may find enjoyable include:

A person living with any health conditions should speak with a healthcare professional about which type of exercise may be most beneficial for them.

There are many types of meditation that a person can practice depending on their individual needs. For some people, mindfulness meditation helps them feel present and free from distractions or worries about the past or future.

According to a 2017 meta-analysis, mindfulness meditation may help reduce physiological markers of stress, including levels of the stress hormone cortisol, systolic blood pressure, and heart rate.

For other people, practices such as loving kindness meditation may help cultivate positive emotions that can carry through to their life and relationships even after they finish a meditation session.

According to an older 2015 review, loving kindness meditation may be effective in enhancing people’s positive emotions. However, the authors note that more research is necessary to draw firm conclusions.

It may sound counterintuitive, but acknowledging and accepting negative emotions, rather than judging or avoiding them, can have a profound positive effect on how a person relates to their own feelings.

Research suggests there may be some benefits to adopting this way of thinking. According to a 2017 analysis of scientific literature, accepting negative emotions as part of one’s lived experience may improve psychological health for a diverse range of people.

In a 2020 study in South Korea, the author concluded that comparing oneself to others might negatively impact psychological well-being. However, they noted that further research was necessary.

This negative effect on a person’s sense of well-being may occur even if a person compares themselves favorably to others. Research from the American Psychological Association found that even among people who considered themselves above-average, comparing themselves to others still led to feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, as the same people tended to compare themselves to well-above-average standards.

A person may find it tempting to compare themselves to others in many areas, whether it be physical appearance, professional accomplishments, skills, relationships, or finances. However, accepting that they are good enough as they are, regardless of how others around them appear to be doing, may be more conducive to emotional well-being.

The concept of a meaningful life can mean different things to different people. Some find meaning in religion, family and personal relationships, work, or the pursuit of hobbies and passions.

One evidence-backed path to meaning lies in appreciating experiences as they happen. A recent study in the journal Nature Human Behavior found that “experiential appreciation” was a significant predictor of feeling that one’s life has meaning.

The type of experience that brings a person a sense of meaning and happiness may be large or small. It can be the smell of a cup of coffee, enjoying a sunset, laughing, spending time with a loved one, or listening to a favorite song. The key is for a person to appreciate the moment as it happens.

It can be easy to forget that life has positive as well as negative aspects, especially if a person is feeling down. Practicing gratitude may help increase a person’s sense of emotional well-being by managing stress. One popular method of practicing gratitude is writing about the things a person feels grateful for in a gratitude journal.

A person may decide to do this first thing in the morning after waking, as they drink their morning coffee, or before they go to bed. There is no prescriptive right or wrong way to journal. The best way is whatever feels natural and enjoyable for a person, as this makes them more likely to keep up the practice.

According to a 2019 study, people who wrote about gratitude were better at regulating their emotions, particularly negative emotions, than those who did not.

Learn more about whether journaling may help with depression.

If a person is concerned about feeling unhappy or experiencing persistent low moods, they should consider speaking with a doctor, as they may have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.

After discussing a person’s symptoms and medical history with them, a doctor may provide a diagnosis and prescribe medications or other treatments if necessary.

There are many ways a person may change their daily habits and perspective on their life and feelings in order to increase their sense of well-being.

Taking care of their mental health by exercising, practicing meditation, appreciating the little things in life, and writing in a gratitude journal are some methods that may help a person increase feelings of happiness.

If a person is worried that their mood is consistently low for prolonged periods of time, they should speak with a doctor to discuss whether they may be living with depression or a similar mental health condition.