Tools to Help You Build a Foundation of Happiness

December 17, 2018

Friday’s quote from Operation Happiness got me thinking about the concept of building a foundation for happiness—the kind of foundation that will support us when we’re deep in grief, facing some of life’s more wrenching experiences, like losing a parent, watching a child struggle, or coping with the serious illness of a friend.

Building a foundation for happiness of this nature involves more than investing in some bubble bath and chocolate, or even a great book and cozy blanket. While comforting self-care rituals are nice (and necessary), by themselves they won’t be enough to support us during our darkest hours.

I went back through the Catching Happiness archives, and I thought about the things that have helped me most during my hardest times, and here are four I’ve found useful in building a foundation of happiness that sustains me. Perhaps they’ll help you, too.

Create and strengthen close personal relationships. Relationships are the number one contributing factor to happiness, according to a long-running Harvard study. I’m grateful that I have quality relationships with my family and my husband’s family. I also have many close friends, and many “virtual” friends I know only online. They’ve stepped in to offer support, love, encouragement and more when I’ve needed it most. I have several people I know are only a phone call or text message away if I really need help (and I hope they know I would do the same for them). It’s easier to walk through the dark valleys when someone walks beside you. 

Determine and write about your personal values. Surprisingly, this is one of the keys to coping well with stressful situations. Sometimes painful feelings result from not doing what someone else expects you to do, or from making hard choices. When you’re tired of struggling, remembering why you’ve chosen to think, behave, and live the way you do can help. Reminding yourself of your personal values can give you strength when you’re suffering.

Treat your body well. Eat healthfully, exercise, and get enough sleep. If you’re run down or sick, it’s much harder to feel happy. If, like me, you have a few nagging injuries, look into how to treat them…then actually do it! Care for yourself the way you would care for a child or someone dependent on you.

Make a list of simple mood boosters. This may seem frivolous in comparison, but there is a time and place for using mood boosters. When you’re knee deep in misery, you’ll be hard pressed to come up with anything that might lift your mood, so now is the time to think about what generally makes you feel happier. See “Five Ways to Feel Happier (in 10 Minutes or Less)” and “The Dark Side” for ways I boost my mood when sadness threatens to overwhelm me.

If your happiness is built on a foundation of deeper values and practices, it will stay with you, running like an underground river even when you face un-happy experiences. Happy feelings will return, and sorrow and grief are temporary. 

For more ways to seek deeper happiness, check out:

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  1. Dear Kathy I took time to read some of your links. As always my take aways are wonderful. Hope you have a delightful Christmas season. Hugs!

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. I know people who talk about their toolboxes. I think that living a healthy life requires practice every day. Have a happy and peaceful holiday season.

    1. Thank you--hope you are enjoying a peaceful holiday season as well. Doing my best to practice for a healthy life!