Practicing Happiness

June 21, 2024

Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

Last week during yoga practice, our teacher, Terry, started us out with an affirmation that used the term “practicing happiness”—and it captured my attention. Despite all my years of thinking and writing about happiness, I’ve never really thought of it in terms of “practicing” happiness or having a “happiness practice.” 

What does practicing happiness mean?

The word practice is both a verb: “to do or perform often, customarily, or habitually,” and a noun: “a repeated or customary action.” 

Using the verb definition, I thought about what practicing happiness would look like. The way you get better at something is by doing it. Therefore, happiness can be something you do, like practicing kindness, or practicing yoga.

Here are some things to think about if you want to practice happiness—and get better at it!

Define what makes you happy. Do you know? It’s not always what you think! I’ve written before about three forms of happiness—momentary pleasure, overall happiness, long-term contentment. Think about what you need to be happy in these three ways. 

Seek out “happiness streams.” Don’t leave your happiness to chance

Deliberately look for ways to add fun to your life. Summertime with its more relaxed vibe is a good time for most people to add a little fun to their lives. 

Keep trying. Maybe something you thought would make you happy doesn’t. Don’t give up if you’re disappointed. Maybe you’re simply worn out and don’t want to add one more thing to your mental to-do list, even if it’s happiness related. Rest, then try again later.

(If you need some ideas, see “7 Things You Can Do to Feel Happier.”

What gets in the way?

Practicing happiness sounds pretty good, but plenty of things can get in the way. Some things that stop us from practicing happiness include:

  • Neglecting your own needs and wants in favor of others
  • Feeling guilty for enjoying yourself or being happy when others are not
  • Waiting for permission
  • Waiting to be invited
  • Work and responsibility
  • Apathy/low energy
  • Grief/sadness

Happiness busters will always be with us, unfortunately. All we can do is keep at it. Even when times are hard, we can still find moments of joy. Ask for help when we need it. Allow negative feelings to pass through us. If happiness is important to you, do not give up seeking it.

Your happiness practice

It may seem like semantics, but if you practice happiness on a regular basis—not just now and then—you create a happiness practice (see the noun definition above). I think of it is as being similar to how I’ve been taught to practice yoga. It’s OK to be imperfect. Each day is a little different. What feels good and right? How can you stretch yourself while still listening to your body (yourself)? Just like a yogi comes back to the mat, you can come back to the practice of happiness whenever you want.

I’ll be working on my happiness practice this summer—how about you? How will you practice happiness?

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  1. The list of things that keep one from happiness is very insightful and also the thought that perhaps what we think would make us happy does not. Take care and may you find happiness this weekend. Hugs!