How to be happier

The small actions that will make you happier

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • What are you waiting for?

    In Partnership with Neutrogena®

    To be happy 100% of the time is unrealistic, but often it’s the simple things that can help up your happiness quotient – and getting in the habit of doing these, or utilising them when you need a strategy for downtimes can be helpful in your overall happiness.

    Ready, set, go!

    How to be happier

    by Harriet Griffey

    1. Smile

    Smiling works both ways: we smile when we’re happy, but the physical act of smiling actually tells our brains we’re happy. You can’t force it, but even just watching a funny cat video on Reddit will make you smile – and, suddenly, you feel happier.

    2. Connect

    Take that smile further and get into the habit of exchanging pleasantries with those you come into daily contact with, at the local newsagent, the bus stop, in the office. Build social relationships in person, not via your smart phone.

    3. Hug a friend

    A hug with someone you like or love not only connects you physically but also releases the hormone oxytocin, which promotes loving and optimistic feelings – and this will help boost your HQ (happiness quotient) too.

    4. Exercise

    Physical exercise releases feel-good factor hormones that lift our mood while reconnecting us to our bodies, socialising and having fun. Factor in something every day, even if it’s only a short walk or a 10-minute yoga session in your bedroom. It’ll give your mind a break.

    5. Practise gratitude

    Just a brief note in your diary about something nice that’s happened soon builds to a record of positive experiences, which you can use to remind yourself that happiness is always available to you.

    6. Take care of yourself

    How you feel physically can affect your emotional health: getting enough sleep and eating regular, nutritious (avoid junk food) meals can both help stabilise mood.

    7. Do one thing…

    … each day that brings you personal pleasure. Keep it simple: taking a walk, sharing a coffee with a friend, reading a book – enjoy and savour these moments.

    We also asked psychologist Ingrid Collins to give us a few tips and here’s what she said…

    8. Fake it until you make it

    It’s an easy trick. Just decide at the start of your day that you’re going to set your mood to ‘happy’ and consciously relax your muscles and smile. This physiological state convinces your brain that you are indeed happy and from that position you feel more empowered to tackle the challenges of the day ahead – that makes you even happier!

    9. Do a random kind deed for someone

    Another exercise is to do a random kind deed for someone, not expecting anything in return. This will give you a warm, happy feeling.

    10. Make a mental list of all the blessings in your life

    And express gratitude. (It helps.)

    11. Imagine sending out love to everyone you know

    And yes, that includes you.

    Harriet Griffey’s new book I Want to Be Happy is out now (Hardie Grant, £7.99)

    Reading now

    Popular Life stories