The Importance of Practicing Happy

The Importance of Practicing Happy

How often do you practice happiness?  Kind of a strange question isn’t it? Practicing happiness? That’s not a concept most of us really think about.


In my work, I often find people wanting to be happier, considering happiness an outcome, an ending place, and something we feel. And sure, it can be. Happiness can absolutely be an outcome. However, I want to challenge you to think of happiness as something that you practice, rather than something that you wait for. In other words, happiness can be a verb, as opposed to just being a noun.



Practicing happiness means doing things that contribute to feeling happy or happier, even when you don’t really feel like it. It’s a play on the oh so important action…motivation…action relationship that I’ve talked about before. By practicing happiness, even when we don’t feel like it, we dramatically increase the opportunity for us to feel happy.


Here’s how to get started. Step one,…generate a list of things that make you happy. It’s really important that these things are action-focused things versus passive things. (Think experiences and activities not material possessions.) I’ve included an abbreviated “happy list” of my own, for reference, though it’s important for you to create your own list. What makes each of us happy varies, so I want you to make your own list.


Drive with the sunroof open and my favorite tunes blasting

Arrange fresh flowers

Do a meditation

Decorate my planner

Host a game night with friends

Visit a local restaurant with my husband

Get a pedicure

Light a candle

Grab coffee with a friend

Watch Harry Potter

Facetime with family

Send a piece of snail mail

Go for a walk

Name things from the day I’m grateful for

Treasure hunt (aka thrift and bargain shop) with my mom


While I’m sure you can make a mental happy list, I strongly encourage you to create a tangible list, either on paper or on your phone. This will help you reference the list in moments you need it most.


Step two…do one or more of these things, even if you don’t really feel like it. Again, this is about actively practicing happy, not waiting for it to fall out of the sky. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Field of Dreams. Think of this as the “Build it, and they will come” idea. This isn’t to say that after doing one or two of the things on your happy list, you’ll be overflowing with abundant joy. My guess is, however, that you’ll start to notice a shift in mood.


I have found so much power in realizing that we can change our mood and impact our experience, rather than passively waiting for things to change. So my challenge to you is this. Create your own happy list today. Focus on creating a range of experiences and activities, varying in time and cost, and then do these things when you’re struggling or feeling stale. Practicing happy is an important part of emotional health; so what are you waiting for?


PS: Curious how you can get motivated to try the things on your happy list?  Check out this post!

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