50 Ways to Start Cultivating Happiness Today

Last updated on 9/10/2020. As of this update, this article has been viewed 19,590 times since it was first published!


Readers often ask questions about “finding” happiness. The answer is that we don’t find happiness; we live it. Happiness (i.e., flourishing, fulfillment, and life-satisfaction) is the by-product of our daily decisions and activities. Unhappiness is often a by-product of the situations we create or have failed to address.*

Regardless of the specific causes of unfulfilment, many people eventually realize that if they want their situations to change, they are the ones who must work to change it.

In “Your First Step Toward a Beautiful Life,” I discussed the strategy of visualizing a blank slate. The blank slate symbolizes the process of letting go of old lifestyle patterns. This visualization helps us to redesign our lives, unencumbered by mental clutter from the past.

So if step one is to start with a blank slate, then the next obvious question is, then what?

The next task is to cultivate happiness. We can accomplish this by adding consciously reinvented layers of our lives to the slate. Although we all have areas we need to focus on more, I have compiled the following list of suggestions to help you begin the process.

This list is not exhaustive. Once you start the process, add items that are most relevant for you. There isn’t a specific order to follow, but I believe a good place to start is with a rediscovery of self.


  1. Learn about yourself through introspection.
  2. Define your core values and beliefs.
  3. Set your own priorities and direction.
  4. Love, value, and forgive yourself.
  5. Prioritize self-care (adequate sleep, healthy diet, relaxation, etc.).
  6. Live authentically.
  7. Live within your means.


  1. Teach others how to treat you by loving and respecting yourself.
  2. Cultivate positive, supportive, and reciprocating relationships.
  3. Seek relationships that cause your world to expand (your world should not feel smaller).
  4. Create healthy boundaries.
  5. Understand the differences between dependence, co-dependence, independence, and interdependence.
  6. Learn about and develop your emotional intelligence.
  7. Share your world with a pet.


  1. Simplify/organize your surroundings (get rid of excess).
  2. Design/create a personal sanctuary.
  3. Furnish your environment with inspiring materials (books, art, music, etc.).


  1. Be willing to learn and experience new things.
  2. Volunteer for a social cause.
  3. Seek peak experiences/Create a bucket list.
  4. Accept personal challenges (run a marathon).
  5. Don’t wait for someday(start enjoying life today).


  1. Resist pessimistic thinking.
  2. Keep things in perspective.
  3. Accept that you can only control yourself and your own reactions.
  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff and choose your battles.
  5. Focus on the present (let go of the past, don’t worry about the future).
  6. Smile more.
  7. Increase your opportunities to laugh and share humor.
  8. Don’t allow negative moments to snowball.


  1. Develop your creative skills and talents.
  2. Find what you love to do and make it your life’s work.
  3. Set and work toward meaningful personal goals.
  4. Challenge your self-limiting beliefs (you can achieve more than you think).
  5. Seek improvement over perfection.
  6. Appreciate/celebrate your accomplishments and personal milestones.
  7. Redefine your beliefs about success (don’t confuse material acquisitions with success).
  8. Give yourself permission to change your mind or direction when something isn’t working.
  9. Remember to enjoy the journey as much as the ultimate destination.


  1. Treat peace of mind as a priority.
  2. Know that peace, love, and happiness are all generated from within.
  3. Learn to channel your awareness and attention (where your attention goes, energy flows).
  4. Learn to re-center and replenish using relaxation or meditation techniques.
  5. Seek moments of solitude.
  6. Practice gratitude.


  1. Recognize that change is natural and inevitable; be flexible and less resistant to it.
  2. When things change, embrace the new normal.
  3. Develop confidence in your ability to respond to stress and crises.
  4. Look for active ways to solve problems.
  5. Identify with yourself as a survivor, not a victim.

“Happiness is an inside job.”
—William Arthur Ward

*Note: This article discusses happiness from the standpoint of personal fulfillment. Therefore, this statement does not apply to situations involving mental and physical illness, victimization, or abuse. If you suffer from a physical or mental illness or are the victim of emotional or physical abuse, please seek professional medical and/or therapeutic support from a licensed practitioner. If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please call the SAMHSA National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1–800–273–8255.
**Image: Dave Nitsche

Published by A. Irvin

Dr. Angela Irvin is a clinical psychologist and mental health educator. Her clinical specialties include forensics, trauma, and personality-related issues. She is also an expert on cultural facets of mental health relating to race, gender, and class. As a mental health educator and writer, she emphasizes research-based information that promotes holistic wellness.