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How to Live a Happier Life

How to Live a Happier Life

Two counselors with two campers, all four are smiling

“Who is rich? The one who appreciates what they have.” – Pirkei Avot 4:1

Happiness. It’s one of those things that everyone wants, can seem elusive at times (or all the time), and is an important driver of our life decisions. I’ve always been an optimist and really positive guy (I was even voted Most Likely to Brighten Your Day during my senior year of high school), so the concept of happiness has always been interesting to me.

A few summers ago, while at the URJ Kutz Camp – a Reform Jewish summer camp for emerging leaders – I created this list of 10 tips and tricks for living a happier life; I’ve been using it in conversations, workshops, and life ever since.

I don’t mean to make this idea of happiness simple and easy because it’s not – and it’s also not about avoiding our pain or struggles. Rather, it’s about seeking happiness in our lives through it all. Here’s my list.

1. Show gratitude.

When we take the time to understand and show gratitude for all of the gifts and blessings in our lives, we experience more positive emotions and express more kindness.

2. Only control your world.

There are so many ideas, actions, and people that are not within our control, but if we focus on the parts of our world that are in our control (our attitude, the people with whom we surround ourselves, our habits, etc.), we feel more ownership over our ability to be happy.

3. Appreciate yours.

When we compare what we have to others, we create an environment of envy and jealousy; instead, let us appreciate the people and things we have in our lives.

4. Smile more.

Even in times of despair or solitude, the physical act of smiling sends a signal to our brain that we can and should be happy during that moment - so smile more!

5. Create good habits.

What are the activities that keep you balanced, centered, and happy? Create habits out of these activities so that you engage in them every day.

6. Get active.

Science demonstrates that exercise, like walking, running, sports, yoga, etc., increases our endorphin levels (feel-good chemicals) and decreases cortisol levels (stress-related hormones).

7. Treat yourself.

Have you been working hard to balance work, school, family, friends, and hobbies? Be sure to take time to treat yourself – to ice cream, your favorite TV show, or an extra hour of sleep.

8. Practice self-reflection.

In our incredibly busy, fast-paced, 24/7 lifestyle, it’s important that we take time to reflect upon all parts of our lives: the blessings, the challenges, the learnings, and the opportunities. Whether it’s journaling, meditation, or talking with friends, be sure to take time to reflect.

9. Choose your attitude.

No matter our environment, we always have the ability to choose our attitude and the way in which we approach and engage in various situations. Let’s make the choice to be happy.

10. Spread joy.

When we experience happy moments, we want to spread that joy to the people around us and help them lead a happier life, as well. Take that joy and spread it around!

How do you actively cultivate happiness? I’d love to hear what’s on your own list.

Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, serves as the associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, after spending two years as the inaugural URJ presidential fellow for millennial engagement. Evan graduated from the University of Kansas studying political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. He is a past NFTY president, Kansas Hillel intern, student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors, and co-founder of the Hillel International Student Cabinet.

Evan Traylor
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