12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today


“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln

Happy people realize happiness is a choice. They are not held hostage by their circumstances and they do not seek happiness in people or possessions. They understand that when we stop chasing the world’s definition of happiness, we begin to see the decision to experience happiness has been right in front of us all along. Research in the field of positive psychology continues to reinforce this understanding.

But simply knowing that happiness is a choice is not enough. Fully experiencing it still requires a conscience decision to do so each day. How then might each of us begin to experience this joy?

Consider this list of 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. Embrace one new action item… practice all of them… or simply use them as inspiration to discover your own.

1. Count your blessings. Happy people choose to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative. They set their minds on specific reasons to be grateful. They express it when possible. And they quickly discover there is always, always, something to be grateful for.

2. Carry a smile. A smile is a wonderful beautifier. But more than that, studies indicate that making an emotion-filled face carries influence over the feelings processed by the brain. Our facial expression can influence our brain in just the same way our brains influence our face. In other words, you can actually program yourself to experience happiness by choosing to smile. Not to mention, all the pretty smiles you’ll receive in return for flashing yours is also guaranteed to increase your happiness level.

3. Speak daily affirmation into your life. Affirmations are positive thoughts accompanied with affirmative beliefs and personal statements of truth. They are recited in the first person, present tense (“I am…”). Affirmations used daily can release stress, build confidence, and improve outlook. For maximum effectiveness, affirmations should be chosen carefully, be based in truth, and address current needs. Here is a list of 100 daily affirmations to help you get started.

4. Wake up on your terms. Most of us have alarm clocks programmed because of the expectations of others: a workplace, a school, or a waking child. That’s probably not going to change. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose control over our mornings in the process. Wake up just a little bit early and establish an empowering, meaningful, morning routine. Start each day on your terms. The next 23 hours will thank you for it.

5. Hold back a complaint. The next time you want to lash out in verbal complaint towards a person, a situation, or yourself, don’t. Instead, humbly keep it to yourself. You’ll likely diffuse an unhealthy, unhappy environment. But more than that, you’ll experience joy by choosing peace in a difficult situation.

6. Practice one life-improving discipline. There is happiness and fulfillment to be found in personal growth. To know that you have intentionally devoted time and energy to personal improvement is one of the most satisfying feelings you’ll ever experience. Embrace and practice at least one act of self-discipline each day. This could be exercise, budgeting, or guided-learning… whatever your life needs today to continue growing. Find it. Practice it. Celebrate it.

7. Use your strengths. Each of us have natural talents, strengths, and abilities. And when we use them effectively, we feel alive and comfortable in our skin. They help us find joy in our being and happiness in our design. So embrace your strengths and choose to operate within your giftedness each day. If you need to find this outlet outside your employment, by all means, find this outlet.

8. Accomplish one important task. Because happy people choose happiness, they take control over their lives. They don’t make decisions based on a need to pursue joy. Instead, they operate out of the satisfaction they have already chosen. They realize there are demands on their time, helpful pursuits to accomplish, and important contributions to make to the world around them. Choose one important task that you can accomplish each day. And find joy in your contribution.

9. Eat a healthy meal/snack. We are spiritual, emotional, and mental beings. We are also physical bodies. Our lives cannot be wholly separated into its parts. As a result, one aspect always influences the others. For example, our physical bodies will always have impact over our spiritual and emotional well-being. Therefore, caring for our physical well-being can have significant benefit for our emotional standing. One simple action to choose happiness today is to eat healthy foods. Your physical body will thank you… and so will your emotional well-being.

10. Treat others well. Everyone wants to be treated kindly. But more than that, deep down, we also want to treat others with the same respect that we would like given to us. Treat everyone you meet with kindness, patience, and grace. The Golden Rule is a powerful standard. It benefits the receiver. But also brings growing satisfaction in yourself as you seek to treat others as you would like to be treated.

11. Meditate. Find time alone in solitude. As our world increases in speed and noise, the ability to withdraw becomes even more essential. Studies confirm the importance and life-giving benefits of meditation. So take time to make time. And use meditation to search inward, connect spiritually, and improve your happiness today.

12. Search for benefit in your pain. This life can be difficult. Nobody escapes without pain. At some point—in some way—we all encounter it. When you do, remind yourself again that the trials may be difficult, but they will pass. And search deep to find meaning in the pain. Choose to look for the benefits that can be found in your trial. At the very least, perseverance is being built. And most likely, an ability to comfort others in their pain is also being developed.

Go today. Choose joy and be happy. That will make two of us.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    This is just what I needed this morning.. I have been super down with my life lately, and I googled “How to be happy” this weekend.

    Thank you!

  2. says

    Good ideas! I am going to try some of these today. I am trying to find ways to be positive with chronic illness and pain, so I can teach my children to live in joy. I think you would be proud of me. I now have a lot more stuff in my donate box than cluttering up my home. I found your site because I was looking to minimize so I can more effectively use my good days with m y children rather than clean. Thank you!

  3. says

    I’m so glad I started treating other people well. I used to have a complete disregard for others’ feelings. After I shifted and became more intentional about making sure others are happy, I feel much more content myself.

  4. says

    I love all the ideas you’ve presented in this post, especially the meditation. I have been meditating for the past 2 years and it is the one thing that affects my mood the most. I can instantly tell if I have meditated that day depending on the way I perceive the world, and the way I perceive myself. I’m more positive, and content on those days that I begin with a 15 minutes sit-down with myself. Especially now that I’m travelling and moving around all the time (driving down to South America from Toronto in a 1998 Honda Civic), I need it more. Otherwise my partner Thenix has to deal with the crazy side of me.

  5. says

    Thank you. What a great post.
    I would like to recommend to others the practice of keeping a gratitude journal; One day every week write down (or record in some other way) seven things that you are grateful for that week. Make a commitment to do this for one year.
    Apparently once a week works better than every day because you spend all week looking for reasons to be grateful and remembering them.
    I used a digital camera and posted seven photos to facebook every Sunday along with a short comment.
    When I started this felt a bit trite and silly but after one year my thinking, my behaviour and my level of satisfaction with my life had all completely changed.
    I am now battling breast cancer.
    I am happy and grateful every single day.

  6. says

    Hello Joshua, It’s something of a coincidence that one of my latest blog posts is quite similar to yours. Many of the “12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness” match up with my “Concrete Suggestions for How to Achieve Happiness.” My post also talks about positive psychology and what the research offers.

    I enjoyed your post, and am grateful for your suggestions,

    I’d love to have you and any of your visitors read and comment on my post:

  7. says

    I’ve just seen your article on Action for Happiness’ Facebook page. Some really sound ideas, thank you.

    One thing some people find difficult is to understand their own strengths… so your suggestion of “using your strengths” might not be that easy. I came across the VIA Character Strengths (initially through a link from Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website). Here’s a direct link if anyone wants to discover their strengths through an online questionnaire:

  8. says

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you, However I am having troubles with your
    RSS. I don’t understand why I can’t subscribe to it.
    Is there anybody else having similar RSS issues? Anybody who knows the solution
    will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  9. says

    Great advice, Joshua. These actions also lead to our being more productive and creative. If I could teach people how to do this, they would work through the process of becoming writers much faster than they do now. The opposites of these attitudes often interfere with the creative process and keep people frustrated.
    These attitudes will make it so much easier for people to express themselves through writing.
    You can learn more about the online writing course at http://wp.me/P36il6-gL.

  10. Marya says

    To be able to be happy is a blessing and it should be natural. Healthy living and having a good nature and a bit of luck make us naturally happy and tranquil.

  11. says

    All the research from ‘postive psychology’ would seem to support these ideas. We can do things that make us happy or can do things that make us suffer. But, and this is my one reservation: we should beware chasing after happiness which then just becomes another gaol and another burden. Flourishing is the by product of our committement to out values and our actions. Also, of all the ones listed by Joshua I would suggest that “graitude’ and “meditation” (or mindfulness) are key beacuse they involve acceptance of what is (everything is the best) rather than some achievment designed to make us happy. This blog is new to me but I love it. Thanks Joshua.

  12. Suzanne says

    This list is full of good advice. I am trying to maintain a surrender to God/be content with where I am attitude. Hard to do when my complaining SO poke holes in it. I especially like carry a smile and hold back a complaint.

  13. DDA says

    So you’re essentially saying that living is about not striving, being a doormat, and letting others walk all over you? I would say complaints are normal, though the method in expressing it is key.

  14. says

    Very well put. I just recently had a spiritual awakening regarding who is in control of my life, and it’s God. Surrendering to His will has brought me peace. I suffer from chronic illnesses, and I’ve been letting them get me down and have been arguing with God about why I have to go through these trials. It’s for my own good. To grow me and mold me and make me who He wants me to be. Your steps as outlined above go right along with some important decisions I’ve made just this last week. I need to choose contentment. I need to hold back the negative, think about the positive, and I most definitely need to keep moving. Being sick and on the sidelines has made me feel really useless, but there ARE things I can accomplish on those days when I can’t move much. You’ve sparked several ideas.
    Found your blog through a dear friend who pm’d me on fb about this post. I’ve been blogging for almost five years and just today I got the news that I sold my first short story! Yippee!
    Tina @ Life is Good

  15. Dana says

    First, I would like to say thank you for this blog. I love all of the articles that you post. I can say that this is a great list and it works! I have been “working” on my life for ever, but intensely for the past year. I encourage everyone to practice these steps. My best piece of advice is to “chip away” at making changes. If it happens overnight, it probably won’t stick, especially with diet and exercise. Pick one thing, work on it, and be gentle with yourself! Sometimes you need to “get out of your own way”, in order to find peace, joy, and confidence. Always ask yourself, what am I doing to contribute to this unhappiness or dissatisfaction in any situation or relationship.

  16. Peter says

    On the subject of food, I’m finding Alice Waters “The Art Of Simple Food” to be an excellent companion piece to this blog. She seems very connected to her food and writes about it beautifully and in a way that encourages the reader to really focus on simple natural food and to really enjoy it. Although she lives in a different part of the world, where farming conditions are probably optimal, there is still much in her writing that can be easily emulated: “cook simply, eat together, plant a garden, use farmer’s markets, eat locally, sustainably and seasonally, remember food is precious”

  17. Paula G says

    Thanks for the reminders: ) I want to begin this process of meditation, but don’t know how turn my thoughts off. Do you have any advice for getting started?

  18. says

    Oh, I just love this! I am a firm believer in smiling often and at others. Even if it’s hard that day, we all struggle with different things, and sometimes an encouraging smile human to human can make a huge difference!

  19. says

    Love this post. I have been trying to do all of these, consciously. And they WORK! They become sub conscious. I honestly “feel” happier and send it out there. I have even had good things happen because of it. I truly think it’s the key to all things. Thank you

  20. claire says

    Great advice! I have to try hard to remember to do these things apart from smiling and being nice to other people as I’m good at that already :-)

  21. Esther says

    Thanx Joshua,
    Was feeling low about a certain situation in my life, but reading this blog has encouraged me in more than one way. I am going to choose to be happy, and practice some of these intentional actions.

    God Bless you.

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