7 Simple Rules for a Happier Life

7 Simple Rules for a Happier Life

Happiness is what we all strive for in life. We desire to wake up each morning feeling cheerful and content, to enjoy fulfilling relationships, and to have a sense of meaning and purpose. While happiness may feel out of reach for many, small lifestyle habits and mindset shifts can bring us greater life satisfaction and well-being. By following these seven simple, scientifically-backed rules, you’ll be well on your way to discovering more joy, gratitude, and bliss in your daily life.

Modern positive psychology studies have shown strong links between fostering social connections, adopting an attitude of gratitude, engaging in meaningful activities, and actively caring for one’s body and mind. Science supports what humans have intuited for ages – elements like solid relationships, a sense of purpose, mindfully enjoying the present moment, and pursuing passions all contribute to emotional wellness and life satisfaction.

Rule 1: Practice Gratitude

Understanding Gratitude

Gratitude is about focusing on the blessings in your life, both the simple joys and the significant gifts that shape your experience. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” enhances mood, improves sleep, and strengthens friendships. Essentially, you start noticing the positives rather than ruminating over the negatives.

For example, starting each morning by thinking of three specific things you’re grateful for—a comfy bed, a caring co-worker, a favorite lunch spot nearby—puts you in a frame of mind to better appreciate the day ahead.

Daily Gratitude Practices

Keeping a Gratitude Journal: Spend five to ten minutes each night jotting down a person, situation, memory, or simple pleasure from the day you are grateful for.

Sharing Gratitude with Loved Ones: Call a friend or join your family at the dinner table and take turns naming something you’re grateful for and why, even simple pleasures like a sunny day or a favorite song.

Rule 2: Foster Positive Relationships

The Role of Relationships in Happiness

As humans, connections with others give our lives meaning and purpose. Social relationships are the strongest predictor of increased well-being and life satisfaction. Deeper relations provide emotional stability, support, joy, and a sense that someone “has your back” through life’s ups and downs.

For instance, singer Taylor Swift prioritizes nurturing friendships in her busy life and credits her squad for providing grounding. Research has shown that face-to-face social interaction floods the brain with dopamine, reducing stress and boosting mood.

Building and Maintaining Positive Relationships

Invest Time and Effort: Sincerely show up emotionally for those you care about. Schedule video calls to catch up, join a friend during their gym session, and become a trusted listening ear.

Express Appreciation and Support: Notice their talents and strengths, such as perseverance, humor, or loyalty, that enrich your connection. Let them know precisely why and how much they matter to you.

Rule 3: Engage in Regular Physical Activity

Benefits of Physical Activity

Beyond simply impacting physical health and longevity, exercise has a well-established positive effect on mental health. Following aerobic exercise routines just a few times a week has been shown to decrease the risk of depression and anxiety in multiple studies. Exercise releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, the “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain.

As an example, running enthusiast Scott found that sticking to a regular morning run helped manage symptoms of his mild seasonal depression. The mood boost and sense of accomplishment carried him through gloomy winter days. The exercise served as his essential mental pick-me-up.

Incorporating Exercise into Daily Life

Find Enjoyable Activities: Experiment with dance classes, tennis matches, and biking trails. Discover physical activities that make you smile, so it feels sustainable rather than a chore.

Build an Exercise Routine: Integrate exercise into each weekday morning or evening. Consistency is vital, even on days when motivation seems low. Remind yourself of positive results.

Rule 4: Live in the Moment

Understanding Mindfulness

Mindfulness means maintaining focused awareness of the present and intentionally directing non-judgmental attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations unfolding moment-to-moment. Extensive research demonstrates that mindful presence enhances emotional regulation, reduces harmful stress, and positively impacts physical processes like blood pressure and inflammation.

For example, a busy entrepreneur would grow frustrated balancing work, family dinners, and emails. She felt pulled in every direction. Taking just minutes before bed for deep breathing exercises helped ground her in the moment rather than overwhelm her mind reviewing the day’s responsibilities.

Practical Mindfulness Techniques

Breathing Exercises: Close your eyes, clear your mind, and slowly inhale for a count of four, hold for four counts, release for four, and repeat. Even one minute can relax the nervous system.

Single Tasking: When cooking dinner for the kids or sending emails for an hour, try putting aside other distractions and focusing solely on that activity.

Rule 5: Pursue Your Passions

Finding What You Love

Exploring and actively pursuing your passions and hobbies gives life excellent purpose and meaning. These intrinsically motivating activities connect to core interests and values. They spark creativity, provide a sense of challenge, and enable you to apply strengths—all reasons why passion projects uniquely contribute to happiness and self-esteem.

For example, a corporate accountant dreamed of opening her bakery one day, though doubtful she could balance the commitment. She started small by baking elaborate cakes for friends’ special occasions. Seeing their delight sparked the creativity she missed in her office job. She also joined an amateur baking club to meet others who shared her interest, giving her a fun sense of community.

Making Time for What Matters

Schedule Your Passion: Protect time in your calendar for meaningful activities the same way you would dentist appointments and work meetings. Consistency enables progress.

Find Micro-Moments: Can’t commit to a three-hour painting class? Even 15 minutes of sketching or strumming a guitar nurtures your creative spirit.

Rule 6: Give Back to Others

The Happiness of Giving

Helping others in need provides a deep sense of purpose and meaning. Giving back promotes greater life satisfaction and lower rates of anxiety and depression. Volunteering to support a cause awakens empathy, compassion, and self-confidence. Practicing small acts of kindness in daily interactions also dramatically boosts mood.

As one example, empty nesters Ralph and Alice joined a mentorship program for at-risk teens aging out of foster care. They relished nurturing genuine connections with youth who benefitted profoundly from their guidance in navigating school, work, and apartment applications. The positive energy flowed both ways.

Ways to Give Back

Volunteer Time and Skills: Tutor students in need, serve meals to people experiencing homelessness, and offer budgeting expertise at a women’s center. Discover fulfillment by sharing your talents.

Practice Random Acts of Kindness: Help the mom juggle packages and her toddler at the market, let a rushed colleague go first in line for coffee and pick up litter during your neighborhood walk.

Rule 7: Adopt a Growth Mindset

The Power of a Positive Attitude

Our mindset and inner narrative influence how we respond to challenges, setbacks, and criticism. A “fixed mindset” assumes capabilities are static and avoids risk or effort to protect self-image. A “growth mindset” recognizes abilities that develop over time with persistence. It motivates learning over quick wins.

For example, a talented runner with the potential to place nationally felt crushed after a poor marathon performance. Under a fixed mindset of disappointment, he would’ve quit the team, unwilling to risk another poor outcome. Instead, he returned the next week to put in the hard work of adjusting training strategies. He ended up qualifying for regionals with a new personal best record!

Embracing Challenges and Learning from Failures

View Setbacks as Feedback: Each failure contains valuable data on areas needing adjustment to achieve goals. Let go of the judgment and absorb the lesson.

Practice Self-Compassion: Be your own best cheerleader through disappointments or criticism. Talk to yourself with the gentle support you would show a close friend during their tough times.

Case Study: Maria’s Journey

Overwhelmed young mom, Maria read this article while searching for advice on managing anxiety and boosting low moods. She skeptically tried implementing one wellness rule weekly, admitting it felt awkward to shift gears after years of being stuck in survival mode.

  • Rule 1: Journaling nightly gratitude for her healthy children and supportive husband lightened her outlook.
  • Rule 2: Texting old friends opened genuine connections beyond daily parenting duties. She also joined an online moms group.
  • Rule 3: Maria dusted off her old exercise mat for quick morning yoga flows, energizing her for busy days.
  • Rule 4: During chaotic moments, she would pause and take deep breaths, embracing mindfulness techniques read in the article.

After just two months of small but consistent changes, Maria felt more patient with her toddlers and less isolated. She set more explicit boundaries around workload and relished reclaiming parts of her identity beyond motherhood. While life still held challenges, she felt more equipped to navigate with a happier mindset rooted in meaning.

Key Takeaways

  • Gratitude, strong social connections, and living purposely provide the foundation for increased wellness and life satisfaction.
  • Schedule passions and self-care into daily routines to experience lasting fulfillment.
  • Challenging yourself, gracefully recovering from setbacks, and showing compassion strengthen resilience.
  • Consistently putting one rule into practice each week builds momentum for positive change over time.
  • True happiness unfolds from practicing presence, pursuing meaning, focusing outward strengths to help others, and believing in lifelong growth.


Happiness comes most sustainably as a byproduct of how we choose to live life each day. It arises from mindfully embracing the present, purposefully engaging in meaningful pursuits, graciously supporting others’ well-being as much as your own, and flexibly growing stronger through life’s ups and downs.

Implement one rule weekly over the following months. Keep an open, growth-focused mindset. With small but consistent steps, you’ll start noticing positive changes in your mood, relationships, and overall well-being. A happier, more fulfilling life awaits. True happiness is the natural result of living each moment, conversation, and activity purposefully aligned with our deepest passions and values. It grows from embracing a growth mindset that transforms obstacles into lessons while bringing more lightness and laughter along life’s journey.