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13 Incredibly Smart Tips To Be Happier From Mental Health Experts

Genius tips from people whose job it is to make you feel better.

Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

It's pretty safe to assume that you want to be happy, because...well, who doesn't? But how to actually make that happen is a little more elusive. BuzzFeed Life talked to a bunch of experts to get their best tips.

1. Realize that happiness doesn't mean having everything you want and being problem-free all the time.

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"We cannot control everything that happens to us in life, but we can choose how we respond. When we respond with an attitude of 'Why is this happening to me?' and adopt a victim mentality, we suffer. When we choose to respond with an attitude of 'Why is this happening for me and what can I learn?' then we feel a lot more empowered, which impacts our mental state positively.

The biggest misconception about happiness is that we can outsource it — that something external is going to make us happy. Happiness is NOT a constant state. As humans we experience and grow through a variety of emotions. The expectation that we should be happy all the time will leave anyone with an expectation hangover. What we can be is grateful."

Christine Hassler, empowerment coach and author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life

2. Cut "should" from your vocabulary, because it basically guarantees whatever you think "should" happen, won't.

3. Remember that your negative thoughts are not true. They're just thoughts.

4. Start your day by reminding yourself one positive thing about your life.

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"This can be a small observation like enjoying beautiful weather or something more profound like recognizing you have achieved one step towards a life goal (working in the industry you always dreamt of, have a best friend who you are grateful for, etc). We tend to hold onto negatives a lot stronger than positives so this can be a small way to give yourself a moment to check in with the 'happier' thoughts and realities."

Jess Allen, LMSW, ACT, NYC-based cognitive behavioral therapist

5. Anyone can benefit from therapy, so consider making an appointment for a checkup.

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"There is a stereotype that many people have about the unique person who chooses to see a therapist. 'They must be an emotional wreck,' or 'they can't take care of their own problems,' or 'they must be crazy.' That last one is probably the most popular and worst misconception of them all!

It takes a lot of insight and emotional awareness to realize that you want to enlist the services of a trained mental health therapist to get the right help you need. Yes, there are some clients who seek therapy when they are at the absolute lowest emotional point in their lives, but there are also just as many who simply want to become emotionally healthier people to enhance their work and intimate relationships. No problem is too small or large when you come to see one of us. It's all welcomed because our job is to meet you where you are at in life, not where we or anyone else thinks you should be."

Gabriela Parra, LCSW, California-based counselor

6. Don't think about your work responsibilities at home, and vice versa.

7. Stop checking your smartphone randomly. Instead, give yourself specific times to catch up on social media and email.

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"Most people would be happier (and less stressed) if they checked their phone less. A study of college students at Kent State University found that people who check their phones frequently tend to experience higher levels of distress during their leisure time (when they intend to relax!).

Instead of willing ourselves to just check less often, we can configure our devices and work time so that we are tempted less often. The goal is to check email, social media, and messages on your phone just a few times a day — intentionally, not impulsively. Our devices are thus returned to their status as tools we use strategically — not slot machines that randomly demand our energy and attention."

—Christine Carter, Ph.D., happiness expert at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center and author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work

8. Make keeping up with your friendships a priority.

9. Actually take the time to plan short-term pleasure AND long-term goals — aka actively make your life what you want it to be.

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"A lot of people rush around without devoting a few minutes each week to reflecting and strategizing. We may all recognize we've periodically contemplated signing up to volunteer at Big Brother Big Sister, then totally forget. Or we mean to switch jobs and then procrastinate, [then] we're facing our second year in a position we planned to quickly exit.

As Greg McKeown notes in his book, Essentialism, 'When we don't purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and times, other people — our bosses, our colleagues, our clients, and even our families — will choose for us, and before long we'll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.'

Spend time each week planning ahead — plan activities you may enjoy in the moment and also think bigger, considering what you want long term."

Jennifer Taitz, Psy.D., clinical psychologist

10. Treat yourself with compassion and lots of love.

11. Don't forget that your physical health has an impact on your mental health, too.

12. Several times throughout your day, take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is OK. Eventually, your brain will get the memo.

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"The bills may be piling up with you having no idea of how they are going to get paid. Your mother may have Alzheimer’s, and dealing with that is wearing you out. You may be starting to wonder if there really is someone out there for you. BUT in this moment, your heart is beating, you're breathing, and you have food in your tummy and a roof over your head. Underneath all the circumstances, desires, and wants, you're OK. While fixing dinner, walking through the grocery store, driving to work, or reading emails, come into the present moment and remind your brain, 'I'm all right, right now.'

Over time with repetition, learning to come into the present and calming your brain and body will actually change the neural pathways in your brain — a scientific truth called neuroplasticity — so that this becomes the norm for you."

—Debbie Hampton, founder of The Best Brain Possible and author of Beat Depression and Anxiety By Changing Your Brain

13. Make a conscious effort to take care of your mental health the same way you would your physical health.

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