Life is fast, chaotic, and imperfect – meaning that we might not always take the time to consider how happy we are. Many people also see happiness as an end goal when, in reality, it’s a signal that we’re living life well.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at what happiness is, and consider how you can boost yours.

What is happiness?

What is happiness?

Happiness can mean different things to different people. However, it’s generally about experiencing more positive emotions than negative ones; and feeling content with different aspects of life, such as relationships, work, and achievements.

In the video below from The Atlantic, several people share what happiness means to them.

Is happiness a skill?

Psychologist Katarina Blom argues that happiness is a skill that can be cultivated through positive actions, not just positive thinking. Studies show that positive actions are more effective than simply fantasising about a wonderful life, which can leave us unprepared for setbacks.

Blom explains that humans have developed a negativity bias, where our brains are wired to prioritise negative, threatening information – an evolutionary trait useful for survival in the past but now affecting how we perceive ourselves, relationships, and work.

She states that while our brains are focused on mere survival, most of us long for a more meaningful, connected, and happy life. Blom believes we can cultivate happiness and well-being by taking positive actions, despite our inherent negativity bias.

How can I figure out which positive actions will increase my happiness?

Knowing which positive actions to take often starts with reflecting on the areas of your life that cause frustration, as those likely need the most change.

Rather than simply visualising the life you want, you could also start acting like the person you aspire to be – as well as considering which positive actions you already take and where there’s room for further improvement. The idea being that a more positive mindset will follow.

Are you happy? 10 thought-provoking questions to ask yourself

Are you happy?

If you’re questioning your happiness, think you could be happier, or know something needs to change, you might find the following 10 questions helpful.

When exploring each one, consider what positive action you could take away and put into practice. For example, if you have low self-worth; you could start by setting aside an hour a day for self-care.

It’s also worth keeping a journal of your thoughts throughout this process, so you can understand if and how your thoughts start to change – and whether this affects your happiness.

1. Is my health where I want it to be?

It’s unsurprising that good mental and physical health allows us to fully enjoy life, free from constant aches, pains, and fatigue that can dampen our ability to live joyfully.

When healthy, we feel more energetic, positive, and resilient, able to savour cherished moments with loved ones, pursue passions, and find inner peace. Although we don’t have complete control over our health, we can often take steps to improve our well-being – from finding ways to cope with stress and anxiety to learning more about how to improve bone health.

If you need a boost of motivation when it comes to your health – or you’re unsure where to start making positive changes, you may also want to consider health coaching. For example, Certified HCA Health & Wellness Coach, Jacky Dempsey, works with women who are struggling through their mid-life phases including perimenopause, and menopause and beyond.

Jacky’s mission is to educate women (or men) about better health choices by building healthy habits and changing old behaviours for them to live not just a long life but a healthy one. You can book a free consultation call with Jacky below.

Our health section also has a huge range of tips on improving your quality of life.

2. Where does my self-worth come from?

Where does my self-worth come from?

Self-worth refers to the internal sense that you’re valuable, capable, and worthy of love and belonging.

Psychologists generally agree that self-worth should come from within, and be based on personal evaluations of who we are and things we do. However, many of us look to others for confirmation that we’re good enough, which can leave us vulnerable to other people’s opinions – where praise becomes mood-boosting but criticism can become devastating.

Constantly seeking approval can also create anxiety as we try to keep up with others’ shifting standards while fearing rejection or disapproval.

Try to remember that self-worth should be intrinsic – rooted in self-acceptance and understanding – and is a foundation for lasting happiness. Our article on 8 ways to empower yourself every day may help with this. It explains how things such as helping others and prioritising self-care can change the way to feel about yourself.

3. What would you do if no one could judge you?

Many choose life paths based on others’ opinions rather than their own wants and needs. For example, what would everyone think if I left my partner because they love him/her too? What would everyone think if I quit my job and went to study at university – or jetted off on a later-life gap year?

Ask yourself what you would do without worrying about judgment or negative feedback. Would complete approval change your life’s direction? If so, you may have become accustomed to people-pleasing or risk-averse actions to please others instead of yourself. Consider stepping outside your comfort zone and balancing others’ needs with your own.

If this sounds familiar, check out our articles; 18 ways to step outside of your comfort zone and People pleasing – what it is, why we do it, and how to balance it with your own needs.

4. Do I know how to be truly present?

Do I know how to be truly present?

Research shows that those who live in the present moment are significantly happier than those whose minds frequently wander – as the latter can leave our minds more susceptible to negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world with constant distractions, it can be increasingly difficult to stay present and focused on the here and now. That means we may have to make a more conscious effort to slow down and focus on what’s in front of us. For example, when eating dinner, do you focus on the textures and flavours of your food? Do you notice things out the train window on your way to work?

If not, it’s worth practising mindfulness to help happiness become a more conscious experience – rather than a destination. Our guide on mindfulness will show you how to get started.

5. What are you grateful for?

Gratitude can nurture happiness by helping us appreciate the goodness in our lives, rather than focusing on what we lack. This can trigger uplifting emotions, strengthen relationships, reduce toxic feelings like resentment, and make us more resilient.

One of the most powerful ways to practise gratitude is to work on expressing it – whether by keeping a gratitude journal, saying meaningful thank yous to people we care about, or finding ways to give back. To learn more about gratitude and how to practise it, have a read of our article on the subject.

6. Why do I do what I do every day?

Why do I do what I do every day?

Asking “why do I do what I do every day?” gets to the core of our meaning and purpose. Having something fulfilling to motivate us daily fosters a greater sense of contribution, contentment and belonging. However, according to author, podcaster, and speaker Gretchen Rubin, we often build our lives around what we do once in a while, rather than what we do every day.

On her website, Rubin writes, “[..] you might look for a house, or a dining room table, that’s big enough to seat your entire family when it’s your turn to host Christmas dinner, even though you have a family of four that’s dwarfed by that size. […] I wear running shoes 29 days out of 30 days a month, yet I have three pairs of black flats and only one pair of running shoes.”

This train of thought can be useful for showing us whether we’re living a life that aligns with our core beliefs and values, and where we can make changes. For instance, if you’re always buying baking books but never have time to use them – could you make more time? How much of your day is spent doing things you enjoy?

It’s also worth considering whether your everyday actions cater for personal growth and the accomplishment of long-term goals. If not, what small steps could you take to change this?

7. What is my legacy?

None of us know how long we have here on Earth – so, if tomorrow was your last day, how would you want to be remembered? Are you living in a way that could make this legacy come true?

These can be tricky questions to answer because they can naturally lead us to panic that we still have so much to do and, perhaps, not enough time. But it’s never too late to start making positive changes – remembering that what we do each and everyday matters.

If the idea of shaping your legacy feels overwhelming, try choosing one or two small habits to start working on. For example, if you’d like your legacy to be about inspiring and motivating generations to come with your artwork, perhaps creativity is something you need to work into your daily schedule.

Or, if you don’t spend as much time with your family as you’d like but would like to be remembered as present and available for your loved ones, consider picking up the phone and reaching out.

8. How much money do I need?

How much money do I need?

Many will agree that money isn’t the key to overall happiness. While basic needs – such as food, shelter, and warmth – need to be met, research suggests that the link between money and happiness tapers off thereafter.

While financial stability provides comfort, lasting happiness often stems from personal growth, a sense of purpose, cultivating meaningful relationships, and appreciating life’s simple joys. Money can’t buy qualities like empathy or gratitude either. Or what we all wish we had more of – time. Some people reach a life stage where they’re happy to live on less and with less, to free up more time to pursue other passions and interests.

So, consider asking yourself how much money you need to be happy. If it’s more than your current means, could you explore creative ways to boost your income – which can be satisfying in itself? And if it’s less – could it be time to go part-time? Change careers?

9. Am I happy with my career?

According to research, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime – so it makes sense that an unfulfilling job can substantially impact happiness. However, when something becomes part of our routine, it’s easy to stop thinking about how it makes us feel.

While working is an inevitable part of life for most, our health and wellbeing are paramount, even when financial considerations are a factor. Plus, if you’re unhappy at work, there’s nearly always something that can be done to improve things – whether talking to your boss or switching jobs or careers.

10. Are my relationships healthy?

Are my relationships healthy?

Like our careers, our relationships – romantic or otherwise – can drain our health and happiness if they aren’t right.

To assess if your relationships are healthy, look for mutual respect, trust, open communication, emotional support, and the ability to be your authentic self. Healthy relationships foster growth, not control or manipulation. There should be a balance of giving and receiving care, without excessive conflict or toxicity.

For more guidance, you might want to visit the relationships section of our website.

Final thoughts…

True happiness is an ongoing journey of self-discovery, growth, and conscious choices. By taking an honest look at your current life satisfaction levels and pinpointing areas that need improvement, you can empower yourself to make positive changes.

If you’re not as happy as you could be right now, try to remember that it’s never too late to shake things up and reroute your life. While it might not always be easy, the rewards are nearly always worth it.

For more thought-provoking content; why not check out our articles; 8 powerful questions to ask yourself when you arrive at a crossroads in life and How to thrive through change.

Are you happy? Or are you on the path to figuring it out? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.