What Makes You Happy? 101 Ways to Find Joy

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what makes you happy?

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Chances are, you have a pretty good sense of what makes you happy. But can you actually define the word? The definition seems to be a little different for everyone because the experience varies from person to person.

What is the Definition of Happiness?

Indeed, happiness seems to be a slippery concept to define. Scientists and researchers still haven’t agreed on a final definition, framework or scope for the term despite a multitude of studies on the subject over the course of many years.

The definition has been revised nearly 6,000 times in Wikipedia.

The most general definition of happiness, per The Oxford English Dictionary, is “the state of being happy”, defined by feelings of positive or pleasant emotions.  Less fleeting than pleasure (which can come and go in an instant), it’s not a permanent personality trait, either.  (If you are thinking , “Huh?” right now, I’m there with ya.)

Yes, it seems everyone is a little befuddled. We all experience this thing we call “happiness”, we know it when we feel it, we just aren’t sure of that precise definition.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Mahatma Gandhi

30 day challenge

Does everyone experience happiness?

It’s important to note that happiness is not a fixed personality trait.  Yes, some people do seem to be happier than others, but everyone possesses the capacity to feel happy. It’s a state of being, of feeling.

Anyone can be happy.  Everyone can be happy.  No one can be happy all the time (unfortunate, but true).

Chances are those people who seem naturally happy have learned to respond to circumstances in a positive way, seeking the good where they find it, choosing a happy reaction. In essence, they have learned to be happy. They think happy, which leads them to feel happy.

Is happiness a choice?

I walk my dog, Ozzie, before breakfast each morning.  Since we live in Southern California, the sun is usually shining brightly, the flowers are blooming pink and red and yellow, and the birds are singing sweetly in the trees.  The experience of being out in nature with my buddy, stretching and exercising our bodies, creates pleasant emotions and puts me in a state of being happy.

I could rush through our walks, grumbling about the time it takes, the constant stop-and-go with a dog who sniffs everything, being annoyed that I’m cleaning up poop again.  But I don’t (usually).  I choose to appreciate the time we spend together on our outings.  I invite happiness in.

Choose happiness when you can.  Train yourself to seek out the positive in your experiences.  Look for the joy.  Be aware that happiness is very often determined by what you think and how you act, not the circumstances around you. You are in the driver’s seat.

Doesn’t it make sense that when you have a choice, you choose to be happy?

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

Dalai Lama

Can You Control What Makes You Happy?

Pay attention to your happiness “triggers”.   

Take a few minutes to think about what makes you happy.  Not theoretical nonsense like “I’d be happy if I was rich” or “Losing twenty pounds would make me happy.”  Honestly, those things might make you happy, but it’s not a guarantee. 

Let’s go with those things that you know put you in a positive mental state.

I’m talking about everyday things. 

You’re going to be amazed just how much happiness you already have in your life.  And once you are conscious of it, you’re going to experience so much more of it!

If you really want to get a handle on your happiness triggers, take some time to write down some things that make you happy. 

Try listing 25 items.  Then add 10 more.  Challenge yourself to get up to 50. Can you come up with 100 things that make you happy?

I’ve compiled a list of 101 things that bring me happiness.  It didn’t take long – actually, the more I wrote, the more I thought of to write down.

Happiness grows.  Isn’t that a good thing?

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Lucille Ball

101 Ways to be Happy

101 Things That Make Me Happy

  1. That first sip of coffee in the morning
  2. Crisp, clean sheets on a freshly made bed
  3. Finding the perfect book to read right before getting on an airplane
  4. The smell of freshly cut grass
  5. Christmas trees full of colorful lights
  6. A big bowl of freshly popped popcorn with extra butter
  7. A perfectly balanced dirty martini with blue cheese-stuffed olives
  8. Watching hummingbirds zooming around our heads
  9. The scent of cookies baking in the oven
  10. Taco Tuesdays
  11. Baby goats in pajamas
  12. Baby (human) feet
  13. Baby laughter
  14. Baby everything
  15. A sudden summer thunderstorm with lots of lightening
  16. Pedicures
  17. Savasana at the end of a good yoga practice
  18. Sitting on the beach watching the waves flow in and out
  19. The smell of salt air
  20. Coming inside from the cold to a big mug of hot chocolate
  21. The first warm day when I can put flip flops on
  22. Stargazing and realizing just how big the universe is
  23. That fraction of a second just before I fall asleep
  24. Picnics in the park
  25. Shopping at the farmers’ market on Sunday mornings
  26. Seeing old friends
  27. Coloring, and just letting my mind wander
  28. Trying out a new restaurant or new cuisine
  29. Traveling to somewhere I’ve never been
  30. Road trips with no set destination, just for the fun of the journey
  31. A truly spectacular sunset
  32. Wandering the aisles at Target
  33. Girls Night Out
  34. Older couples that hold hands while they walk
  35. People-watching in airports
  36. Finding the perfect gift for someone special
  37. Butterflies
  38. Napping on the couch on a rainy afternoon
  39. Receiving an unexpected hotel room upgrade
  40. Conversations with children
  41. An unexpected phone call from an old friend
  42. Evening concerts in the park
  43. Gardening, from sowing seeds to harvest
  44. Meeting someone new and realizing I really like them
  45. Playing on the monkey bars like I was a kid again
  46. A long soak in a hot tub
  47. Thinking of my adult children as friends
  48. Family inside jokes
  49. Getting a new stamp in my passport
  50. Green smoothies for breakfast
  51. Dining outdoors
  52. Boat rides – any kind, any size, anywhere
  53. Going to bed early, then staying awake for hours reading
  54. That awesome feeling when you wake up from a really great sleep
  55. Working through the frustration of doing something hard, and then accomplishing it
  56. A really good full-body stretch
  57. Memories of my grandmother
  58. A BLT sandwich on sourdough bread and double bacon
  59. Home-baked banana bread, still warm from the oven
  60. Music, especially jazz, always on in the background as I work
  61. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with the top down
  62. New white sneakers without any stains or scuff marks
  63. Victorian houses with wrap-around front porches I could sit on for days
  64. Porch swings, a good friend, and cold lemonade
  65. Trying out a new recipe and discovering that my husband and I both like it
  66. Biting into a perfectly ripe, juicy fresh peach
  67. Eating leftover Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole – for breakfast
  68. Collections of sea glass and seashells
  69. Shark Week
  70. Watching truly terrible horror movies with my son
  71. Letting go of past hurts and accepting the lessons learned
  72. When friends tease me about using too many “SAT” words
  73. Having the same BFF for almost twenty years
  74. Knowing that I am a little bit “east coast” and a whole lot “west coast”
  75. Realizing that my husband’s family is really and truly my family, too
  76. Singing along (off-key) to old songs from my teenage years
  77. Going to the theater for a live show
  78. Trips to New York City, wandering all over Manhattan
  79. Hot apple pie with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream
  80. When that permanent stain on my favorite shirt comes out in the wash
  81. Great seats at a baseball game
  82. Hearing the words “I love you” and saying them back
  83. Spotting a patch of wildflowers by the side of the road
  84. Dressing up for a formal event
  85. Sleeping with the windows open and the crickets chirping outside
  86. Knowing I have done a really good job at something
  87. Checking the very last item off the day’s to-do list
  88. Emerging from the dressing room at the same time as my daughter – wearing the same outfit
  89. Feeling every day that I’m living the life I was meant to
  90. Dressing my dog in costume for Halloween
  91. The first snowfall of the season
  92. Making a wish and blowing out all of the candles on the cake
  93. Sending and receiving funny texts from my husband
  94. When someone says “this made me think of you”
  95. Fourth of July fireworks
  96. Bonfires on the beach
  97. Holding hands
  98. Hugs
  99. Sunshine and blue skies for days
  100. Wine tastings and tours
  101. Knowing the best is yet to come
30 day challenge

What Makes You Happy? Final Thoughts

We may not have a clear definition of happiness, but that doesn’t mean we can’t control our feelings. When we choose to see our circumstances from a positive perspective, our pleasure and contentment grow.

Related Posts:

When we become more aware of our personal happiness triggers, we will notice when they occur and feel pleasure. We can seek these things out and bring even more joy into our lives. We can set ourselves up for happiness.

Choose happy.

Save this list for later by adding it to your favorite Pinterest board!

What makes you happy?  101 ways to be happier
what makes you happy?
what makes you happy?

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9 Comments

  1. April Key C. Rode says:

    It’s true and from these lists, it shows that happiness comes from our simple routine in life! Thanks for sharing Lori.

    1. Alison says:

      I love this idea! I’m starting my list right now 🙂 it’s so true that we can choose to be happy. It’s about noticing the small things. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Lori says:

        Thanks, Alison! Have fun making your list (it actually made me happy making mine! so much good in the world to think about!) Enjoy!

  2. Madi Dearson says:

    I LOVE this post:) yes happiness is definitely a choice we all have to make every single day all over again. Your list is filled with things I totally relate to:) apple pie – that make me happy for days and days:) this post made me happy and smiley already…

    1. Lori says:

      Thank you, Madi! Funny that you brought up apple pie – for years when he was young, I made apple pie for my son for his birthday, instead of cake! He loved it! It’s all in the little things in life!

  3. Ashley says:

    I love your list! It can be so hard to choose to be happy but it’s so important.
    My happy is looking at my boy when he’s sleeping after terrorizing me all day. LoL
    Christmas trees all decorated and walking into the library.

    1. Lori says:

      Ashley, I love your “happy” – children are so beautiful when they are sleeping! Such a sense of peace surrounds them. Walking into a library is also so good – I’ll have to add that to my list!

  4. Krissy says:

    Love, love, love this! Knowing what makes you happy is SO crucial! All of these are great questions to ask yourself. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Lori says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Krissy! I agree 100% that you need to know what makes you happy in order to be happy. Thanks for reading!

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