Photo: Symphony of Love (Flickr)
When I was suffering from depression and bipolar disorder, I became, so to speak, a student of happiness. I talked to doctors, therapists, my parents and my friends; I read self-help and personal development books; and I analysed the behaviours of athletes, artists and entrepreneurs who lived successful, fulfilling lives - all in an attempt to try and improve myself and find the contentment that had been so eluding me. Over time, I learned a lot, and now that I'm happy, healthy and stable - and have been for the past two years - I feel qualified to write about what I believe are 25 things we can all do to live a happy life.
1.We need to let go of anger
As the saying goes, holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. The only person it hurts is us.
2.We need to learn from others
One thing the most accomplished athletes, artists and entrepreneurs in the world have in common is that they are all extremely teachable. When we open ourselves up to learning, we give ourselves a chance to fulfil our true potential, and when we apply this attitude to our career, our relationships and our health, we tend to live much richer, happier lives.
3.We can't victimize ourselves or ruminate on things that go wrong
Bad things happen, and feeling sorry for ourselves won't get us anywhere. We need to move on and try to live the best life we can, instead of doing nothing and forever feeling like a victim.
4.When faced with a challenge, we need to fight, as opposed to take flight
Running away from our problems is a race we'll never win. As such, when we're faced with a difficulty, we need to confront it, fight it, resolve it and move on from it. It's the harder road to walk, but it's worth the extra mileage.
5.We need to let ourselves dream
Happy people have aspirations, believe they can achieve them and then work hard to see them come true. Unhappy people, on the other hand, tend to convince themselves that their dreams will never come true, or quit trying to realize them early on in their pursuit.
6.We need to surround ourselves with positive people
To varying extents, we're all influenced by the people around us. If we surround ourselves with positive, inspiring people, then we tend to feel positive and inspired. On the other hand, if we surround ourselves with negative, downbeat people, then we tend to feel just that.
7.We need to forget about what others think of us
We need to make decisions in our lives that are best of us, and if we let ourselves be influenced by the prejudices, misconceptions or irrelevant opinions of others, it has the potential to seriously impact our happiness. Dr Seuss said it best when he said that "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind".
8.We need to live a healthy lifestyle
You'll meet few happy people who don't make a point of eating well, sleeping well and exercising frequently. It's almost a law of nature.
9.We can't kid ourselves
Happy people tend to be very honest with themselves. If they make a mistake or don't do something to the best of their ability, they take responsibility for their actions and vow to do better next time. On the other hand, unhappy people tend to shirk responsibility and blame other people or other circumstances, and as a result remain stuck in the mud.
10.We should always be genuine
When we're honest, down to earth and self-deprecating, we tend to draw similar people towards us--and aren't they the sort of people we like to be surrounded by?
11.We should do volunteer work
Doing volunteer work helps us realize that there are people in the world who are far worse off than us; being aware of this helps us focus on the positives in our lives--such as the fact that we have food and shelter--as opposed to the negatives. As such, it helps us not to develop that "victim mentality" I talked about in Point Three.
12.We need to take time out to enjoy the little things
Every week, I make a point of doing the simple things that I know always put me in a good mood--like playing basketball, going to the beach, or reading a good book--which over the course of the week, add up to make a noticeable difference to my happiness.
13.We can't worry about things that are beyond our control
Few things come more naturally to us than worrying, but once we learn not to stress about things that are out of our hands, it frees up a lot of energy that can be better spent on something more positive.
14.We can't be too proud to ask for help
Pride is often self-improvement's kryptonite. I find that a lot of people think asking for help or advice is "weak", but that doesn't make any sense. Like I said above, if you listen to the most accomplished athletes, artists and entrepreneurs in the world speak, one thing you'll notice that they all have in common is that they are extremely teachable--and teachable people have no qualms about asking for and receiving help or advice, because the only thing they're fussed about is improving themselves. They never let their ego get in the way of that.
15.We should never speak badly about ourselves
We should always talk to ourselves in the same way we talk to our best friend. If your best friend would be hurt, offended or angry if you spoke to them in the same way that you speak to yourself, then you need to work at being much kinder to yourself.
16.We can't get so obsessed trying to make a living that we forget to make a life
Making money's important, sure--but we shouldn't work so hard at filling our bank accounts that we forget to enjoy ourselves.
17.We need to set goals and work hard to achieve them
Every night before we go to sleep, we want to be able to say to ourselves, "I did something today that moved me closer towards achieving my goals".
18.We can't make excuses
When we make excuses not to do things that we know are good for us, then we do ourselves a huge disservice. If we want to maximize our happiness, then we need to treat our minds and bodies with the care and attention they deserve.
19.We need to learn from our mistakes and from difficult times
As the great Michael Jordan famously said, "I have failed over, and over, and over again in my life ... and that is why I succeed".
20.We can't give in to destructive temptations
In order to be happy, we need to be aware of the long term implications of our actions. When we are, we don't generally give in to temptations that are likely to cause us harm later on.
21.We need to identify our core values and build our lives around them
Happy people tend to be highly self-aware. They know what makes them happy and what doesn't, and they know what's important to them and what's not--and they use this knowledge to organise their life in such a way that maximizes their happiness.
22.We need to forget about trying to please everybody
This is an impossible goal, so we shouldn't stress about trying to achieve it.
23.We can't dwell on the past
Bad things happen--it's just the way life is--and the more we ruminate on the past, the more we allow it to destroy our future. It's better to accept it, learn from it and then move on from it.
24.We shouldn't compare ourselves to others
Life is not a race. There's no need to worry about what everyone else is doing, because it isn't relevant to us. We're all unique, and I strongly believe it's best to go through life at our own pace, and just focus on trying to live the happiest existence we can.
25.We need to be proactive
Happy people don't believe that the world owes them anything. As a result, they are proactive, and believe that everything they want in life, they have to work for.
Danny Baker is a 24 year old author and mental health advocate from Sydney, Australia. As part of his advocacy work, in October of 2013 he released a memoir detailing his struggle and eventual triumph over depression and the alcoholism, drug abuse, medicine-induced psychosis, near-suicide attempts and multiple hospitalisations that it led to. Described by multiple bestselling author Nick Bleszynski as "beautifully written, powerful, heartfelt, insightful and inspiring ... a testament to hope", this year alone his book has helped thousands of people with depression and prevented numerous suicides. It is available for FREEhere.