The Absolute Best Way to Start Your Happiness Journey

Start your happiness journey on the right foot.

It isn’t surprising to me that new skills involve starting with the basics. As it turns out, this principle applies to happiness as well. When we choose the right habits to work on first, it can help us build a foundation for a happier life. Here are some simple steps to get started on your own happiness journey.

Get a Quick Win with Something Easy and Fun

Researchers believe that some happiness habits are easier to develop than others. So rather than starting with the latest trend—meditation! self-care!—you’ll likely be better off starting with habits you already like and can do easily.

The broaden-and-build theory suggests that experiencing positive emotions builds our psychological and intellectual resources. Enabling us to be more successful in life by broadening our perspectives. By starting with easy or fun practices, you may be able to get a jumpstart on feeling happier. Successfully boosting your sense of self-efficacy and propelling you forward in the happiness-building process. Luckily, there are lots of these easier-starter activities online.

Research has shown that people who pursue happiness experience more positive emotion at the beginning of a happiness program. They also tend to report greater improvements at the end. Thus, when you’re pursuing happiness, you can build up reserves of confidence and good feelings that help you tackle other, trickier challenges later.

Which Habits Are Easy to Start With?

It has been found that a relatively easy habit to build is savoring good things in your life. For example, reflecting on and sharing special trips or awe-inspiring concerts with others can help you continue to savor them. Self-awareness is another habit that researchers believe can be difficult to develop. Beginners may struggle and become cognitively depleted when learning mindfulness.

Another good way to get started is with something fun. The Greater Good Science Center’s free Science of Happiness online course invited students to try out 10 different happiness practices. At the end of the course, participants reflected on their experience and reported that mindful breathing, awe exercises, gratitude journaling and listing three good things were their favorites. These practices were a better fit because they aligned more with their internal values and natural inclinations than other practices like forgiveness or self-compassion.

In a 2012 study, people chose which activities to practice. They selected exercises related to setting goals and making plans for the future, savoring the present moment, and recording gratitude. They did this more frequently than thinking optimistically or expressing gratitude to others. This evidence gives us some idea about which habits are likely to be most enjoyable—or at least, which ones we think will be most enjoyable.

When trying to develop a habit of happiness, it is best to start with easy steps, but don’t stop there. While easier habits are worthwhile, more difficult ones are equally valuable.

Get more bang for your buck with high-impact habits

It stands to reason that some habits have a bigger impact on happiness than others.

For example, I recently conducted a survey to determine which happiness habits contribute the most to happiness. What I discovered is that some appear to be more strongly linked to happiness than the rest—like developing positive feelings about oneself.

Other research supports this idea. One study found that one group of habits that highly impact happiness was paying attention to the positive things in life. For example, anticipating good things in the future, paying attention to the positives rather than negatives of a situation, reflecting on good things that happened in the past. Can you think of any happiness practices you participate in?

Exercise and healthy eating

The study of positive health habits improving well-being is compelling, especially when you consider how effective they can be at alleviating depression and increasing life satisfaction. Far more quickly than mindfulness programs. Although both are effective in the long run. The authors argue that the quick improvements from positive health habits may be why people experience these benefits faster than those who participate in mindfulness programs.

Using a variety of practices, regardless of what the practices are, may also be beneficial. For example, one study found that compared to a happiness program including fewer types of practices, a program including more types of happiness practices led to greater increases in well-being. Other research suggests that people in happiness programs who choose to engage in more diverse practices show greater increases than those who choose to engage in fewer practices.

In sum

Start by creating habits that are easy to build. Once you’ve built a few of these habits, you’ll get the hang of it and building other habits will feel easier. Use these tips to start off on the right foot—and avoid making the same mistake I made in physics.

Start your journey to happiness today.

Here are 7 more steps to achieving happiness.