Happiness is a funny thing. Everyone chases it, but doing so sometimes only seems to make it feel further out of reach. But this doesn’t mean that true happiness—true contentment—is actually out of reach.

In truth, discovering how to be happy first starts with laying out a smarter path to get us there. As the old adage says, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

So with that in mind, you’re likely left thinking, “Sure, but how do I make myself happy?” If you want to know how to be happy, understanding and implementing psychology and personal growth principles will help. But more importantly, actually enacting those principles into your day-to-day life are the key.

Here are 7 life coaching strategies for which seasoned coaches, like me, strongly advocate :

Happy mother and young daughter playing together in a well-lit tent

How to Be Happier in 7 Steps

1. Be Present with Yourself

There’s a tendency in all of us to run from difficult emotions. Situations that trigger our anxiety, our fear, or our negative thoughts and feelings feel like hills to climb. They tend to be feared, avoided, and often repressed.

In doing so, however, that repression causes a sort of emotional compounding effect. What started as a bout on ennui yesterday may turn into today’s full blown “I’m staying in bed” vibe. And you can imagine where things might go from there.

But the secret to solving this isn’t simply to say, “I suppose some people are just destined to be unhappy.” No, in truth everyone has the potential to be happy. It’s just about how you confront difficult feelings within yourself.

By turning inward and facing your emotions head-on, you may find patterns or behaviors that enable or even support that negativity.

Are you telling yourself a comfortable lie to cover up a difficult truth? Are you finding comfort in temporarily blissful, though ultimately potentially harmful, behavior? There are a thousand ways we might lay out a pattern of emotional and intellectual obfuscation for ourselves. The only way to begin breaking that pattern and start down the path to finding happiness is to first turn inward. When we consider our actions and live mindfully with ourselves, difficult as that may be, the journey begins.

2. Free Yourself of Judgement

Once you’ve given yourself the space to mindfully turn inward, what then? The key is to quiet your inner critic.

Each of us has a voice in our head that is constantly assessing and judging. Sometimes, this little voice is helpful as we navigate a complex world. But when that calculating lens gets turned on ourselves, the results can be shattering to our self-worth.

To fight this, an inner moment should be experienced in an emotionally safe space. By giving yourself room to feel what you feel without risk of self-judgment, you attain the ability to truly experience a emotion, not merely your assessment of that emotion.

Breathing exercises, distraction-free physical space, and plenty of time to conduct this exercise are key. Just remember: the most important element here is a detachment from censoring or critiquing your emotions and thoughts.

This, in turn, can help shine a light on what you might do to alter or quell that judgment. It’s amazing what occurs when we turn our effort from assessment to results-mindedness. And ultimately, that is what happy habits and a happy life are all about.

3. Let Go of Toxic Shame

There is no greater impediment to our happiness than our perception of ourselves. You could spend all the effort in the world on goal setting, situation shifting, and more. But it wouldn’t be worth a thing if, at the end of the day, you didn’t believe in who you are on a fundamental level.

Toxic shame is an agonizing experience that cuts deep into our sense of self-worth. Unlike the feelings of embarrassment or remorse, which are typically linked to specific actions or situations, toxic shame makes us feel fundamentally flawed and unworthy as individuals. The second you start to believe a critique on a fundamental level, life can start to seem impossible. Issues with trust, intimacy, and more can abound.

But toxic shame can be negated, and even outright eliminated , with increased self-awareness and compassion. By paying attention to inner dialogue without reacting to it and forgiving your past self for lacking the insight you have now, you can begin to take some powerful steps forward.

4. Realize that Small Actions Matter

Many of my clients begin our conversations with a distinct, though perhaps, lofty goal in mind. And , as a Life Coach and an Expert Therapist, I know that goal setting can be hugely helpful. But it’s hardly the whole enchilada.

In truth, there are countless little things we can do every day that can potentially have an enormous impact on our life. What routines we follow (or break), which people we talk to (or avoid), which thoughts we explore (or suppress), and more have lasting effects.

How to be happier isn’t about a quick fix. There is no button to press. But by mindfully making minute choices in how we carry out our thoughts and actions, the pattern starts to shift. One might find that a happy life is much more attainable than that blue sky goal may have first seemed.

5. Refute Limiting Beliefs

A limiting belief is an idea about yourself, your surroundings, or the world that stops you from doing certain things. If you can identify these beliefs, you can take proactive steps against them.

It’s hard to dispel all limiting beliefs at once. Make a list and tackle them one at a time. To get a new perspective, list counterexamples or opposing perspectives to challenge the validity of each limiting belief.

Although letting go of limiting beliefs seems easy on paper, it’s quite challenging to pull off. Many of my clients need help with this aspect. Here are my top tips for overcoming them.

6. Assess Your Relationships

There’s a common thread in a life coach’s work that tends toward focusing inward with clients. But as we all know, there’s a complex world spinning around us that has an immense effect on our behaviors and emotions.

One of the most complex (and potentially impactful) is our network of relationships. The friends, romantic partners, colleagues, and more we surround ourselves with can have a lasting impact on how we think, how we act, and, ultimately, how we experience our world.

Broadly speaking, supportive relationships will always be the gold standard we should hope for. But it’s not quite as black and white as “good friend/bad friend.” In truth, our relationships are dynamic, complex, and ever-changing. And those seeking how to be happy are smart to take the time to truly assess them and determine whether those relationships are in support of, or in opposition to, our goals.

Look for elements like:

  • Codependency vs. Independency
  • Green Flags, Red Flags, and Beige Flags
  • Toxicity
  • And more.

You may be surprised to find the relationships that work for you and the ones that don’t speak for themselves. Those who know how to be happier know it’s as much about their social circles as it is about themselves.

7. Stop Chasing Perfection

There are throngs of people who think finding happiness is about attaining “the perfect life.” But let me share the honest truth: perfection is an illusion. There is no such thing. If you’re chasing an idea of perfection on your quest for how to be happier, that quest will forever be incomplete.

Instead, focus on three much more attainable accomplishments:

  • Focus on finding meaning in your experiences.
  • Lower your standards and instead set reasonable, actionable goals for yourself.
  • Embrace mistakes, as that’s often where life gets most interesting and, potentially, most fulfilling.

The sooner we free ourselves of our culture’s falsehood of “perfectionism = happiness,” the sooner we stop pushing the goalpost. Finding happiness is about living to our own standards, not about living up to mass culture’s standards.

Take The Step Towards a Happy Life

As many of my clients know, happy habits don’t simply come like the flick of a switch. They take mindfulness, they take work, and they take commitment. But they can help you to live a more fulfilling life.

As a dedicated and passionate Life Coach and Expert Therapist, I love working with people from all walks of life to bring happy habits into their everyday lived experience. It’s on that journey that, together, finding happiness turns from a pipe dream into an incredible reality.

If you want to boost your happiness levels faster, I can help speed up your Self-Mastery journey. Learn how to be happy with me, Carrie Bowman, MA, PCC, CLC. Let’s talk.