6 Tried and True Rules for a Happy Life

Happiness is weird. We all know its textbook definition, yet we all have a unique journey to achieving it.

I consider myself a relatively happy person. I definitely have bad days and low moments from time to time, but, in a nutshell, I have a happy and full life.

This is no accident; a good life isn’t something I fell into.

I used to expect good things to happen to me. When that didn’t really work out, I started focusing on creating happiness for myself through several key decisions a day. I decided to do what made me happy, at all costs. Over the years, I’ve built a simple rule book for myself, and it’s served me well.

You deserve to be happy just as much as the next person, so I want to share these rules with you.

1 . Accept what you can’t change.

You can’t change the past or decisions you’ve already made. There are unexpected tragedies in life you will have to face. My biggest personal challenge: You can’t change other people. I may want some people to be kinder or more supportive, but at the end of the day, those decision are completely out of my hands. But you can do one thing: accept the situation for what it is and move on. As soon as you stop agonizing about something out of your control, you’re free to focus on the parts of your life that are.

2. But change what you can.

Hate your job? Start looking for a new one. There are a hundred jobs out there beside the one you have to choose from. Wish you had more meaningful friendships? Go build them for yourself. Most problems can be addressed if you think outside of the box. If you’re missing something important in your life or need to make a 180, stop wasting your time. Make a realistic plan, and go after it.

3. Build Loyal Support Systems

I prefer a small handful of powerful, deep friendships rather than two dozen shallow and pointless ones. I have an incredible (and small) close-knit group of friends. I only allow the kindest and most loyal people into my life. It’s exhausting to build and maintain these relationships, but it’s rewarding. I have an amazing network of people who are always there when I need them.

Treasure the best people in your life. Nurture relationships with people who push you to be your best and stand beside you on your darkest days. Leave little room for those who make you doubt yourself or cause you unhappiness. Don’t be afraid to cut ties with people who don’t bring joy to your life. You’re in charge of your network. Fill it with kind, uplifting people.

4. Put Yourself First

Don’t be afraid to be selfish. When I make difficult decisions, I ask myself, “Will this ultimately make me happier or cause me despair and anxiety?” If the answer leans toward the second option, I back off immediately. People often feel they’re supposed to bend over backwards for other people. I used to; I don’t anymore.

There are people I’m willing to take a hit for, but that life strategy in general is exhausting and unrewarding. My personal rule: if making a personal (or professional!) sacrifice for someone causes me anxiety or pain, it’s not a healthy move. Period.

Note: helping your friends move their stuff to a new apartment is not a sacrifice, it’s a kind and gracious gesture. Helping your friends move their couch when you have an injured knee, on the other hand, is a sacrifice. Know your boundaries and limits.

5. Be Still

Focusing your thoughts through quiet moments every day leads to decreased anxiety, heightened focus and overall peace with your decisions and their effect on your day-to-day life. Despite all of its incredible benefits, I can’t meditate. I get too antsy and bored; my thoughts wander.

That being said, I try to shut my brain off for a few minutes every day to be alone with my thoughts and mull over recent successes, challenges and failures. This usually happens during a hard run or when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.

Do whatever works for you, but don’t skip this step. Daily reflection can help you find an incredible inner peace that carries you to sustainable happiness.

6. Take Care of Yourself

Get 7 hours of sleep a night. Get your heart pumping a few days a week. Eat a few servings of veggies a day. Minimize love affairs with fried food. Do I follow all of these rules to a T? Absolutely not. I’m an insomniac. I believe pizza and Chipotle is its own food group. But on the days I make an extra effort to go to bed before 2 a.m. and eat five servings of veggies, I’m more optimistic, alert and creative. I feel like I could take on the world. And nothing makes me feel more invincible than a hard workout session. Take care of your body, friends, and it will take care of your mind.


If you think you need professional help, please get it. I have several friends who struggle with clinical depression, and the tips above aren’t enough to get them to the level of happiness they deserve and need.

Brain chemicals are complicated, and if you need antidepressants to create a better balance for happiness, go get them. If you need to talk to a professional, make an appointment today. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting help. But don’t wait one more day to put yourself on track to happiness. Life is too short for procrastination like that.

Whatever You Decide to Do, Make Sure it Makes You Happy

Being happy 100% of the time isn’t possible. It’s not even normal.

However, enjoying a happy, fulfilled life can be as simple as taking care of yourself, changing your mindset and putting yourself first.

Do you have a life rule for happiness to share? Let me know in a comment below.


  • Brian
    September 16, 2015

    This is a great post and one I read over a couple of times. I agree with you on all your points! I’ve found that a lot of my mood also depends on who I’m around either physically or on social media. Not that I have to just be around super happy positive people, but more to what you said in valuing and growing more of that smaller circle. It’s a struggle sometimes on who you allow in and out of your circles over the years. I love the “change what you can” and the “accept what you can’t,” and although you can’t CHANGE certain things, you can come up with, perhaps, a different way to deal with those unchangeable things.

    With my job and how I work in my office at home (or coffee shot LOL) I don’t get a chance to interact with people physically as much. Sometimes it gets lonely and my dependence on social media tends to take up more prominence which I’m not sure is a good or bad thing. Are friend IRL better than ones you never see physically?

    • Allison
      September 18, 2015

      Hey Brian,

      I agree with you on the networks thing – on Facebook, I unfollow a lot of people who spout a lot of negative nonsense. You can’t unfriend them, though, because #FacebookStalking.

      Most of my closest friends have actually ended up all over the country, so texts, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are really the best way for me to keep in touch. I obviously would prefer to see them face to face, but good communication is good communication, no matter the medium.


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