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12 ways to be happier

From playfulness to generosity, here’s 12 ways to proactively improve your happiness.

Happiness is often the most sought after and simultaneously elusive state of being. So how can you boost your wellbeing and live a happier life? We spoke to 12 inspiring individuals for their pearls of wisdom on improving happiness.

Stay playful and creative

“I follow my muse, I follow my children’s lead, I continue to build my career on the principles of creativity, exploration and service: I cannot stress enough how great this has been for my health and for the happiness of my family.

“I don’t try and do anything perfectly, ever. I just do my best. I dance, I walk, I pray, and I drink green smoothies. And when things get really tough, I do what the doctor ordered: I sleep, take fish oil, pull back on commitments that aren’t essential, make mud pies.”

– Clare Bowditch, Australian musician

Find what you love doing – and commit to it

“Do stuff, try stuff. Didn’t like that stuff? Try other stuff! We should be constantly trying and experiencing new things. That’s how I feel we can best develop as humans. Once we find something we can really enjoy, revel in it and give it a good crack. Hone your skills and upgrade yourself. That’s something that anyone can do.”

– Sam Bramham, Australian Paralympic swimmer

Be present

“Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. It’s about building your awareness of the present moment by focusing attention on the here and now, rather than getting caught up thinking about the past, or worrying about the future. The mind is like a muscle. Just as we exercise and eat healthy to keep our bodies fit, practising mindfulness meditation is a way of keeping our brain fit and healthy too.”

– Lucy Richards, General Manager of Smiling Mind

Be generous and open

“We should do what we can to make the people around us happy. Be encouraging. Be generous. Include your neighbour in your life. Laugh. Dance at the drop of a hat. Unlock your doors, turn off your television and go bee spotting in wet suits with someone you find irritating.”

– Shanaka Fernando, founder Lentil as Anything

Find balance

“It’s about relationships, joy, love, career, spirituality, sunshine, getting enough water, eating the right food and taking that holistic approach, as opposed to focusing on one or two things.”

– Rachael Finch, Australian media personality

Get some time away from screens

“Too much TV is not good for you. Spending long periods of time watching television has been linked to increased risk of dementia, along with increased waistlines and shorter lifespan.”

– Professor Kaarin Antey, aging and health expert

Nurture your mental health

“Know what keeps you well. There are many steps you can take to maintain or improve your mental health. Being actively involved in your community and having a sense of purpose in your life, such as working in a job you enjoy, studying or volunteering, have all been shown to boost people’s feelings of wellbeing.”

– Kate Carnell, former CEO of beyondblue

Think positive – even when things are difficult

“I honestly believe in the power of positive thinking. That’s not to say that I don’t have bad days, I just try to not make one day turn into two. It’s also important to surround yourself with positive people because it really does rub off.

“Someone asked me if I would change the fact that I had been diagnosed with MS if I could. I answered, ‘No, MS has made me who I am and given me opportunities that I never thought would ever happen’.”

– Carol Cooke, Australian Paralympic cyclist

Decide what matters – and make that a priority

“The way I see it, you only get once chance at life and you can’t turn back the clock, so you’ve got to pick a vision, have a few goals and go for it. That balance of everything – spending time with the family, doing your work and looking after your health – is all important. I experienced that clearly when I lost my father 16 years ago. I could see with him as soon as he was ill, how important the value of being healthy is.”

– Anthony Koutoufides, AFL legend

Be resilient

“I spent a good chunk of my late 20s and 30s dipping in and out of depression. When I decided to take the condition seriously, that’s where I began to truly understand the concept of resilience and wellbeing. That good can come from bad – but only if we’re prepared to learn and grow from it. That yes, depression may be part of my life, but I can live it with a profound sense of wellbeing. As bad as the experience was, it was still my greatest teacher and it has informed how I now live my life.”

– Matthew Johnstone, Australian author, illustrator and photographer

Care for people around you – and listen

“Look out for each other and stay connected by having regular and meaningful conversations. You don’t need to be an expert to help someone who may be struggling with life. Be ready to ask ‘are you ok’, listen without judgment, encourage action and make sure you follow up.”

– Janina Nearn, CEO of R U OK? Day

Embrace life, no matter what stage you’re in

“There’s this expression ‘the past is prologue’ and I’ve never felt that more keenly than now. I feel like everything I’ve worked for, suffered through, survived and enjoyed was leading up to this. I feel like I am at the top of my game; I’ve never felt better. I like who I am and what I’m doing, my work is rewarding, my relationships are fulfilling – everything’s amazingly fantastic.

“So many people only realise things are great when they’re gone, and then they wish they had appreciated it. I’m really very aware of how marvellous my life is and it’s really evident to me that what I did in my 20s, what I did in my 30s and what I did in my 40s was setting me up for enjoying my 50s.”

– Nelson Aspen, US author and entertainment reporter

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