“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” — Dalai Lama.

We all want to feel better and happier in our busy and complicated world, and to live a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful. I sure do. But sometimes, life gets in the way.

You can feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities, stressed by your challenges, or bored by your routines. Sometimes, you are just too tired, you get stuck in a rut, or you feel too busy. We can all feel like we don’t have enough time to do the things we like to or to cherish the people we love.

But trust yourself that you can do so much more than merely survive. 2023 was turbulent and tough, nothing was as we expected. But by controlling some of the small stuff, when the world is so chaotic, you can feel more like you are thriving, not just surviving. We have some small tips from the experts to share that could make 2024 a little easier and a little happier for you.

1. Be present in every moment.

Why? A study by Brown and Ryan (2003) found that people who have higher levels of mindfulness, or the ability to be present, report higher levels of happiness, positive affect, and life satisfaction, as well as lower levels of negative affect and psychological distress. Being present can also reduce stress, enhance creativity, and improve mental and physical health.

How? Live in the present, and don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. The present is the only time you have to make a difference, and to enjoy life. Try reorienting your attention fully on what is going on in front of you. This exercise is not easy at first, but, like working a muscle, you can strengthen your ability to stay present by repeating this exercise over and over again. Gold, natural gas and your attention: they’re all scarce resources. According to a study by psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, adults spend only about 50% of their time in the present moment. In other words, we are mentally checked out half of the time. They found that when you are consciously focused on the present moment, we are also at our happiest, no matter what you are doing. As the Chopra Centre, a wellness organization, suggests: "Anytime you notice that you are distracted with other thoughts during an activity—your to-do list, your phone, the next event on your schedule—encourage your attention back to the moment you are in."

2. Set realistic and meaningful goals.

Why? Setting goals can help you direct your focus, motivate your actions, and measure your progress. It can also help you to align your values and passions and increase your sense of purpose and fulfilment. Research confirms that people who set specific, challenging, and meaningful goals report higher levels of happiness, well-being, and self-esteem, as well as lower levels of depression and anxiety, than people who do not set goals or set vague, easy, or meaningless goals. Don’t we all want to be the former!

How? Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, and why, then break it down into manageable steps. As Ken Mazaika, an entrepreneur, advises: "Start from the beginning. You don’t just happen to stumble upon the best version of yourself. You need to start from the beginning and take a high number of small steps in order to become what you envision."

3. Have a crack at learning new skills and knowledge.

Why? Learning new skills and knowledge can help expand your horizons, stimulate your curiosity, and challenge yourself. It can also boost confidence, competence, and productivity, and open up new opportunities and possibilities. According to a study by Tamir et al. (2016), people who engage in learning activities report higher levels of happiness, positive affect, and interest, as well as lower levels of boredom and negative affect, than people who do not engage in learning activities.

How? Never stop learning and growing. Thanks to the internet, we have access to a wealth of information and resources that can help us learn anything we want. French, Klingon, coding, knitting, car mechanics… (though I also have learnt way too much about Harry Potter). Now, it’s easier than ever to learn new things! Nick Cave says: “Cultivating a questioning mind, of which conversation is the chief instrument, enriches our relationship with the world.”

4. Take care of your physical and mental health.

Why? Taking care of your holistic health can help prevent or treat illnesses, improve immune systems, and enhance mood and energy. It can also help you cope better with challenges, perform better at work or school, and enjoy life more. Diener and Chan (2011) found through their research that people who have higher levels of physical and mental health report higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and subjective well-being, as well as lower levels of depression and anxiety, than people who have lower levels of physical and mental health.

How? Look after your body and mind. Your physical and mental health are interrelated, and affect your mood, energy, and performance. We all need to eat well, exercise regularly, sleep enough, and manage our stress levels. You also should seek help when we need it, and not be ashamed of your struggles. The Mental Health Foundation NZ is here to help, providing information for anyone who is going through a difficult time, for people supporting someone they care about, and those interested in mental health and wellbeing.

If you are keen to take charge of your health, then check out The Y, offering a range of fitness facilities and programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you’re keen to stretch it out in Yoga, pump some iron, shoot some hoops or get into tip-top shape, The Y has got you covered.

5. Connect with others.

Why? Harvard physician Nicholas Christakis has studied the surprising power of our social networks, finding profound and long-term correlation between the well-being, both physical and mental, of those with whom we choose to surround ourselves and our own. Truly sunny people have one thing in common, and it’s got nothing to do with their paychecks, IQs or gender, researcher Biswas-Diener says: they have plenty of good social relationships.

How? Surround yourself with positive and supportive people who share your vision, interests, values, and goals. Having a strong social network can help you feel less lonely, more inspired, and more accountable. You can also learn from others, exchange ideas, and collaborate on projects. You can find like-minded people online, or in your local community. Here at The Y, we have lots of activities and programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds. From kids to seniors, there are activities and programmes here to help people meet, socialise, and be supported.

For example, our Award winning Goldfit programme here at The Y is one of our meaningful programmes of change that encourage healthy spirit, mind, and body. It is designed to provide a fun and enjoyable environment in which older adults (55+) are encouraged to remain physically and mentally active. More than keep fit, these classes provide social connection in a community group highly vulnerable to loneliness. "Not only does this programme give me massive physical improvements but the friendships and sense of belonging to a community has maintained and improved my general well-being" -Penny Somervaile.

6. Have fun and enjoy the journey.

Why? Having fun can help you reduce stress, boost creativity, and improve your health. It can also help you find meaning and happiness in life. A study by Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) found that people who practice positive activities, such as gratitude, optimism, kindness, and fun, are happier, healthier, and more positive than those who don’t.

How? Enjoy the process. You don’t need to be perfect or do everything at once. Celebrate your successes, learn from your mistakes, and appreciate the little things. Find time to relax, unwind, and do what makes you happy. Having fun means doing activities that bring you joy, pleasure, and fulfilment, and living in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or the past.

For instance, if playing sport makes you happy, The Y offers a variety of sports leagues for people of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you want to play basketball, soccer, or pickleball, The Y has something for you. You can join a team, compete in a league, or just have fun with your friends. The Y sports leagues are more than just a way to stay fit, they are a way to connect with your community, learn new skills, and enjoy the spirit of sportsmanship.

Our passion for life is quietly sustained from somewhere in us that is wedded to the energy and excitement of life. When you practice these suggestions, it illuminates your mind to see beauty, your desire to seek possibility, and your heart to love life. You deserve to experience a fruitful and fulfilling life, and every day you can work for more by considering the above ideas in your daily life. Being happy is, after all, a universal and ancient pursuit. Take comfort in the knowledge everyone can find happiness to be an elusive concept at times—but don’t let that deter you from pushing closer toward it. Squeeze more joy out of every day 😊 Lots of little good things is the path to happiness.