The most important thing you can do in life is take care of yourself. That means physically, by eating well and exercising. But it also means emotionally—by taking time to focus on your wants and needs, so you can find happiness in each day.
We spoke to Lisa Kincaid, a life coach in Raleigh, North Carolina and a Top Pro on Thumbtack for her favorite five tips that anyone can do to increase their happiness and success. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Make Sleep a Priority
“Getting enough sleep plays a pivotal role in your quality of life, mental and physical health. Aim to get to bed a little earlier and refill your sleep time bank for renewed clarity, energy and vitality,” Lisa says.
The average adult sleeps less than seven hours a night, but most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours to function at their very best. That one or two hours may not seem like a big deal, but too little sleep can affect your judgment, ability to cope with stress, problem-solving skills, creativity, immune system, concentration, and sex drive.
2. Let Go of Attachments to the Outcome
“Practice loosening the reins in life and letting things that are out of your control to play out. Sometimes things will turn out even better than you could have envisioned!” Lisa says.
If you attach your happiness to goals, it can create stress and anxiety and, ultimately, will prevent you from being happy in the moment. Goals are important, but your sense of worth shouldn’t be dependent on achieving them.
Sound impossible? Start by thinking of the things you’re grateful for. Maybe even make a quick list every day or week. Try to find happiness even in things that are usually annoying like a bill (be happy for what it allows you to have instead of annoyed at what it’s costing you) or being stuck in traffic (you can listen to your favorite podcast or sing along to the radio).
Ultimately, by accepting you aren’t in charge of outcomes, you’ll give up your need to control things, which will allow you to be happier in the moment.
3. Challenge Your Thoughts
“Often we have thoughts or worries that snowball into feelings that lead us to reactions that aren’t always helpful,” Lisa says. “Begin the habit of asking yourself if your thought is helpful or not helpful in the moment. Remember you can always come back to it later, if needed.”
This can be tough, but here are four simple steps that should help:
- Recognize when you’re having a negative thought.
- Tell yourself to stop. (Say it aloud if you need to.)
- Challenge the thought by asking questions, forcing yourself to provide evidence, and looking for alternative explanations. (“Is this thought factual, or just my interpretation?” “Are there other ways to look at this?” “Will this matter next year or even tomorrow?”)
- Replace the thought with something positive or rational.
4. Assess Your Goals Each Month
“Often situations change or we have new ideas,” Lisa says. “Make sure to assess your goals frequently and learn to be flexible. Life ebbs and flows and our goals may as well.”
In order to do this, you’ll need to assign your goals a measurable unit. Want to spend more time with your family? Assign a frequency or scale that measures how satisfied you feel about your efforts.
When you achieve a goal, be sure to celebrate it, but be sure to revise goals as you learn from the process. This will help you set more realistic goals as you move forward.
5. Live Your Values
“If goals are the destination, values are the roads in which we take to get there,” Lisa says. “Core values are principles in which direct your actions, such as integrity, honesty, etc. In doing so, your increase your satisfaction with life and how you exist in it.”
Ask yourself not what you feel you should value the most, but what truly matters the most to you in your life. Write it down. Those values don’t need to be justified; they just need to be prioritized. If you let your values guide your decisions, you’ll be well on your way to a happier you.
Lisa Kincaid is a certified life, career, and relationship coach in Raleigh, North Carolina who helps her clients go from where they are to where they want to be. You can find her on her website and Thumbtack.