Finding happiness within yourself can start with self-awareness. But that’s just the first step.

Happiness is something you may be looking for or trying to find in your life. What makes you happy may look different from what makes someone else happy.

While some people may define happiness as the absence of anguish, there may be more to it than staying away from distress.

For one, it may not be about finding happiness as much as choosing and creating it. But to create happiness, your mental health must be a priority.

If you’re going through hard times and feel your efforts to be happier aren’t working, consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you resolve past hurts and develop coping skills.

Finding happiness is going to look different for everyone. These three tips may help you discover what happiness means to you and how to achieve it.

If you want to know how you can be happier, working on self-awareness may be the first and more lasting step you can take.

Findings from a 2016 study indicate that insight into oneself is associated with a higher sense of well-being.

Self-awareness and insight refer to knowing yourself, identifying your emotions, and managing your responses to different situations.

Three strategies to develop self-awareness are:

Increasing self-awareness can help you experience the world in a way that’s consistent with your values, core beliefs, and goals. This, in turn, may translate into more happy moments and greater peace of mind.

For some people, happiness feels elusive because, even without knowing, they may be going through an existential crisis. For them, how to find happiness may be about finding purpose in life and meaning in every action.

Engaging in activities that are consistent with your life goals may give you a sense of purpose.

A 2021 study indicates that having a sense of purpose in life positively affects your overall sense of well-being and physical health.

To work on creating a more purposeful life, research suggests trying a method called life crafting. This is a process with seven steps:

  1. Discover your values and passions.
  2. Evaluate your current qualities and the ones you wish to develop.
  3. Take an inventory of your current and desired social relationships.
  4. Explore possible career paths.
  5. Think about your future without limitations.
  6. Identify and prioritize goals and prepare for roadblocks.
  7. Make a commitment to your goals by talking about them with others.

While life crafting may not work for everyone, it may help you identify what’s important to you. Feeling connected to a greater purpose in everything you do may help you feel happier with yourself and life in general.

As important as looking within for happiness is looking out. Focusing on meaningful relationships with others and a purpose outside of yourself can provide great joy.

A 2017 study on the effects of self-centeredness and selflessness found that self-centeredness was associated with fluctuating happiness while selflessness was linked to long-term happiness.

Some ways to focus outside yourself may include:

  • volunteering for a local charity or shelter
  • attending a spiritual service of your choice
  • connecting in person with friends and family
  • donating to a dear cause
  • planting a community garden
  • engaging in altruistic behavior
  • rescuing neglected animals
  • participating in city or beach clean-ups

Happiness vs. joy: What’s the difference?

Joy and happiness are similar, but research suggests they’re two distinct emotional experiences.

Joy is an immediate response to something you perceive as good.

According to the authors, joy often occurs when an event:

  • fulfills a desire you have
  • makes you feel you’re blessed or favored
  • indicates good fortune or redemption
  • makes you feel things are going well for you or working out for you

Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of subjective well-being. Happiness looks and feels different for everyone.

One study suggests that constructs of happiness may include:

  • feelings of pleasure
  • having a sense of meaning and purpose
  • being satisfied with your life

Both happiness and joy are viewed as positive mood states.

If you’re trying to figure out how to be happy every day, consider being aware of these manageable roadblocks and obstacles:

Lack of boundaries

Not setting boundaries or allowing others to step over the ones you’ve established may get in the way of feeling happy.

Boundaries are essential for maintaining quality social relationships that may increase your sense of life satisfaction.

Research indicates that those who blur work-life boundaries also may experience emotional exhaustion and face a decline in subjective levels of happiness.

Lack of boundaries at work or in your personal life may feel like you’re being taken advantage of.

Consider evaluating if you need to end relationships with people who don’t respect your boundaries.

Inauthenticity

Research suggests authenticity is associated with life satisfaction and overall psychological well-being.

When you can’t be your authentic self with others, you may resent it. This, in turn, may increase your chance of experiencing negative emotions like anger and sadness.

Cultivating those bonds where you can embrace who you really are may help you get rid of this happiness onbstacle.

Comparing yourself to others

Persistently comparing yourself to others may negatively impact your happiness.

A study of 1,332 participants found that those who compared themselves to others on social media had lower life satisfaction and self-esteem.

Cultivating gratitude and appreciation for who you are, and focusing on creating the life you dream of, may help you stop comparing yourself to others.

Is happiness really a choice?

While you can make choices that are more fulfilling to your life and improve your overall well-being, happiness isn’t always a choice.

When you face adverse or traumatic circumstances, chronic stress, or live with some mental health conditions, choosing to be happy may be challenging.

For example, research suggests that those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression experience less frequent feelings of love, joy, and happiness.

It doesn’t mean this has to be the case forever. It’s possible to manage and overcome mental health conditions, trauma, and other emotional challenges. Seeking professional mental health support may help you develop coping skills and explore ways to be happier.

If you have made efforts on your own to be happier, but it doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere, it may be time to seek help.

A mental health professional such as a social worker or licensed counselor may help you navigate decisions and choices that lead to a higher quality of life.

Finding happiness is a personal experience and may depend on your culture, beliefs, and goals. In general, you may create happiness in your life by becoming self-aware.

Exploring your life purpose and thinking of others may also help you achieve happiness.

If you have taken steps to be happy, and you don’t notice a change in your sense of fulfillment, seeking the help of a mental health professional may be a good idea.