The unconventional guide to happiness

On the International Day of Happiness, we look for a more realistic alternative to corny advice that makes you roll your eyes

By Andrea Tim | Published: 20 Mar 2017

How to be happy
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in '500 Days of Summer' (Photo: Dune Entertainment)

Search "How to be happy" on Google and if you feel like closing your browser after scrolling past at least four Google ads about tips for happiness and having cheesy advice like "set meaningful goals for yourself" stare at you so knowingly, you can sit with us.

This International Day of Happiness, we're looking for more unconventional ways to be happy, and according to research, many of them have to do with the little things.

A DoubleTree by Hilton survey in 2014 found that the little things contribute immensely to one's overall happiness. Around 2,000 guests participated in a poll that revealed that finding money in your jeans pocket topped the list. The top 20 also included getting into bed with fresh sheets and eating chocolate. Another study by UK healthcare group Bupa also found that the top 50 results were "simple things" too, led by "sleeping in a freshly made bed." You get the theme.

Here's what the ELLE team does to be happy.

Count your blessings
"I've always been a pretty optimistic person, so that even when things go wrong or the black dog calls, I never think 'why me?', because why not me? I am a big believer in counting your blessings, so I make it a point to feel grateful for at least a few things every day. It's a daily reminder of how lucky I am and I really believe it keeps sadness in check. Beyond that, I find happiness in lots of tiny small things: hot baths, good books, Netflix, a great bottle of Malbec, laughing at memes, interiors magazines, Nars lip pencils, floating in the sea, sitting on the balcony during a thunderstorm. Happiness is everywhere, really, just waiting to happen." – Kate Guest, Editor-in-Chief

Read favourite books
"I always go back to my favourite books for an instant happiness boost: Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle (cosy and English), David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (desperately sad but strangely comforting), Amor Towles' Rules of Civility (always puts me in mind of Aaron Tveit, which is no bad thing). One of those, and a lit Diptyque Baies candle, placed somewhere high up and out of reach of my cat." – Emma Chong Johnston, Managing Editor

Buy and use pretty stationery
"Stickers, sushi post-its, washi tape, notebooks. Just looking at my collection makes me skip in place, but then using it all to create my own bullet journal is a weekly hobby I look forward to." – Andrea Tim, Online Associate Editor

Follow French Bulldogs on Instagram
"Scrolling through my Instagram feed and having all these different buhis greet me = highlight of my every day." – Florence Song, Senior Fashion Writer


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Wear lipstick
"You can't control life, but taking a few minutes to do something for myself like paint on my favourite new shade is a tiny, deliberate act to nudge me into a more confident, I-got-this headspace." – Grace Wong, Beauty Editor

Watch old cartoons
"They don't make cartoons like they used to anymore. I love streaming old episodes of the classic stuff that was on TV during my childhood like Teen Titans, Dexter's Laboratory and Futurama. It makes me even happier when I have a bag of fries, nuggets and my boyfriend with me while I watch." – Verinia Khoo, Online Writer

Wake up early to do makeup
"On weekdays, I wake up earlier than necessary just to do my makeup. By now I know I can do my full face in under 10 minutes, but I love having that extra hour just to take my time with cleansing, really massaging in all my skin care, picking out a lip colour – the whole shebang. It clears my head, there's something very zen about it. If it's the weekend, I'll take it a step further and wear a face mask while dancing around with my cat (much to her dismay)." – Medina Azaldin, Editorial Assistant

Listen to Disney instrumental music
"Who isn't happy when they listen to Disney songs? But because I'm a working professional and I try not to burst out in song while at the office, the instrumental versions are great company and they still put a smile on my face." – Lydia Chan, Online Editorial Assistant

Have dessert
This one should be a universal treat: International Day of Happiness also coincides with World Macaron Day, dessert fiends.

Related: 7 ways to sleep at work without your boss noticing


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