4 Daily Practices Essential to a Happy, Fulfilling Life – A Therapist’s Take

If you don’t live under a rock, chances are that you see headlines in magazines, news IMG_0004programs, and various online sources about the quick secrets to having a happy life, whether it’s a happier sex life, a better relationship with your body, your boss or your mother – you probably get inundated with sound bytes about the path to bliss.

In my many years of practice as an individual and couples therapist, and as a coach, I’ve learned a thing or two about what really makes people happier and more fulfilled. The sad reality is that it’s not a quick or simple fix. The good news is that you don’t have to move to Bhutan and become a monk to have a happier life. If instead, you commit to these first four specific daily practices you’ll be well on your way, without the plane fare and upheaval. So, here are the first four attitudes and behaviors for you to practice, maximizing the possibilities for a lifetime of more joy and meaning:

  1. Be grateful. Spend time each day moving away from aspirational thinking about your wants and needs, (your strivings), to acknowledging your appreciation for what you already have: a loving partner, a feisty child, a generous neighbor, funny co-workers, a sweet dog, a warm bed, your health, food on the table, beautiful sunsets, etc. Manifest gratitude by thanking the people around you for who they are or anything they’ve done that you appreciate. It costs nothing, and softens everything. Focus on your blessings and amplify them with your attention and gratitude. You’ll be more present in each moment, and you’ll be building and strengthening happy neural pathways in your brain, while generating positive energy in your relationships. – all vital keys to joy.
  2. Be intentional. Live life “on purpose” by connecting with your motivations, and with plans for actionable, followup behavior. Get away from “shoulds,” like “I should eat more healthfully, get more sleep, be a better friend,” etc., to “I commit to…”, “I will,_________”, because you’ve connected to your motivation. So, if you set an intention on a given day to be a more solicitous friend, decide why, and how you will put that into action that day. By setting an intention each day, giving yourself reminders, and committing to an action plan for that intention, you’ll feel more in control of events, you’ll feel better about having a moral compass, you’ll make more carefully considered and less reactive decisions, and you’ll  have less regrets down the road about what you did or didn’t do. You will have de-automated your life.
  3. Be kind. Unless someone is aiming a gun at your head, there’s usually lots of room for kindness and compassion in relationships. Recognize the interrelatedness of all beings, and all your opportunities to treat others with the best of your heart.  Also, do it on a micro scale: tell the sales clerk how helpful and efficient he was, smile at passersby, take a moment to help a co-worker with something she’s carrying, give your spouse an unsolicited kiss or smile. Don’t confuse kindness with being an unassertive suck-up. If you’re not being abused or violated in some way then you’re kindness is a gift, not a defense or coverup for negative feelings. Also, direct your kindness to yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and respect, the way a good friend would. Avoid damning self talk or punitive self paybacks. Unless you’re a serial killer you probably deserve to treat yourself gently.
  4. Be responsible. Take care of business. Pay your bills and taxes. Return calls and emails in a timely way. Make your bed. Organize your space so it functions well and reflects back on you positively. Be on time for appointments. Live within your means. Don’t drink or text and drive. Pay attention to the rules you’ve agreed to live by. Be a grown up and you’ll avoid experiences of shame, chaos, disappointment or trauma to yourself and others. You’ll feel calmer and freed up to do all the other fun stuff if you don’t get stuck in the weeds of life’s “business.”

Commit to these first four attitudes and practices and you’ll be well on your way to a happier life.

*To find out about four other key practices, tune into my next BlogTalk Radio episode, “8 Practices Essential to a Happy and Fulfilling Life” on Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 PM.

Call 877-497-9046 to join me live on the air with questions or comments, or listen to the recording afterward at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager


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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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