Happiness is not just a positive emotion, but also a sense of deeper meaning and purpose in life.  Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”  Every one of us can take actions and develop habits that increase happiness. According to research, as long as we have our basic needs met, only 10% of our happiness is from our circumstances; more possessions or money does not make a long lasting difference to happiness.  50% of our happiness is predetermined by set personality traits, so some of us are born more inclined to be happy.  The really good news is that 40% of our happiness is a result of intentional action.



Grow Your Happy provides you with tools to support your happiness and well-being.  We aren’t talking about making large, dramatic changes.  Even small changes have been shown to make a significant difference.  For example, the practice of smiling (even to yourself) has been scientifically proven to be a mood booster! Continue reading for simple ways that can help you on your happiness journey!

Some Elements of a Happy Life

Martin Seligman, another leader in positive psychology, describes five core elements of psychological well-being and happiness using the acronym PERMA:

Positive emotions – feeling good

Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities

Relationships – authentically connected to others

Meaning – a purposeful existence

Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success


How do you experience PERMA in your own life? You might notice that you are strong in certain areas, doing ok in others, but could use a boost in some.  Read on, consider the questions, and try the suggested practices and see what impact they have on your sense of well-being and happiness. Or, you can start off by taking the PERMA- Flourishing assessment to learn how you are doing in each of the five areas of happiness.

Positive Emotion 

is about viewing the past, present, and future with a positive mindset.  To what degree do you experience pleasure and positive emotions in your life, including joy, amusement, anticipation, pride, love, contentment, etc.? Check out this list of positive emotions.

Try these tips to strengthen your positive emotion.

  • For a week, each day write down three things that went well or good things that you experienced. They can be super simple- got to visit with a friend or have a cup of coffee at your favorite café…  Then write how this good thing happened.
  • Pay it forward or do something kind for someone. It will make you feel good and is a sustainable mood booster.
  • For a week write a gratitude list daily. At the end of the week read what you wrote.
  • Boost your mindfulness. Being in the present moment leads to feeling happier.  Attend a drop-in group or workshop or try a mindfulness app to train your brain to be in the present moment.


Using our strengths and talents, and exploring our interests. To what degree do you feel excited or interested in what you are doing?  Think beyond the big picture. Instead focus on the moments where you feel most comfortable.  Do you enjoy doing something so much that you find yourself completely absorbed and losing track of time?  This is known as being in flow.   Many of us find that we experience this when using a strength or doing something that we love to do. Try these to boost engagement.

  • Write a list of what you love to do, or strengths that you like to use. Then give yourself time to do these on a regular basis. This can include things like, being in nature, playing a sport or dancing, listening to a friend, solving a puzzle, or spending time making music…
  • Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths inventory and find ways to use your signature strengths each day.


Enhance our well-being. This includes those with family, friends, roommates, classmates, coworkers, etc.  To what degree do you feel appreciated and loved?  When you need it, how willing are you to receive support and help from others?  How satisfied are you with your relationships?  If you want to strengthen this area in your life, small steps will make a difference over time.

  • Step away from your phone/computer and spend time face to face with a friend, family member or even someone in the community.
  • Frequent places with friendly interaction to boost your feeling of connection. A coffee shop is a good choice, but so are places that are FREE, like the library or a dog park.
  • Give and receive help, even in small ways. It is good to be there for one another.
  • Build connection with those who honor who you are and where the feeling is mutual.
  • Write a thank you note to someone important to you, like a mentor, friend, grandparent. To make it more meaningful, show up in person to read it to them.
  • Join an interest or community group for social connection. Being part of a group can also boost engagement, meaning, and accomplishment in your life.
  • Take time for yourself, especially if you are an introvert. It will re-charge your batteries.


Experiencing how our lives are connected to something bigger than ourselves. To what degree do you have a sense of meaning and purpose in your life? Do feel that your life is valuable and worthwhile?  Having a sense of meaning and belonging affects our well-being on a daily basis.

  • For a week, find one thing each day that is meaningful in your life and write about why. Or capture things that are meaningful to you in your life by taking photos. Revisit them when you need to renew your sense of purpose.
  • Volunteer your time. Contributing your time and abilities boosts your sense of meaning.
  • Take the Meaning in Life Questionnaire and explore ways to incorporate what you learn into your life.
  • Check out You@CSU and some of the assessments and ideas in the Thrive and Matter sections.


Little successes are important to large ones.  Watch a baby learning to walk.  Those wobbly steps and falling down is what builds our muscles to walk well.  To what degree do you feel that you are making progress in accomplishing your goals?  Do you set goals?  Are they achievable or do you need to break them into smaller steps? How are you at handling your responsibilities?  Remember this is a process, so savor those steps and learn from when you get stuck.

  • It is ok to try something really hard and not do well at first. Cut yourself some slack and practice self-acceptance and compassion. Be human.  Excellence is not perfection. Just do your best.
  • Take time to savor an accomplishment, however common. You just cleaned up your room!  Tune into those mundane moments with your full senses, with mindfulness.
  • Take on a growth mindset about learning new skills, and connecting with others.
  • To support developing new habits or accomplishing goals try the WOOP process or Tiny Habits from BJ Fogg.

Happiness Resources

Additional practices and ideas:

Center for the Greater Good



Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman

The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Lee Duckworth

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck


University of Pennsylvania