Simple Steps for a Happier Life

By Beth Roulston 2020-03-23 10:38:25

When I looked at the calendar and saw that today is the International Day of Happiness, I started thinking about how chaotic and uncertain the world is right now. 

Back in 2018, I remember discussing the idea of happiness with Shanghai-based mindfulness coach Lorna Jutton, and what she said back then has never left me: “it’s okay sometimes to not feel happy”.

Day in, day out many of us look at others around us or on our social media having the time of their lives and wonder, “Why am I not that happy?”, “Is there something wrong with me?”. Sometimes we wake up feeling sad, anxious or tired and it’s important to not ignore these feelings. Ironically, the more we strive to be happy the less happy we feel. Embracing how you feel in the moment and allowing yourself to just be is one of the keys to practising mindfulness. And the more you begin to tune into what your body and mind are feeling you the happier you will be in the long run. 

Right now I’d give anything to simply feel more calm and content, rather than anxious and stressed!


Simple tips to feel more content each day

Give yourself five minutes of “me-time” every day

No matter whether it’s yoga, coffee and a book, your morning skin cleansing routine or simply meditating, give yourself time to breathe and enjoy your own company.

Drink more water and try to eat a balanced diet

It may sound clichéd but your body and mind run better when you’re not dehydrated and you’re eating a good balance of nutrients.

Try to exercise for 20 minutes each day

Okay, even I struggle with this one, but thanks to the internet there are loads of short workouts you can do from home. Opt for an evening stroll with the kids after dinner and talk to them about their day.

If you’re lucky enough to own a pet, walk your dog twice a day instead of once – just think of all that pooch love you’ll get as a result.

Breathe consciously for 2 minutes each day

Not to go all new-agey on you, but studies have shown that different breathing techniques can help take you out of ‘fight or flight mode’ (commonly known as stress), help your body fight illness, improve cardiovascular workouts and even lengthen your concentration span. The simplest breathing technique I would suggest starting with is called Box Breathing. When performing this technique, try to visualise drawing a box in your head. Begin by inhaling for four seconds. Hold this breath for four seconds. Next, exhale for four seconds, before finally pausing your breath for four seconds. Repeat this pattern (4x4x4x4) ten times, or twenty if you feel you can do more. Once you get into the habit of doing this each day try the pattern 6x6x6x6.

Embrace your daily mood, but don’t overanalyse

When you wake up in the morning, turn your mind’s eye inwards and focus on your body. Start with your head, how does it feel? Does it feel uncomfortable, strained, painful or good? Repeat this analysis down your limbs until you reach your toes. You may realise you are experiencing feelings that have been overlooked. And no matter what mood you are in allow yourself to feel it but don’t over analyse it. In time, this feeling will dissipate.

Check-in with friends & family

I am the worst at this. Whenever I’m in the land of stress or struggle I tend to isolate myself from others. But honestly your friends and family love you no matter what’s going on – and if they don’t it’s their loss. If your friends invite you to a party and you don’t feel like going, sit with your eyes closed and ask yourself why you don’t want to go. Imagine sitting with them, laughing and chatting. Then, after a moment, open your eyes and ask yourself if you still don’t want to go.

Quality time with children

Children are one of the purest forms of happiness. It bursts out of them like kaleidoscopes of warm, bright light just waiting to shower any and all that are near with positivity. Something as simple as playing tag in the park, reading a book together or playing teddy bear picnic will bring your children such joy and I’d bet my bottom yuan that it will bring you joy too.




It’s true! Tidy home, tidy mind – and a tid(ier) mind is a happier mind. Don’t know where to start, give our spring cleaning tips a glance for inspiration. Stick on your favourite dancing tunes while you clean to turn it into an unconventional workout. 

Start journaling

When I was young my councillor told me to start giving myself reasons to enjoy my life by writing them down. As a teenager I scoffed at her suggestion, but secretly I willed for it to be true. It doesn’t even need to be in a journal, start by just jotting down three things (or one if you struggle to think of three) that bring you joy on paper each day.


When you smile at someone, chances are they will always smile back. Try sitting quietly and smile to yourself - you may just notice a little ball of happy warmth spreading through your centre and beyond.

With everything that is going on in our world just now, it will often be difficult to feel calm or content. Remember to be kind to yourself and allow things to not be okay from time to time. Open up to your partner about how you’re feeling, and take a moment to appreciate the joy they bring you each day.

Should you or a family member be struggling with feelings of anxiety or depression, the following healthcare providers offer counselling and psychiatric support.

Shanghai United Family Hospital (locations in both Puxi and Pudong)

24hr Appt.: 400 639 3900  




Tel.: 400 819 6622



Jiahui Health

Tel.: 400 868 3000



For free, confidential and anonymous support, 365 days a year, 10am to 10pm, contact Lifeline on 400 821 1215 or send a message on WeChat ID: LifeLineConnect.