How to be happy

SO I really wanted to write a post today about having a positive outlook. Because honestly, I don't always. Sometimes I really have to remember to keep my head up. I'm sure we ALL struggle with this depending on the situation. Isn't it true though that one negative thought tangent can lead into a terrible day? It's interesting that the same event can happen to us and depending on what mood we're in it can roll off our back or ruin our day. Why is that?

My guess is it depends on our outlook. Are we letting negative thoughts control us that day?

While looking for positive quotes for this post on the internet, I came across this really productive article on ten steps to happiness. I hope you find it as helpful and inspiring as I did!

Read steps 1 and 2 below, then click the link for the rest.

Are you happy? How happy would you say you are, on a scale of 1-10?
Our society today is entrenched in low levels of consciousness of fear, desire and pride. Despite the increasing affluence of people in our world, it seems people are more and more unhappy today. From unhappiness with work, unhappiness with their life, unhappiness with the world, unhappiness with themselves. If you think that the people around you seem quite unhappy, let me tell you that this is a common issue everywhere in the world – be it countries/cities I’ve been to in Asia, in Europe, or in America.
In light of this epidemic, I’ve created a guide on how to be happy. The mark of a good life is one that is filled with happiness. If you’re not happy at all, then what’s the point of doing any of this to begin with?
I see this as a timeless guide, with 10 of my universal, timeless principles to achieve happiness. May you find these 10 principles useful in your quest for happiness. Know that at the end of the day, happiness comes from within, not from outside. This is why the guide focuses on intrinsic, permanent steps to achieve happiness, rather than extrinsic, surface-level tips which only have a temporal effect (such as listening to music, going shopping, etc).
Here goes. :)

#1. Attend to Negative Emotions / Thoughts; Don’t Repress them

Many of us in the modern society today do not know how to properly deal with our emotions. Just look at what most of us do when we are unhappy/angry/upset/stressed/fearful. We either (a) sleep it away (b) eat it away (emotional eating) (c) drink it away (alcoholism) (d) smoke it away (e) bury ourselves with other things, usually work and/or (f) ignore those emotions altogether.
So what happens when we do not deal with our negative emotions appropriately? Our emotions / thoughts are unaddressed and get repressed. It may look like the unhappy emotions / thoughts are gone the next day, but no, they are never gone – they are just buried beneath the surface.
It’s a matter of time before they re-emerge in the future – usually when we face a situation that triggers latent memories. During which we can either respond via avoidance again, hence repeating the cycle all over again, or by dealing it the right away this time. To do the former is to live an unconscious life, no different than a sleepwalker. To do the latter is to take the path of courage and start living consciously.
How should we deal with unhappy emotions / thoughts then?
  1. First, unload your mind, especially if the incident just occurred and you’re faced with a big influx of negative emotions. I find the brain dumping exercise very helpful for this purpose. Meditation also helps in calming your mind. It’s okay to use destressing methods like playing games, taking a break, taking a walk, venting, listening to music, etc – as long as you return to the issue at hand after you are done destressing.
  2. Identify your source of unhappiness via asking yourself: “What’s making me feel unhappy?“. The answers can be very revealing. If you’re someone who has never questioned your emotions/unhappiness before, this will point you in the right direction, because rather than take your emotions as they are, you’re now making an effort to understand them. If you are a conscious individual, with high awareness of your emotions, this will bring you a step further.
  3. Create a list of steps that will help you address the source of your unhappiness above. See next step.

#2. Take Action on What’s Making You Unhappy

I’d say I’m by and large quite a happy person. It’s not because I don’t feel unhappy emotions. Like everyone, there are times when I’m unhappy. There are times when I’m angry too. And there are times when I can be downright miserable.
What do I do during these times? Do I let myself sink in the negative emotion? No, I don’t. That’s pointless and a waste of my mental energy.
What I do is this – Whenever there is something making me unhappy, I fix the issue right away, in a 3-step approach. Firstly, I identify the issue at hand. Secondly, I locate the action steps that will resolve it. Then, I execute those steps immediately.
A simple example : I was recently in New York City (Nov-Dec ’11), as part of my US travel. While NYC is terrific and I love the city, its winter climate is too cold for me, since I grew up in a tropical country (Singapore). It got so cold that I would much rather stay in than go out. It was quite miserable.
Rather than let the situation perpetuate though, I checked the weather in west coast, and realized the southern west coast has a much conducive climate for me. So during Jan ’12, I traveled on to Los Angeles, California, where it is much warmer. Problem solved, and I became a much happier person. ;)
There have been many other situations where I wasn’t happy and took action to address them:
Likewise, if something is bothering you, fix it. Don’t let your unhappiness linger, because your happiness should be your #1 priority. Below are some tips:
  1. Fix the issue right away. No point waiting. The longer you wait, the more unhappy you are.
  2. Focus on what you can effect, not what you can’t effect. This includes (a) things in the present (b) your thoughts and actions. Not (a) things in the past or things that have yet to take place yet or (b) thoughts and actions of other people.
  3. Remember that every problem has a solution. You are only limited by the confines of your mind. It’s up to you to expand your frame of thought and find the best-fit solution.
  4. Once you have done everything within your control, let go and let things run their course. You have already done what you can. Now it’s up to the others and the universe to do what they must.

How do you stay positive?


  1. I had a life changing event last year. It rocked me to my core. I decided to pick myself up, have a little counseling and I am not ashamed to admit it. I've always been the advice giver and I was stuck. It seriously changed my outlook on life, wait, it changed my life. I am happiest I have been. I found myself again. Love this post Hollie!

  2. I have a private blog that I unwind on with my struggles. It is great!!

  3. I am just a joyful person by nature... Though a lot of that has to do with a major overhaul in my outlook on life the summer before college started. I had a failed surgery that took months to recover from and my parents blamed themselves for it all because they chose the surgeon. I had to be positive and cheerful constantly to help chip away at that guilt and the funny thing about acting that way all the time is that eventually I started to feel that way. Life has never been the same. I find no matter where I find myself, if I hold onto that positive outlook, nothing can get me down - or at least not for long. Fast forward a few years when I found Jesus, and couple the new perspective I got with my already positive attitude, and most days I'm unstoppable ;)

  4. we were talking about this in my small group last night, just about choosing joy and how little our everyday actions and feelings have impact on our life as a whole

  5. I love this! I've seen my parents go thru life so unhappy and I think that was one thing I made sure of... is that i loved every aspect of my life (that of course the aspects I can control)

  6. This is great! Thank you so much for sharing this. I never thought of a list of steps to stay positive. I can't wait to use it!

    xo, gina

  7. Great post Hollie! 2011 was a tough year for my family and I. It's hard to stay positive when so many things seem to be going "wrong". I learned a lot last year and hope I an take what I learned and make myself stronger. Life goes on!! My outlook on life is much different than a year ago. Staying positive can be a job sometimes!!


  8. this is seriously and AWESOME post. I hate the little ruts I get in sometimes when I'm just not happy. I love this advise sooo much, so good! When I'm unhappy, stressed, or worried, I read my scriptures in search of wisdom and say a prayer to my father in heaven for comfort and happiness. It never fails to work! I also go running, when I run, I can only think about my pace and how much longer I can go. It really does help clear my mind and make me feel a lot better :)

    Lovely Little Rants

  9. oh! sorry, also as a blog designer, I wanted to tell you how much I love your colors! The soft green and yellows were a very good choice :)

    Lovely Little Rants

  10. This is such a good post, its a good point and tbh more people need to be more positive!


  11. What a much needed post! That John Lennon quote is so perfect. It is so easy to allow the negative thoughts to completely take over...but happiness can only be found when we deal with those negativities and push through with optimism and a good understanding :) Thanks for this post!

  12. This is such a great post! Love that John Lennon quote xo


Thank YOU for your comments. <3