But that only makes sense if you think that happiness is a destination, something that you can arrive at once and for all.
Happiness is more like a journey:
It's something that you have to work on consciously every day.
Learning how to be happy in a relationship is much the same.
We see all these happy, beaming couples on Instagram or Facebook, and we think, "They're so perfect for each other! I wish I could experience a love like that."
But what you don't see is all the hard work it takes to maintain a healthy, happy relationship.
Just like learning how to be happy with yourself, being happy in a relationship is something you have to actively strive for every day - not something ready-made you can buy off the shelf.
When you're happy with yourself, you're in a much better position to be happy in a relationship.
After all, if you can't stand being alone with yourself, how can you expect to be content spending your life with someone else?
So, how do you go about learning how to be happy with yourself? Here are our 15 favorite tips to get you started on that path!
1. Accept Yourself
Accepting yourself is the first and most important step towards happiness.
It's impossible to be truly happy if you're constantly beating yourself up about your perceived shortcomings.
It makes you feel bad and keeps you from improving yourself since there will always be something to criticize.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the supposed changes.
But you don't have to be perfect to be happy - you have to be yourself.
Of course, accepting yourself doesn't mean settling for a life of mediocrity.
It simply means being okay with who you are, faults and all, and then making a conscious effort to improve what you feel is important.1
Being gentle and understanding with yourself sets the tone for how you will treat others, and it's an essential step in developing healthy, happy relationships.
2. Choose Happiness
Happiness is a choice.
This can be hard to square with the reality that some people seem trapped in unhappy lives, but happiness is a state of mind.
You can choose to be happy with who you are, even if your life circumstances aren’t ideal.
If you’re unhappy with your current situation, make a plan to change it.
Choosing happiness can mean letting small things go, avoiding pointless arguments, and refusing to dwell on negative thoughts.
There is the potential for happiness in every situation - it’s up to you to find it.
3. Don’t Compare
This is a huge ask in the social media age, where everyone is guilty of constantly comparing their lives to others on social media.
What you see there isn't always an accurate portrayal of someone's life.
And even if they were happy, that doesn't guarantee that you'll be happy living the same life.
Some people like being social butterflies, and others are perfectly content with a smaller group of close friends.
As long as you live the life that makes you happy, that's all that matters.
Comparing yourself or your relationship to others will generally lead to unhappiness.2
It might also hurt your relationship.
If you constantly compare your partner to someone else, it will only breed resentment and discontent.
4. Set Boundaries
Each of us is someone's parent, child, friend, lover, and coworker.
Some people have so many labels that they can't even keep track.
We are pulled in so many different directions that it's often hard to find time for ourselves.
We put our own needs last, thinking that we'll have time for them when everything else settles down.
Spoiler alert: That day never comes!
You need to set boundaries with the people in your life and learn how to say no.3
Take time for yourself to relax and rejuvenate.
This isn’t selfish; it’s critical for your health.
The same goes for when you're in a relationship, especially if you regularly see other couples doing everything together.
Don't feel inadequate because you don't share the same interests or want to spend every waking second together.
It's okay to do things separately and have your own lives outside of the relationship.
While introverts will be content with more alone time, even extroverts need to recharge their batteries.
We all need time to ourselves to be happy and fulfilled individuals - making us better partners in the process.
5. Communicate Openly and Honestly
Fights and arguments are inevitable in any relationship.
However, saying things you don't mean or holding back how you feel is not.
If you're unhappy about something, say so calmly and respectfully.
One sure way to make a fight worse is to bottle up your feelings and communicate poorly.
This usually leads to an argument where both people are angry, and no one listens to the other person.
Communicate openly, even (and especially) during a disagreement.
Learning how to handle conflict in a positive, affirming way can take time and effort, especially if you’re not used to it.4
But it’s worth it to put in the work and build a stronger, more connected relationship.
6 tips to start with:
- Pick the right time - Choose a time to talk when both of you are calm and not already angry or upset about something.
- Use “I” statements - When you focus on your own feelings and experiences, it can help to reduce defensiveness in the other person. Instead of “You never listen to me,” for example, try "I feel unheard when we're talking, and I really need you to listen." This can help open up a more productive conversation by focusing on how you feel, not on attacking the other person.
- Avoid accusations - Making accusations will only make the other person defensive and less likely to listen to you. Instead, try to state your feelings and needs in a non-accusatory way.
- Listen and validate - Even if you don’t agree with everything that the other person is saying, it’s important to try to see their perspective. Listen carefully and validate their feelings, even if you disagree with them.
- Focus on the solution - Once you’ve both had a chance to air your grievances, it’s time to focus on finding a solution. Brainstorm together and develop a plan that works for both of you.
- Be willing to compromise - There will be times when you have to give and take in any relationship. Meet your partner halfway and compromise on things that are important to both of you.
6. Make Time for Fun
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have fun no matter what they do?
While some people are naturally funny, anyone can learn how to have fun by making time for it.
Relationships have phases, and while the beginning is often heavy on the fun, couples can lose their sense of playfulness as time goes on.
Keep the fun going no matter what stage your relationship is in.
Having fun together can be as simple as taking up a shared hobby or planning regular date nights.
Don't be afraid to try something totally off-brand for you!
Learn how to cook a complicated dish, take dance lessons together, or go on an adventure in a new city.
Trying new things will add excitement to your relationship and help you bond and grow closer together.
7. Be Independent
Most of us have stories of losing ourselves in relationships.
We start to define ourselves in terms of who we are with, becoming overly dependent on the other person.
This isn’t healthy for either party involved.
We must learn how to be happy with ourselves, even when we’re not in a relationship.
Being independent means being confident and comfortable in your skin.5
It means being able to do things on your own and not feeling like you need someone else to complete you—whether they're your parents, friends, or partner.
One of the best things about being independent is learning to rely on yourself.
You figure out what you’re capable of and what you need to be happy.
You also become comfortable being alone, which can be important in a relationship.
When you're dependent on someone else, you're always waiting for their approval or love; independence will help you find those things within yourself.
While leaning on others during hard times is normal, having another adult take care of us in an unhealthy way can be damaging.
Find a healthy balance between being dependent and being independent.
The goal is interdependence.
This means that you should still have close relationships with others, but don’t rely on them too much.
8. Be Grateful
You can have all the blessings in the world, but if you don't feel grateful for them, they don't do much good.
Gratitude is the engine that powers your happiness.
When you’re grateful for what you have, your mind starts to focus on the positive, and you’re not as apt to dwell on what's wrong in your life.
We also tend to appreciate our relationships more when we're grateful for them.
Gratefulness strongly correlates to happiness and well-being.6
Research has shown that more grateful people tend to experience greater happiness, less depression and anxiety, better sleep, and even improved physical health.
Training yourself to appreciate the good stuff in your life is a habit that will pay dividends in happiness.
Your partner will also appreciate your positive attitude and will be more likely to reciprocate.
Say thank you for the little things they do to make your life easier.
My wife and I have an arrangement that she chooses the recipes and writes our shopping list (I hate it!).
And I cook (I love it).
Both of us never miss showing our gratitude.
It's a simple acknowledgment of what we do for each other.
I understand how hard it is to be grateful when you feel like nothing's going right.
So, how can you practice being more grateful?
Make a list of 5 things your partner does for you.
Not just in your head. WRITE IT DOWN.
Even the smallest thing you can think of.
Maybe something you have been taken for granted? Just don't.
The list is not static. Add to it when you notice things.
And, of course, don't forget to express your gratitude 🙂
Make it a habit.
It will serve as a foot in the door to a more grateful mindset.
When many things are happening, it can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what’s important.
That’s why it’s important to take time for yourself to reflect on your life and how you’re feeling.
Taking just a few minutes each day to sit down and think about your life can do wonders for your happiness.
It allows you to take stock of all the good things that are happening, and it also gives you a chance to identify any areas that you may want to work on.
Not only will reflecting on your life help you be happier with yourself, but it will also help your relationship.
When you’re able to take a step back and see the bigger picture, it’s easier to communicate with your partner about your needs and wants.
Plus, sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner will help them understand you better.
10. Make Your Health a Priority
Learning to be happy is primarily about loving and caring for yourself. This means making your health a priority.
Start by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. These simple lifestyle changes will do wonders for your mood and energy levels.
Taking care of your physical health provides massive mental and emotional benefits.7
Exercise, in particular, is a powerful tool for decreasing the risk of anxiety- or stress-related disorders.
It also helps to improve sleep quality, which is essential for overall health and well-being.
When you make your health a priority, you kill two birds with one stone:
You're doing yourself a favor, and you're also setting a good example for your partner.
If they see you taking care of yourself, they'll be more likely to do the same.
And when both partners are healthy and happy, the relationship is bound to be better off.
11. Don't Be Too Hard on Yourself
One of the biggest pitfalls of self-reflection is becoming overly critical of yourself.
Be aware of your shortcomings, but don’t dwell on them to the point that it impacts your happiness.
Try to be as objective as possible when assessing your behavior. Would you be as harsh with another person as you are with yourself?
If not, then it's time to cut yourself some slack.
For example, if you make a mistake at work, don't dwell on it for the rest of the day.
Instead, take responsibility for your actions, learn from your mistakes, and move on. The point of self-reflection is to improve, not to beat yourself up.
Knowing when and how you are wrong, without being too hard on yourself about it, is a skill that will make you happier and a better partner.
After all, relationships are all about compromise and communication. If you can be open and honest with yourself, it'll be easier to be open and honest with your partner.
12. Be Assertive
Being assertive means more than just standing up for yourself.
It means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs honestly and directly.
It also means handling conflict straight-on and without resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors.
Learning to be assertive can help you feel happier and more fulfilled in your life. It can also improve your relationships by making them more honest and open.
If you’re not used to being assertive, it may take some practice to get comfortable with it. But the effort will be worth it.
Assertiveness can help you increase your self-esteem and get what you want out of life.8
13. Do Nothing
In today's fast-paced world, it's hard to find time just to be.
You are constantly bombarded with stimulation from work, social media, and the never-ending to-do list.
It can be tough to shut off your brain and relax. But it is important to do nothing sometimes, recharge, and be productive when needed.9
Taking the time just to let your mind go can be incredibly helpful in managing stress and anxiety.
It can also help you be more creative and productive when working on something.
We like designating specific five-minute chunks of time for "mindful breathing" or "checking in with our bodies." But sometimes, it's helpful just to let yourself be.
Being comfortable with doing nothing doesn't mean that you are lazy. It means that you understand the importance of taking a break and resting your mind.
This helps you be happy by being in the present moment and not worrying about the past or future.
In relationships, once the exciting first stage of "new love" fades away, it's normal to feel as if everything is stagnant. It's easy to get into a rut and feel like you're just going through the motions.
Doing nothing together can be a great way to connect with your partner and enjoy each other's company without feeling the need to fill every minute with conversation or activity.
Being together in silence can be a beautiful way to show how much you care.
14. Be Present
Have you ever been with someone who wasn’t really there? Maybe they were physically present, but their mind was somewhere else entirely.
They weren’t listening to you or engaging in the conversation. It’s frustrating and can also make you feel invisible and unimportant.
When you are fully present, you can enjoy the moment much more and connect with the people around you.
Being present pays dividends attention to the person or task at hand.
This doesn’t mean that you can never daydream or think about other things.
But it does mean that when you’re talking to your partner, you focus entirely on them.
You are listening to what they are saying and engaging in the conversation.
4 easy steps to be more present:
- Put away your phone - This is probably the most common way people fail to be present. If you’re constantly checking your phone, you’re not paying attention to the person in front of you.
- Make eye contact - This seems like a small thing, but it makes a big difference. When you look at someone, it shows that you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Listen more than you talk - This one can be hard, especially if you’re a natural chatterbox. But it’s important to listen to what the other person is saying and try to understand their perspective.
- Ask questions - Asking questions shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and want to know more about the other person. It also gives you a chance to learn more about them.
15. Give Something Back
While regular self-reflection is a good thing, don’t forget about the bigger picture.
When you get too caught up in your head, it's easy to forget that there's a whole world full of people who could use a helping hand.
That's where volunteering comes in.
Volunteering is a great way to help others while also getting some much-needed perspective on your own life.
When you're out there making a difference in the lives of others, it's hard to dwell on your own problems.
And even if you can't volunteer your time, there are plenty of other ways to give back, like donating money or clothes to charity.
Grasping these lessons helps how you view your relationship, too.
It's not just about you and your partner; it's about giving back to the relationship itself.
That means making an effort to do things that make your partner happy, even if they don't necessarily make you happy.
In other words, think about what you can do for your relationship rather than what your relationship can do for you.
It's an easy lesson to learn but a difficult one to enact day in and day out. Selflessness has a way of coming back around.
It’s not surprising that volunteers are generally happier than non-volunteers, with improved physical, mental, and emotional health!11