Activities that increase your happiness

Senior friends walking in public park

According to the World Happiness Report 2024., happiness is a nuanced picture that’s constantly changing over time. But if you’re someone who wishes they could feel a little happier, what should you do?

Activities are known to increase happiness levels, says Jordan Foster, behavioral health peer support specialist for BlueCross Blue Shield of Tennessee.

“Doing things you enjoy can absolutely bring you happiness,” Jordan says. “The specific activities will vary from person to person. Choose activities that are pleasant for you, help improve your mood and possibly bring you joy.”

How do you choose?

Jordan Foster: Any physical activity that also fits your ability, lifestyle and personality is a good one. Physical activity can help reduce your stress levels and improve your sense of well-being. Exercise boosts the production of neurotransmitters called endorphins that make you feel good.

Both outdoor or indoor activities work

Jordan Foster: Choose something that you love. Or, you can pick something that you’ve always wanted to try. It might be a solo activity, or you might prefer to interact with others.

If you love the feeling of the sun on your face and the wind in your hair, try one of these outdoor activities:

  • Swimming
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • Paddleboarding
  • Walking on trails
  • Running or jogging
  • Gardening
  • Riding a bike

In warmer weather, more outdoor activities become accessible. But you can still get out and hike, walk, jog, or bike on cooler days if it makes you feel happier. Just be sure to wear weather-appropriate clothing and shoes.

Some activities can take place indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather and your mood. You might opt for an activity that helps you relax and feel calmer and more centered as a way to boost your happiness:

You could also opt for a more active indoor activity such as:

  • Dance class
  • Swimming laps
  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Pickleball

You may feel happier when you’re interacting with other people who share your interests. If that’s the case, you could sign up for a new group activity, such as:

  • Book club
  • Walking group
  • Mah jong or bridge club
  • A class at your local community college
  • Volunteer work at a local non-profit

Don’t limit yourself to the items on this list. The right choice is different for everyone. If you can think of something that has brought you happiness in the past, give it another try. If you can tap back into those positive feelings from the past, you might notice a boost in your happiness in the present.

Keep your emotional and physical state in mind

Jordan Foster: It’s important not to make any impulsive decisions that may negatively impact your physical or mental health. For example, if you have a chronic health condition, talk to your doctor starting a new physical activity.

Also, be conscious of how any new activity makes you feel. Emotions are complicated and have many layers. Don’t change any medications that you may be taking without consulting with your doctor.

If you see a therapist or counselor, you could try brainstorming safe and healthy ways to promote happiness and create a plan to follow. If you don’t see a behavioral health professional, this could be the inspiration to seek one out. Having a healthy, meaningful support system promotes communication, accountability and connection.

“There is no right or wrong way to choose an activity to boost your happiness,” says Jordan Foster. “You can try many things and see how they make you feel.”

Jordan Foster’s story of going from self-harm to hope

If you or a loved one need to talk with a counselor now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24-hour line available to anyone in emotional distress. You can also reach the Lifeline using the short dialing code: 988.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.