Free things that make you happy

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Photo courtesy of

Can free things really make you happy?

We hear that money can’t buy happiness but we all know that a lack of money can bring you down.

Turns out that happy people are more successful in life, but success, especially money, does not by itself make you happy.

Here are some things that are free but can greatly improve your happiness if only you would use them.

Going outside increases happiness.

Spending more time outside, in nature makes people happy. The beach, the mountains, almost any place but the city makes most people feel happy. Despite all our desires to have bigger houses and more things, being away from those things man makes has turned out to make people happy in study after study.

Plan a trip to the country. Visit a local park or just walk along some local streets. Make sure you pay attention to the trees, the birds, and the flowers to increase your happiness.

The ideal happy temperature is 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Strengthen happiness by getting more exercise.

Walking can improve your mood as well as, sometimes more than, most medications. A goal of many treatments for depression is to get people to the point that they are able to get up and get moving.

Exercise does not need to be strenuous to make you happy. Just simple moving around can begin the process. Consider taking up yoga. Look for events that get you moving. Sharing that exercise with other people can increase the happiness benefits.

Get more sleep for more happiness.

Most of us are chronically sleep deprived. Not enough sleep results in depression, poor memory, and impaired learning abilities. Sleep is not a bank account where you make a deposit one night a week and then live off that sleep all week. Think of sleep more like food you need to eat a healthy diet every day rather than bingeing on food.

There is one form of depression in which people eat and spend too much time trying to sleep, that is not because of too much sleep. What happens is that when depressed you may find it difficult to get out of bed and do anything. If you are in bed a lot of hours and still feel tired try getting up and doing something and see if your mood doesn’t improve.

Socialize more for more happiness.

Spending time with family and friends should not cost you. If it is, take another look at that relationship. The more time you spend with others the more likely you are to create a happy life.

Friends can give your happiness a real boost. Don’t have many friends you can spend time with? Get involved in something and you will make new friends. Most friendships begin around shared activates. You make friends at school, your place of religious practice or the places you do your sports and hobbies.  Join a group, take up a new activity, look for ways to meet new people and in the process, you can make some new friends.

Let go of the past to increase your happiness.

Holding on to the past, ruminating about those things that made you unhappy in the past is a sure way to prevent happiness in the present. Let the past go and you will see improvements in the now.

Hard to stop thinking about the negative? Train your brain to avoid those repetitive memories. When your thoughts head down a bad street, tell your mind to knock that off. Make a conscious effort to stay in the now and focus on the positive. What you look for expands. Look for happiness.

Happiness is contagious – get infected.

Being around happy people makes you happy. Read funny things, watch happy videos and laugh all you can. Share those cute-cat-videos with your social media friends. Spread wanton happiness wherever you go.

Slow your pace down and savor the happiness you do find.

Become a happiness watcher.

Happiness is all around you but may go unnoticed if you are not on the lookout. Just like people watch for birds and find them, you need to be on the lookout for happiness and throughout your day you are likely to see small snippets of happy all around you.

Get a pet to share your happiness.

This may not be totally free but it is certainly reasonably priced for most people. Having an animal in your life makes us all feel a little more loved. Get a dog, a cat or some other creature and see if your happiness does not improve.

The size or breed does not appear to make a difference. You do need to think ahead though because while you may get a pet for little or no outlay over their life they will require some food and other expenditures.

Doing something for someone else can make you happy.

Being of service can boost your happiness. Recovering people know that happiness is one of those things you need to give away to keep. Anytime you have done something for another, not for what you will get out of them but for the sheer pleasure of being helpful, you will become happier.

A warning. Do not do for others expecting them to appreciate you. Things done because you want others to like you will leave you feeling cheated when others do not appreciate what you have done as much as you expected. Things done for the pleasure of doing them always pay dividends.

There is my list of mostly free ways to increase your happiness in the place you find yourself. Being happy where you are has some side effects. You may find yourself more energetic and productive and your life may start to change for the better.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

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Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at


3 thoughts on “Free things that make you happy

  1. I was expecting a rote list and have been delightfully surprised by this practical and thoughtful essay on happiness. It is much appreciated!


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