17 Effortless Ways to Live a Better Life

01/06/2016 08:15 am ET | Updated Jan 06, 2016
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Have you been stuck in a rut lately, feeling like genuine happiness is virtually impossible to obtain? Take a deep breath, we've all been there at one point or another. Whatever trials you are facing at this very moment will surely pass. The sun will always come out when the storm is over, and if you're lucky, perhaps you'll see a rainbow along the way. That's the beauty of life - nothing lasts forever. Not the tragic, earth-shattering moments, and not the wondrous, celebratory moments either. Somewhere along the route on my pursuit of happiness, I realized something monumental. Happiness is right before our eyes. It is in the smile of a stranger passing by, in the laughter of a child blowing bubbles in the street. I know it is not always easy to see when we are busy drowning in our sorrows, but it's there. After a harrowing year that involved a break up from a two-year toxic relationship, the unexpected loss of my father, and getting into a new relationship to find out that this new guy not only lied but cheated on me in the months following my dad's death, I needed to find peace somehow. Here are 17 simple ways to seek out happiness in your every day lives, and how I managed to keep my sanity during a period of turmoil:

1. Get outside.

It has been scientifically proven that being outdoors helps alleviate feelings of sadness and depression. Speaking from my own personal experience, whenever I am feeling sad or anxious, just the feeling of being in nature can help calm me down. Try to notice things you wouldn't typically take the time to observe, like birds chirping from a nearby branch of an oak tree, the lovely aroma of roses, or a butterfly gliding past your face. Sit for a while and pay close attention to your surroundings; I guarantee you'll soon be reminded of the beauty of life.

2. Forgive and forget.

Holding grudges serves absolutely no purpose in life. We've all been bruised before, some worse than others, but no matter the situation, you will always be better off leaving it in the past. Now this isn't to say the person deserves another chance, as this would really just depend on the circumstances. If not for their sake, forgive them for your own.

3. Take up yoga.

Not only is this a great workout (you'd be surprised at how many calories you actually burn after a session), but it is a great method of relaxation. Learning to take slow, deep breaths is not just good for your physical health, but mental, as well. This is also a great way to make friends!

4. Reach out to loved ones.

Tell your friends and family that you love them. Life is incredibly precious and as cliche as it sounds, we never know when our time on Earth is going to end. Take a minute to look through your contacts in your phone - although I'm sure there are many that you talk to on a regular basis, I bet there's a significant amount that you haven't spoken to in quite some time. Shoot them a text and ask them how they're doing. Let your loved ones know that you care, even if it's been a while.

5. Find your passion.

Whether it's writing, drawing, playing sports, or learning to play an instrument, find something that makes you feel alive. Something that you are constantly striving to get better at. Having a passion that you can turn to when you are struggling will undoubtedly make you feel better on those rough nights.

6. Stop eating junk food.

....seriously. Eating McDonald's should be a sin. Do you have any idea what you are actually putting into your body? It's 2015 and they make healthy frozen dinners that you can throw in a microwave and have ready in less than ten minutes. You really have no excuse not to take care of yourself. Trust me, your mind and body will thank you!

7. Volunteer.

Kindness never goes out of style, and that is a fact. Making others smile can go a long way for your own sense of happiness and fulfillment. The holiday season is coming up, and this is a perfect opportunity for you to reach out to someone less fortunate than you.

8. Wake up early

Use your time wisely and plan your day accordingly. I especially struggle with this one, but one thing I've noticed is that the earlier I wake up, the more I get done. Drink some coffee, splash water on your face, go for a brisk jog - do whatever it takes to get yourself up in the morning.

9. Surround yourself with positive people.

Your vibe attracts your tribe. If you make a point to surround yourself with kind, caring, and goal-oriented people, these qualities are bound to rub off on you. My favorite type of people are the ones who always seek in the good in everything - when you find one of those, you should never let them go.

10. Stop caring what others think.

You might think people are watching and judging your every move, but in all honesty, they probably care less than you think. So you shouldn't care either.

11. Stop worrying.

Most of the time all those horrible, traumatic scenarios that we concoct in our heads never end up happening. Save yourself the trouble and stop worrying, especially if it's something you have no control over.

12. Make mistakes. Learn from them.

Here's something I learned from school that actually applies in the real world: you never fail until you stop trying. As long as you are making mistakes and learning from them, you are on the track to success.

13. Disconnect every once in a while.

Turn your phone off for a week and tell me you don't feel more alive. Seriously. If you can't go as far as to cut all ties with technology, at least take a brief hiatus from social media.

14. Laugh. As much as you can, as often as you can.

I'm a firm believer that laughter can cure most ailments. I have modern day medicine backing me up on this one, as laughing actually stimulates production of serotonin, nicknamed the 'happy hormone'. Go see that romantic comedy you've been meaning to watch, hangout with that hilarious friend from high school, laugh until you cry.

15. Get a good night's rest.

This is truly imperative to your well being, not just physically, but mentally, as well. You should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, if not more. If you find yourself catching less shut eye, make a conscious effort to turn off all electronics (yes, that includes your iPhone) an hour before bed so you have some time to relax & unwind.

16. Make it a goal to make someone smile every day.

It doesn't have to be something extravagant. It truly is the little things that mean the most in life - such as smiling at a passerby, complimenting someone on a feature or outfit, or even holding the door open for the person behind you.

17. Start a gratitude journal.

In the words of Albert Einstein, "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." I've realized that if you live like the latter, you truly start to appreciate life for what it is -- a miracle. Write down five positive things that happen to you each day, and five things you are looking forward to in the future. At first, this task might seem difficult, but it forces you to dig a little deeper and really see the beauty in your every day routine.

I know that if you are truly struggling, happiness will not happen overnight. However, if you work to implement these positive life changes each and every day, I guarantee things will eventually get better. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we're here, we might as well dance.

Michele is a fashion and lifestyle blogger over at Silk and Sparkles. She enjoys writing, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with her dog, Mocha, who teaches her to appreciate the smaller things in life.