Any day I wake up in my own bed—not in a hospital, a prison, a bomb shelter—is a good day. We tend to forget how much suffering is out there and how fortunate we are just to live ordinary lives.

“Who is happy? He who is happy with his lot.”1

The Hebrew word for Jew (“Yehudi”) means one who gives thanks. Uttering a prayer of thanks is the first bleary-eyed thing a Jew does every morning. Even people who are in difficult situations can always find something to be thankful for.

After all, G‑d wants us to be happy, grateful people. So here are 10 exercises to improve your happiness quotient.

1. Keep a gratitude journal.


There are two ways to live life: focus on what you lack (and you’ll be miserable) or focus on what you have (and you’ll be happy). It’s as simple as that. Every day write a list of things that made you happy: Café Joe had a new delicious coffee, you found $10 in your coat pocket, you met a friend on the street, the weather was beautiful, you did the crossword puzzle by yourself. It doesn’t have to be huge—just something, anything, that makes you smile. If you add them up over the course of a day, you’ll discover you were blessed with a lot of moments of happiness.

2. Give to someone.


Whether it’s five minutes of your time or a coin from your pocket, whether it’s advice or a compliment, giving to someone else is guaranteed to make you feel blessed. When we help others, we feel grateful for all we have to share. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture; it can be opening the door for someone, lending a friend a few dollars, giving a tourist directions or helping a child with their homework. Don’t let any opportunity of doing a small kindness pass you by. Doing good feels good.

3. Think about things that make you happy.


You are where your thoughts are. If you focus on what makes you happy, you will be happy. Review your favorite memories. Even imagining doing something that will make you happy will give you the same feeling as actually doing it. Think about the people, activities and things you love and it will induce a state of happiness.

4. Connect with G‑d.


Having a relationship with G‑d makes us feel at peace with the universe, protected, significant and real. Communing with G‑d is easy and accessible. Pray, say Psalms, have a conversation with G‑d or just marvel at His universe. Anytime we are intimately and actively aware of G‑d’s presence, we feel better. Nature in Hebrew has the same numerical value as one of G‑d’s names. G‑d is in nature—in the marvels of His rose bushes and trees on your street, in the lakes and mountains. Connecting ourselves to the Infinite makes us feel calmer.

5. Give or receive love.


Love is the critical ingredient in our lives. Rabbi Akiva tells us it’s the key to being Jewish. It makes life worth living. We all have access to giving and receiving love. In fact, giving love is receiving it. Hug a child, visit a grandparent, schmooze with a friend or smile at a neighbor. Love doesn’t have to be only with a close family member or a soulmate. Love is all around if it’s in our hearts.

6. Stimulate your mind.


Our minds are wondrous things. We derive great satisfaction from exercising our gray cells by trying to solve a problem, learning something new, studying, or doing a puzzle. Walk into a yeshivah (a study hall) and you’ll see them gesticulating, talking loudly, studying with a learning partner and connecting to G‑d. No wonder they’re so happy! So don’t just sit there, find a learning partner.

7. Exercise or pamper your body.


Our bodies feel happy in two seemingly contradictory states: being stretched to the limit and being luxuriously pampered. Actually, Jewish tradition seems to encourage both modes in sequence: running around working to get ready for Shabbat followed by 25 hours of resting, feasting and nourishing our souls. Our bodies need both modes for happiness. So bend and stretch, then go for a massage. We are meant to keep our bodies healthy and happy.

8. Do something creative.


One of the ways in which we were designed in the image of our Creator is that we are creators ourselves. Everyone accomplishes in different areas whether you’re writing a book or a note to the teacher, designing a building or painting a sketch, baking a cake or composing a song. Working in our areas of creativity brings us a deep sense of happiness and accomplishment. And when we share our creations with others that increases our happiness exponentially.

9. Simplify Your Life


When it comes to spiritual things, look at who is above you, but when it comes to material things, look who is below you2. Don’t look at others who have more than you; look at those who have less than you. Actually, less is more. Our lives are cluttered with things, overscheduled with appointments. “The more possessions, the more worries.”3 Free up time and space, and you will have less to worry about, and the time and energy to devote to the things and people who really matter and make you the most happy.

10. Personalize your happiness.


Everyone has things that make them happy, even though they’re not considered sources of pleasure. Some people like to learn something new; others like to listen to music. Some people are inspired by being around people; others by reading a book. Make a list of things you like to do and make sure you do a couple of them each day.