Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus
thinner_close_xCreated with Sketch.

5 Steps to Happiness

Some people set New Year's resolutions, but I find this season, as school starts again, to be a perfect time for new beginnings.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Some people set New Year's resolutions, but I find this season, as school starts again, to be a perfect time for new beginnings. Right now I am thinking of setting some intentions, and I invite you to do the same.

As the autumn leaves fall, consider shedding old habits that no longer serve you. It's a great time to focus on who you are and what practices will grow your happiness. What are the attitudes that will move you along? Here are five ideas that can make a difference:

1. Choose something you want to focus on. It could be getting more exercise, connecting with nature, taking a course you've been interested in or making regular time to connect with someone you love. By the way, that someone could be you. What are you longing for? Build it into your calendar. It matters more than you think. Try choosing just one thing. As the saying goes, "If you chase two rabbits, both will escape." What is your one thing?

2. Mind your mindset. When embarking on your one thing, cut yourself some slack. You don't have to qualify as an expert in the first week. Dr. Carole Dweck of Stanford University talks about growth and fixed mindsets. A fixed mindset thinks all or nothing: You are either good at playing guitar, learning a new language, new sport, etc., or you are not. A growth mindset knows that if you practice anything, even though you'll deal with some obstacles along the way, your skills will grow. Anything can be learned.

3. Lighten up. Check your closet for clothes, jackets or accessories you haven't worn for years. Cart them to a Goodwill or a nonprofit that helps others get a new start. Then look for a special piece of clothing that you feel great in. It doesn't have to be an expensive piece -- consignment stores are often where designers shop for inspiration. Consider a color that makes you feel alive. Let whatever you choose bring a smile to your face every time you put it on.

4. Grow your gratitude. The truth is you were born happy, and you can reawaken that happiness inside. Gratitude is a powerful pathway. Keep a gratitude journal beside your bed and jot down three things that you are grateful for at least once a week. In one study, by Emmons and McCullough, people practicing gratitude felt 25 percent happier than those who weren't; they also felt more optimistic about the future. Gratitude is a game changer.

5. Think of how you want to be in the world. An interesting exercise is to imagine yourself at the end of your days. What qualities would you like to be remembered for? Caring, creativity, steadfastness, warm-heartedness, friendship, humor ... what is it for you? Start paying special attention to expressing those qualities now. You can evolve into what you aspire to be.

Even in the face of external challenges, our internal resources are stronger than we may think. In the words of Victor Frankl, "The last of human freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." This fall, and every day for that matter, you have a renewed opportunity to choose yours.

What does fall represent to you? What are your intentions this season?