Michelle Obama Has The Best Advice On How To Be Happy, So Here's How To Follow Her Lead

by Julia Guerra
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Some people just seem to have their lives totally put together; they’ve mastered work-life balance, they know what makes them tick, and they're totally in touch with their body’s needs. Michelle Obama seems to be one of those people. From the Senate to the White House, the former first lady has raised two beautiful, strong daughters, pursued a successful career, and maintained a happy and healthy marriage, all while keeping stellar composure and grace in the public eye. But it was in a recent interview with Refinery29 that Michelle Obama’s quotes about happiness, specifically, really stood out to me, because she proved that, even if you "have it all" in life, happiness is still something you have to consciously choose for yourself each and every day.

Now, most of us are taught growing up that happiness, like anger and sadness, is simply an emotion. However, the deeper I dig into the black hole of scientific discovery, the more I come to realize that happiness cannot solely be defined by a swarm of butterflies tickling the walls of your stomach when the person you like asks for your number, or the nirvana that comes when savoring the remnants of a powdered munchkin from your fingers. Happiness is, in fact, less of a lightheaded feeling, and more of a chemical reaction; a domino effect, so to speak, of the right hormones being triggered in your body based on the decisions you make day to day.

It sounds complicated, I know, but actively going through the motions and zeroing in on the who, what, and where of what makes your unique self subliminally happy is well worth the effort, and my girl Michelle seems to agree. When asked what her most effective daily habit was, Obama told Refinery29 that she “gives [herself] permission to be happy” both physically and mentally, via her “diet, physical activity, and emotional state.” She explained,

When I’m happier and healthier, my family is happier and healthier, and it affects how I interact with my friends and the people I work with. So I’ve freed myself to say, yes, I can make choices that make me happy, and that will ripple out and be good for the people I love as well.

You know how stress can be contagious? Happiness can be, too, but it has to stem from somewhere, and that somewhere should be you (#SorryNotSorry for that accidental rhyme). Anyone can choose to be happy, but giving yourself permission, as Obama likes to do, is so much more personal and meaningful. It's a reminder that, not only should you choose to be happy, you deserve to be happy. Here are a few ways you can give yourself permission to be happy every day, starting right now.

Say Goodbye To Negative Self-Talk

Wave buh-bye to negativity because, girl, ain't nobody got time for anything but good vibes. According to Danielle Forshee, LLC, doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, happiness is "a positive frame of mind," and I'm sure by now you're familiar with the little diddy, "change your mind, change your world," right? So, turn that mental frown upside down and think happy thoughts.

"When we find ourselves engaging in negative self-talk," Forshee tells Elite Daily, "this is the time where you have a decision to make." From there, she suggests, look inside yourself and decide whether or not you want to continue down that negative path, or "find ways to reframe those thoughts into positive thoughts." I don't know about you, but in my opinion, the latter sounds way more appealing than the former.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

I know this must sound counterintuitive, because generally speaking, the things that make you happiest tend to be the things that make you feel the most comfortable. But think of it this way: At one point or another, your best friend was a complete stranger to you, but one of you branched out to get a feel for whether or not the friendship could bud and bloom, and it all worked out for the best, right?

Trying new things can often prove to be extremely rewarding, in that it instills a sense of pride and, you guessed it, happiness. Forshee explains that, when we step outside our comfort zone, "we create new experiences for ourselves," and in turn, "create new emotional experiences." By doing this, you are giving yourself something to look forward to, to be excited about, which helps you keep a positive outlook overall.

Count The Positives — Even The Little Ones

Oftentimes, what's holding you back from living your best life and feeling subliminally happy, is the pressure to live up to the high expectations you've either set for yourself, or that other people have set for you. While setting goals for yourself is great, and something you should absolutely work toward, it's important to remember that little victories count for something, too.

Little details add up, my friend, which is why filmmaker and mental health advocate Elyse Fox tells Elite Daily that in order to stay happy, she regularly jots down at least 15 positive things that happened throughout her day.

"I choose 15 because it really makes you think about the small lovely moments we typically take for granted," Fox explains. By doing this, she tells Elite Daily, "you have a tangible record of positive moments to reflect on during the days you’re not feeling great."

My advice? Add a section to your bullet journal, and follow Fox's lead ASAP.

Create Visual Reminders For Yourself

I know myself, and I can wake up on the right side of the bed with the intention to have a great day, but one little thing can easily set me off and make that happy-go-lucky mentality go right out the window. It's really easy to be so inside your head and your feelings, and ultimately lose focus, but that's where millennial life coach Jess Hopkins' visual trigger strategy comes in.

"Setting up visual triggers can be extremely helpful in remembering to practice giving yourself permission to be happy and choosing to bring the joy to everything you do," Hopkins tells Elite Daily.

In order to do this, she encourages clients to write themselves "permission slips" on a pad of sticky notes, and post them on their desk, bedroom walls, or even the bathroom mirror, as a reminder to "practice self-compassion over self-criticism."

Figure Out What's Stopping You From Being Happy

Generally speaking, one of the best ways to become a happier person is to weed out the bad juju polluting your life that's causing you to feel anything but positive. During her interview with Refinery29, Obama noted that women especially struggle with happiness, "because we’re not always taught to [give ourselves permission to be happy] — we feel like it’s somehow selfish." But in truth, if there's anything in life we can be selfish about, it should be our happiness, right?

So, where do we go from here? According to behavioral scientist and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method Clarissa Silva, the key to figuring out what makes you happy is to identify what doesn't. As part of her method, Silva suggests asking yourself these questions: Do you prioritize others over yourself? Do you tell yourself the truth? Do you follow your gut? Do you carve out "me" time consistently?

By answering these questions, you'll narrow down what's actually preventing you from happiness, and what you need to cut out of your life to achieve it.