100 Ways To Become Happier In Korea And In Life

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At 10 Magazine, we spend a lot of time giving you ways to have fun in this wonderful country – and there sure are plenty of ways to do that each and every month to be found on our pages.

But now we have finally decided to turn to the meta-question, “What is it that makes us happy?” It’s what we’re all searching for in this life, so we wanted to come up with tons of fun, concrete things you can do to bring on the happiness.

With this list we give you the principles, the ideas and the activities that bring happiness. While not every one of them may be right for you, our hope is that this list gives you some great ideas that you can use, sparks a conversation amongst you and your friends and inspires you to create more happiness in your life.

Back to Basics

1. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.”

Being thankful for what you have instantly begins to rewire your brain from a mindset of poverty to abundance. Consider implementing some small habit or ritual to refocus your mental lens on thankfulness.

2. Stop comparing

Comparing yourself to those you perceive as more fortunate is just a losing game in which the goalposts never stop moving — and in which your comparisons just get more and more demanding.

3. Share your time

People who volunteer are happier because the sense of well-being and pride in the help that you provide. For some great places to pitch in and make a difference in Korea, check out 10mag.com/calling-all-volunteers.

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4. Share your material abundance

Hoarding money and possessions is the hallmark of a poverty mindset. Giving has the exact opposite effect: it sends a signal to your spirit that you have more than enough. 

5. Forgive

Focusing your thoughts and energy on how you were wronged and the person who wronged you keeps you trapped in a narrative in which they succeed and you suffer.

6. Take proactive measures to shield yourself from disaster

Sudden poverty or illness have a real way of denting happiness. Buy your umbrella while the sun is shining — save money wisely, and never do without health insurance.

7. Do the right thing

A good moral compass helps you maintain pride in yourself and your behaviors. Besides, the jails are full of unhappy people.

8. Be positive.

The inner voice that whispers all your negative thoughts to you about the shortcomings of yourself and others is like a spoiled toddler — the more you coddle and listen to it, the louder and more shrill it gets.

9. Look at setbacks as challenges

You know those people who seem to come out of every problem with a great solution? You could be one of them. Relax and stop looking at it as the end of the world. There is a “best” way to handle it.

10. Relationships are key

Spending time doing enjoyable things with friends and family is one of the surest, quickest way to happiness.

11. You can have too many friends

One true, close friend is worth 1,000 “friends” on Facebook. Spread yourself too thin, and you’ll have a ton of people who answer your phone calls, but the conversations will end the minute the conversation turns to difficulties and challenges you face.

12. Set goals and accomplish them

Nothing makes you feel more powerful than exercising the power that you have to impact your life and the world.

13. Learn. Experience. Enjoy.

Take time to try something new. Learn a new skill or take up a hobby and you have already exercised that power to improve yourself.

14. Take care of your body

We’re all a bundle of cells and our emotions are all controlled by hormones. You determine the kinds of hormones your body releases through exercise and diet – as well as behavior, thought and focus!

15. Marry a happy person

Marriage is a proven way to happiness, and if your spouse is happy, they’re going to make you happier too.

Words of Wisdom


“No matter how far you go, the sky is too high to ever be caught.”

~ Kim Sat Gat (Korean poet) 


“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

~ Abraham Lincoln


“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.”

~ W.P. Kinsella (Canadian author)


“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

~ Emmanuel Kant (German philosopher) 


“Positive or negative energy is exchanged like a fair trade; the more you give, the more you receive.”

~ Master Jin Kwon (Korean martial arts master)


“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.”

~ Mark Twain (American author)


“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”

~ Rita Mae Brown (American author)


“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.”

~ Edith Wharton (American author)


“There is no winter without snow, no spring without sunshine, and no happiness without companions.”

~ Korean proverb


“The central method for achieving a happier life is to train your mind in a daily practice that weakens negative attitudes and strengthens positive ones.”

~ Dalai Lama (Tibetan Spiritual Leader)

Feed the Body, Feed the Soul

26. Drink green tea

Research at University College London shows that green tea contains a substance called L-Theanine, which helps shift brainwave activity to promote relaxation. While young Koreans love their coffee shops, a traditional teahouse (or a post-lunch tea break with colleagues) will help you stay calm.

27. Control caffeine intake

Avoid taking in too much caffeine, found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and even chocolate. It can disrupt sleep patterns as well as dehydrate the body. When meeting friends in a café, try ordering Korean ginseng or citron tea instead of that latte.

28. Eat together

Sharing a meal with family or friends is a great way to strengthen relationships. Studies have found that schoolchildren who eat most of their meals with family are less likely to struggle with drugs or depression later in life. Grab a traditional Korean meals, which is of course literally communal by nature as everyone shares side dishes.

29. Grow herbs at home

If there’s space on your balcony or windowsill, set up a little apartment herb garden. The fresh herbs are a vitamin-rich way to add flavor to home cooking. Besides, people who keep plants in their homes tend to be calmer. Daiso stores nationwide also sell inexpensive seeds, soil, and pots.

30. Eat al fresco

Whether it’s a weekend picnic with friends or some lunch hour takeout in a local park, take advantage of summer weather and eat outside. The fresh air helps soothe stress and energize the mind and body.

10 Superfoods

Sure, a bowl of mac and cheese and a slab of Granny’s chocolate cake will stir up warm, fuzzy feelings. Comfort foods can boost your mood by triggering positive memories.

For daily eating, and over the long run though, you’re better off fueling up on foods rich in vitamins and minerals, which help the body lower stress, increase energy, and release serotonin, the neurotransmitter that produces happy feelings.

Here are some foods that will benefit body and mind.

31. Try a tuna kimbap

For lunch in a hurry, skip Burger King and grab a tuna kimbap like your Korean coworkers do. The iodine in seaweed and threonine in sesame seeds both work to stabilize moods. Tuna is rich in vitamin B6, which the body needs to produce serotonin.

32. Chocolate

Phenylethylamine increases endorphin levels, and improves blood flow to the brain. Lotte 72% cocoa is at almost every 7-11.

33. Fermented foods

We all know to eat our kimchi. But the digestive enzyme and healthful bacteria boost in kimchi can be found in other Korean classics like twenjang and cheonggukjang. Mogeunji, kimchi’s older brother, is fermented for weeks if not months longer, and provides a potent counterpoint to bossam (boiled pork belly).

34. Green Beans

The magnesium in green beans and other vegetables help curb mood swings. Though not common in Korean dishes, green beans are popular in many Chinese meals. Take your pick of authentic Chinese restaurants in Seoul’s Daerim-dong. 10mag.com/chinese-food-daerimdong-seoul

35. Mussels

This protein contains vitamin B12, selenium, iodine and zinc, all of which help regulate mood. Buy them fresh at seafood markets like Noryangjin in Seoul or Jagalchi in Busan. Or check out Ulleung Island, known for its steamed mussel rice.

36. Oatmeal

Like all carbs, it contains tryptophan, which promotes feelings of tranquility. Itaewon’s High Street Market sells both plain and flavoured types.

37. Oranges

These contain inositol, which help regulate mood swings. Jeju oranges are an especially tasty option.

38. Spinach

This and other leafy greens are high in folate, which helps the brain produce serotonin. It’s found in many Korean dishes, from japchae to bibimbap. For a potent serving, order some sigumchi namul, a side dish with sesame and garlic.

39. Walnuts

These nuts are rich in Omega-3s, which aid the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Walnuts are often sold in traditional markets, such as Seoul’s Jungang or Gyeongdong markets.

40. Wine

One glass will relax the body and lower blood pressure. More and more bars in Seoul are adding wine to their menus. For a European-style wine bar, try Fox Wine Bar in Hapjeong or Vinga in Apgujeong.

Higher Powers

Health Education and Behavior reports that religious people seem to be happier and healthier than non-religious folk. However a 2010 Harvard University study found more nuanced results.

They reported  that while churchgoers report greater life satisfaction, it may not necessarily the church experience alone, but rather more the friendships that grow around it that fuel happiness.

A common sense approach suggests elements of spirituality should be considered by anyone intent on finding calm and happiness in their day-to-day lives.

41. Create a sacred space

Choosing a physical space for spiritual reflection adds an element of consistency and exceptionality to any routine. It need not be huge, or ornate; a simple corner with a candle and cushion, or a shaded private forest grove can be a point of return for contemplating the highest and best in yourself, regardless of your tradition.

42. Connect to something greater

Feelings of spirituality help people feel connected to something larger than their own ego cravings. This faith in a greater power, or even a holistic order to the universe, can give people a sense of peace and comfort.

43. Meditate or pray

Simple breath-observing mindfulness meditation helps balance stress levels, improve anxiety-related ailments like insomnia and headaches, and can reduce blood pressure over time. Take a visit the Woljeongsa Temple Stay, a 1,400-year-old temple in the eastern valley of Odae Mountain in Gangwon-Do.

44. Maintain tradition

Worshipers have a clear-cut tradition to put them in a spirit of reverence, but there are secular paths to the happiness that comes from ritual: honoring family or cultural traditions, cooking, music, or even games.

45. Recognize the supremacy of love

Studies show that religious faiths and secular worldviews which preach love and compassion foster happiness. PLUR distributes food to the homeless near Seoul Station on Sundays.

46. Find fellowship in shared faith

Faith-based friendships are so beneficial because sharing a bond over a core belief is a powerful mood-booster. Connect with others over shared values by joining cause-supporting groups. Groups like Amnesty International Korea and CARE (Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth) can connect volunteers with local projects.

47. Find someone to look up to

People feel uplifted by stories of bravery, triumph, and success. Seek a hero– be it a spiritual leader, historic figure, or cultural icon.  Benjamin Franklin kept his role models simple: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”  To explore yours, check out What the Book? (whatthebook.com) for a great selection of biographies and domestic delivery.

A to Zzzzz

Psychologists are pretty much unanimous in the view that consistent good sleep habits are instrumental in keeping moods stable. One American study says an extra hour of sleep can boost a person’s daily happiness more than an annual raise of USD $60,000.

Koreans are known for working and studying into the wee hours, but breaking this habit is crucial for happiness and health.

48. Power down

Turn off the TV, laptop, tablet, and smartphone at least an hour before bed. The blue tint of electronic screens disrupts the body’s production of melatonin, which triggers the sleep process. For tech addicts, Flux is a program that changes the tint of the computer screen in the evening, from sleepless blue to soothing salmon.

49. Stay warm

Sleeping in a cool room may feel great in the summer, but too much A/C can have a negative effect. Too little blood flow to the extremities can keep you awake, so slip on some socks.

50. Invest in sleep

Humans spend about a third of their lives in bed, so make sure yours is a good one. Invest in a good mattress, well-made pillows, and comfortable bedding to help you get the highest quality sleep possible. Go online to GMarket for well-priced beds and frames.

51. Keep booze at bay

Sure, alcohol may help you doze off, but it reduces the quality of the sleep, which can lead to getting up in the night. Put down the bottle at least three hours before bedtime and drink water instead. Frequent binge drinking is a strong sign some other aspect of your life is out of balance; get online help at smartrecovery.org or seek out local AA meetings.

52. Let in the light

When you do wake up, open the curtains! In a University of Toronto study, people who were exposed to more light in the morning felt a mood boost all day.

Bodies And Motion

53. Get outdoors

Nature has mood-boosting effects on the body. Being surrounded by green foliage triggers a positive reaction from our prehistoric days, when fertile land would lead our caveman ancestors to food and water sources. Try Bukhansan in northern Seoul or take a trip to South Jeolla’s beautiful Cheongsan Island Slow Road, which was created to connect neighboring villages on the island.

54. Feel mindful

For anyone with body image issues, exercise will not only tone and tighten, it makes you mindful of what your body can do, not just how it looks. Activities like yoga, Pilates and ballet help promote focus and mindfulness of your body’s capabilities. 10mag.com/english-yoga-korea

55. Shake it

As far as mood-boosting exercises go, dancing may be the top activity. Upbeat music helps elevate mood, the exercise releases endorphins, and dancing with others fosters a sense of shared joy and community. Seoul Tanz Station by Sincheon Station offers modern, hip-hop, ballet, and jazz funk.

56. Try salsa

For those who like to dance in a club instead of a fitness studio, salsa dancing is popular around Korea. find clubs around Korea at 10mag.com/salsa-korean-style.

57. Hit the pool

For those with joint pain, swimming is a great way to get the mood-boosting benefits of exercise with minimal strain on the body. Seoul’s Hangang Park has several outdoor swimming pools, with a poultry W5,000 won admission fee.

58. Join a team

Playing a team sport is a great outlet for exercise, but it also builds a sense of community. People tend to feel more excited by wins (and less discouraged by losses) when they play with a team. There are great sports leagues all over the country run by Koreans and expats alike. Ask around to find one near you.

59. Take it back to gym class

Old-school games like dodgeball and kickball are making a comeback among adults. These games are a great form of exercise, and can stir up happy memories of childhood summers. Start a pickup game with some friends at your local park and invite passersby to join.

60. Work the brain

Exercise the mind as well as the body. A mental challenge can help distract from small daily stresses. What’s more, accomplishing small tasks, even a Word Jumble, can boost self-esteem. Studying the Korean language learning is a good brain-booster. 10mag.com/korean-classes-nationwide

The Daily Grind

Whether it’s for planning, relaxing, or just being, these little tips can yield big positive results when incorporated into daily life.

61. Keep a paper schedule

Dr. Timothy Sharp from the Happiness Institute says that happy people tend to believe they’re in control of their lives. In order to achieve this, time management is critical. Follow the habits of Korean students, and pick up a day planner for better organization. Hot Tracks has locations around Korea, and stocks classic or quirky day planners.

62. Set reasonable boundaries

Don’t feel guilty about saying “no.” Agreeing to tasks that are too time-consuming or stressful will breed resentment in relationships and weaken their bonds. Women are especially prone to avoiding “no”. Say it kindly, and make time for yourself.

63. Smile!

There’s some truth to the old adage of “grin and bear it.” Studies at the University of Kansas show that, while people tend to smile as a response to happy feelings, the muscular act of smiling can actually stimulate happy feelings.

64. Look up!

It’s a simple but effective habit. Looking downwards tends to make people feel down, while looking at eye-level or higher helps to elevate mood.    

65. Keep a journal

Studies show just two weeks of daily journaling can boost one’s mood significantly. Every night before bed, write down five people, places, experiences or things that are worth preserving.

66. Look at old photos

Researchers at Open University have found that flicking through old photos boosts mood even more than music or watching TV. To make new memories, try a Korean photo sticker booth, for cheap, quick, costumed photo sessions with friends. These booths can be found in most student areas, so try Hongdae or Hyehwa.

67. Finish one-minute chores

Gretchen Rubin, who wrote The Happiness Project, maintains a rule that if you can do a task in one minute, you should do it now instead of putting it off. Send a quick email reply, hang up that jacket, wipe down the kitchen counter.

68. Limit social media time

While these sites help keep people connected, too much time spent browsing Instagram or Twitter can in fact make users feel isolated. Visit Rescuetime.com to help monitor and limit the time you spend on these sites.


On the Weekend

69. Roll the dice

Relive the childhood fun of Monopoly or Clue at a board game café. The feelings of nostalgia for old classic games will put you in a good mood. These cafes exist in most urban areas. Board School in Hongdae is a popular spot with everything from the old-school game of Life to Settlers of Catan.

70. Maintain a hobby

In a metropolis like Seoul, even the quirkiest hobbies have their niche. For knitters, Seoul has its own Stitch n Bitch group, budding beer brewers can access the Homebrewkorea.com community, and public speaking enthusiasts can connect with Toastmasters Korea.

71. Laugh!

Laughter is not only good for releasing endorphins, it strengthens bonds between people when they share a funny experience. For live comedy, nonverbal performances like Nanta run year-round. Stand Up Seoul runs English comedy nights throughout the peninsula; like them on Facebook.

72. Seek comedy on the big screen

For English-speakers in Korea, most cinemas show major American comedy films with the original English audio. CGV in Yongsan screens Korean films with English subtitles on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

73. Get a massage

Either from your partner or at a spa, the extensive human contact of a masseuse’s hands will release endorphins in your body, and the overall care for your muscles helps with overall relaxation and chronic stiffness. For home massage, hit the cosmetic shops to find a good body oil. We like Skin Food’s Quinoa-Rich Body Oil.

74. Belt it out

Rally some friends and hit one of those ubiquitous singing rooms and take a stab at covering favourite songs. Singing rooms are even on trains here for goodness sake!

75. Create Something

Stimulate your creativity by taking an art class. Working with paints and pencils is a soothing experience, and afterwards, you’ll feel the pride of producing an original work. Try “the big green studio” in Cheongrangni for Watercolour Wednesdays.

76. Learn

Drop by an art gallery or museum to stimulate your mind (and escape the summer heat!). Learning something new is a confidence-booster. Let your creative side flow by visiting the Heyri Art Village in Paju, where South Korea’s most esteemed artists, musicians and architects are located.

77. Explore on Foot

Bring a hat and a bottle of water, and hit the streets to explore a new neighbourhood in your city. The aerobic activity of walking and the visual stimulus of new surroundings is a mighty endorphin-booster. It’s also a great way to discover new hidden gem cafes and parks.

78. Play some music

Psychologists Yuna Ferguson and Kennon Shelton released a study in the Journal of Positive Psychology saying that listening to positive music can boost happiness, especially when the subject has a conscious intention to become happier. The Concerts section of 10 Magazine lists great live music near you each and every month.

79. Play with a pet

According to the British Journal of Health Psychology, dog owners have less stress and lower blood pressure. If you can’t keep a pet, visit a dog café for an afternoon cuddle and play. Check out page 59 this month for a few in Jeolla.

Working & Playing

80. Declutter

Excessive belongings make us feel overwhelmed and disorganized. Throw away what you don’t need, and organize the rest into a neat storage system. Your local Emart, Costco or HomePlus will offer a range of well-priced storage options, from bureaus to Tupperware.

81. Don’t hide your puppy photos

Researchers at Hiroshima University have found that looking at pictures of baby animals can elevate moods and improve work performance. The cute animals stimulate our care-giving instincts, so keep looking at those kitten memes.

82. Paint it Blue

A study from the University of Essex found that when participants looked at the color blue, their brainwaves showed increased levels of calm and happiness. A blue picture or vase at your work desk can help calm the mind on stressful work days. Hit your local market to find some unique blue jewelry or art.

83. Write lists

Keeping to-do lists is a good way to stay organized and feel in control of the day. However, when the lists get too long, the mind becomes overwhelmed and stressed. Life coaches say that a reasonable to-do list is limited to five tasks. Apps like 2Do and Put Things Off are great for keeping lists. For pen-and-paper types, Art Box sells inexpensive blank notebooks.

84. Hang pictures

Clear space on your desk for framed photos of happy memory, like a sibling’s wedding or a birthday party. Daily reminders of those positive memories and good relationships help elevate mood. Check the market stalls of Insadong for unique wooden frames.

85. Be Professionally Positive

In the workplace, happy people are perceived as more confident, trustworthy, and better at leadership. All of these qualities will earn you respect at work, and help ensure your voice is heard when it comes to meetings and group decisions.

Wheels of Fortune

86. Get organized

People feel unhappy when they don’t feel in control, and money is a big factor in getting your life organized. Pay down that debt, grow that emergency fund, manage your pension. Mint and iReconcile are great financial planning apps to help you get on the ball.

87. Seek out Savings

People feel a mood boost when they get a discount on items. Many bank cards are connected to retail discounts. The Samsung credit card rewards users with discounts at CGV, Everland, and restaurants like Outback Steakhouse.

88. Give it away

Charitable people are happier people, according to The Journal of Consumer Psychology. When it comes to money and happiness, those who spend money on others report higher levels of contentment in their lives. Seek out a favourite charity, or sponsor an athlete in a charity run like Seoul’s Pink Ribbon Run, or DMZ Peace Run.

89. Buy experiences, not things

The link between material possessions and happiness is a weak one. A good family vacation or fun meal out with friends will bring more lasting joy than the latest model smartphone, because these events create memories and strengthen social bonds.

90. Support Local Merchants

People feel better about spending when they have personal contact with the supplier or business owner. Support small businesses and local artists whenever possible. The Seoul Farmer’s Market runs every Sunday near Gyeongbukgung Station, and is a great way to meet merchants and support the local economy.

Flying Solo – Ideas for Singles

91. Buck the “sad single” stereotype

Traditionally, happiness studies have found that married people are happier than single people, but that gap is closing. Single people tend to have more time for friendships and happiness-boosting hobbies.

92. Spread love

Just because you’re not in love with someone doesn’t mean you can’t be in love with your life! Spread love around to your friends and even your coworkers. Try leaving an anonymous iced coffee on your colleague’s desk. Paying love forward does indeed have a boomerang effect.

93. Listen to your best self

Become fine tuned to what makes you the most happy: reading comic books, learning a new language (doesn’t have to be Korean!), hiking or baking and find ways to do it with others, whether they be new people or old friends. Invest time in endeavors that make you happy and find other people doing them too.

94. Make the most of meetups

If you’re looking for new friends or potential dates, Korea’s vast Meetup community, with active groups like Bookaholics, Longboard Korea and Climbing Korea, is bursting with opportunity to try something new or return to an old hobby and meet someone in the process.

95. Create a roost

Becoming a “regular” at a restaurant, coffee shop or bar in your neighborhood can make you feel connected to your neighborhood. Ask the staff their names and use them on every visit. Introduce yourself to the other regulars.

96. Don’t fear going it alone

Korea’s couple culture can be stifling at times for singles. Still, it’s important to challenge yourself to do things alone, whether it’s taking in a movie or walking along the Han River at sunset. Never be afraid to take yourself on a date.

97. …But don’t count friends out either

Single people are more likely than married people to spend more time with friends. If you hang with movie buffs, Platoon in Gangnam is doing rooftop showings of Tarantino movies all summer. New arrivals to Korea can also get happiness boosts by organizing video chats with faraway friends.

98. ‘Tis better to give dating advice…

Feeling down about your own love life (or lack thereof)? Dole out advice to your other single friends or lend an ear when a coupled friend has a gripe. We get more happiness from giving support than from receiving it.

99. Go out with Korea

You live in an amazing country! Single or not, there’s no time for boredom. List places you want to go, foods you want to try, and experiences you want to have in the next year; then proceed to do them.

100. Learn more about happiness and how to achieve it

 “Happiness expert” may sound like a flaky professional title, but it’s becoming a popular one. From neuroscientists to spiritual gurus, there is a range of professionals contributing to the dialogue on how to find happiness. Here are some recommendations: