After months, years, or even decades of being abused by a narcissist, finding happiness is one of the most important steps that you need to take in order to heal.

A 10 Step Program for Finding Happiness After Narcissistic Abuse

  1. Think about what has made you happy in the past.
  2. Find your core values.
  3. Start putting yourself first.
  4. Develop a healthier lifestyle.
  5. Stop ruminating.
  6. Build resilience.
  7. Practice gratitude.
  8. Practice daily affirmations.
  9. Meditate.
  10. Build positive relationships.

In this article we are going to guide you through each one of these steps to help you find happiness.

Step 1: Think About What Has Made You Happy in the Past

After being abused by a narcissist for months, years, or even decades, it is very common to feel like you have no idea what makes you happy anymore.

You spent so much time being forced to prioritize the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs over your own that you lost sight of your happiness.

To change this, the first step that you are going to need to take is to think about what has made you happy in the past.

A happy person.

To do this, you are going to want to reflect on your moments of happiness and write down what you can remember.

For example, one of our community members has used this article to find her happiness and one thing that she wrote down was listening to music.

Specifically, music that reminded her of her parents.

If you are struggling to think of things that have made you happy in the past, try thinking about what makes you happy in the present.

To do this, you are going to want to make notes throughout the day every time that you feel even the slightest amount of happiness.

One way that you could find things that make you happy more quickly is by exploring new skills and hobbies.

Exploring new hobbies.

When you explore new things on a regular basis, the chances that you will find something that makes you happy goes up expeditiously.

If at this point you are still having trouble finding things that make you happy, move on to step two.

In step two you are going to learn how to reconnect with your core values.

When you reconnect with your core values, it is going to give you a lot of important information about yourself.

With this information, you can revisit this step and find what makes you happy.

Step 2: Find Your Core Values

Core values are personal ethics or ideals that guide you when making decisions, building relationships and solving problems.

When you take the time to identify your core values, it can help you develop and achieve your goals such as finding happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse.

A therapist talking about core values.

How to Find Your Core Values:

1. List your core values. You can start by making a list of as many values as you can think of (things that are important to you).

2. Condense the list you created. Now condense that list down to your top five values. 

As an example, mine are:

  • Family
  • Discipline
  • Commitment
  • Honesty
  • Passion 

3. Reflect on what you wrote. When you’ve got your five main values, and they feel right to you, it’s time to reflect: does your current way of living match the core values that you wrote down? 

4. Make any necessary changes. Are there any changes you could make in your life that would make you more aligned to your core values?

A woman trying to make meaningful changes in her life.

If you have gone through those four steps and still feel like you don’t know what your core values are, click here to download our free guide to finding your core values.

In the free guide you will find these four steps that you just read and a great journaling exercise that you can use to find your core values.

If you want, you can take the information that you have learned about yourself and revisit the first step in this article to learn more about what makes you happy.

If you feel confident in your core values and what makes you happy, it is time to move on to step three, putting yourself first.

Step 3: Start Putting Yourself First

It is very common for survivors of narcissistic abuse to feel uncomfortable making their own well-being a priority in their life.

This is because the narcissist forced them to prioritize the narcissist’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs over their own throughout the entirety of their relationship.

If you are going to find your happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse, you must learn how to feel comfortable with putting yourself first.

One way that you can start learning how to put yourself first is by saying “no” to others.

A man practicing putting himself first.

You see, when you become accustomed to prioritizing the well-being of others over your own, it is very common to start feeling like you have to say “yes” to people even when you don’t want to.

Doing this is not putting yourself first. In fact, saying “yes” to others even when you don’t want to destroys your self-esteem and pushes you even further away from happiness.

You can change this by simply learning how to say “no” to others.

Now, this isn’t about being defiant or firm. It is about reminding yourself that your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs are just as important as anyone else’s.

A man learning how to put himself first.

If you are in a situation where you are feeling pressured to say “yes” to someone even though you don’t want to, take a deep breath, remind yourself that you have the right to protect your well-being by putting yourself first, and say “no”.

Learning how to put yourself first is a really important step that you must take to find your happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse.

10 Ways to Say “No” (That Aren’t Mean)

  • 1. No.
  • 2. That doesn’t work for me.
  • 3. Sorry, I can’t do that.
  • 4. I can’t do this thing, but I can do that other thing.
  • 5. That doesn’t feel right to me.
  • 6. I’m not okay with that.
  • 7. Maybe another time.
  • 8. Thanks for asking, but I have to say “no.”
  • 9. No, thank you.
  • 10. I’d rather not.

Now it is time to move on to the fourth step which is developing a healthier lifestyle.

Step 4: Develop a Healthier Lifestyle

Some of the most common maladaptive coping strategies that survivors of narcissistic abuse struggle with are unhealthy eating habits and an inactive lifestyle.

Maladaptive coping strategies are the methods a person uses to attempt to reduce their stress or anxiety, but in an ineffective, unhealthy way.

For example, it is common for people struggling with stress to use food as a coping strategy to try to manage the stress.1

A woman struggling with poor eating habits.

In the short term, using food to cope with stress may help them, but in the long term, it makes the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that they have even more profound.

One of the best ways that you can find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse is to develop a healthier lifestyle.

If you need help developing a healthier lifestyle, please visit the U.S. Government’s Nutrition Information portal for more information.

Step 5: Stop Ruminating

Rumination is one of the toughest adversaries that you will come across on your healing journey.

Rumination is defined as engaging in a repetitive negative thought process that loops continuously in the mind without end or completion.2

A woman with many painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

It is very common for survivors of narcissistic abuse to ruminate about the abuse they experienced, getting closure, getting revenge, getting answers, or even about what they could have done differently.

To find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse, you must overcome rumination.

One of the best ways to do this is to educate yourself about the abuse you experienced.

You see, according to the American Psychological Association3, some common reasons that people ruminate include: 

  • A belief that ruminating will help you gain insight into your problems.
  • Facing ongoing stressors that can’t be controlled.
  • Having a history of emotional or physical trauma.

When you start learning about narcissistic abuse, you will:

  • Find the answers that you need to gain insight about your problems.
  • Focus on what you can control and letting go of what you can’t.
  • Have the information that you need to start healing from your emotional and/or physical trauma.

If left unchecked, rumination can destroy your mental health because it prevents you from processing and overcoming your painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

A depressed man.

To find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse, you have to stop yourself from ruminating.

Step 6: Build Your Resilience

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.

Being resilient will help you cope with the ups and downs that life throws at you and will help you achieve a tremendous amount of personal growth.

One of the best ways that you can build resilience is by helping others.

A woman learning how to build resilience.

Whatever this may look like for you, helping others could help you find your purpose in life, improve your self-esteem, and empower you to grow into your resilience.

Another way that you could build resilience is journaling.

Journaling is a fantastic tool to use when building resilience because it allows you to process, release, and understand the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that abuse creates.

Over time, journaling is going to help you adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.

Step 7: Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

When you practice gratitude on a regular basis, it helps you reframe your perception of yourself and the world around you.

A woman practicing being kind.

When trying to find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse, practicing gratitude is so important because it helps you remind yourself to look at the positive side of things.

For example, one of the ways that you could push back against rumination is by creating a gratitude list to distract yourself.

A gratitude list is a compilation of things that you feel grateful for.

When you catch yourself ruminating, you can stop yourself by taking out a piece of paper and writing down everything that you are grateful for.

Doing this will help you stop yourself from slipping into a ruminative state because you will be focused on the here and now.

A man thinking about his gratitude list.

Practicing gratitude is a great tool that you can use to find happiness because being aware of the things that you are grateful for will help you stay positive despite all of the painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions that you are trying to overcome.

Step 8: Practice Daily Affirmations

Affirmations are phrases or statements that we repeat to ourselves to help us shift our minds in ways that improve our lives.

After months, years, or even decades of being abused and manipulated by a narcissist, daily affirmations are essential to finding happiness.

12 daily affirmations

Step 9: Meditate

To meditate means to engage in contemplation or reflection.

Meditation is an important tool that you should use to find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse because it helps you be aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions will help you avoid the negative aspects of your life and find the positives.

A woman meditating.

A Meditation Exercise That Can Help You Find Happiness

  1. Take a chair and find a quiet place to sit.
    • Make sure that you are sitting upright
  2. Close your eyes and start taking deep breaths.
    • Slowly breathe in and out.
    • Imagine that with each breath you are taking in positivity and exhaling negativity.
  3. Focus on slowly relaxing every muscle in your body.
    • Start from the top of your body and slowly work your way down to the bottom.
    • Continue to take deep breaths of positivity and controlled exhales of negativity.
  4. Think about what makes you happy.
    • Continue to take deep breaths of positivity and controlled exhales of negativity.
  5. Open your eyes, write down what makes you happy, and repeat this exercise as many times as you wish.

Over time, mediation is going to help you:

  • Develop razor-sharp focus.
  • Manage the stressors in your life.
  • Have controlled and productive responses to difficult situations.
  • Find inner peace.
  • Find your happiness.

Step 10: Build Positive Relationships

When you are trying to find happiness after experiencing narcissistic abuse, you have to surround yourself with positive people who care about you.

This is so important because healing from narcissistic abuse is hard.

You are going to have many days where you feel amazing. But you will also have many days where you feel horrible and want to give up.

On the bad days, the positive people around you are going to help prevent you from slipping into a negative state of mind that you can’t escape from.

A supportive friend group.

They are going to help remind you to stay committed to yourself and the journey that you are on.

Having positive people around you is going to help you build self-esteem, grow as a person, practice self-love, and find the true meaning of happiness.

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Get a Free Educational Bundle Every Week!

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  • 1 Journaling Exercise With Multiple Prompts
  • 7 Affirmations for the Upcoming Week
  • Lifetime Access to Our Private Online Community

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References:

[1] The Psychology of Eating

[2] Rumination

[3] Probing the depression-rumination cycle

Daily Affirmations: Definition, Benefits, & 102 Examples to Improve Your Life