Happiness Hack #73 – Know that You are Enough
You are enough. It is ok to want to be more, but you will be happier and more successful if you can first understand that you are good enough just the way you are. You are worthy of being treated fairly and with respect. You are worthy of feeling important and feeling like you can make a difference in the world. You have flaws and have made mistakes, but that is ok, because so has everyone else. Other people have more; more money, more recognition, more opportunities, more friends, and more of lots of things. But still other people also have less of those things. We are not keeping score. Your worthiness is not based on who has more or less. You are worthy because you are you; and you are different, not better or worse than anyone else. If you want to change you can. But don’t change because you are not enough; change because you want to be more. Don’t torture yourself with the lie that you don’t measure up. Believe that you are good enough and you, like everyone else, can always get better.
Embrace happiness now. Happiness should not be feared because it might be fleeting. It should be embraced because it is here. You are worthy of feeling happiness. You deserve to be happy. Don’t let your fear of what you might lose, keep you from being happy about what you have.
Embrace being imperfect. The quest for perfection drives us to never feel good enough. Embrace your worthiness and grow because you want it for yourself, not because you want to measure up to someone else. It is ok to say “no.” You don’t have to do everything. Practice appreciating what you have and who you are. Reach out to your network for support. There are others in your life who believe in you, if you are willing to let them in.
You are enough and you will be happier, when you make that a guiding principle of your life.
Happiness Hack #72 – – Talk About Your Feelings of Shame and Rejection
We evolved to be social. In groups we were able to find more food and protect ourselves from threats much more successfully than we could do alone. Survival was based on our ability to remain a part of a group. If we did not fit in or were not a contributing member and were kicked out of the group, then we literally might not survive alone. That now plays out in our modern brains as a need to fit in and be liked. When we feel like someone might not like us or might not see us as valuable, our survival instincts kick in and we literally feel fears and emotions that are usually reserved for life-threatening situations. We are able to intellectually understand that being rejected shouldn’t be a big deal, but our subconscious is screaming at us that we are in danger of not being able to survive. Those two competing forces cause us to have feelings and take actions that don’t always make sense to us and can often derail our calm façade.
The good news is there is a solution. By just becoming aware of what is causing this conflict, we can become better at managing it. If we understand and admit that we are feeling rejected and fearful, we can start to deal with the real feelings we are experiencing, even if we intellectually believe it shouldn’t be that big of deal. Recognize the panic and the shame you feel when you are left out or not appreciated. Admitting those feelings is not a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of strength and your ability to deal with the deep seeded emotions we all feel.
Be vulnerable. Talk to someone you trust about your feelings of shame and rejection. Share and work through these feelings that are real and impactful in your life. Be your true self and admit your true feelings, and you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #71 – Find Ways to Matter
We all want to matter and make a difference in the world. The best way to do that is to make an effort to help someone else. Whether it is a working with a charity, helping a friend move, or just helping a co-worker get through a tough day, being able to make a small impact on someone’s life has a big impact on our happiness and how we feel about ourselves. Because of the chaos of life, we get caught up in our own challenges and what we need from others in order to be successful or happy. We lose track of what really gives us a deep sense of fulfillment and what really makes a difference in our lives. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, we don’t become fulfilled by focusing on and meeting our own needs. Rather than content, that leaves us empty and hollow. We evolved to be social and contributing members to our tribes, so our brains are wired to gain satisfaction when we help others improve their lives.
How can you help someone else? How can you reach out and make someone else’s day a little better? Find ways to matter and make a difference for someone else and you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #70 – Today is Your Day
Happiness is right now. There may be better or worse things in your past, but those things don’t matter now. You may have big plans, hopes, and dreams for your future, but there is no reason you have to wait for those to be happy. Your happiness is dependent on what you do with what you have today. You can choose to appreciate and build on what you have or you can choose to lament what you don’t have. You can mourn the unfair things that have occurred in your past or you can focus on what you can make happen today. Make today your day. Be happy today.
“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” Dr. Suess
Happiness Hack #69 Strengthen Positive Relationships with Creative Gratitude
Two of the strongest recurring themes in happiness research are showing gratitude and positive relationships. You can engage both themes at once by improving your relationships through creative expressions of your gratitude.
5 Ideas for Creative Gratitude:
- Send a picture or video. With today’s smart phones, taking a quick photo or video with you showing your appreciation can be done in less than a minute. The recipient will be excited and will most likely share their joy with someone else nearby.
- Write a personal note on the nearest writing surface you can find. For example; a napkin in a restaurant, a whiteboard in their office, or a post-it note. They will appreciate the spontaneity and especially like the idea that you are thinking of them as you go through your busy day.
- Share your talents. We all have a hobby or something we are good at or known for. Share some of your famous brownies or help them fix something around their house or office. Use your special skills to show appreciation.
- Share your story. Explain to them why you appreciate them with a personal story of how their presence has impacted you. Knowing specifically how they were able to make your day a little better will create a special kind of confidence and happiness.
- Pay it forward. Tell them how they inspired you to share your gratitude with a 3rd Let them know that their good deeds are spreading into the world and helping others be happy.
Showing gratitude in even the smallest ways improves happiness and builds stronger relationships for everyone involved. Find ways to creatively express your gratitude and you will have stronger relationships that help you become happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #68 Pattern Recognition is the Key to Happiness
Your brain is a pattern recognition machine. It takes thousands of tiny patterns and assembles them to form bigger patterns which you recognize as thoughts and memories. Your memories are connected to still other patterns that evoke your feelings. Our brain evolved with a bias towards negative patterns so we could quickly recognize danger and when we should be extra cautious. As a result, we tend to accumulate more patterns associated with negative feelings rather than patterns associated with positive feelings. This negative bias can impact our happiness.
The good news is you can change which feelings are associated with which patterns. For example your thought patterns about work may evoke negative feelings due to a myriad of negative experiences that have occurred throughout your career. But there are also positive experiences at work. With a little effort you can change the pattern connections in your brain about work from the negative experiences and feelings to the positive experiences and feelings.
The next time you find yourself dreading going to work or getting that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, stop and recall the things at work that make you happy. Getting to see your friends, completing an important project, and making a valuable contribution as a team member are all positive feelings that you can connect to your thought patterns to replace the negative feelings. Focus on how the positive experiences made you feel, particularly in a work setting.
Another option is to go to lunch with your friends or sit down with your spouse and talk about all the things you like about work and how positive they make you feel. It may take 5 or 6 of these sessions before the connections start to switch from negative to positive, but over time you will notice a difference as your thought patterns about work become reconnected to your positive feelings.
The same processes can work for relationships, getting stuck in traffic, and many other patterns that evoke negative feelings.
Once you learn how to reconnect the patterns in your brain to positive feelings, you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #67 – To Be Happier, Sit Up Straight
Your posture can impact how you think and feel about yourself. It even has impacts on your hormone levels associated with resisting disease and your ability to lead. Sitting up straight has been shown to increase your number of positive thoughts and memories, reduce stress, and improve your mood. Standing up straight with your shoulders wide increases your confidence, ability to lead and make tough decisions, and overall can help you be more successful.
How you carry yourself matters. Not surprisingly, skipping through the halls with your head straight and facing forward will increase your energy levels while a slow shuffle with your head down will decrease them.
So sit up straight, stand tall and confident, skip or move energetically when you can, and take a few minutes to stretch when you can’t. Don’t forget to smile. These actions will help you be more confident, lower your stress, bring on more positive thoughts and memories, give you more energy, and most importantly help you be happier.
Happiness Hack #66 – Set New Goals
Goals give us something to look forward to and get excited about. They energize us and get our creative juices flowing. Setting goals is not just about what we want to accomplish, it is about how they make us feel. Knowing where we are going gives us confidence and helps us quickly take those first few steps in the morning. Just thinking about the possibilities of what we might accomplish helps us believe in and be happy about the prospects of a positive future. Goals help us clarify our priorities and be more confident in our decisions.
Take few moments to set a few new goals. Reaching for them and even just thinking about them will make you happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #65 – One Small Step at a Time
Accomplish One Small Thing
Sometimes the chaos of life can be overwhelming. It seems like our to-do list gets longer instead of shorter every day and each project we complete seems to lead to two more projects. It can be sad and frustrating just thinking about everything that has to be done.
The secret is to step back and pause. Pick one small thing you can accomplish. Fold the laundry, clean a room, or write a list of next steps for your next big project. Find something small you can accomplish in less than 15 minutes and get that one thing done. Getting one small thing done will give you that little bit of confidence and sense of accomplishing something so that you can find that next small step. We all have mountains to climb, and we can’t jump from the bottom to the top. We have to take one small step at a time.
Find something small you can feel good about accomplishing in a short period of time and then build from there. You will feel happier and be more successful.
Happiness Hack #64 – Send Yourself a Happiness Email
Take 15 Seconds to Create a Memory
Spend around 15 seconds each day sending yourself an e-mail about something that made you happy. Keep it quick and easy, but do it every day so it becomes a habit. You can keep it to 15 seconds or spend more time if you have it. Type your memory into the subject line of the e-mail. Start your subject line with “Memory:” so you can quickly separate it from other e-mails, and then add your happy thoughts. You can manually or automatically move the emails into a memories folder so you can go back and review them at your leisure. If you have more time, you can add a picture or spend time describing your experience in more detail. For fun, you can share with the people who were a part of your happy memory. Over time you will create an electronic journal of happiness. Any time you are sad or need a boost, just review some of your past happy memories.
This activity combines three different areas of happiness research. First, remembering three great things that happened during your day makes you happier. Second, writing down your thoughts and feelings and especially writing your personal stories also helps you be happier. Lastly, remembering the small events in life can make you as happy or happier than focusing on just the big events.
Send yourself daily happiness e-mails and you can create a reservoir of happy memories you can access whenever you need them. Plus it will make each day a little happier.
You can also use the MyHappiness App to track your daily happiness and keep a history with pictures and recommendations for happiness. You can access it on iPhone or Android in the app store by searching for MyHappiness or on your browser at MyHappiness.io
Happiness Hack #63 – Don’t Wait for the Weekend
Be Happy Today!
It starts when we are young; sitting in classrooms dreaming about how much fun we will have on the weekend. The sheer anticipation of no class and no homework makes us happy. Then recess starts or we go to lunch and talk to our friends and find additional reasons to be happy. But as we get older and our lives and the week become more stressful, anticipation turns into expectation. We look at our crummy day at work and expect that we will be happier when the weekend comes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work.
The difference is subtle but important for our happiness. Anticipation makes us happier today as we think about positive outcomes in the future while expectation puts off happiness in the hope that something will change and we will find happiness in the future. Anticipation leaves us open to happiness today while expectation gives up today’s happiness because it will come later. The challenge is that happiness really doesn’t come later.
New research is showing that for many of us, we actually become less happy on the weekends. We build up our expectations of happiness to such a high level that we end Saturday disappointed. Then on Sunday, we start worrying about what challenges we will face next week. It creates an unhappy cycle of not enjoying today because the weekend will be happier but then the weekend can’t make up for all the happiness we missed during the week.
The solution is to be happy today. Anticipate happiness so you can enjoy today more. But don’t give up your happiness today by expecting happiness in the future. Certain aspects of today will be stressful and crummy; so what can you find to enjoy today? Can you take a moment to be grateful for something or focus on a great memory? There is something good about today. Find it and focus on it. Do the same thing for weekends. Enjoy and be present in your weekends. Don’t think about the coming week and what you will miss or how bad it will be. Think about today and what is great about today.
Don’t wait for the weekends to be happy. Find reasons to be a little happy today and every day. Happy moments create happy days. Happy days lead to happy weeks. Happy weeks build happy years and lots of happy years create a happy life full of wonderful memories. Create a happy day!
Happiness Hack #62 – Is Your Thinking Stinking?
What Do You Spend Your Time Thinking About?
Do you spend your time thinking about what went wrong and why your job or your life are not what you want them to be? Do you ruminate about a list of people who have treated you poorly and how you will eventually confront them and set them straight? Are you worrying about the things that could go bad in your future? These are all signs of “Stinking Thinking.”
You can fill your head with thoughts about how great life is, what you appreciate about people, and what you are going to do to create a great future or you can fill your head with negative thoughts. The choice is yours. “Stinking Thinking” leads to stinky results and positive thinking leads to positive results and more happiness for you and those around you.
It is natural to have negative thoughts, but you don’t have to let them overwhelm your thinking. You can create the habit of replacing those negative thoughts with more positive thinking or at least with possible solutions, rather than just focusing on the negative impacts of your problems. Try to catch yourself thinking negative thoughts and find more positive things to replace them. Replace your “Stinking Thinking” with more positive and productive thoughts and you will become happier.
Happiness Hack #61 – Relationships are as Important as Food and Water
Although it takes longer to see the effects, depriving yourself of social connections can take a physical toll just like not eating. Your brain responds both positively and negatively to the presence and quality of relationships in your life. Scientists are beginning to find that the loss or lack of social relationships creates actual physical pain and not just the emotional pain we are familiar with.
More importantly, positive social relationships activate pleasure centers in the brain that make us feel content and fulfilled much like having enough food makes us feel. Those pleasure centers are activated when we create charitable relationships like giving money to people in need rather than spending it on ourselves or when we nurture close personal relationships like helping someone close to us who is in distress. When scientists tested trade-offs of money for happiness, they found working with charities, visiting with friends, and maintaining a close relationship with your significant other were worth tens of thousands of dollars in annual income. All three levels of relationships; charitable, friendly, and close personal relationships, contribute more to your happiness than significant amounts of money.
To be happier, focus on maintaining strong social connections. Work with charities, spend time with friends, and nurture your close personal relationships. They are as important as eating and will have a positive physical impact on your well-being.
Happiness Hack #60 – Create a Bed Time Routine
I know that sounds really boring, but how exciting can you really be if you are not happy, not focused, can’t remember things, and suffer from anxiety? Those are all symptoms of not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Since most of us have morning deadlines related to school, work, or exercise, we have to go to bed earlier to make sure we get 7 hours of sleep.
So create a bed time routine. Start by determining what time will give you 7 hours of rest and add an extra 30 minutes for transition time. You need your downtime, so start your TV watching or Internet surfing a little earlier. Be sure and turn off all electronic devices 30 minutes before you go to bed. The light from your computer, phone, and television screens send signals to your brain telling you it is day time and you should be awake. Reading a book or just spending some time thinking will help you fall asleep faster. For the first 30 days, until you have truly established a routine, you will often lay awake feeling unproductive and having hundreds of thoughts racing through your mind. But over time, as the routine sets in, you will fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed, focused, and less anxious.
Create a bed time routine, so that you get at least 7 hours of sleep every night and you will feel smarter and happier.
Happiness Hack #59 – Choose 3 Small Things
In a chaotic world it often feels like we don’t have control and that life is just rushing at us with a constant stream of challenges and things to do. To be happier, practice your autonomy. Research shows that we feel happier when we have autonomy and can make decisions about what will happen in our lives rather than being victims of the constant chaos of life.
So to be happier, take control of a small part of your life by finding 3 small things you can accomplish today. This is your list and can include things you want to do for others or small actions that will make your day a little better. The most important aspect is that you choose them. Then, make sure those three things get done. Try to get them done earlier in the day if possible, so there is less chance of being interrupted by the chaos of life. Each day pick 3 more things that you can control and you can accomplish.
Feeling like you can gain a little more control over the chaos of life will help you feel a lot happier.
Happiness Hack #58 – Add Bright Colors to Your Life
Research has shown that adding bright colors into your life can make you happier. Specifically both men and women were happier when they were exposed to bright blues and greens. The theory is that we evolved to appreciate bright blue skies which signify great weather and beautiful days. Research also showed that being exposed to bright colors can improve your memory and reaction time and well as increase your confidence.
Culture and fashion trends have brought more blacks and grays into our lives as we try to be more serious and professional. But these dull colors combined with dreary winter months can lead to feelings of sadness and depression without us realizing why.
So add bright colors, specifically bright blue into your life. Paint a wall with bright colors or wear brightly colored shirts or socks. Put a bright blue picture in your office and spend 2 to 3 minutes looking at it each day.
Expose yourself to bright colors and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #57 – Write Love Notes …or Like Notes
One of the best ways to be happier is to share our positive feelings with others. We often have rushes of love or appreciation for people in our lives, but the chaos of life interferes with us finding the right time and place to share those feelings. The solution is to create a habit of sharing them when we feel them.
To create a habit of sharing your positive feelings:
- Keep it simple – don’t write the long explanation unless you really have time and feel moved to finish your thoughts.
- Start with a framework –
- I love you because _________________________
- I like you because __________________________
- You are wonderful because __________________
- I appreciate that you _______________________
- You are great at ___________________________
Cut this out and keep it with you as a reminder.
- Choose your delivery platform – you can write a quick note on stationary or a post-it note, write a quick email, or send a text.
- Deliver the message – don’t let your anxieties and second thoughts stop you from delivering the message. Your feelings are a gift that most people will treasure. Those who don’t treasure your gift are especially in desperate need of it.
Share your positive feelings with others. It will make you happier and for most, will become a gift they treasure.
“To have joy one must share it. Happiness was born a twin.” – Lord Byron
Happiness Hack #56 – Create Happiness Habits
Happiness is not a pinnacle we reach or a destination. It is a daily habit. It is created by choosing positive actions every day that will help us feel contented and fulfilled, that will help us feel like we matter and can make a difference, and that will help us feel hopeful and excited to get up every morning.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence (Happiness), then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Doing something over and over again creates pathways in our brain. Those pathways make it easier and easier to do something so eventually we don’t have to think about it. We can create pathways that lead to happiness or pathways that don’t.
So create habits of happiness. Spend 30 days focusing on one happiness activity until it becomes a habit and then move to another. Some happiness habits you can create might include; smiling at everyone you see, giving hugs, exercising regularly, sending positive text messages to your friends and family, or thinking positive thoughts.
“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.” John Dryden
Help yourself be happier, by making happiness a habit.
It is a common belief that happiness should be spontaneous. It is something that should just happen. But we often get so busy with the chaos of life we eliminate opportunities for happiness. We are so focused on what has to be done; we don’t leave time for spontaneity to occur. It is natural for responsibilities and obligations to force themselves to the front of your conscience and as a result conquer you entire calendar. Happiness is less aggressive and waits for an opening. If you want to be happy, you have to create room on your schedule for happiness.
So schedule opportunities for happiness. Put time your calendar to spend with friends, call a family member, exercise, work with a charity, or just do something fun. Schedule happiness opportunities daily or at a minimum weekly. To be happy, we have to take an active role in our happiness. We can’t just assume happiness will exist; we have to create opportunities for happiness.
Schedule opportunities for happiness and you will be happier. The people in your life might even appreciate it as well.
Don’t Get Angry Over a Parking Spot
Have you ever been waiting on a parking spot and had someone sneak in at the last moment and take your space? How angry did you get? What about when someone cuts you off in traffic or won’t make room for you to merge? Do you get angry when the weather changes and throws a wrench in your plans?
We often give up our happiness to small inconveniences we can’t control. Little things happen and we let our initial feelings of frustration and anger smolder all day and eventually explode at the next small inconvenience.
Happiness is based on our ability to let things go and to understand what we can control and what we can’t control. Initial feelings of anger and frustration are natural and are created by chemicals released into our brains. But those chemicals usually only last about 6 seconds and everything after those six seconds has to be manufactured by our negative ruminations.
Let the small stuff go. Focus on what is good in your life and spend your moments appreciating what you have instead of ruminating about what didn’t go your way. Think about what is positive and let your happiness conquer your frustration and anger.
Don’t sweat the small stuff and you will be happier.
Find patience for all the things you can’t control. Your thoughts, your actions, your reactions, and your happiness are always within your control. Everything outside of you is not. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it and sometimes you just have to laugh. But you don’t have to become a victim and succumb to the stress of life’s chaos that is outside of your control. The Serenity Prayer sums it up well:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Find the fun and laughter not only in the good times but also in your mishaps and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #52 Explore Your City Like a Tourist
The research shows that using our money to have new experiences makes us happier than buying material goods. Both the anticipation of those new experiences and the memories add to our happiness over the long term. But those experiences don’t have to be expensive. You can create new experiences close to home. Plan a trip around your city as if you were a tourist. What sites would you want to see, what restaurants would you want to visit, and what history would you want to learn about? Who would you like to take on your in-town vacation? Use TripAdvisor and other internet travel sites to learn new attractions in or around your town. Spend some time creating an itinerary and picking your favorite activities, just like you would if you were spending lots of money on a trek across the country. Pick someone special to plan your excursions with you. Explore your city like a tourist and the fun, anticipation, and memories will make you happier.
Happiness Hack #51 Be Yourself
Focus Your Energy on Relationships Where You Can Be Your Authentic Self
Research overwhelmingly shows that positive relationships contribute to our happiness. In order to develop and maintain those positive relationships, it is important that we are authentic. Authenticity increases our emotional well-being, coping skills, and vitality. Positive relationships require disclosure about who we are. We have to share our personal hopes and fears. Our closest relationships are with people with whom we can be ourselves. They are people who accept us for who we are and with whom we can experience our full range of emotions. Be authentic and proud of whom you really are and put your energy into relationships that support you being your authentic self. Dare to be vulnerable. Be authentic.
“Be real. Try to do what you say, say what you mean, be what you seem.” Marian Wright Edelman
Happiness Hack – #50 Share Your Gratitude
Think about someone who has really made a difference in your life. Spend 10 minutes writing a heartfelt letter of gratitude to them. Then mail it to them, or even better read it to them in person. Showing gratitude helps you better manage stress, helps build a strong immune system, lowers blood pressure, increases your level of optimism, and helps you feel less lonely or isolated. Just feeling gratitude is not as effective, the benefits actually come from writing down how you feel. Sharing your feelings further strengthens those benefits. So write down how grateful you feel and share it with someone special. Sharing it also extends the benefits to them as well.
“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone” Gertrude Stein
Happiness Hack #49 – Count Your Blessings
Spend 10 minutes counting your blessings. Don’t stop writing until the 10 minutes are up. Most people get about 7 to 10 items on their list before they slow down. Keep thinking until you have over 100 items on your list. Most of us have a lot more to be thankful for than we realize. We take for granted the simple things in our lives, like a bed to sleep on and running water. A job, a car, and a home are all blessings that many people in the world don’t have.
Become aware of all the blessings in your life and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #48 – Get Plenty of Sleep
Willpower is depleted by a lack of sleep. A lack of sleep impairs the ability of your pre-frontal cortex to recall your goals, control your stress, and use willpower to make decisions consistent with maintaining long term relationships and happiness. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to recognize and regulate your emotions, so you will become angry or upset easier. Getting seven or more hours of sleep per night will strengthen your willpower and your ability to make decisions that lead you toward happiness. Create a ritual of going to bed at the same time every night. Reduce late night snacks and late night screen time. Write journals or make lists to empty your brain of all your swirling thoughts before you go to bed.
Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and you will be more successful at work, better in your relationships and happier overall.
Happiness Hack #47 – Cherish Your Memories
It is really easy to fall into the trap of believing that the way things are right now, what we are doing, who our friends are, what we remember, and what we think is important will not change that much. But life is more like a river than a lake, and those things are floating past us even as we stand in the middle of them. Pause for a few moments and absorb the wonderful things surrounding you in your life. Think about their impact and why they make you happy. Enjoy those moments and cherish those memories. You will be happier about your life today and the life you have lived.
Happiness Hack #46 – What are Your Values
Part of being happier is being confident that we are living according to our values. The deep inner feeling that we are doing the “right thing” provides a sense of fulfillment which helps us be happier. If we are not clear what our values are or that we are living according to the “right” values it is difficult to feel that sense of fulfillment.
Create a list of your values. What are the most important principles you feel should be guiding your life? Some examples might include Excellence, Creativity, Freedom, Fun, Friendship, Helping Other, Health and Fitness, Humor, Spirituality, Honesty, Serenity, Trust, Family, etc. Focus on your top 5. You will have more than 5 values, but make sure the Top 5 are not being compromised and you will have a good foundation for feeling fulfillment and contentment. Live according to your values and you will be happier. Here is an exercise to help you identify your values.
Happiness Hack #45 – Happiness Includes Sadness
Happiness includes sadness. Happiness is not about avoiding unhappiness. It is about experiencing the full range of emotions and being able to still feel good about the present and the immediate future. As we try to advance and grow as humans, we try to make our lives as simple and comfortable as we can. We don’t want to be too cold, so we build heaters in our houses. We don’t want to get too hot, so we add air conditioners and fans. We don’t want to be hungry, so we build farms, systems, and industries to ensure we never lack food. This drive to become more comfortable encompasses our emotions as well. Just as we don’t want to feel cold, we don’t want to feel sad, or scared, or rejected. So we invent all kinds of ways not to feel those negative emotions. We even go so far as to try to hide them or dampen them with drugs, alcohol, or food. The problem is, when we dampen the negative emotions, we also dampen the good emotions. Just as feeling comfortable at 72 degrees is hard to appreciate if you have never been freezing cold, feeling happy is much harder to recognize and appreciate if you have never felt sad. Happiness comes from experiencing life and emotion, not from avoiding it.
Embrace and feel all of your emotions, including sadness. Feeling deeply helps us feel alive and involved in life. Experience sadness and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #44 – Shoot for Good Enough Instead of Perfection
Our accomplishments and small successes often get lost in the list of things that did not go right. Many people miss out on celebrating the small successes because they are waiting for everything to go perfectly. As long as they know the results could have been better, it is not yet a success or accomplishment in their eyes. The challenge is, that time may never come–which means very little celebration, which severely limits your opportunity for positive feelings and increasing happiness. Focus on making the effort good enough vs. perfecting the results. We can control how much effort we put forth, but we can’t always control the results. Often there are other factors that come into play. Since we are human, being perfect is impossible.
Perfectionism creates expectations that are always over the horizon–expectations we think we are moving toward, but always seem just out of reach. Good enough enables us to forgive ourselves for our mistakes and shortcomings and celebrate the things that did go right. It gives us something to build on. Good enough provides us a positive feeling that we are making progress and lets us believe that we can accomplish even more. We can increase our happiness if we take the time to stop and think about our accomplishments and successes. If we try to be perfect, we may spend that time thinking about the details that did not go right, rather than the tiny successes we can build on.
Take time to celebrate your imperfect successes. Feel the positive emotions and happiness that come from your accomplishments. Try to be a little better after you have appreciated how far you have come. If we want to be successful and happy, then being a little better is better than being perfect.
“I don’t know a perfect person. I only know flawed people who are still worth loving.” ― John Green
Happiness Hack #43 – Practice Your Happy Dance
Have you ever watched a 4 year-old when they found out they get to go to Disney World, or a six-year old when they finally learned to ride a bike or hit a baseball. They celebrate their wins and successes with little dances of happiness and joy. As we grow older we lose that ability to express our joy. We become more serious, start worrying about what people might think of us, and ignore our small successes because we are focused on the bigger goals in life. We are drifting past our opportunities to be a little happier.
Start practicing your happy dance. Do it alone in your bedroom behind a locked door if necessary, but practice how you would act if something great happened to you. Then start practicing on little successes. Do your Happy Dance when you get to work early because of no traffic, or when a good friend reaches out to you, or when you get a great birthday present. Do your Happy Dance just because you know it is going to be a great day.
How many moments in your life can you find to celebrate? The more small moments you can celebrate, the more joy and happiness you can bring into your life and the lives of others.
Do your Happy Dance!
“No matter what, do the Happy Dance once a day. It is your own physical expression of sheer joy.” Mary Frances Winters
Happiness Hack #42 – Being Happy Includes Being Unhappy
Happiness is not all cotton candy and rainbows. For most people happiness is contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction. It is a belief that you can be the “real you” and life will still turn out great. But for life to be great we have to experience all of our emotions and persevere through all the ups and downs. We have to be authentic in who we are and how we feel. Bad things happen and we feel sad. We see injustices that make us angry. We can be frustrated, or scared, or disgusted. Being authentic means experiencing all of our emotions with an internal understanding that “This too shall pass” and overall we will find happiness and joy in our lives. So don’t worry if you are not constantly happy. Authentically experience all of your emotions in life. Find joy in just being you and remaining confident that happiness can always be a part of your life even while the other emotions come and go as part of the smorgasbord of life.
Live and feel and be the “real you” and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #41 – Schedule Happiness Check-Ups
How often do you stop and ask yourself if you are really doing the things in life that will make you happy? Just like we need physical check-ups, we need happiness check-ups. Schedule time to stop and reflect on your life and actions. Evaluate whether your actions are leading you to happiness and success or whether you are just bouncing through life, missing your opportunities to be happy. So on your birthday, stop and think about whether you are choosing happiness and taking daily actions that will make you happier. On Valentines’ Day, stop and reflect on whether you are nurturing your most important relationships and giving authentically of yourself. Around Christmas, stop and ponder whether you are clear on your Higher Purpose and how you can make a difference in someone else’s life. On New Year’s, stop and ask yourself if you are taking actions that only bring you instant pleasure and temporary happiness, or are you doing the things that will bring contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction, the ingredients for lasting happiness?
Happiness Hack #40 – Stop Taking the Poison
Staying Angry is Like Taking Poison
“Anger (or hatred) is like swallowing poison and expecting the other person to die.” Alcoholics Anonymous
Close your eyes and imagine you could feel better about all of your bad relationships. Imagine you could stop being angry and upset and could get past whatever event or memory is preventing you from getting along with that person. The good news is you can. You choose to be angry and upset. You choose to let that past wrong interfere with your relationship. You decide that what they have done is so horrendous that you have to keep them out of your life. So make a different decision. As hard as it may seem, forgive them. Understand that whatever they did was an insult, inappropriate, and unforgiveable; but your relationship with them is more important.
Stop taking the poison and your relationships will survive and become stronger. Stop taking the poison and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #39 – Prepare for a Quick Start
Minimize Activation Energy
It takes more energy to get started then it does to keep moving. This is called Activation Energy. If you are going to work out, it takes extra energy to wake up early; put on your workout clothes, socks, and shoes; grab any other accessories or equipment you might need; and then get to the gym or workout location. Once you have started your workout, much less effort is needed to keep it moving.
So they key is to make preparations that reduce the amount of Activation Energy required. Have your gym bag ready to go. Schedule the exact time you will leave for the gym. If you are changing your eating habits, plan your meals at the beginning of the day or week. If you consistently plan ahead so you can conquer the required Activation Energy, in about 30 days, your new goal will become a habit and you won’t have to think about it. You will naturally be able to overcome the Activation Energy required to start that activity.
Prepare for a quick start and you will be more likely to succeed and be happier with the results.
Happiness Hack #38 Make a List of What You Can Control vs. What You Can’t Control
The world is full of things we can’t control. Something like the weather seems obvious. Yet how often are we unhappy because the rain ruins our plans?
It may be less obvious that we can’t control the actions of another person, even someone close to us. Our ability to influence them makes us believe we can control their actions, but eventually we are disappointed when they make decisions and take actions different from what we would have preferred.
When we start listing the things we can control and the things we can’t, the things we can control are centered on us and our actions while the things we can’t control are external to us; people, nature, and the stock market, to name a few.
Make a list of things you can control.
What you can control: Who you hang out with
What you can’t control: How they behave or act
What you can control: Where you work
What you can’t control: How nice your co-workers are
What you can control: What time you wake up
What you can’t control: Physically, your body requires sleep
What you can control: What clothes you wear
What you can’t control: What people think about the clothes you wear
What you can control: Who you choose to spend your life with
What you can’t control: What they choose to do or how they choose to behave
Add Your Own:
What you can control:
What you can’t control:
What you can control:
What you can’t control:
What you can control:
What you can’t control:
Understanding what you can and can’t control will help you focus on what actions will change your life and what actions are ineffective. Focus on what you can control and you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #37 – Turn Off Your Reminders
If you want to be happier turn off all of those reminders that pop-up, buzz, or ring every time you get an email, text, message, or app reminder. The average smart phone user has 32 apps on their phone, sends or receives 100 texts and 125 emails, and receives 82 notifications from social sites per day. That means the average person is interrupted every 5 minutes.
All of those interruptions damage our health, our productivity, our relationships, and our happiness. The constant bombardment of reminders creates sustained levels of stress that can be damaging to our health in the long term. They create chaos with our productivity because we are constantly interrupted and can’t focus on one task for more than 5 minutes without being reminded to switch to another. We can never experience Flow or the happiness related to getting so wrapped up in an activity that we lose track of time. Our relationships are put at risk as we constantly check our electronics for the next message rather than focusing all our attention on the person in front of us. We unwittingly eliminate human contact, a key component of happiness, even though we are 6 inches away from another person whom we care about.
Our opportunities for success also suffer because we pay less attention in meetings and can’t isolate blocks of time to work on the big important projects.
Don’t let your reminders take control of your life. Turn them off so you can decide when you are going to interact with an app or check your email, texts, and social sites.
Turn off your reminders and you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #36 – Paint Your Calendar
Many of us feel like life is a whirlwind that is filled with a constant stream of activities and that we are trapped with a never ending “To do” list that is thrust upon us by other people and life in general. We are overwhelmed by our lack of control and the feeling that this is the life we are stuck with.
The solution is to paint your calendar or “To do” list so you can see where you do have control. According to research done at the University of Michigan, the 15% of Americans who felt in control of their lives also had extraordinarily positive feelings of happiness. If you have a choice, you are in control. So focus on the choices you have instead of the choices you don’t have. What is within your control vs. what is not within your control?
Find everything on your calendar that you get to choose and paint it green, or choose a color that makes you happy. Be sure and include the weekends and evenings. Take some time to really consider what you are choosing vs. what you have to do. For example if you are helping a friend move, you may feel obligated, but it is still your choice. You are choosing to maintain that friendship and show appreciation for the times they have been there for you. Consider the same thing for work. Do you have to attend those meetings or do you choose to attend those meetings because you want to contribute and succeed at work? Find as many hours as you can to paint green.
Take a few minutes every day to review the green and appreciate what you do have control over. Recognizing and appreciating the parts of your life where you do have control will help you feel happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #35 – Create a Positive Relationship with Your Boss
Our relationship with our supervisor is the number one predictor of our willingness to stay at our job and has a significant impact on our happiness and success.
Create a personal relationship with your boss. Schedule lunch with them. Ask them about their families, careers, and hobbies. What is important to them? What do you have in common? The more ways you can connect, the better you will understand them and the easier it will become to work with them.
Ask about their expectations and do your best to deliver on them. Be a great employee so it will be easy for them to be a great boss.
Recognize that they are people to. They have strengths and weaknesses, fears and insecurities, and hopes and dreams. Help them be happy and successful. Find time to be their friend.
Find ways to have a positive relationship with your supervisor and you will be happier and more successful.
Happiness Hack #34 Don’t Miss the Moments
We are often so busy getting to work or school, getting the next assignment done, or checking items off our “To Do” list we forget to pause and enjoy the moment. Our life will not all of sudden one day become happy. Our lives are made up of years. Our years are made up of days and our days are made up of moments. How we spend the collection of those moments will determine how we spend our lives.
Pause and enjoy a beautiful sky or the smile of a friend. Appreciate a co-worker who helps you out. Stop and think about how lucky you are to have family or friends you can count on. Take a break and enjoy the laughter of children. Linger on the goodbye kiss before you go to work.
Don’t fast forward through your life and miss the good parts. Take time to enjoy the moments.
“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard
Happiness Hack #33 Change “I Can’t…” to “I Choose Not To…”
Using the words “I can’t” limits your autonomy. Autonomy is the feeling that your life and activities are self-chosen. Research has shown that autonomy can have a greater impact on our happiness than money. Saying “I can’t” out loud or even in your self-talk insidiously limits your feelings of autonomy and as a result your happiness.
Using the words “I can’t” creates an unknown force that prevents you from doing something. So instead of feeling autonomy and the resulting happiness, you feel limited. The more times you use the words “I can’t” the more boxed in you feel.
Take control of your life and your happiness. Try using the words “I choose not to…” instead of “I can’t.” Change a few words and you can change your happiness.
Happiness Hack #32 Buy Happiness
There is a way money can buy happiness. It is found in how we spend the money. Research has shown that spending money on other people makes us happier than spending it on ourselves. It creates a virtuous circle where we spend the money on someone else and become happier which makes us want to spend more on someone else which further increases our happiness. More good news, we don’t have to spend a lot of money on someone else. The amount of money is not as important as choosing someone besides ourselves to spend it on.
5 Ways your money can buy happiness:
1. Buy coffee for a friend and spend a few minutes talking – you are giving and building positive relationships which give you a double dose of happiness.
2. Pay for the person in line behind you – random acts of kindness are fun and make us happier.
3. Donate money to a charity – even small donations make you feel good about giving.
4. Spend money on experiences like vacations – they create memories that add to your happiness for years to come. Especially if they include friends and family.
5. Plan your experiences months in advance. The anticipation of spending your money on a great experience will provide happiness before the money is even spent.
Small amounts of money spent in the right ways can buy you happiness. So don’t wait on a financial windfall to be happy. Find ways today to budget happiness into your current income level. It is not how much, but how you spend it, that makes you happy.
“Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you ice cream and that is almost the same thing.” Unknown
Happiness Hack #31 Remember
Pause to Remember Great Moments
Research shows that spending money on experiences rather than things makes us happier, because the experiences create great memories that we can access again and again to relive that happiness. So create a habit of pausing once or twice during the day to think back on a great moment in your life. What memories do you have that bring a smile to your face?
Take a few minutes to write down 3 to 10 of your happiest memories. Keep them top of mind so you can access them when you are stressed or just when you want to pause for a moment of happiness.
Remember happy times and you will become happier.
Research shows that people who express gratitude regularly are healthier, less stressed, and more successful. Gratitude gives you something positive to focus on as you tackle the challenges life throws at you.
Every morning when you wake up, think of three things that you are grateful for. They could be as simple as having running water (something 1/3 of the world doesn’t have) or a family, or a place to live, or a job. Remind yourself everyday about the good things in your life.
We can’t remember every moment of every experience, so we selectively remember the highlights and the last part. Then we categorize our memories based on the highlight and last part of the experience. A really good experience that ends poorly will be categorized as bad while a bad experience that ends well will be categorized as good. One year from now we will remember that in general the experience was good or bad based on the highlight and our last memory. This is mostly an unconscious process, but we can influence it, by purposely reviewing the good parts at the end of every experience.
Every night as you sit down on your bed, think through the day and remember the good things that happened that day. A month from now you will remember mostly good days and at the end of the year, you will believe you had a good year. Much of your happiness is based on your memories, and you can choose to focus on the bad memories and have a crummy life or focus on the good memories and have a great life.
We are busy with the craziness of life moving from one urgent matter to the next. School, work, kids, bills, and fifty other commitments absorb our time and willpower. Instead of getting lost in the busyness of your life, schedule 15 minutes every morning where you are the priority. We can all find 15 minutes somewhere in our day. For 15 minutes work on something that makes your life better. If you want to go on a diet, then spend that 15 minutes creating a menu for the day or preparing your meals. If you want to exercise more, spend that 15 minutes putting on some tennis shoes and walking down the block. If you have a hobby you want to try, spend 15 minutes on the Internet buying supplies or finding a quiet place to work each morning.
The key is to recognize that you and your goals are a priority. You deserve time to improve your life. It is best to start early before your energy and willpower gets sucked up by all of your other commitments. Once you have successfully found 15 minutes every day for a month or more, you can extend it to 30 minutes or an hour.
In his book Drive, Daniel Pink discusses the benefits of autonomy and choosing our lives. He summarizes; “Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another” and “people oriented toward autonomy and intrinsic motivation have higher self-esteem, better interpersonal relationships, and greater general well-being…”. Research has shown autonomy results in more persistence at a task which leads to higher grades, higher levels of productivity and less burnout. Focus on your autonomy, what you can do vs. what you can’t do.
Build an autonomy list – what things in your life do you get to choose?
- People you spend time with
- How you do things
- What you eat
- What you wear
Our time is constrained and we don’t have time to get everything done as it is. But we should schedule time to exercise on a regular basis. Research by Russell Clayton and colleagues, which is due out in the next issue Human Resource Management, concludes there is a positive relationship between exercise and work life balance. Based on Clayton’s research, people who take the time to exercise feel more self-efficacy. In other words they are confident they can get things done. Completing a regular exercise routine, gives them proof that they are capable of handling bigger challenges, including getting major projects at work done and making time for a happy home life.
Exercise also makes you happier. It gives you more energy. It also provides a mental and emotional break from your daily stress. It gives you time to think and process information. Research has shown that exercise was more effective than Zoloft, an anti-depressant medication, in reducing the symptoms of depression. Exercise improves your brain’s ability to process information. Overall exercise helps you think more clearly, feel more confident, and be more energetic, all of which help you be better at your job.
Flow is a state where you lose track of time and your surroundings. You are so caught up in what you are doing, your brain doesn’t process unrelated outside information.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the leading expert on flow, found that people who became really absorbed in what they were doing had higher levels of happiness. The more they got into flow, the happier they were.
Flow requires challenges that push us out of our comfort zone but are not too demanding. It requires that we know enough to do the task well, but we still enjoy learning and getting better. It is an optimal experience.
- Find a project or activity where you are confident in your abilities but it is still challenging for you.
- Turn off all distractions – e-mail reminders, texts, instant messages, and other interruptions.
- Work for 90 minutes without interruption and see how much you can get done.
- Then take 15 minutes to walk around and re-energize before you start again.
The key is to not work for 10 hours straight with 12 distractions per hour. You leave work feeling tired without feeling like you accomplished anything. Find Flow in 90 minute distraction free intervals. You will be more productive and happier at the same time.
Keep a Happiness Jar full of happy memories that you can review and share from time to time. Use a mason jar so you can see inside. Add movie tickets, wine corks, receipts from great meals you have had, and post-it notes with short summaries of what you did fun today. Write notes on each of them about who you were with, what you did and why it made you happy. Be creative, you will find all kinds of little reminders you can add.
Keep your Happiness Jar in a prominent place so you can look inside and relive many of your happy times and also so you can be reminded to keep adding more happy memories. Just seeing the jar creates inspiration to do something that makes you happy. Share the happiness by letting visitors and friends add to your jar. It is exciting to watch what makes them happy. Decorate your jar and put the year on it. You can create a jar each year so you have years and years of happy memories you can revisit.
One of the most common terms used in people’s definitions of Happiness is meaning. We are all looking for meaning in our lives. One of the best ways to find meaning is to make a difference in someone else’s life. Our challenge is we often measure the amount of meaning in our lives by the number of people who tell us we are making a difference. Unfortunately, in people’s busy lives they often don’t take time or don’t know how to stop and let someone know they made a difference. So we don’t hear how important we are often enough and sometimes get discouraged.
Don’t wait to hear that you matter from someone else. Don’t measure you ability to make a difference by the number of people who find a way to share their feelings of gratitude. Instead, just start helping people. Find people to smile at or give a hand to. Help someone who seems down feel better. Donate your time to a charity. Help a friend with a move or navigating through an emotional challenge. Find ways every day to make a difference for someone else, and you will be happier and live a more meaningful life.
“As humans, we actually require a sense of meaning to thrive.” Diener
If we want to increase our level of happiness, something has to change. Otherwise we are staying in the same place and not growing. The best way to change is to create new habits or make adjustments to our old habits.
Changing our habits is difficult even for the most disciplined people and changing lots of habits at once is almost impossible. The secret is to start small. Find one habit you can change a little bit and then focus on that until the change becomes part of your natural routine. For example if you want to exercise more, don’t start by training for a marathon. Your willpower is limited and can easily get used up making yourself run long distances 5 times a week. Instead, start your exercise by walking to your neighbor’s house or half way down your block each day. Just a little walking each day will only take a few minutes and will take a minimal amount of will power to complete. If you feel like walking farther you can, but only put pressure on yourself to walk to your neighbor’s house and back. Once that has become part of your routine for 30 days or more, then you can walk down a few more houses. Often you will find you have extended your walks without even thinking about it. Later you can add jogging for a few houses. The point is to start small and work up to it in small increments so it becomes a habit rather than something that drains your will power each day and you dread having to do.
If you change and grow you will be happier, especially if the change lasts and you can then move on to other small changes so you are always getting a little happier.
92% of people are not successful in achieving their New Year’s resolutions. That is because most people depend on will power which is a limited resource rather than building new habits. Once something becomes a habit, you don’t have to drain your will power remembering and making yourself do it. Pick something you want to change in order to be happier, like being on a diet, getting more organized, spending less money, or just finding ways to enjoy life. Schedule 15 minutes every day, preferably in the morning when your will power is full, and spend that time working on your new habit. Plan your meals, make a list of two things you want to accomplish that day, work on your budget, or write down something fun you will make happen that day. Print out a paper calendar with 30 days on it. Every morning when you complete your new habit forming task, put an X on the calendar. Keep the calendar in a prominent place where you can see it. Try to put an X on each day and not miss a day. If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged, just start over. Keep working on your habit until you have 30 X’s in a row. By that time, it should be habit, something you almost automatically do every day. Now you can start working on your next habit. It is important not to get discouraged if you go through 2 or 3 calendars before you get 30 in a row. Just keep trying. Once you get the first habit, the others will come easier.
Happiness Hack #11 Higher Purpose as Motivation
Stick to a New Diet or Exercise Plan by Connecting it to Your Higher Purpose
Rather than exercising or dieting so you can look better, do it to help other people. Trying to look better is something we do for ourselves and it is not as motivational or inspiring as trying to do something for someone else. Connect your diet and exercise to a Higher Purpose and you will have more success.
Exercise and a healthy diet give us more energy, help us be more productive, and help us live longer.
We might exercise or eat a healthy diet so:
- We will be around long enough to help our children and grandchildren
- We can be around and healthy and when our friends need us
- Our friends and family won’t have take care us when we get ill from a life of unhealthy habits.
- We can bring more energy to work to help our peers and customers
- We can have more energy to help our favorite charity
- We can be more productive and advance our careers
- Insert your own Higher Purpose here.
How can you give to others by exercising and dieting? How can you be there for others by having more energy, being more productive and living longer?
Happiness Hack #12 – Prioritization
How To Prioritize Your Day – $100 Rocks
Part of being happy is feeling productive and that we can make a difference each day. In order to make a difference we need to make sure we complete the tasks most related to our accomplishing our goals.
One method of prioritization is $100 Rocks. As an analogy, picture two rooms. One is filled with rocks and the other is empty. Every day, in order to reach our goals, we have to move as many rocks from the first room to the second room as we can. Every rock has a number on it, from $1 to $100 that corresponds to the impact that rock will have on achieving our goals. If we can only move 5 rocks a day, we want to make sure they are the rocks that most help us reach our goals. We can go into the first room and pick up 2 $5 rocks, 2 $25 rocks, and a $30 rock. Now at the end of the day we have moved 5 rocks and made $90 of progress toward our goals ($5 + $5 + $25 + $25 + $30 = $90). The other option is to pick out 5 $100 rocks. This time we have moved the same number of rocks and made $500 of progress toward our goals. We are 5 times as productive. The fastest way to reach our goals is to take a few extra minutes to pick out the $100 rocks. Once the $100 rocks are gone, we pick out the $99 rocks, and then the $98 rocks, etc..
So what are $5 rocks and what are $100 rocks? It is up to each person to define what will have the most impact on achieving his goals. But some of the lower-value rocks may include reading non-essential email, answering texts or instant messages, playing games on our phone, surfing iFunny, Facebook, or your digital distraction of choice. Some high value rocks include your relationships, your health, your career, that big project you have been procrastinating about, and anything else that will make a difference in someone else’s life.
Write down a list of things you have to do today. Give everything on the list a rock size. Make sure your top 3 rocks are done first. Every day find your $100 rocks and do those first. Then you can spend the rest of the day on your lower value rocks.
Happiness Hack #13 – 100/0 Principle
How to Guarantee Your Relationships will Work
Positive Relationships is one of the strongest concepts supported by the Science of Happiness. The more and better your relationships are, the happier you are. A foundational element to creating and improving positive relationships is a concept Al Ritter writes about called the 100/0 Principle. Most of us go into a relationship believing that it should be a 50/50 exchange. Two people giving half each, adds up to 100% and then we will all be happy. The challenge is 50/50 doesn’t work a lot of the time. If one person is giving 50% but the other person is only giving 30% because of some challenge they are experiencing in their lives, the relationship suffers.
Give 100% and expect nothing in return. The other person can give 0% and you will still be there for them because you want to give and you believe that relationship is important. If you have no expectations that they will call you, or bring you flowers, or remember your birthday, or behave in any particular way, you will not have a reason be disappointed in them and they won’t feel pressure to be someone different from who they are. Most likely, and even though you are ok if they don’t, they will respond in kind. They will appreciate your efforts and they will give more than 0%, and often more than 50% back to the relationship. You will find abundance rather than scarcity in your relationship. Give 100% to the relationship and expect nothing in return.
Happiness Hack #14 – Learn From Your Dog
Watch Your Dog to be Happier
Many scientific studies have shown that people who interact with dogs on a regular basis are more active, have lower stress, and are healthier than average. Being around dogs can also help us learn to be happier.
Dogs are excited to see their friends. We can improve our positive relationships and increase our own levels of happiness by showing a little excitement when we see our friends and people we love. We don’t have to jump up and down and run around in a circle, but letting go of the gruff exterior so friends know we appreciate their company contributes to happiness. Dogs are grateful for everything. Having gratitude, even for the smallest things in life, is a great way to raise our levels of happiness. Dogs forgive you no matter what. They refuse to hold a grudge. If you get mad at your dog, they will hide in a corner until your mood changes and then jump up excited the second you show interest in them again. We can all be happier by forgiving the people that challenge us and spending our time thinking about what we like rather than how someone wronged us.
When you want to be happier, spend a few minutes with your dog.
Happiness Hack #15 Mindfulness
Focus On Your Happiness Today. Don’t Wait For Tomorrow.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” Alice Morse Earle
Research has shown that mindfulness can improve immune function, as well as reduce muscle tension, headache, and other forms of chronic pain. It has longer-term impacts such as lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Mindfulness has also been shown to help with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Mindfulness is about appreciating what is happening today rather than worrying about what might happen or agonizing over what happened in the past. It includes being curious and open to discovering new inspirations and information in the current setting.
You can be mindful by living in the present moment and appreciating what you have right now to be happy about. Take a few moments to observe your environment and notice things you haven’t seen before. Instead of focusing on “getting it done,” try to enjoy doing it. When you sit down to a meal, don’t just eat. Look at the colors, smell the aromas, think about all the tastes. If you are spending time with a friend or loved one, concentrate fully on them and what they are saying. Don’t think about what you have to do next or what you are going to say. Listen deeply to what they are communicating and appreciate the time you are spending with them.
“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” Oppenheim
Happiness Hack #16 Optimism
Practice Optimism to Become Happier
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill
Optimism changes the way we look at and remember our interactions in life. We put a more positive spin on our events and activities. By changing how we see and think about future outcomes, we influence those outcomes for the better. We work harder to keep outcomes in line with our optimistic expectations.
Numerous research studies have confirmed the benefits of optimism which include better health, longer lives, faster recovery from illness, and even healthier babies.
Some tips for creating optimism in your life:
- Visualize Your Best Possible Self – Visualize a future for yourself in which everything has turned out the way you want it.
- Find a pessimistic thought and smash it – Keep a small rock or some other touchstone in your pocket or nearby. Whenever you recognize a pessimistic thought, visualize yourself smashing it with the rock and replacing it with a more optimistic thought.
- Put a quarter in a cup – put a coffee cup on your dresser or desk. Every time you consciously replace a pessimistic thought with an optimistic thought, put a quarter in the cup. When the cup is full, you can use the change to buy yourself a treat. An empty cup reminds you to keep finding ways to choose optimistic thoughts.
Happiness Hack #17 Smile More
Build Your Happiness by Smiling More
“A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge
Smiles are viral. When you smile, other people catch it and they spread it to more people. We instinctually mimic another person’s smile to help us determine if their smile is authentic. Smiling is like our internal radar. We send out a smile and they send a smile back. We mimic that smile and automatically interpret the results. The results enable us to intuitively know whether this person is friend or foe and what kind of mood they are in. Research also has shown that by measuring the smiles of people in their yearbook photos, scientists could predict how long-lasting and fulfilling their lives would be, how they would score on measures of well-being, and how inspiring they would be to others.
Faking a smile still makes us happy. Using our smile muscles sends positive messages to the emotional centers in the brain. So by forcing our faces to smile, we can activate the areas of our brain that make us feel better. In other words, we don’t just smile as a result of being happy; smiling actually makes us happier. Smiling also increases mood-enhancing hormones like endorphins, and decreases stress-inducing hormones like cortisol, so you become healthier as well as happier.
Most importantly, smiling makes you more attractive to other people. So smile. And if you can’t smile, fake it until you can.
Happiness Hack #18 – Hug
Build Happier Relationships with Hugs
In our personal relationships, hugs help us feel closer, build trust, and improve communication with the other person. Hugs have also been shown to improve memory, reduce stress, and provide a feeling of safety. This is not just an emotional reaction; it is also a physical one. Hugs release oxytocin which is like a relationship hormone. It is found in increased levels between moms and their newborn babies and in people with positive romantic relationships. Hugging also increases serotonin levels, which helps us feel happier and more relaxed. Hugs help improve the immune system and the production of white blood cells and help us release tension.
Hugs are another way of communicating the importance of people in our lives. Hugging sends the message that they are important to us and they matter. Hugs open us up when we are feeling constrained and up tight. It gives us permission to start a dialogue about what is bothering us and opens up channels of communication.
Try to give 8 hugs per day to feel happier and more connected.
Happiness Hack #19 – Help Others
Helping Others Makes You Happier
Being kind to others and volunteering makes you happier. Practicing acts of kindness releases serotonin into your brain, which makes you feel happier. People who observe an act of kindness also have serotonin released into their brain. So doing something nice not only makes you happier, it also brings happiness to anyone that happens to be watching. The key is actually wanting to help. Your motivation has to be an intrinsic desire to help someone rather than being focused on what you are going to get out it.
Caring does not have to be connected to an organized charity. Reaching out to a friend or someone at work or school also makes you happier. Giving to others releases endorphins, which provide us with a “helper’s high” similar to a “runner’s high”. The even better news is that even after the chemicals dissipate from our bodies, we still have a long term sense of well-being that can last for several months.
“The Master has no possessions. The more he does for others, the happier he is. The more he gives to others, the wealthier he is.” Lao Tzu
Happiness Hack #20 – Spend More Time in the Sun
Sunlight Makes you Happier and Healthier
Getting more sunlight is another way to be happier and healthier. Reduced exposure to sunlight can result in a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD affects people who live in regions that are not exposed to sun for long periods of time. Their level of happiness varies with the seasons. They feel great in the Spring and Summer months and then get depressed in Fall and Winter when they have less exposure to the sun. Sunlight is one of the highest providers of vitamin D which is associated with an improved immune system and bone growth and health. Vitamin D has been shown to decrease the risk of colon, skin, and breast cancer by as much as 60%. Sunlight is also believed to help in the production of endorphins, which also help us feel happier.
Find ways to spend time outside. Take a walk or eat your lunch outside. It will energize you and help you be healthier and happier.
Happiness Hack #21 – Give Money
Giving Makes You Happier than Keeping
Research has shown that giving money to a charity or to help someone else made people happier, and that happier people gave more money to help others, suggesting there is a virtuous circle of giving and becoming happier, which leads to more giving. The research included giving people $5 or $20 and then assigning them a task of giving it away or spending it on themselves. Those people who gave the money to someone else were happier than were the people who spent it on themselves.
Look for opportunities to give and you will be happier.
Happiness Hack #22 – Be Kind
Practicing Random Acts of Kindness Makes You Happier
Practicing kindness connects us to people in ways we might not expect as we get surprised by other people’s positive reactions to what we are doing. Helping others helps us find a sense of meaning, and helps us see how fortunate we are, and improves our mood. Physically, Acts of Kindness release serotonin in our brains and in the brains of the people who watch our Acts of Kindness. Kindness makes everyone happier.
Pick one day a week to practice Random Acts of Kindness. Set a goal, like 5 in one day.
- Tape money to a vending machine
- Spend $5 on a friend
- Give up your cab or your seat on the bus to someone who seems to be having a bad day.
- Open a door for someone or hold the elevator.
- Buy a friend a Coke or a coffee
- Bring donuts to work
Happiness Hack #23 – Find Your Happiness Balance
Each person is unique
Each person is unique, and there is no “right” amount of happiness for anyone. You are an individual with your own strengths and challenges. If you visualize a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very sad and 10 being very happy, you might be a 2 or an 8 depending on the day. Your friend could be a 4 or a 7. There is not a line where you tip from sad to happy; it’s more about being a little more happy or a little more sad than you are now. If we talk about the pleasure of enjoying food, there is not a correct portion of food that fits everyone; it must be considered within your continuum. The amount of exercise and time with family or friends are the same. Find the level that is best for you.
Everything is moving up and down on a continuum that is relative to you. Nothing is strictly black and white or one-size-fits-all. So make decisions based on what is best for you. Not based on what someone else is doing. You will be eternally chasing happiness if you try to be like someone else. You will find your happiness when you embrace your uniqueness.
Happiness Hack #24 Get Excited about Good News
Sharing Good News is Great for Relationships and Your Happiness
Good news is an opportunity for someone close to you to share their excitement about big and small accomplishments. People who are really good with children do this naturally. When a child walks up and proudly shows them how they tied their own shoe or finished a puzzle with six pieces, they get noticeably excited and share their feeling of accomplishment with the child. It is a celebration for something that may seem small to an adult observer, but the children love it. They work to find more accomplishments they can show off. When we become adults, we don’t lose that need or that desire to share our great news and little wins with other people. We look for that joyous feeling and sense of accomplishment. So how we handle those opportunities in a relationship is important. Dismissing them as menial or something that should have already been accomplished takes away that joy. So does talking over their news and telling them about our lives, because we just can’t wait to get it out. Taking time to appreciate, compliment, and celebrate their little successes and news is just as important for adults as it is for children. Close connections are formed in the small interactions around good news and small accomplishments. These small acts show them that we value them, and that what happens in their lives is important to us.
So get excited about good news. Share the happiness.
Happiness Hack #25 Define Happiness
Many people chase pleasure instead of happiness because they are not clear on the difference. Happiness is an inner state of contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction that survives over time while pleasure comes from outside stimuli and makes you feel good in the moment. Happiness comes from feeling confident about our choices and our effort, while pleasure comes from getting more money, playing xBox, or eating a good meal. Pleasure can add to our happiness but it has strings attached: too much pleasure can also take away from happiness rather than add to it. Think of a chocolate cake sitting on your table. You can have a small slice or you can eat the whole cake. A small slice gives you pleasure which adds to your happiness. It also makes you happy because you exercised self-control and you will feel good about your decision tomorrow when you still fit into your new clothes. If you ate the whole cake, you get a jolt of pleasure. But that will fade quickly after the sugar high and will result in you feeling bad about yourself, your decisions, and your potential for fitting into those new clothes. What really makes you happy vs. what just brings you temporary pleasure? Define the actions that bring you contentment, satisfaction, and fulfillment and focus on those.
Define happiness so you can choose actions that will make you happier in the long term vs. just provide you a little pleasure in the short term.
Happiness Hack #26 Choose Happiness
Happiness Hack #26 Choose Happiness
Take control of your life and own your happiness rather than being a victim of the people and circumstances around you. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, only 10% of happiness comes from our circumstances, who we married the size of our house and how much money we have in the bank. 50% comes from our genes or natural disposition and the last 40% of our happiness is based on our choices. We can choose to be upset with our spouse, our boss, or the guy who cuts us off in traffic or we can choose to accept them with all their challenges and find reasons to be happy anyway.
Decide today that you are in control of your life and choose happiness.
Happiness Hack #27 Nurture Positive Relationships
Happiness Hack #27 Nurture Positive Relationships
Giving to positive relationships is one of the strongest indicators of happiness. It is not about what you get from those relationships, but what you give to them. Spending time with friends and family and appreciating what they bring into your life will make you happier. The key is to focus on what you can bring to the relationship rather sitting back and waiting for someone else to make you happy. Trying giving 100% to your relationships and expecting nothing in return. More than likely they will return the favor, but even if they don’t, the feelings of satisfaction and contentment that come from giving authentically of yourself will provide lasting happiness.
Focus on what you can give to your relationships instead of what you will get and not only will the other people in your life be happier, but so will you.
Happiness Hack #28 Find Your Higher Purpose
Happiness Hack #28 Find Your Higher Purpose
We all need something bigger than ourselves to focus on. If we focus internally we tend to become critical and think negatively about ourselves. When we find something bigger than ourselves it adds purpose and meaning to our lives. Your Higher Purpose could be your religion, contributing to your family, or helping your team members reach a difficult goal. It might include a charity, a social movement, or sharing your music or other talents with the world. Your Higher Purpose serves as your “Why”. Why do you get up every morning? Why put in all that effort and hard work?
What are you passionate about? What are your strengths? What do you believe? Those answers will guide you to your Higher Purpose. Learn more here.
Find something other than yourself to focus your thoughts and efforts on and you will be happier and more fulfilled.
Happiness Hack #29 Focus on the Now
How to be Happier by Appreciating Now Instead of Worrying About the Past or the Future
Oppenheim said “the foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.”
Mindfulness is about looking at what is around us and under our feet rather than missing the “now” because we are worrying about the future.
One of our biggest challenges in life is focusing on what is right in front of us. We are either chasing the happiness that will come if all the stars align, or regretting the past where we made mistakes and didn’t do things we should have done.
Practicing Mindfulness is one way to experience the gift of the present. Observing and appreciating what we have and what is around us today helps us find peace. Having gratitude that we have made it where we are, sets us up for a better future by giving us hope and confidence.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve immune function as well as reduce muscle tension, headache, stress, anxiety, and depression.
To be more mindful, wear a rubber band around your wrist and pop it or move it to your other wrist every time you catch yourself worrying about something you did in the past or what might happen in the future. Stop and appreciate your surroundings. Give people your full attention when you are with them. Slow down and enjoy your food. Think about the smell, taste, and texture of every bite. Schedule electronics free zones and times so you can absorb your surroundings or just think without distraction.
“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” Alice Morse Earle
Happiness Hack #30 Find a Way to Love Your Work
Use Job Crafting to Create a Job You Love
We spend more than half of our waking hours working. Connecting those hours to something we love vs. hating every minute can make a significant difference in our happiness. Find a job you love and if you can’t find a job you love, find out how the job supports your passions. Your job can be how you earn enough money to surf or play music. You may not be passionate about the job, but you are passionate about what it enables you to do. The key is to put your job into the perspective of your passions or dreams.
Job crafting is one way to find more interest in your job. How can you make adjustments in your job so it leverages your strengths, calls on your passions, and changes the boring and routine tasks?
Find connections in your work. Do you connect with the vision of the company or your friends and teammates at work? Can you be passionate about helping you co-workers succeed or help your team complete a big project? Focus on how your work can make a difference in someone else’s life.
It is not about the job, it is about how you perceive and think about the job. You can focus on the reasons you hate it or you can focus how it adds to your life.
Find ways to love your work and you will be happier.