“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
– William Shakespeare
This is curated content from the book The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha. I’ve known about this book for a long time now but only recently have I actually decided to buy it and dive in.
Here is a list, backed by research, on 7 ways to be a happier person. These ways can be done every single day if you really wanted to, and are very simple.
It’s common knowledge at this point to know that physical activity is good for your brain and thus makes you happier. The American Psychosomatic Society published a study that shows that just 30 minute brisk walks three times a week can improve recovery from clinical depression. That’s right, CLINICAL depression. The study proved to be more effective than medication. So all you need is 3 brisk walks a week to get the effective dose. I do a couple of push ups in the morning and kettle-bell deadlifts or kettle-bell swings to get my blood flowing.
The 20-minute replay
This is one of the reasons why I write, for myself really. Writing for twenty minutes about a positive experience dramatically improves happiness. You relive the experience as you’re writing it, and relive it again every time you read it, your brain doesn’t know the difference!
Richard Slatcher and James Pennebaker had one member of a couple write about their relationship for 20 minutes, 3 times a day. Compared to a test group, the couple was more likely to engage in intimate conversations and the relationship was more likely to last. Pretty compelling stuff.
Random acts of kindness
Martin Seligman in his book Flourish said “we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
Sonja Lyubomirksy, author of The How Of Happiness had Standford students perform 5 acts of kindness at random over the course of a week. They reported much higher happiness levels than the test group. They felt good about themselves, and that makes you feel happy.
Think of all the random things you can do today. Buy somebody else a coffee, or a sandwich. Send a Christmas card to your neighbor. Buy chocolates for your coworkers. Buy somebody a book! Or just tell somebody you appreciate them and their work. But be careful, don’t expect to feel as happy if your underlying motivation is to gain something for the deed you’ve done. You’ll find yourself probably less happy then you were prior because your expectations lead you astray.
A complete unplug
I’m sure you’ve heard of “unplugging” before. Removing all devices and blue-light from the area a few hours before you go to sleep. Chris Bailey has spoke about this quite a bit in his book The Productivity Project. But there is quite a bit happy-science behind this. Don’t burn your candle at both ends. I don’t personally get rid of every device before I go to sleep, but I have in the past and it certainly does help. Instead of reading an eBook, read a REAL BOOK, it’s much more soothing on the eyes and the mind.
As Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz said in The Power of Full Engagement “The richest, happiest and most productive lives are characterized by the ability to fully engage in the challenge at hand, but also to disengage periodically to seek renewal.” How many times have we seen people working through the night to finish some project or contract, burning themselves out, but they have to finish it no matter what, so they stay up until 2am just to wake up at 6am and do it all over again while the other aspects of their lives dwindle. As much as I am a believer in hard word, constantly being busy doesn’t make you more productive.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The Ego falls away. Time Flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” This is from his book called Flow. This is how I feel often at times when I’m writing and focused, or reading, or working on anything in my own interests.
I remember when I was younger I would play guitar for sometimes hours after work and before I even realized it, it was 2am, and I had just been jamming on my squire strat with my Sony MDR studio headphones on. In those moments, all around you seizes to exsist in your mind. All the worries and anxieties of tommorrow melt away. I got a similar feeling when I was even younger, in high school, when I would skateboard, even though I was a terrible skateboarder, nothing else mattered for those brief moments of time.
Pay very close attention to what I’m about to tell you. Mediation can permanently rewire your brain to raise levels of happiness. Studies done at Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that the part of the brain associated with compassion and self-awareness grew after patients participated in a course of mindfulness meditation. On top of that, parts in the brain associated with stress shrank. Double whammy!
I’ve known about this for a long time, which is why almost a year ago I’ve committed to spending 10 to 15 minutes a day as often as I can to meditation using the app Headspace. Now, I will say this, there is a catch. Repetition is key, just doing one 2 minute meditation isn’t going to change your life. Make it a habit, it isn’t hard, it’s rather enjoyable if you get the right set up (for example, I use the myNoise app for some pleasant background noise.) But you’ll notice that after your first meditation, you should feel a sense of calm.
Merely focusing on being mindful throughout the day will make you happier and less stressed. Stress stems from thinking about the past or future, and things that are outside your sphere of control.
I used to do this every night after I read The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. It definitely works, and the only reason I stopped was because I lost the little pad I used to write it and just never bought a new one… pretty lame excuse.
Anyway, on a routine basis, grab a journal of some sort, or even make a website, and write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for from the past week or day. I used to do 3 to 5, sometimes I would see how many I could get, I think my highest was 7.
It has an unusual impact, and makes you realize how good your day actually was. I remember one time I ran out of gas on the side of the highway, but that night in the journal I wrote about how the guy who picked me up out of no where was in a brand new Black Series AMG Mercedes S class… the negative circumstance created the most positive highlight of my day.
On other days I might write something as simple as seeing an old friend, or that the weather was nice, or that the girl at Chipotle had a pretty smile. Just thinking about these things and writing them down embeds them into your mind, and thus a habit forms.
“If you can be happy with the simple things, then it will be simple to be happy.” – Neil Pasricha
Thank you for reading, this is only a small portion of the knowledge inside the book. Get the book today to understand the full scope of happiness. This book is an amazing reference guide and attitude hacker and should be read by people in all walks of life.
…remain forever a student.