There are many ways to increase the 40% of your happiness that’s under your control. My research has shown that some methods involve quite a bit of time every day, and some methods don’t. I’m concentrating on the ones that don’t because I’m guessing that you’d adopt these quicker—and become happier quicker!
1) Good News: Only Once a Week Instead of Daily
Researchers at Harvard Medical School explain that gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish their good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Positive psychology studies show that gratitude is strongly associated with happiness. Gratitude expert Professor Robert Emmons says, “Gratitude is a turning of the mind. It’s not what I don’t have, rather it’s what I have already.”
Now many people suggest you write a list of list 5 things each day that make you grateful. The good news I have for you is that you don’t need to do this daily. Studies by Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky found that people who focused on gratitude daily benefitted less than those who did it once or twice a week. I recommend focusing on gratitude 1 day a week—finding 3 things each time. Be sure to vary the types of things you consider. Your brain isn’t bored when you bring in variety.
2) All 5 Senses
Social psychologist Fred Bryant researches the art of savoring. When you mindfully concentrate on something—what you see, hear, touch, smell or taste—you increase your enjoyment of life.
Start making it a habit to savor 1 thing a day. Any of the 5 senses can be used. You can truly experience that first bite of dinner, looking at a sunset, smelling a warm apple pie, hearing one of your favorite songs, hugging a loved one or even petting a dog. Pick different things each day to savor and build your happiness one small savory bit each day.
3) A New Habit to Handle Overthinking
Studies show that people who overthink make cloudy judgments and their stress becomes elevated, but you can get a handle on this and stop a downward spiral. I’ll give you a choice of 2 simple habits you can use.
You can put the situation you’re stewing about into perspective by considering, “Will this matter 5 years from now?” If it won’t matter, then you’ve given yourself a logical reason to stop overthinking. If it will matter, then decide how much time you’ll allow yourself to make a decision about how to handle it.
When you catch yourself in unnecessary rumination—overthinking—you might like this simple technique to curtail it. Picture a red stop sign suddenly popping up in your mind. This is the technique people find most useful late at night when overthinking often occurs.
4) Take Advantage of the Habit Trigger
Professor Lyubomirsky says “If you want to reap long-term emotional benefits from a happiness activity, you need to devote persistent effort.” I’ve been recommending the following very simple habit. Each morning as you pick up your toothbrush say silently to yourself, “Because I’ve made the decision to be happier, I’ll think of 1 positive thought right now.” When you’re beginning this new habit you may want to put a photo or a printed inspirational quote near your toothbrush to help prompt you.
You’re performing what James Clear and Charles Duhigg call the Habit Loop: the trigger, the routine, and the reward. So in this case, the trigger is the act of picking up your toothbrush, the routine is brushing while thinking 1 positive thought, and of course the reward is a daily step toward a Happier You. And since this occurs in the morning, it’s a good start to your day.
5) Make Endings Important
One of the top researchers in positive psychology, Professor Barbara Fredrickson, enjoys a simple habit that I love. Studies show that people remember the peak moment of an event and also the ending of an event. It could be a seminar, a party or even having coffee with a friend. Take advantage of the endings that people will remember. This turning point can create and carry heartfelt meaning. Fredrickson advises, “Good endings include an appreciative summary—an honest acknowledgment of the goodness that transpired prior to leave-taking.”
So at this ending, I want to grace you with gratitude—making you happier as well as me. I appreciate that you took the time to read all 5 small habits that research shows will make you happier. As I leave you, I hope you’ll want to pass this article on to your friends, making them happier too!
Nancy F. Clark is the author of The Positive Journal: 5 Minutes a Day Toward a Happier Life, and Director of Forbes WomensMedia.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.