Am I the only one who gets giddy with excitement at the start of a new year? Like proper can’t-go-to-sleep-because-tomorrow-is-the-big-day kind of excited?
I guess I can (reluctantly) admit that it’s a bit of a weird vibe for a middle-aged woman to get that enthusiastic over the dawn of a new year. After all, popular culture tells me that I’m supposed to be depressed (because I’m childless) and lonely (because I’m unmarried) and generally just miserable about the apparent emptiness of my future and my failure as a human being.
Well, SCREW THAT.
I freaking LOVE the new year. I love everything about it – the new possibilities, the big empty stretch of time ahead that I can fill with the most amazing experiences my imagination can muster up.
So this year, I decided to channel my new year bliss into something that would help spread the joy and optimism as far as I could. Inspired by (ok, ever-so-slightly ripping off) the 12 days of Christmas, I decided to share 12 ways to be happy with a daily video over on my Facebook page.
But if you missed the live show and still want to know how to be a happier person, never fear! I’ve collected all 12 happiness hacks for you right here on the blog. (I’m nice that way 😉)
If you’d rather watch a video than read a post, head over and watch them all here.
12 WAYS TO BE HAPPY
You can pick your favourite and ignore the rest, or (if you want extra brownie points for being super awesome) try out all 12 ways to be happy. They all work, why not give them a go and see which work best for you?
1. Celebrate the small wins
Remember as a kid when you’d get a pat on the back or some kind words from an adult whenever you did something even remotely impressive? Like…drinking a full glass of water, tying even the loosest and most shoddy of bows on a shoelace, or pooping in the toilet instead of a pot plant?
We’re programmed to respond to praise, and one of the many disappointing things about being an adult is that we’re no longer surrounded by cheerleaders who celebrate our every achievement.
We all like to have high standards for ourselves. But what this can mean in practice is that we’re constantly striving for more and never acknowledging the gains we’ve made so far.
By taking a moment to notice and appreciate all that you’ve achieved you not only get those feel-good hormones flooding through your body, you’re also increasing your self-confidence and self-esteem.
And we can all do with a little boost in these areas, don’t you think?
The best way to celebrate your small wins is to start by capturing them. Write them down in a journal or notepad, or even an online app like Evernote.
If you’re struggling to think of any wins in the recent past, you can grab the journalling prompts included as part of the free video training and write to those.
Celebrate the small wins, and you’ll feel good about yourself. Isn’t that what happiness is all about?
2. Start the day slowly
Too many of us lurch awake at the sound of an alarm and switch right into automatic pilot. We feed, water and groom ourselves then rush out the door to meet the obligations of whomever is paying us. We’re ‘on’ from the moment we wake up (or for some of us, the moment we finish our first coffee) and our mood is totally dependent on factors outside our control.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Taking even half an hour each morning to do activities that put us in a good frame of mind can have positive ripples that improve the whole day ahead.
Your slow morning might include stretching, yoga, meditation, reading a few pages of an inspirational book, journalling or even just staring out the window for 20 minutes with no expectations or anxiety about what you “should” be doing instead.
Hal Elrod, author of the global phenomenon The Miracle Morning, shares countless examples of people whose lives have been improved by this practice.
So where do you get this magical extra half hour that lets you start the day more slowly? Well, you wake up half an hour earlier. Simple, no?
Now I have to be one of the least morning-friendly people I know, so the fact that I’m recommending this process just goes to show how life-changing it is. (I mean that quite literally – check out the reviews for The Miracle Morning on Amazon; I’ve never seen so many people use the word “life-changing”).
If you’re finding it hard to believe that the positives of starting the day slowly outweigh the very real negatives of getting less sleep, I’d encourage you to just give it a try for 3 days in a row. It might just be life-changing.
3. Do a good deed for a stranger
It’s one of those weird quirks of human biology that doing good things for somebody else, makes us feel good too. Just think of how great it feels to give a gift to a loved one and see their face light up when they realise it’s exactly what they most hoped to receive.
Research shows you can get the same feelings from helping total strangers. Some ideas for how to do this:
- Help an old lady across the street (that old classic)
- Invite someone to go ahead of you in the Post Office queue or supermarket line
- Leave a 100% tip for your server
There are squillions of ways to apply this happiness hack to your own life. Give it a go, and as well as the happiness effect you can sleep a little more soundly in the knowledge that you’re making the world a kinder and better place.
4. Spend some time in nature
Here’s a shocker – humans weren’t designed to thrive under fluorescent lights and reconditoned air. We evolved as part of the natural environment, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that research shows such a strong link between our wellbeing and time spent in the natural world.
A study coming out of Stanford found that spending 50 minutes walking in nature improves your mood and memory, while a 90 minute walk seemed to reduce the risk of depression. And the good news for we city-dwellers is that the effects aren’t only confined to the big wide open spaces of the great outdoors. Talking a walk in your local city park is just as good.
If 50-90 minutes walking in a park seems like too long to carve out of your day, you’ll be happy to hear that a study from Finland found that people started to feel restored after just 15 minutes sitting outside.
They were just SITTING, y’all.
So there’s really no excuse to skip this happiness hack. Go for a walk in your local park today!
5. Laugh in the mirror
This happiness hack sounds crazy, and I’m not gonna lie – when you do it you’ll also look crazy. But it’s a total mood-lifter and it’s definitely one of the fastest and more simple of these happiness hacks.
If you want to see just how ridiculous it’s possible to look while doing this, head over and grab the free video course. If nothing else, you’ll be able to laugh at how stupid I look as I demonstrate it!
Here’s another cool but weird fact about we human folk. While you and I might believe that we think a thought, and that thought causes us to feel an emotion, and that emotion causes our face to move (eg to laugh, to cry, to look frightened), the weird thing is that it’s been proven that it can also work in the opposite direction.
So if you move your face into a smile, your body notices that shape and thinks that you must be happy – so it creates the feeling of happiness.
Isn’t that just astounding?
You’re probably already subconsciously aware that your body works this way. After all, if you feel down but want to hide it from the world you’ll put your “chin up” or “hold your head high”. Holding your body this way causes you to feel more of the positive emotions you’re trying to mimic.
So use this hack to your advantage. Fake-laugh in front of the mirror, and soon enough you’ll be genuinely laughing. I promise.
6. Dance like nobody’s watching
Yes, yes I know it sounds pretty cheeseball, But this saying is plastered all over Instagram and self-helpy websites for a darn good reason. It works!
Like I explained in happiness hack #5, the way you move your body can literally change your mood and emotions. I think it’s Tony Robbins who says “motion creates emotion”.
I’d like to tweak this quotable quote just a little, and say that instead of dancing like nobody’s watching, I’m suggesting that you dance WHEN nobody’s watching. Dancing in the privacy of your own home lets you get your groove on with zero self-consciousness. So for this mood-boosting happiness tip, all you have to do is draw the curtains, crank up some tunes, and dance your heart out.
7. Conscious acts of kindness
I’m not sure if anyone else has ranked their top three favourite happiness researchers (I can sense your blank stares from all the way on this side of the screen), but I sure as hell have. And this happiness hack comes from the research of my number one favourite – Shawn Achor – in his book The Happiness Advantage.
I spoke a little in happiness hack #3 about the positive effects of kindness (in that example, it was being kind to a stranger). But this recommendation is a little more specific and comes straight out of the research findings in Shawn’s brilliant book.
Here’s what you need to do:
Take two minutes to write a short text or email of just two sentences that praises or thanks someone you know.
It can be a friend, family member, work colleague, neighbour, fifth grade school teacher, absolutely anyone. The praise doesn’t need to be about a life-altering event, either. It can be as simple as thanking your neighbour for bringing in your bin on rubbish day, or thanking your aunt for taking the time to make such a delicious cheesecake for your son’s graduation.
The results of doing this simple action just once a day for three days are quite astonishing.
And it’s not even just about the positive response you get from the person you’re thanking (though that is pretty great), it’s just the act itself of showing appreciation that makes you – the giver, not the receiver – feel wonderful.
I’m a real fan of this one – not least because I strongly believe we should share praise and gratitude at least as freely as we tend to throw around blame and criticism. If you’re brave enough to try this happiness hack, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
8. Hang with happy people
Have you ever noticed that there are some people who you just can’t get enough of? Being around them makes you feel great, gives you energy and makes you feel like you can take on the world.
Then there are other people who just seem to drain the life out of you. No matter how hard you try to guard against it, you feel more and more depressed the longer you spend around them.
We all know this happens, so all this happiness hack is asking you to do is to take that knowledge and be conscious about applying it. Shape your circumstances so that you can spend more time with those who boost you up, and less time around the “energy vampires” who drain your happiness tank.
9. Feed your soul
Our brains are beautiful and magical blobs of awesomeness. But in a certain sense, they’re also like machines. If you feed in pessimism, hate, judgement, stress and anxiety, you’re going to get the same amount of crappiness coming back out.
Your experience of the world comes from your perception of what’s happening in it, not the actual events themselves.
That’s why you can get two people experiencing the exact same event (eg waiting for a delayed train) who have completely different experiences (Person A is cranky, irritable, and screaming inside; Person B takes consolation in the extra time she has to finish listening to a podcast).
So if you want to feel more positive, inspired and happy about life in general, then take the time to nourish yourself with positive and uplifting content.
Maybe it’s saying daily affirmations, maybe it’s listening to an uplifting podcast as you get ready for work in the morning, or perhaps it’s reading an inspirational book last thing in the evening.
Do this every day, and you’ll be retraining your brain to see more positivity and joy in the world around you. And it’s much easier to be happy when you’re seeing sunshine and rainbows than it is when the world looks like a stinky toilet bowl, right?
Want some ideas for positive books and podcasts to add to your list?
Grab access to the free video training and download my happiness resources guide from lesson 9.
10. Treat yourself as you would a friend
For many of us, “the golden rule” was drilled into us as children – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Ironically perhaps, the older we get the more likely it is that we need to be reminded of the flip-side of that rule.
Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.
Have you ever stopped to listen to some of the terrible things we say to ourselves in our head? Our inner voice is probably the most critical and nasty that we’ll ever hear from anyone ever. On any given day we might tell ourselves we’re ‘stupid’ for making that mistake, or we’re ‘fat and ugly’ or ‘thick’ or any other number of horrible adjectives that we’d never dream of directing at another human who we actually care about.
So what can we do about it?
When you catch that inner voice being her nasty-ass self, stop for a moment and imagine that those words were directed at someone you love. A friend, a family member, a child.
Unless you’re a monster, you’d NEVER speak to someone else that way. So imagine what you would say to someone you care about. And substitute the nasty self-talk with that other statement instead.
It’s hard to be happy with someone saying mean things to you a hundred times a day. So take charge, and change the words you say to yourself so that you have the space to enjoy life as the positive ray of sunshine you are deep inside!
11. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because this one comes so far down the list, it’s not as important as the other tips.
This may well be the most important happiness habit of all!
Gratitude is like a superpower. There’s been a ton of scientific research on how a gratitude practice affects wellbeing, and the results are truly astonishing.
It’s been proven to improve everything from mental health to sleep to work performance (yes, a gratitude practice actually helps you do better at your job).
To take full advantage of this superpower, all you have to do is write down 3 things you’re grateful for each day. That’s it. Use a journal and write them down before bed. Or use an app that sends you reminders at various points in the day so you don’t forget to pay attention to the good things around you.
However you’d like to do it, just do it. I promise that within just a couple of days it’ll go from being a mildly annoying habit you’re trying to take up, to being something that you absolutely love and look forward to doing each day. Just do it!
12. Create your happiness bank
This happiness habit is all about preparing now for the times when you’re going to need a boost later on. Your happiness bank is basically a collection of words, activities, pictures or anything else you gather together that you know make you feel happy.
Bring them all together and write them down – on post it notes that you stick on the wall, on small slips of paper that you place into a special happiness jar, on your computer or favourite note-taking app, or anywhere else you want them to live.
That way when you feel like you need a lift, you don’t have to ask your unhappy/miserable/sulking brain to come up with any creative solutions to help lift you out of that mood. Because your positive, inspired, optimistic brain already did the heavy lifting when you deposited into your happiness bank. Now all your grumpy brain has to do is choose something from the jar or post-it note collection and do what it says.
Some examples of ideas you might deposit into your happiness bank: take a bubble bath, walk the neighbour’s dog, go for a run, go for an ice-cream, colour in my colouring book, get a manicure. Your happiness bank will be unique to you. Plan in advance, deposit into the happiness bank when you’re in a great mood, and then withdraw as and when you need it!
So there you have it, 12 simple ways to be more happy.
If you’re ready to take it to the next level and create a life so awesome that you barely need to rely on happiness hacks (I’ve done it so I know it’s possible), then you might be interested in my coaching services.
I only take a small number of private clients each year, so if you’re interested in being one of them, head over to https://trish.as.me/freecall and we can work out if we’re a perfect match.