“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”-Dalai Lama
If you are feeling kind of “meh” today, it’s time to get happy! Now before you tell me you don’t have time to do it, here are 10 ways to do it in under a minute. I have provided a little context and commentary on each one.
1. Take one deep breath.
Just one deep breath can turn down your “fight-or-flight” system and activate the “rest-and-restore” system of the body. Got 15 seconds more? Take another deep breath.You’ll feel even more content.
I find myself doing this a lot, especially at work during a tough day, usually on a phone call with someone that is NOT happy. As the other person rants and raves I can feel my body starting to react-fluttering stomach, cold hands, tight throat. A few breaths restores me and I am able to handle the situation professionally and diffuse a potentially explosive situation. But heck, do it even if you are just feeling blah and notice how much better you feel.
2. Find something in your day, however small, that triggers a feeling of gratitude.
You had a good breakfast, you have a job, or maybe you enjoyed reading the news this morning. Absorb the feeling of gratitude for a few moments. Lingering on a positive experience helps install it in your brain.
I told myself this morning that I was glad to go to the gym. I work from home on Fridays so its easier for me to go the gym, come home and start working. It’s the little things.
3. Find something in your day that didn’t happen that triggers a feeling of gratitude.
No one got sick today, you didn’t have car trouble, nor did you have a fight with anyone.Things could always be worse.
I am grateful that back pain did not happen this morning. I have been working diligently to keep my hamstrings stretched and work out purposefully to avoid aggravating my back muscles. Kudos to my trainer Brian for having my best interests at heart and keeping me healthy.
4. Smile. Many people think of happiness as something that must come from “the inside out,” from your mind to your behavior. But happiness can also come from “the outside in,” from your actions to your mind. The deliberate decision to smile will activate your happiness chemicals, as described in #5 here.
As I mentioned, I am not a morning person. Going to the gym in the morning does not make me happy. However, Brian always has a smile on his face and an upbeat demeanor, which makes me smile. My workout tends to be easier after that.
5. Slap a label on your negative feelings.
“Angry.” “Helpless.” “Sad.” “Anxious.” Just labeling your emotions can ease the suffering you are feeling. Why? Attaching a label will shift your brain activity from the emotional part of your brain to the thinking part of your brain. You will hurt less and feel more in control. More here.
I wouldn’t say I was experiencing negative feelings per se, but I was feeling a little lost. Adrift. Off my path. I named it and reflected on it. I talked to my life coach about it. It got me back on track.
6. Sit up straight.
Amazingly, poor posture can actually cause negative emotional states. Studies (link is external) show that slouchers experience lower mood, self-esteem, and confidence than those with upright postures.Sitting up straight can actually cause positive emotional states—a sense of confidence, assertiveness, and happier mood. Bonus: Good posture will also help your physical well-being and prevent many types of neck, shoulder, and back problems.If you want a mood lift, pull your body upward. You’ll feel happier.
Due to my back issues, this one goes almost without saying. I have been working on my posture, especially since I tend to sit at a desk all day, mostly for physical reasons. The bonus for me is that it may increase my mood too!
7. Notice the small pleasures and consciously appreciate them.
Author and PT blogger Rick Hanson writes about the health and happiness benefits of “taking in the good” in his ground-breaking book, Hardwiring Happiness. He recommends appreciating the little things, noting that, “Most opportunities for a good experience arrive with little fanfare. You finished an email, the telephone works, you have a friend.” For best results, bring pleasant objects, thoughts, and people to the foreground of your awareness. Linger for 5 seconds or more on the good experience so that it can sink into you. Your happiness level will tick steadily upward!
The one thing I look at every day and appreciate is the flowers on my deck. The little burst of colorful nature outside my door brings joy to my heart. I planted them, I water them, and in turn they give me simple satisfaction.
8. Appreciate yourself.
Think of one thing you’ve already accomplished or handled well that day or a good quality that you’ve demonstrated—a start to a project, a phone call, or even an honest talk with a colleague that ended well. Drawing your attention to your own strengths will lift your spirits.
My venture to the gym today definitely counts here. Fridays were typically a day off for me, but getting up and going in the a.m. is definitely a reason to appreciate myself.
9. Find positive meaning in negative events. If you had a setback today, is there a rapid way to turn your lemons into lemonade? Here’s one: Start by thinking of your setback as a “challenge” rather than a “failure.” That takes 5 seconds or less; in the remaining 25, begin to think about how to cope.
I tend to reflect on my setbacks and try to discern the lesson I have been given. Looking back at my car accident, I learned that maybe life was going along a little too easy. It was time to shake things up, really focus on LIVING, get out of my comfort zone some. I am still working on this, but I view it as a positive learning experience.
10. Use a desktop photo to remind you of the purposes and pleasures of your life. A photo of your family, your travels, or a favorite saying can restore your sense of values and promote moments of happiness. Taking a “micro-break” by enjoying a photo of a natural scene can even promote health—by lowering stress and blood pressure—as well as happiness. To keep from habituating to one photo, change it up periodically.
I have included a picture of my desk items with this blog. The “I Love Ohio” card I stamped myself at an art event. The stone holder was hand crafted by a local Ohio artisan, and the rocks are from my collection. The wire guitar was made for me by an artisan in Key Largo, FL. They collectively remind me of my love of art, rocks, and music. When I look at them I feel instantly happy. So easy!
Now you are armed with some simply tools to get happy in seconds. Put them to work, be positive, and reap the benefits.