6 Ways to Be Happier in Under 10 Minutes
By Franki Hanke
Of all the New Year’s resolutions to throw around, I want to be happier might be the best. Sometimes goals are inspired by societal pressure or self-comparison, but happiness? Happiness is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
But how the heck do you do it?
How to be happy?
Well, there’s good news and bad news.
Humans, according to psychologists Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, have a set level of happiness genetically and a standard level based on our circumstances in life. However, they approximate that 40% of our happiness is based on intentional acts.
So, you can impact your happiness a considerable amount!
The key takeaway from their review is this: “The pursuit of happiness takes work, but hopefully work that feels like play.” So, in thinking about the next six tips for finding happiness every day, remember these takeaways.
→ Customize them for yourself.
The more an activity fits into your personal interests, the more likely you are to continue it and the more it improves your happiness. If something doesn’t feel like it will work, it tends to not, so don’t invest time in things that feel useless (or work on adjusting your perspective on them before investing the time). When it comes to happiness, good habits should be enjoyable.
→ Don’t overdo it.
Sheldon and Lyubomirsky found that, in some circumstances, doing the activity less was more impactful. For example, for people who tried to practice gratitude daily, dropping it to once a week actually boosted the impact.
→ Seek out new and novel ways to find happiness.
Our brains tend to get used to things, including positive things, so the biggest boost comes from varied and novel activities. That doesn’t mean you have to trash this list of habits after a month, but swap certain actions in and out of routine or create variety within the same habit.
The final verdict from Sheldon and Lyubomirsky on becoming happier people: “It takes effort and attention, but it can be done.”
Try the 8-Minute Phone Call
It’s hard to stay connected with the people we love. But, we usually think, “Next week, I’ll find some time and call them,” right?
But usually, we don’t magically have more time. Instead of waiting, make time now with an eight-minute phone call.
The concept comes from Jancee Dunn for the New York Times in a combination of two recent studies. One found that brief phone calls a few times a week rapidly reduced rates of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. The other noted that across 932 conversations, rarely did a conversation end when it was meant to.
So, a pre-determined eight-minute phone call gives both sides a hard-out so you can safely squeeze a conversation into your daily routine. Brainstorm some people you haven’t connected with recently and try it out this week!
In fostering these connections, you’re strengthening your relationships which is one of the largest priorities for happy people and essential for a happier life.
Don’t roll your eyes! It’s legit. Numerous studies in patients with dementia, depression, or other mood disorders have shown again and again that dance movement therapy can improve mood.
Now, technically, dance movement therapy isn’t just dancing. It’s a therapeutic study of someone’s movements, but even just dance itself has been shown to improve mood too. So, for now, start with a song a day and let go. Embrace the endorphins of raising your heartbeat and embody your mood with your movements.
Try different genres or dancing styles to keep this habit novel and exciting!
If you find dancing to be positive for your mental health, consider seeking out a dance movement therapist to practice communicating negative emotions (or positive thoughts) through movement.
Take a Walk Outside
This habit is as multi-faceted as it is simple.
Walking itself can boost our physical health and psychological well-being, according to numerous studies from 2006 to 2019. Then, taking your walk in a natural, outdoor space adds another layer. Being outside in a green, natural space daily led to happier participants.
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The next layer comes with the sun. Sunshine improves our mood, according to a 2013 study that questioned the claim that “nice” weather improved well-being. In fact, three large-scale surveys showed that sunny weather correlated with higher life satisfaction. So, when the sun is shining, act like a plant and get ‘synthesizing.
But please, remember your sunscreen.
Then, layering on another enjoyable activity with your walk adds another benefit. Various other positive behaviors can be stacked with your walk for a customized cherry on top.
→ Pokemon Go, a location-aware mobile game, left players feeling happier and outside more often after playing.
→ Podcast listeners, on the other hand, reported feeling less lonely (due to their parasocial connection to their hosts). The important thing to remember, with podcasts, is that they are all unique. So, choose which you follow purposefully and consume the ones that feel joyful or enlightening.
→ Affirmations can improve self-esteem.
Choose things to try with your walk that sound most appealing, and remember you can always opt to just focus on the walk itself. Mindfulness has benefits all its own for a happy life.
However, if the weather is bad or you’re surrounded by concrete, you can swap your walk for a yoga flow. A 2010 study compared metabolically matched walking and yoga, meaning the intensity of the exercises were matched. Yoga reduced symptoms more than walking. So, choose your preferred physical activity day to day, but sneak in some light movement.
Schedule Your Notifications
Oh! Did you just get a notification from some social media? We all have a lot going on in our phones, and the notifications can interrupt a lot of the day. A 2019 study compared different notification styles including normal, none at all, and batched notifications.
The group with three-scheduled batches of notifications felt attentive, productive, and in a better mood. Comparatively, those with no notifications had minimized benefits and increased stress levels from the fear of missing out. The perfect balance is scheduling your non-urgent notifications. Then, address them in brief bursts throughout the day.
If you have an iPhone, open Settings, then Notifications, and turn on Scheduled Summary. This will trigger a pop-up that explains how it works and you can customize it for your schedule.
Help Someone Else
It might be hard to fit a volunteering gig into a ten-minute slot, but spending time or spending money on other people both correlate with boosted happiness. So, every day, consider how you could sneak a good deed in. Switch it up daily (or combine your daily ten minutes into a once-a-week routine).
→ Visit a local store and pick out a gift for a partner, friend, or neighbor.
→ Write a card or letter to a distant loved one.
→ Connect with neighbors to chore-share and help each other.
→ Find a volunteering gig once a week.
When you help others for part of your day (or week) your own happiness will improve.
Write a To-Do List Before Bed
You might have heard of using a gratitude journal* before bed before, but something more functional may be more beneficial. In a 2018 study, researchers compared the impact of journaling about completed tasks to creating a to-do list for the day(s) ahead.
Participants who wrote their to-do lists fell asleep faster and, presumably, started the next day with a plan. By easing the transition to bed, it’s easier to get enough sleep which is essential for all your other habits to work.
*If you’re a gratitude journal lover, I don’t mean to give you a hard time! However, you might get more from that habit if you take it a step further and tell the people who impact your life what you’re grateful for. A longitudinal study found that greatly increased the impact on well-being and depression.
Whether last year was amazing or not, this year is when small changes combine together for an overall improvement in your quality of life. Start with these small habits and watch your overall happiness grow.
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