Have you noticed when you most need a happiness boost your motivation is at an all time low?
It is certainly true for me. If I am feeling a little blue, finding the energy for an activity that will boost my happiness seems like the last thing I can do. In fact, when I am lying on the couch under my blanket – the last thing I want to do is work on my happiness.
But, although we might not want to make the effort, it is times like these when we need a happiness boost the most. That’s why I recommend having a few effective low-effort activities you can pull out of your back pocket when needed.
If you don’t have a list already – below are my 7 go-to low effort happiness boost exercises to help get the ball rolling.
There is a lot of research about the best way to approach gratitude exercises to boost your happiness over the long term. But for me, gratitude works great as an instant fix.
When you’re feeling low grab your phone and send a gratitude text to someone. Take the time to genuinely describe your appreciation for something they have done/do. Writing the text will give you a boost as you think about them and how best to thank them. And if you get a nice response – that is a lovely added bonus.
Your facial expressions play a part in setting your mood. Pretending to be happy can trick your brain into believing you are happy. (Fun fact, a study has found that people that can’t frown because of botox as less likely to be sad.)
One advantage I have found in this world of mask-wearing is when someone annoys me (which is not uncommon) I can grin like an idiot under my mask to start turning my mood around.
Phone a friend
We are built for social connections and interactions with the people we care about will make us happier. Obviously, some of our loved ones will make us feel happier than others when we are feeling down. So, pick the friend you need and make a meaningful connection to boost your mood.
If you can’t get in touch with a friend. A friendly chat with an engaging stranger will also help. So put on your fake smile and jump into those “Nice weather we are having” conversations.
Think of happy times
Thinking about a good memory can also help to improve your mood. When you are feeling low, take the time to relax and really explore a pleasant memory. Why were you happy? What did it sound like? What did it smell like? See if you can get a smile back on your face.
Hugs help release your bonding hormone oxytocin which will help lift your mood. The research suggests that a 20sec cuddle is a sweet spot and it can work with humans, animals, yourself and hug machines.
But if you were thinking about grabbing a stranger for a squeeze – you do have an alternative. Lingering eye contact can also get the oxytocin going – so that may be a better option for legal reasons.
Exercise is a great way to get the endorphins flowing and your mood improving. However, if you are anything like me, what little motivation I have to exercise does not exist when I am feeling down.
So my hot tip is to roll off the couch and start with an exercise that is low to the ground. My personal favourite is push-ups. By the end of a couple of sets, the endorphins have kicked in and I am usually laughing at myself because I am struggling so much.
Try something new
Novalty is a great way to pick up your mood. So put your thinking cap on and think of ways you can try something new with little as effort possible. You may enjoy learning something new on Youtube or getting a new food delivered to your door. Think of the things that interest you and can spark joy in your times of need.
Is your pocket full of happiness boost tricks?
So next time you are feeling in need – make sure you have a pocket full of tricks ready to pull out as needed. The most effective activities will be different for everyone so make sure you know what works for you.
Please note: These activities are meant for little happiness boosts when you are feeling a little down. If you are struggling with your happiness make sure you reach out to an appropriate professional immediately to get the support you need.
Have you consumed a lot of content about how to be a happier person but still seem to be in the same ol’ mood?
You are not alone. And there are good reasons for this.
In this post, I am going to share my top tips on happiness from not only consuming a mountain of research, articles, podcasts and videos – but also from my personal experience.
Happiness Set points
Let’s start by talking about set points.
We all have a happiness set point. This is a level of happiness that we always return to. Unless we put in some hard work.
For example, if right now if I gave you a large cash prize or a reward you have always dreamed of. Initially, you would be exceedingly happy. But eventually, you would return to your happiness set point.
It also works the other way too. If you were unfortunate enough to experience something devastating. Things would be definitely tough for a while but you would slowly rise back up to that set point again.
Now, although it is relatively easy to boost happiness immediately in your life. (Think of eating your favourite food or buying yourself that special something.) It is tough to make yourself a generally happier person on a consistent basis.
Said another way, in order to raise your happiness set point, you are going to need some dedication and effort.
When it comes to your happiness set point – a lot is beyond our control.
About 50% of your general happiness is contributed to genetics. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how important you are, whatever you do, you are stuck at this level thanks to your DNA.
The next component that contributes to your happiness is circumstances. You have some control over this – but not really. It is estimated that circumstances could account for as little as 10% to as much as 40% of your level of happiness.
This means that we can only influence around 25% of our happiness.
How do we maximise our 25%?
There is a lot of information out in the world to help you increase your happiness with thousands of recommended exercises and activities. So much, that it could make you feel overwhelmed and unhappy…
So, below are my top tips to help you select what works for you so you can boost your happiness permanently.
Some happy things will make you unhappy
It will be no surprise to you that different things make different people happy. So, remember this when selecting your exercises to boost your happiness.
It is most likely you will have a gut reaction to the activities that don’t resonate with you.
For example, research shows that writing and sharing forgiveness letters can give you a lasting boost to your mood. But for me, a historically unforgiving soul, just the thought of writing a forgiveness letter makes my neck tense up and my brow furrow.
Some happiness won’t fit
The right activities for you will need to fit into your daily routine.
As much as you might want to take up a regular mediation or exercise program, in reality, it may be a challenge for you to carve out the time on a regular basis.
In these circumstances, you may be better off committing to gratitude exercises or random acts of kindness that you can benefit from doing just once a week.
Some things will make you happier than others
It is obvious that some activities will make you feel happier than others.
Research can give us important feedback on what works on a significant amount of people, but that does not mean it will work for you. The only way you will know is by trying them.
Being a happier person takes trial and error
The more activities you try, the more you will discover about what resonates, works and fits into your life.
You can also tweak recommended exercises and frequencies to find what suits you best. The more activities you can find that boost your happiness – the more options you have to utilise.
Many options are good because variety is also an important component of any happiness program you build into your life.
Habits are key to being a happier person
The key to increasing your happiness set point is to adopt the activities that work for you into your everyday life. They need to become habits.
This will take a while, but once you put in the hard and consistent work, your life will have a permanent happiness boost. And isn’t that worth putting on your hard hat and gloves for?
Choose your own adventure
If you are trying to be happier you may be looking for a simple formula – a happiness formula.
We live in world of systems, formulas and programs that promise to help us achieve our goals. And when it comes to dialing up feelings of happiness in our life – aligning our efforts to a proven equation seems attractive.
There are lots of formulas to choose from. But, how do you know which will work for you?
If you want to improve your happiness – it is good to treat your journey like a “choose your own adventure” story.
Everyone is different. What makes you happy – might not make me happy. So, the key is to find what works for you.
Finding a happiness formula (or just part of one) that resonates with you will allow you to start thinking differently. It will help you choose a direction towards a happier you.
So, if you are ready to get started – you are in the right place. Below are some of the basic principles and popular happiness formulas you need for your journey.
Happiness formula rule #1: Explore at will
Before you set off on your happiness journey – it is a good idea to explore your options.
When you do – you will see that there are many different routes you can take. But, this is no reason for concern.
Happiness formulas are like any equations. If, for the sake of demonstration we assume that happiness equals 4. We know there are many options to get us there.
2+2=4, 3+1=4, 8-4=4, 2 squared equals 4.
I think we can “happily” agree that all these equations get us to the answers. It’s just a matter of using the one that works for us – when we need it.
But, which one is the happiness formula you need?
I would argue that it is unlikely that a happiness formula is going to solve all your happiness-related problems. But, I would also argue that you can learn some fundamental points from many of them that can help you on your journey.
So, given all the options, the more you explore, the more likely you are to find things that works for you.
Happiness formula rule #2: Take what you like – leave what you don’t
Another problem we face on our journey is, unlike math, the science of happiness is subjective.
So, not being experts ourselves. How do we really know that an author’s X + Y = 4 and not 5 or 6? Well, we don’t.
The formulas we see are from authors who have years of research, experience, prestige and other important things that add weight to their arguments. So we can use these as one measuring stick for their validity. But all these things might not help you on your happiness journey.
The real key is to find what works for you. So, I invite you to judge the options as you like and see what resonates.
Take from them what you want and leave what you don’t want.
Start your happiness formula adventure here
Below are some noteworthy and popular happiness formulas (in a nutshell) to get you started on your exploration.
Happiness formula best sellers
The businessman and entrepreneur, in his popular book, Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy (2017), states that:
Happiness (is greater or equal to) Your perception of events – Your expectations
So, lower those expectations.
The New York Times best-selling author, in his book The Happiness Equation (2016), provides many “secrets” and tips with the following happiness formula:
Want nothing + Do anything = Have everything
So, along with your expectations, keep your desires low.
A happiness formula from a happiness founding father
Martin Seligman was a founding father of Positive Psychology. A branch of psychology that moved research away from studying the issues towards the positive elements that make as flourish.
Seligman’s formula is as follows:
H = S + C + V
Happiness (H) is your enduring level of happiness
Set range (S) is your genetically set level of happiness
Circumstances (C) are the present circumstances in your life
Voluntary variables (V) this is the part of the equation you can have influence over. This is approximately 40% of the equation and is divided into three buckets. The past, future and present. The more positive emotion you have about these three buckets the happier you will be.
This formula shows us that we are stuck with a certain level of happiness due to our genes and our circumstances, but the portion we can change involves the way we approach the past, future and present. The more positivity we have with our relationship with these buckets, the happier we will be.
So, think fondly about your past, positively about the future and keep trying to dial up your happy vibes in your day.
A three-part happiness formula from a modern-day happiness guru
Arthur C. Brookes is a Harvard Business School Professor, author and podcaster. Brookes gives the following equations to consider.
Equation 1: Subjective Well-being (Happiness) = Genes + Circumstances + Habits
Equation 2: Habits = Faith + Family + Friends + Work
Equation 3: Satisfaction = What you have ÷ What want
Brookes’ equations echo learnings from the formulas above. For example, we want to curb our desires and we only have so much happiness we can influence. But, Brookes tells us that the key for dialing up our happiness can be found within our faith, relationships and work.
Chapter 2 of your adventure
What resonated for you here? Did you find something that you want to work on and investigate further?
These formulas tell us that you can make yourself happier. And whether you want to work on your expectations, your relationships, your happiness habits or more – what you need to do is find the right path for you.
But, the most important step – is the next one. So, keep up the good work, and keep forging forward with your happiness adventure.
Where does your happiness adventure take you from here? Let us know in the comments!
Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash
This is a story about how to live an intentional life.
How to live an intentional life – and why, undisputedly, it is important.
Towards the end of my relationship, I had a consistent building urge to leave everything I had behind, get in the car and drive with nothing else but the clothes I was wearing. This eventually dipped into more severe suicidal thoughts, but I was lucky enough to dig my way back out of those moments and I put that mostly down to being a parent. Turning my thoughts to the children in those times was honestly what held me back from doing something so stupid.
I tried to mask everything from the kids as best I could but my situation and mental state utterly changed who I was and how I was as a parent. I didn’t function well and was prone to sudden outbursts of rage which I couldn’t control and were over the top for any of the situations. The distinct moment it hit me that things needed to change, was when my daughter who was 3 at the time stood there in tears in front of me – as I was having a moment – and said “don’t ever leave me”.
I have no idea how she picked up that that was going on inside my head and it still rattles me to this day that she was that in tune with who I was and what I was feeling.
I think the best way of thinking that I came across during my breakup was actually from a motivational speech that the actor Matthew McConaughey made. It was mostly about trying to simplify everything (I can’t quote it verbatim):
“If you eliminate everything negative from your life, naturally you’re only left with what is good.”
From this message, came the realisation that I don’t have to engage with what I don’t want to. If I don’t want to do something, that’s my choice to make. I have found that one line to be very helpful in simplifying everything.
I think I have almost pulled a complete 180 on where I had been. I no longer take any forms of medication, I don’t need to see the psychologist, I’ve picked up on my hobbies again and just generally enjoy life more.
Living an intentional life, minimalist living and decluttering have been in fashion a while now. For years, Marie Kondo has been asking whether our possessions spark joy.
Perhaps to oversimplify it. These movements ask you to look at your material possessions, life, and lifestyle and strip right back to a bare minimum, the core essentials, or a level that brings you peace and calm.
There is a myriad of methods and checklists out there to help you declutter your closest or fully audit your life. The industry is going strong.
The reported benefits include increased gratitude, reduced stress of living in the moment, greater clarity on goals and a more positive approach to life. All of which is great.
Intentional living can come in all shapes and sizes
When it comes to how to live an intentional life – I think it is important to step back from the noise, methods and devotees. Find the space to self-reflect and tune into your life.
Be aware of what you are doing and why. Take a moment from the neverending rabbit hole that our lives can be – and check in with reality. Make sure it’s one that works for you.
The story above is not by an expert. The story above is not someone that knows anything about the intentional, minimalist or decluttering movements. It is someone that heard a speech about minimalising the negative in their lives.
On the face of it – this doesn’t seem like a revelational message. Yet, it helped them to examine their lives from another angle. It supported them to turn their lives around from the depths of human sadness and presented a practical way forward.
I think the moral of the story is – if we are carried with life’s busy routines. Or, trying to achieve goals and success. Maybe trying to be the best version of ourselves. Or, just trying to survive. We need to be able to take a step back and observe for a moment.
What is sparking joy in your life at the moment?
If you take a moment to self-reflect and realise you need to let go of some negative things in your life – to make room for the good stuff – that sounds like a win-win situation.
But, now a tricky balance presents itself. Are you sacrificing what feels good now – for what might be good for you in the future?
If my personal growth journey to live with more purpose isn’t bringing me joy (sometimes change and purposeful activities aren’t fun) – there is an argument to drop it. Instead of putting in the hard and uncomfortable work now – I might choose to spend my time eating ice cream sundaes and taking trips to the beach.
But, research reports that a purposeful life brings overall feelings of fulfillment and wellbeing to our lives in the long run. So, this suggests that Future Me will be better off with a little more negative now. This seems to be a win-lose situation.
On the other hand, if I ditch the pursuit of purpose to focus on fun times and friends. The research suggests that relationships and friendships are what will bring enduring happiness in later years. So – this one feels like a win-win.
I could go on… (but luckily for you I won’t).
So, intentional living can save lives. But, maybe it could ruin your future?
How do we know whether what makes us happy (or unhappy) now is actually good for our future? I have a suggestion.
If you understand what you want your life to look like… you can intentionally work towards that.
The key here is to understand what your personal definition of success looks like, so you can align your activities and goals.
If you don’t know what a successful life looks like to you – I believe it is a balance between:
- What makes you happy
- Living in line with your core values &
- Pursuing what brings you meaning and purpose.
(I have a free course to help you find your personal definition of success if you are interested)
Therefore, in this case:
Intentional living can be defined as intentionally moving towards your definition of success.
As a result, maybe you need to only focus on only the positive right now. Or maybe, you do need to let go of 100 pairs of shoes. Or maybe, you do need to suffer through your body weight in dirty nappies.
Remember that you are unique – so is your definition of success – and so is your version of living intentionally.
So – my number tip on how to live and intentional life
Just do you. And do it intentionally.
Have you got the balance right in your life?
Pop a comment below & let me know your thoughts.
(Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash)
You can stop life feeling bored and… blah.
Research has found that living a boring life correlates with a lack of happiness and meaning. This means – the less we experience feelings of happiness and meaning in our day-to-day – the more bored with our lives we may feel.
Let me start by taking you back a couple of years. I used to have a job that was unrewarding with very few enjoyable interactions in the day. And, I would spend all my free time on the couch – watching shows that were rarely enjoyable.
I was living a life that was low on meaning and happiness – it was a boring life.
Now, as someone who dedicated years to a boring life. I know it can be hard to identify when you are living one. You get caught up in the routine (moving between a meaningless job and the couch) – and years can pass quite easily without you realising that things should be better.
If you have found your way to reading this – then chances are something here resonates. And if it does, I want to encourage you to start thinking about making changes.
So, if your life is feeling a bit boring… dull…. or, blah… please read on.
(If in fact, you feel like your life is high on meaning/purpose & low on happiness – then you might prefer to read this article: Living a purposeful life is not quite enough)
What is happiness & meaning?
This is not a straightforward question – but for the sake of this article lets define them as:
- Happiness: the existence of positive affect (and therefore the lack of negative feelings). This could be described as Hedonia (an ancient greek term) – meaning striving for joy, excitement, pleasure, comfort, etc.
- Meaning: feelings of purpose, value and worthwhileness. This could be covered by the term Eudaimonia – meaning striving for purpose and growth.
Both hedonia and eudaimonia have been found as components of life satisfaction.
It should be noted that eudaimonia (or meaning) can ultimately bring happiness into your life as well (often in a healthier and more sustainable way). But, I won’t go on about the benefits here because I covered purpose & meaning in detail in this article: Living a purposeful life is not quite enough.
So, today I am going to focus on the role of happiness (so you don’t have to live a boring life).
Why you need happiness in your boring life
There are a lot of benefits to having happiness in your life (besides the fact that it will make it less boring).
These can be physical, psychological and performance-based, such as:
Shawn Achor, the author of The Happiness Advantage, proposes that happiness and a positive mindset contributes to an increase in work performance across the board, including productivity, creativity and engagement.
Do these benefits seem worthwhile to you?
Why your loved ones need you – not to live a boring life
Now that I have put the facts before you. Do you want to work on increasing the happiness in your life? There are many reasons to do it for yourself.
But, there is another important reason.
Your happiness has a great effect on the people around you. It only takes a couple of minutes for your mood to be transmitted to another person. In fact, the closer your relationship the easier your mood can be transferred.
So – not only will a negative mood infect your loved ones. On the flip side – if you work on your happiness – not only will your life reap the benefits, the people around you will too, and the people around them, and so on.
You could be the cure to many boring lives.
Stop living a boring life
What makes you happy in your day-to-day life – might not be immediately obvious to you.
To put this another way. What brings you joy and excitement might be obvious. But, if you are like me, you may not realise how much time you spend on activities – that you mistakenly think are bringing you pleasure.
As an example – as a natural couch potato. I assume much pleasure can come from watching TV. However, often, I can find myself in front of the box:
- Just looking for things to watch
- Watching re-runs of shows that aren’t really amusing – or
- Watching shows that make me unhappy or stressed out.
In fact, apparently our enjoyment peaks at about 30mins – then we slowly turn into a joyless potatos. So, in my world – that is many hours spent without pleasure or happiness.
When you think about your days at work:
- How often are you happy?
- Does your work bring you meaning or excitement?
- Do you have exchanges with clients & co-workers that bring you pleasure?
- Do you manage to find enjoyment in breaks?
If you feel like you have a boring life – then maybe not.
So – as a first step towards dialling up the happiness in your life. I encourage you to:
- Identify the activities in your day-to-day that make you happy
- Identify how often you are doing activities that make you happy in your week
- Think about how “happy” you are with this balance.
This will be your (boring life) baseline from which you can build. And obviously, I encourage you to do this.
If not for yourself – do it for me. (Because due to the degrees of separation in the world – eventually, your happiness contagion should make its way to me!)
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
What brings you happiness in your day-to-day?
Pop and comment below and let me know your thoughts.
Tell your inner negativity bias that the glass is half full!
Are you guilty of being a Negative Nellie? I think many of us can be. I certainly am.
It can be a struggle to stop being negative. But, for the benefit of your day-to-day (and the day-to-day of the people around you), it is important to try. If you can manage to start seeing the glass as half full and not half empty – it can make a huge difference to how you feel about your life.
This glass half empty or Negative Nellie outlook – demonstrates negativity bias. Negativity bias is pretty much what it sounds like – a tendency to focus on the negative over the positive.
From a caveman perspective, this makes sense – because a pessimistic outlook can keep us safe and away from potential danger for reasons of survival. But, in this relatively safe day and age, it can be problematic and linked to mental health issues.
Being negative can spiral our moods into serious negative emotions (and, the moods of the people around us). When we approach life like Eeyore (from Winne the Pooh) it can impact our relationships, decision-making and general perceptions.
This is not to say that negativity, in general, is bad. As a hangover from our caveman days – we are more likely to pay attention to and learn from negative information. There are also health benefits from having mixed emotions. And although there can be benefits to suppressing negative emotions – researchers have found negative health consequences for people who fail to experience the emotions of negative life events.
So, being purely Positive Polly – is also not the end game.
The aim should be to approach life with an open mind and be able to focus on the positives. Not continuously dwell on the negatives.
So, if you are (also) someone that finds the glass half empty all too often. I wanted to give you a list of the quick & relatively easy tips that can help. Then we can then work on these together!
How to stop being negative – 5 top tips
1. Self-reflection & Self-awareness
That old adage “the first step in solving a problem – is knowing you have a problem” – totally applies here.
You need to be self-aware and understand that you are doing this – if you want to get on top of it.
When people ask you about something – do you first go to the negatives or the positives? (I am TOTALLY guilty of being a Negative Nellie)
2. Catch yourself
So, you know that the glass is mainly half empty? Great.
Now, you need to catch yourself when you are paying too much attention to the negative – so you can get onto point 3.
3. Have a word with yourself
When you catch yourself being negative – take a step back and assess what is really going on.
Is there a whole lot of positives involved that you are choosing to ignore? Have a word with yourself and focus on the positive that is there too (and probably in a much greater abundance than the negative).
Take the opportunity to reframe. No – this isn’t a disaster at work that will delay your project – this is an exciting new opportunity and challenge to rise to!
Is your inner voice telling you there is something wrong with you? Talk to it supportively like you would a good friend. Train that voice to be more kind and gentle.
Have you got a good gratitude practice?
In this world of gratitude journals and affirmations, there are lots of great habits to get into to focus on the positive in your life and savor those positive moments.
If you are less inclined to build these sorts of habits (like myself) – I recommend you just spend a second after you “have a word with yourself” (Step 3) and give yourself a mental high five for the positive you can find in the situation.
Also, when you are feeling down practice gratitude by thinking about 3 things you are grateful for today. This will kick your brain into a more positive frame of mind.
Mindfulness is a great practice to help keep out the persistent negativity.
I am all about mindful breathing and yoga when I need to quiet down those loud negative thoughts.
How to be happier day-to-day
So, now you know how to stop being negative.
Once you are up and running with this more positive practice – you can look forward to more positive vibes in your day (and maybe fewer friends avoiding you).
Remember to approach this process with a gentle and curious mind. The last thing you want to do is send yourself on a negative spiral for being negative all the time!
Hello Polly and goodbye Nellie!
First Published: January 7, 2021
Photo by Marios Gkortsilas on Unsplash
Do you struggle with being a negative Nellie?
Pop a comment below & let me know your thoughts.