Afternoon all! Here are days 5-10 form the 10 days happier series. Sorry it’s late 🙂
Day 5: Spend more time with your family and friends
Sounds pretty obvious but often neglected in our busy working lives.
Of everything on the list, social connection is perhaps the most important determinant of happiness. By this I mean real meaningful social connection, not through a phone or computer screen.
The longest ever study on happiness reports social connection as the number one indicator of well being. Check out this eye opening talk from Robert Waldinger on the topic. Heart warming to say the least.
Dan gilbert- a Professor of Psychology in Harvard University sums up my point nicely;
“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”
The seemingly obvious truth is that people with more friendships are less likely to be lonely, suffer from low self esteem and sadness.
A simple way to achieve more meaningful relationships is to practice altruism- being kind to others (strangers included!). Approach every interaction with an open mind. There is no more effective way to foster strong social connections. Who knows, you might make a new friend or two.
Action point for day 5:
1. Get in contact with an old friend or family member. Arrange to meet them for a coffee (or a pint) and catch up.
2. Come to the gym and join our extended family 🙂
Day 6: Get outside more
Ubiquitous with exercise for some, but worth considering as a happiness hack in it’s own right. It’s all too easy for us Brits to spend days on end without seeing any actual sunlight. This can have some pretty detrimental effects on your mood, especially through the winter months. Spending time in the sun has been shown to reduce stress, increase weight loss, improve brain function, slow the process of aging, increase vitamin D, and improve adherence to exercise.
Action point for day 6:
A simple one. Spend at least 20 minutes outside. Go for a walk on your lunch break or get off the train one stop early. It’s (supposedly) spring after all.
Day 7: Spend time helping others
I call this ‘Selfish Selflessness’ (bit of a mouthful, I’m working on it). Essentially, by helping others, you will become happier yourself.
In a recent study at Harvard Business school, researchers found evidence for a strong positive feedback loop between pro-social spending and happiness. In other words, charity or volunteer work has been proven to be one of the easiest way to improve your own happiness.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”
Action point for day 7:
If you don’t already, find some time to help someone other than yourself or your immediate family. It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment. Here are a few options to try and fit into your schedules-
• Age UK are always looking for buddies for the eldery (1 hour a week) Visit http://www.ageuk.org.uk to find out more
• Bagging up some old clothes and take them to a charity shop (2 hours max)
• Help out once a month at a soup kitchen, school, volunteering
Day 8: Practice Mindfulness
You have an estimated 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s 70,000 chances to build yourself up or tear yourself down. Spending time beating yourself up about decisions you have made or fretting about things you don’t like about yourself is a straight up waste of life.
In my experience, the most successful way to manage your thoughts is through Mindfulness. In recent years the practice ‘Mindfulness’ has been packaged in many ways, the most popular being meditation.
Having practiced some form of meditation for over a year now I can certainly vouch for it’s effectiveness. A great place to start is with the free ‘Headspace’ app. It takes a bit of getting used to, but at only 10 minutes a day it’s certainly worth a punt.
The underlying goal of mindfulness is to live in the moment. From the moment we wake up each morning we run a constant narrative in our head. Thoughts like ‘what am I doing today? where are the kids? I’m late for work! why did I say that last night?’ take over our minds, and before you know it the day is over and all you have done is over analyse, worry and plan about ‘Stuff’ in your head.
By spending time being mindful of your surroundings and soaking in the moment, you can drastically increase the amount of time you actually spend ‘living’. It’s worth reminding yourself that the only moment you can really change in your life is right now.
Mindfulness through meditation has also been proven to change you physiologically. In one study, the pre-frontal cortex of the participants’ brains (the part associated with compassion and self-awareness) grew, and parts associated with stress shrank!
Action points for day 8:
1. Download the headspace app and try it’s ‘take 10’ feature.
2. If meditation is not your thing, try the ‘One breath technique’. At various points throughout the day, stop whatever you are doing, take one deep breath in and out and focus on the sound, sights and smells around you…then crack on. It works, and we all have time to breath.
Day 9: Start a Gratitude journal
You might give me a bit of stick for this one but it certainly works. It’s easy to forget just how lucky we are. A little over a century ago, humans barely had time to worry about anything other than war, famine and procreation. Being alive today makes you one of the luckiest people in the history of the world! Carving out time to appreciate that helps remind us just how fortunate we are.
Start a gratitude journal. Every evening before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you are grateful for. Sounds cheesy, but it’s a great way to take stock of the day.
Action point day 9:
1. Start your gratitude journal. I personally use this 5 minute journal as it’s so simple and convenient.
Day 10: Start saying no (and yes) more
You don’t have to be everything, to everyone. I have certainly been guilty of this is the past.
‘Chris? Fancy a beer’
Although there is no doubt that a beer with your mates increases your happiness (right?), it’s stretching yourself by trying to please everyone, at all times that induces feelings of anxiety and stress. Take a step back, cut down your commitments, and take some time for yourself.
Now that you have some more free time (see above), start saying yes to experiences that are likely to boost your wellbeing. Nearly all of the above points can be achieved by saying yes and dedicating a little more time to yourself. Try it. I guarantee it will change your life.
Action points day 10
1. Say no to 3 things that wont help improve your life.
2. Say yes to 3 things that will carve out some time for the 9 points above.
Bringing it all together
Ok, this is the bit where you must all be thinking. Who has time for all this? I have a family to look after, bills to pay, a business to run, work to do etc.
As nice as it would be to sleep 8 hours a night, train every day, eat a perfect diet, see your mates every week, then help the homeless whilst meditating and writing a journal, life tends to have a way of throwing a spanner in the works.
The important thing here is to prioritise some of the above mention techniques by creating habitual rituals to force yourself to add them into your day.
Next week I will record a simple 20 minute Morning routine that we can all add into our day to help you on your road to a better you.
Then I will stop banging on about happiness altogether 🙂