Why do I need a happiness routine?
Today I've got some good news for you!
You don't have to wait until you've found a clear direction or got the job of your dreams to be happy.
Seriously you can start feeling happier right now. Even if, no make that ESPECIALLY if you're in a job you hate and dread every single Monday morning.
Just think, if you can feel happy in your current situation imagine how amazing life will be when you do find your direction and make it all happen!
Most of us quickly snap back to our usual, negative ways of thinking even after we make big changes to our life situation. We might start complaining about the heat after moving to a tropical island, get bored of going to lectures after starting our dream degree or get that horrible Sunday evening dread before work at a new job.
Creating a happiness routine that makes you feel happier and more thankful for your life now will help you change the way your mind works. Then, when you change things in the future you'll really appreciate your amazing new life, even after the shininess wears off.
Having a life filled with things that bring us joy and suit our strengths makes it SO much easier to feel happy, but it isn’t everything.The only way we can really change our happiness is by changing how our mind is working.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” Mahatma Gandhi
How amazing is that? You are (or at least can learn to be) totally in control of your thoughts and therefore your actions and even YOUR DESTINY?!
That is the good news I was talking about! You don't need to hope that you get through that interview or the sun shines at the weekend or that new guy at work with the nice eyes remembers your name to be happy. You can be happy anyway! It's totally, 100% up to you.
So this article is a bit different in that it isn’t about big life changes and creating a life situation that makes you happy. Instead it’s about the little things you can do every single day that will help you feel like you’re really living your life as you go about finding your direction.
You don’t have to wait for a time in the future to be happy. You can be happy right now! We only have a 27,375 days on this amazing planet (if you're lucky) so you might as well make the most out of each one!
How to Plan Your Happiness Routine
Step One: Ask Yourself This Question:
1. “Are you at the maximum level of happiness you could be at for the situation you are currently in?”
If yes and you've already got loads of habits in place for keeping you happy then good for you!
If not or maybe you think you are but don't actually have any habits to keep you feeling happy (in which case you're probably not as happy as you could be haha) keep reading!
Step Two: Choose one of these habits to start this week
To get you maxing out your happiness, here are 8 habits you need to include in your daily life. The first 5 are from Shawn Achor's fast-paced TED talk “The Happy Secret To Better Work?” Which you can watch here.
1. Meditation and mindfulness
“One recent study, published in the Psychological Bulletin, combined the findings of 163 different studies. These suggested that mindfulness-meditation practice had an overall substantial positive effect on improving psychological factors including negative personality traits, anxiety and stress.” Headspace.com
I’ve been meditating for 10 minutes a day and trying to practice mindfulness as often as I can for 2 years now. It’s become way easier as time has gone on and it really helps me stay calm and go a little less crazy in situations where I would normally lose my temper or feel out of control! I’m also more aware of my mood and how my body is feeling. Headspace is a app I can 110% recommend just because it makes meditation so accessible and easy to include into your daily life. It's also free to use for the first pack!
2. Gratitude journal
According to studies by Robert Emmons of the Greater Good Science Center, gratitude practice makes you feel:
more alert, alive, and awake
more joy and pleasure
more optimism and happiness.
Who wouldn’t want all of those things?!
Since the start of the year, I’ve been writing down 3 things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep at night and writing in a bit more detail about one thing I'm grateful for every morning. To be honest before I started I didn’t really expect much but after watching Shawn Achor’s TED Talk I thought I’d give it a go. Man I’m glad I did because I have really noticed the difference!
I’m feeling way more positive and I really enjoy looking back and seeing all the great things that have happened to me so far this year! There’s nothing out of the ordinary but it makes you appreciate your life and everything in it sooo much more. You've gotta start today! (Plus it's a great excuse to buy yourself a new notebook!)
“People who walked or cycled to work had higher well-being scores than those who drove”
Livescience.com writer, Rachel Retner
I totally need my morning walk to the train station! It wakes me up and lifts my mood (which is needed as I am so NOT a morning person!)
I reckon the outdoors part is really important. Going to the gym just doesn't have has the same effect as a walk outside for me. Science has proven this too. A series of studies published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology show that just being in nature for 20 minutes a day makes you feel more alive!
4.Random acts of kindness
"In countless studies, kindness and generosity have been linked to greater life satisfaction, stronger relationships, and better mental and physical health—generous people even live longer.” Greater Good Science Centre
Live longer! Wow.
One thing I try and do regularly is to let people on or off the train in front of me. It’s usually a mad, horrible, pushing rush to get on and get a seat or get off the train when it’s stops. It feels great to not let that desperate urge take over and to stay calm, stand back and let people on in front of me. They always look so happy when I offer! Plus if I do it when I’m getting off the train, I notice the knock on effect it has. The people I let get out of their seats in front of me, then let other people get out in front of them! It’s great to watch! How many years do you think that will add to my life?
5.Set bigger goals and take action on them every single day
In Psychology Today, Timothy A Pychyl Ph.D writes “research literature also reveals that we experience the strongest positive emotional response when we make progress on our most difficult goals.”
So set yourself a big, difficult goal, break it down into baby steps and start doing one thing everyday towards it. You’ll feel happier and it will get the momentum and motivation going. Once you’ve worked at it for a few days, you won’t want to stop!
Action for Happiness explains this by referring to scientific research that shows working on your goals brings “a sense of accomplishment ...this also builds our confidence and belief in what we can do in the future”
If you don't know what goal to set yourself, I've created a free 7 day course for twenty-something women to help you find your direction in 7 days:
I popped this one on this list with about 8 questions marks next to it. I knew that reading everyday was having a positive effect on me but I’d never heard it recommended for increasing happiness before. To find out if I could delete the 8 questions marks I did some research online and look what I’ve found - reading does make you happier!
Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that reading for just 6 minutes can reduce stress levels by two thirds! That’s a better rate than listening to music, having a cup of tea or going for a walk!
So it’s a great excuse for taking a trip to the library, loading up with books and snuggling up with one and a cup of tea. Do it!
7. Do what you say you're going to do
A few years ago I read “The Six Pillars of Self Esteem" by Dr Nathaniel Branden. The first time I read it, this advice struck me and stuck with me but I never really did anything about it! (How ironic!)
But 2016 is the year where I will do what I say I’m going to do - for my own benefit! I’m so bad at committing to go to an event or a meet a friend then back out at the last minute because I don’t feel like it. I always feel really bad afterwards.
I’m also bad at setting myself a scary challenge and then chickening out. Even though no one else knows about you letting yourself down, the most important person will always know (you!)
8. Spend time with the ones you love <3
Research has shown that spending time with friends and family makes us happier. I make sure that I see friends a couple of times a week, spend almost every evening with my boyfriend and see my family at least once a month. I feel so much better for it!
As an introvert, I need my time alone and I could easily spend weeks by myself. (I used to never see how solitary confinement was a bad thing!) However, all that time thinking to myself would make me pretty depressed. When I’m alone, I find it harder to keep negative, repetitive thoughts at bay. Now I spend time with the people I care about I keep positive for longer!
Although you might want to be careful about who you spend the most time with. George MacKerron from the University of Sussex found that spending time with friends makes you happiest, followed by time with your family. Spending time by yourself apparently increases your happiness the least.
Step Three: Write down a typical day's timetable for you.
Where can you add your new habit in without having to get up any earlier or go sleep any later? (I love sleep too much to ask you to do that!)
Look for dead time. Five minutes here or there, where normally you'd just go on your phone and read the news.
Step Four: Slot your new habit into your day and stick with it
Step Five: After a week or so choose another habit & rinse 'n repeat!
My Happiness Routine
Here's mine as an example with timings:
7.30am Get up
8.00am Walk to work (exercise outdoors) 20 minutes
8.25am Train to work (write journal, random acts of kindness and meditatation) 5 minutes + 1 minutes +10 minutes
9.30am Work (random acts of kindness) 2 minutes each
6.30pm Train from work (complete a couple of little actions towards my big goals) 40 minutes
7.10pm Walk home (exercise outdoors) 20 minutes
7.30pm Time with friends/family 2-3 hours
10.15pm Get into bed and write gratitude list 3 minutes
10.20pm Read 30 minutes
- If you commute to work by bus or train USE THIS TIME!!!If you don't, then you may need to think more creatively to fit them in. But just think, 3 minutes looking at Facebook updates is your gratitude journal written!
- Can you swap the time you spend watching TV or on the internet with a habit?
- Use the rewire app to track your habit progress