Life hacks. Looking for your how-to on how to be happy? Here are five simple things you can do right now to make happiness a habit.
People who exercise have bigger brains, scientists have concluded.
Of course exercise is on the list. But it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Even a walk around the block in the fresh air counts.
“As people strengthened their willpower muscles in one part of their lives — in the gym, or a money management program — that strength spilled over into what they ate or how hard they worked. Once willpower became stronger, it touched everything,” Charles Duhigg said in his book The Power of Habit.
And it doesn’t only touch the athletic part of your life, it’s infectious.
“Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change,” Duhigg said in his book.
2. Create a strong cue
Cues are the triggers that start the habit process. Find a cue that works for you, and then act happy on it.
Here are a few possible cues you can use:
- Sticky note on bathroom mirror
- Your first sip of coffee in the morning
- The moment you touch your hand to the door knob as you are exiting your front door.
- Every time you press the button on your key fob to unlock your doors
- Place an interesting object near your computer screen at work to act as a signal
- Switch a piece of jewelry, such as a ring to another finger, or wear two different earrings.
- Set an alarm on your phone for 3:30 every afternoon.
- Wear an outrageously different item of clothing that will catch your eye throughout the day.
Each time you see your cue, ACT. The cue is the clue. Every single time you see it, follow it up with a repeatable action to make yourself happy.
Some happy actions can include:
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath
- Say ‘thank you’
- Remember your favorite vacation moment
- Think about your pet
- Take three deep breaths
- Repeat a mantra
- Think of one thing you are grateful for
- Remember something that went well today.
- List three things that make you happy.
Remember… STRONG CUE and REPETITION.
3. Make an appointment
Remember the forest path analogy from the previous blog post? Repetition creates a path for habit.
Schedule a specific time, and set an alarm to it.
Make an appointment with yourself each evening for meditation or journaling. Schedule a once-per-week coffee date with a friend. Plan to have dinner with your family each Sunday night.
No excuses. Make an appointment.
You wouldn’t break an appointment with your doctor. Make this appointment just as important. It’s you we’re talking about here.
Appointments put a whole new spin on the term happy hour.
4. Create a reward
Humans love rewards, especially the positive ones. We do it with our kids, teachers do it with their students.
Rewards increase success by nearly 40 percent -that’s nearly half.
Did you keep your happy hour appointment? Treat yo’self!
Did you let someone merge in front of you on the road? Treat yo’self!
Did you do something super spectacularly awesome for someone else? Treat yo’self!
You will actually look forward to doing good.
And the doing of the good boosts your mood, too. That’s a happy bonus.
5. Make a tradition
Traditions are good habits.
Whether it occurs annually or weekly, a tradition sets a cue (your calendar) and repeated action (the event) and therefore creates habit.
Traditions can be silly or sentimental. They can be simple or extravagant.
Find something you love. Do it with someone you love. Make a tradition into a habit.
Five hacks to make happiness a habit:
- Create a strong cue
- Make an appointment with yourself
- Treat yo’self
- Make a tradition
7 Habits That May Actually Change the Brain, According to Science. Original Written by Alice G. Walton. Forbes Magazine. 2016, Apr. 14. Note: sourced only for content, content edited. Original Material
Duhigg, Charles. The Power of Habit : Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. New York, N.Y. :Random House : Books on Tape, 2012. Audio Recording.
Classroom Reinforcement and Learning: A Quantitative Synthesis by Richard S. Lysakowski & Herbert J. Walberg. The Journal of Educational Research Vol. 75, Issue 2. DOI 10.1080/00220671.1981.10885359. Original Material
Stanley J. Colcombe, Kirk I. Erickson, Paige E. Scalf, Jenny S. Kim, Ruchika Prakash, Edward McAuley, Steriani Elavsky, David X. Marquez, Liang Hu, Arthur F. Kramer; Aerobic Exercise Training Increases Brain Volume in Aging Humans, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Volume 61, Issue 11, 1 November 2006, Pages 1166–1170, DOI 10.1093/Gerona/61.11.1166
Richard S. Lysakowski & Herbert J. Walberg. Classroom Reinforcement and Learning: A Quantitave Synthesis. The Journal of Educational Research Vol. 75, Issue 2. DOI 10.1080/00220671.1981.10885359. Original Material