6 Simple Ways To Be Happy

Feb 07, 2012 No Comments by

They’re easier than you think. Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference to your mood.

You know the drill: that extra slice of chocolate cake you feel you deserve, a second glass of wine to take the edge off the day, or a splurge on a new pair of shoes. When we feel blue, we all reach for those guilty pleasures to boost our spirits. But, all too often, the pleasure we get from a naughty treat lasts only a minute, before another slump sets in. If you want to avoid those counter-productive indulgences, how do you cheer yourself up? Here are six quick, but often overlooked, strategies for happiness. Trust us, they work.

1. Don’t always insist on the best

There are two types of decision-markers. Satisficers (yes, ‘satisficers’ is a word) make a decision once their criteria are met. When they find the hotel or the pasta sauce that has the qualities they want, they’re satisfied. Maximisers want to make best possible decision. Even if they see a sofa or a paint colour that meets their requirements, they can’t make a decision until they have examined every option. Satisficers tend to be happier than maximisers. Maximisers expend more time and energy reaching a decision, and they’re often anxious about their choices. Sometimes good enough is good enough. I often remind myself, “Most decision don’t require extensive research.”

2. Practice the one-minute rule

Never postpone any task that can be completed in less than one minute. If you can scan an email, respond and delete – do it. If you can flip through a catalogue to see if it’s worth keeping-do it. If you can put away your umbrella-do it. These one-minute actions help
keep the scum of clutter from accumulating on these surface of life. Outer order contributes in inner calm; getting control of your stuff gives a substantial happiness boost. You can clear physical and mental space by binning junk, sending quick responses, filling or just making your piles neater. A stack of little tasks can feel overwhelming, but often just a few minutes of work can make a sizeable dent.

3. Let yourself off the hook

Nothing is more draining than the chore that’s never begun. Pushing yourself to answer a difficult email or make a long-postponed call (has it been five years since you made a dentist’s appointment?) will give you a big rush of energy and cheer. But another brilliant way to rid yourself of a nagging task is to allow yourself to abandon it altogether. Most people have unfinished projects lying around: a half-knitted blanket; a half-read book; dusty piles of recipes; a tower of magazines. The uncomfortable presence of the unfinished projects can drag you down. Finish the things you’ve started, or allow yourself to abandon them- without guilt.

4. Plan some fun

Studies show that having fun regularly is a pillar of happiness, and anticipation is a key part of that pleasure. So buy a book you’ve been wanting to read, plan a weekend tip to a museum, buy tickets to a sporting event. Or if you want to do something sooner, visit a garden centre, see a movie, bake bread – whatever sounds like fun. Remember, however, that just because something is fun for others doesn’t mean it is for you. Yes, others people might like to ski, drink wine or play bridge, but do you? (I, for one, don’t enjoy any of those activities.) And when you’re planning your fun, try to involve friends or family; we enjoy most activities more when we’re with others.

5. Step back and think

An important but overlooked strategy for staying happy is to ask yourself whether you are happy. It’s surprisingly easy not to realise your mood is spiralling downwards until after you’ve distractedly eaten an entire tub of ice cream in an attempt to cheer yourself up. When you find you’re thinking about your need for a ‘treat’, step back, reflect on your emotional state and figure out strategies to feel
happier in ways that won’t leave you feeling worse than ever. Research suggests mindful people – those with heightened self knowledge – tend to be happier, as they’re more likely to feel self-confident and grateful, and less likely to feel anxious or depressed.

6. Take the long view

It’s a secret of adulthood; happiness doesn’t always make you feel happy. To build a happy life, you sometimes need to do things that make you feel anxious, bored or annoyed in the short-term. In the long-term, learning French will make you happier than watching TV, and throwing a party will make you happier than checking Facebook. Few of us have enough time, money or energy to do all the things we’d like to do, so it’s helpful to ask yourself questions like: “Am I getting enough bang for my happiness buck here?” or “Next year, what will I wish I’d done with this time?” By putting our decisions in perspective, we can make choices that yield not merely momentary pleasure, but lives filled with happiness.

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