It turns out that happiness is actually a habit that can be cultivated by developing a few habits that take only about five minutes to do. By themselves none of these will change your life but each one will give you a little dopamine (the happiness neurotransmitter) boost that will add up with each successive practice.
There are scads of methods but here are 7 that I find to be most simple and most effective.
1) Do something for someone else.
Empathy and compassion are things you can develop, and it starts with thinking about other people’s circumstances, understanding their pains and frustrations, and knowing that those emotions are every bit as real as our own. This helps you develop perspective, and opens you up to helping others, which also enhances your sense of gratitude.
We live in such a fear-driven and insulated culture that we don’t even look people in the eye when we’re walking down the street, sitting in subway trains, or even when making our way through office hallways. Just for today, think of strangers as being a little more like you, and treat them with the kindness and respect they deserve: Look them softly in the eye, smile, and give a warm greeting. I live in a very urban area and the last couple of years I’ve made it a practice to say “hi” to most people I walk by. Some ignore me but most look surprised and smile and say “hi” back. I’ve gotten to know people on a casual basis that I otherwise never would and it has made my neighborhood feel much warmer and homey.
The tendency for many is to let resentment fester after an argument or misunderstanding, and then cut off the person from our lives until he or she reaches out to us with an apology. It’s convenient. But it’s also just plain dumb. How uncomfortable is it to be in your home while you and your partner or kids are barely acknowledging one another? Outside the home you could lose a friendship, a family relationship, or great work connection because your ego has to have it’s way and you have to “win” or prove some point. Instead, be the first to reach out to make amends, even if you’re the one that has to apologize. That humble act will do wonders; the other person will soften, apologize, and allow you back into his or her life.
For survival purposes your brain is built to remember negative or painful things much more readily than positive things. This works great for survival but not so great for a happy life. Research has shown that simply writing three things that you are grateful for every day teaches your brain to more readily tune into the good things in your life. This will greatly enhance your mood and overall sense of happiness and well being.6) Exercise for 15 minutes.
Research has shown that just 15 minutes of fun cardio activity is the equivalent of taking an antidepressant, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate! If you don’t have a routine in place there are apps that you can download to your phone that will lead you through simple but fun routines that only take anywhere from 8 – 20 minutes to do. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like exercise routines get out and throw a Frisbee or ball around with your kids or partner. Dance, play with your dog, go for a very fast paced walk. It doesn’t have to be exercise in the traditional sense – just move your body in a way that works best for you!!7) Find something or someone that will make you laugh.
Laughter releases endorphins into the body—a chemical 10 times more powerful than morphine—with the same exhilarating effect as an intense workout at the gym. Try putting a comedy channel on the radio when you’re in the car. If you don’t have satellite radio there are comedy channels on Spotify, iTunes and virtually every other music platform available. If you’re working or doing chores around the house put on a stand up routine for you to listen to in the background. Even if you’re not able to focus on it the sound of laughter in the background will enhance your mood and make you feel better. Try it, it really works!