The Happier Mind Hack
Written By: Matt Mignona
The amazing thing about life is that we never really get it all done: after we accomplish one goal, it frees us to move on to something even bigger and better. This means there's always room for you to grow and improve; no matter how amazing life is at the moment, there are more incredible experiences and accomplishments waiting for you if you're ready to go get them.
The first steps along a personal development journey are often big ones: exercise daily, read more books, start a journal. These big, clear steps are important; after we get them put into place, the next steps are smaller and often harder to see. At that point, it's a matter of refining your growth process and working little tips and happiness hacks into your life. These happier mind hacks help you do those big things—like exercising, journaling, practicing gratitude, and so on—even better.
Nurture Your Current Relationships
We're all grateful for our friends and family, but how often are we putting that gratitude into practice? It might mean writing notes, making phone calls, or scheduling a coffee date. Time moves quickly, and if we're not specifically setting aside time to do these things, we don't do them.
Action Step: Every month, schedule one coffee date and one lunch or dinner, write one hand-written note, and make one phone or video call to someone you love. Choose different people for each of these tasks, and different people each month. You'll enjoy the time you spend doing this, and it will enhance the gratitude you feel for each of those special people. Writing about your experiences in your journal allows you to relive those moments and remember how important they are.
Give Others the Opportunity to Experience Gratitude
Doing something nice for someone is a good way for you to share your abundance (of time, love, or money), but it also gives them an opportunity to be grateful. Volunteer, buy lunch, send someone a surprise (with or without credit), or even let someone have the parking space you wanted.
Action Step: These opportunities to be kind often happen on a daily basis, but you don't have to wait for that. Every week, decide on one kind action you're going to do that week and write it into your schedule. (i.e. This week, volunteer at the homeless shelter for one hour. Next week, buy coffee for the person behind me in line.)
It pays to experiment with different time management techniques since we all work a little differently. Scheduling your time actually frees you to get more accomplished and maintain personal free time for hobbies and socializing. Try these:
This is a way to break down a large project into manageable chunks of time. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work consistently until it rings. That means no Facebook, no answering texts; if someone asks for your attention, tell them you're in the middle of something and will talk to them when your work session is over in ___ minutes. When you're done, make a check mark on a piece of paper (you've completed one Pomodoro!) and take a five- to 10-minute break. After four such Pomodoros, take a longer break—maybe half an hour. Apps like Pomodorable and Focus Timer feature the timer and other tools to help you stay focused throughout the day.
Action Step: Use one Pomodoro to research a few apps (no more than that or you'll research all day!) and choose one to explore. Try it for one month and see if it improves your focus.
This is a free timing tool that allows you to name a task and time how long it takes you to work on it. When you click start, make sure you stay on the named task; if you stray, stop the timer. Make one for things like social media and web browsing, too, and you'll be able to see how long you're spending on these activities every day. At the end of the week, it sends you a report with total time spent.
Action Step: Spend a week with Toggl to see how much time you spend on, well, everything. That will give you a baseline from which you can work on cutting back on time-wasting activities, and you can practice increasing the amount of time you spend on a project before being distracted by something else.
How do you want to show up every day? If you've made that decision, you've got to put it into practice. These hacks will make that easier:
Whoa, what? Aren't you doing that already? Maybe, but it might not be enough. Sleep deficiencycan lead to problems with decision-making, focus, memory, and controlling your emotions. It's hard to live your intention if you're moody, forgetful, or apt to doze off. One extra hour of work might not be worth it if you have to sacrifice sleep to get it.
Action Step: Practice going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning, even on your day off. Click here for a few more tips on how to get a good night's sleep.
Intention is a present-moment experience. Whether you're trying to be more kind, more patient, or more focused, you can't do those things in the future: you can only practice them now, and by doing so, they'll lead you to a future where you spend more of your time as a kind, patient, focused human being. Like intention, your breath is always here and now—you can't breathe the future. By focusing on your breath, you bring yourself into the present moment.
Action Step: Set aside five minutes each day to practice deep breathing. Sit comfortably or lie on your back, place your hands on your belly, and feel it rise like a balloon as you inhale. Exhale slowly, imagining tension leaving your body on that out breath. This simple practice will help you refocus on the moment—and it feels good, too!
Setbacks happen to everyone, and they're not a big deal—especially if you know how to use them to get closer to your goals. Try these hacks:
What If This is Great?
It's never easy to lose an investment, get overlooked for a promotion, or fail at a project. Still, your reaction to it is in your control, and one way to turn things around is to ask, "What if this is a really great thing? What if this is necessary for my growth? What if another incredible opportunity is waiting for me and if I'd gotten this one, I wouldn't be able to go for that one?" Sometimes our greatest opportunities are disguised in mud and muck, so asking this question gets us thinking creatively.
Action Step: Be ready with that question next time you face a setback. You can use it on everyday inconveniences, too: "What if this traffic delay is saving me from running into someone who drains my energy? What if waiting in line is the perfect opportunity for me to practice patience or work out this problem in my mind? What if this machine's malfunction gives me or someone else an idea for an incredible invention?"
Set Goals Every Day
You need to have those long-term goals, but you also need short-term goals and manageable to-do lists to help you get there. Focusing on and refining your goals every day helps you stay on track.
Action Step: Your journal is a great place to write down your goals to keep them at the front of your mind, and to notice as they shift and adapt. You can also write down one thing you want to accomplish every day. One thing is doable, and it gives you the satisfaction of crossing something off that list so you can move on to the next. It's also great practice for the feeling of accomplishment and success, which is what you want to cultivate in your life. Every evening, bask in that feeling of accomplishment, focusing on all the details of the moment when you completed the task.
Staying positive in the face of what can seem like a negative world is an on-going job. Hack it like this:
Get the Facts
In his book Factfulness, Hans Rosling says the world is a lot better than we think it is, and he backs this up with a data indicating how things have improved drastically over the years, despite our sense that the world is dangerous and "messed up". Records show greater literacy rates, less extreme poverty, and lower child mortality rates in today's world, indicating the "good ol' days" are here and now. We're prone to reading dramatic news, and the media is focused on giving it to us because it sells, so we don't often get the complete picture of what's happening in the world.
Action Step: Resist the urge to share a sensational story that contributes to the idea that the world is a bad place. Don't worry, plenty of other people will do it for you. When you see one, find a story that counteracts that in some way. Sharing a statistic that puts a frightening event in perspective may not be timely; when emotions are high, people aren't ready to listen, and it might be seen as an attempt to diminish the horror of what happened. Instead, simply share some good news and, if and when the time is right, share a study or an article that shows a positive trend.
Venting basically makes you relive the negative event every time you tell someone about it. That's ineffective complaining, and it's a drain on you and your positive outlook. Effective complaining, on the other hand, is an action step you can take to achieve progress in some area of your life. If you complain to a friend how your negative experience with a product ruined your day, that's not helpful. However, writing a letter to the company about the faulty product is a way of taking charge. You'll feel good about speaking up for yourself, and you may get a refund or a replacement. Likewise, complaining to a friend about your partner's apparent inability to do the dishes will probably harm your relationship over the long term. If, instead, you speak to your partner about how the dirty dishes make you feel, you may be able to come to an agreement that serves both you and your partner and strengthens your relationship.
Action Step: Catch yourself next time you complain ineffectively and think about what you could do to turn that into an effective complaint. Write that down in your journal as an accomplishment you'd like to achieve today: writing to the company, setting aside time to speak with your spouse, or whatever the case may be.
These little hacks will help you level up when it comes to your happiness and success. Practice implementing one or two at a time until they become a natural part of your day.