The headline sounds like a plea and that’s because it is.
It’s time we take action and make a stand. Many of us are unhappy and it’s messing with our lives and the opportunities we have in front of us. All of us can make a difference but if we live our lives in an unhappy state, then nothing will ever happen – do not pass go, do not collect $200.
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality, nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit” – Christopher McCandless
When we’re pissed off and upset with life, we drown in our sorrows. These take the form of food, alcohol, TV shows and pointless coffee catch-ups/phone calls.
We can’t avoid our unhappiness. It will rip us apart in the long term.
Today that unhappiness stops. We’re not going to go from unhappy to freaking phenomenal in two minutes. That would be a BS promise that you might read in some self-help book written by a guy who dreams of success but has never had it.
As the interstellar soundtrack plays in the background, while I write these words, my own experiences and lessons about how to become 10% happier pour out of me.
I can’t quite describe it. Every seed, for every idea I’ve ever had, has come from being in a complete state of flow. In fact, I should be the last person writing about happiness this week. Why? Here’s why:
– I will be out of a job in less than 90 days
– I just entered the state championships for public speaking and lost
– I was fired yesterday from a top publication with no real reason
You’re the same. You have every reason to be unhappy. The reason I’m not unhappy though is because I committed to becoming 20% happier.
Here’s how to become 20% happier from my own experience:
Admit where you are.
The lies we tell ourselves are incredible. We feed our brains with stimulus that says we’re not enough. The only reason I got on that stage today and competed in public speaking was because even though everything around me seems to have fallen to bits, I’m 100% confident I’ll bounce back.
I know where I am and I know where I’m going. No setback is going to change that.
The reality of where you are today in life is not going to determine your future. The unhappiness you have about your circumstances is self-made. You’re self-made too.
Knowing where you are and believing in where you can go, is the first step to becoming 20% happier.
“You don’t have to go from being depressed to feeling like Elon Musk overnight. Happiness takes time and it starts off small”
Squash those thoughts.
Trying to catch every negative thought is a game you’ll never win. Becoming 20% happier starts with killing just a few negative thoughts.
How? By letting negative thoughts come into your mind and then allowing them to leave without reacting to them.
What’s making you unhappy is your reaction to events and thoughts in your life. Stopping the reaction and using the meditation technique of non-reactivity will help you overcome some of your negative thoughts.
These same thoughts I’m referring to are patterns that you’ve ingrained in your mind. Breaking the pattern slowly is how you stack the odds towards being just a little bit happier again.
Take a deep breath: suffering is a must.
The idea that we all suffer will help ease some of your unhappiness. The realization that perfection doesn’t exist and suffering always will is a key concept in the happiness battle.
Okay, so you may have experienced death in your life or been rejected from your dream job. Get in line! So many of us have suffered the same fate.
Moments you’re not proud of shouldn’t destroy your happiness.
We all have a long list of moments we’re not proud of. My list today is this:
– I ate chocolate today even though I shouldn’t
– I was in a hurry and didn’t brush my teeth
– I yelled at someone because I was running late
These are minor bleeps in your day and we all do them – even if you’re Tony Robbins. Dwelling on these moments and how you let yourself down will make you unhappy.
Crank up the Zzzzz’s.
Being tired makes us pissed off and irritable. Don’t let a lack of sleep screw with your happiness. The challenge I’ve learned though is that the duration of sleep is not enough. Going to bed right after staring at your phone for two hours or drinking coffee/tea at night can mess your sleep patterns up.
Sleeping on time is another factor to consider. Going to bed after 10 pm will give you a lesser quality of sleep. Since the cavemen, we’ve been wired to sleep best between approximately 10 pm and 2 am according to the book “Sleep Smarter.”
Social events make a difference.
Frankly, networking events do my head in. The idea of explaining to fifty people one after another that I’m a blogger and also work in a bank is a drainer. It sucks all my energy. In the last week, I went to a Meetup for a large company, attended a public speaking competition and had dinner with my girlfriend’s friends.
During periods of struggle, these events seem like torture. I’ve often wondered about giving up networking and some types of social events altogether. What I’ve learned though is that after every one of these events I always end up being glad I went.
I thought about that over the last few days to understand why. It turns out, according to Daniel Gilbert, that social events are the goal of most things we do in life.
“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.”
Being social takes energy but the rewards are huge when it comes to happiness. There have been lots of studies that suggest an increase in income will still not make us as happy as being social. We’re programmed to be social beings.
We like to discuss ideas and tell stories. These simple life pleasures give us happy. My challenge to you is that if you want to be just 20% happier, then try adding one extra social event to your calendar.
“For a productivity junkie like me, socializing can seem hard because the outcome doesn’t appear to achieve any goal I have in my life. Well except one: being happy. I can’t achieve all my other goals if I’m unhappy all the time”
Smile at a stranger.
I’ve written about the benefits of smiling many times. Unfortunately, like most things, you have to try it to believe it. Smiling randomly at weirdos and strangers makes you happy. The best time to do it is in a lift. There’s this unwritten rule that in a lift you’re supposed to shut your mouth and not look at each other.
When you break that rule and smile at someone in the lift, they always smile back. You’re locked in a small room with them for at least a minute or so, and our manners force us to be nice.
In other words, we can’t help but smile back because we don’t want to appear awkward or rude when we’re essentially trapped with nowhere to go. Outside is a different story although I’ve still found people normally smile back when I smile at them.
Experiment with a gratitude tracker.
Our happiness can easily be railroaded by unexpected problems or challenges. I’ve found that using a daily gratitude tracker helps keep the good things front of mind.
When I’m really pissed off, I even go back and read the list of things I’m thankful for from past days.
It’s so easy to forget just how many things have actually gone well for you lately. Start with writing down one thing each day if you have to. It should take no more than ten seconds. Write down the first thing that comes to mind.
Noticing the things that bring you joy and bring you gratitude will absolutely make you 20% happier.
Spend one more hour a week doing something that brings you back to your purpose.
For me, that looks like blogging an extra hour a week. It brings value to so many and aligns me with my purpose in life. No matter the chaos that’s going on around me, blogging always centers me again and reminds me why I’m on this planet.
Seeing others get joy because I’m following my life’s purpose is the best way I’ve found to become 20% happier.
That’s because serving others will always bring you happiness. That’s the answer to the whole happiness riddle if you haven’t figured it out already.
If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net