Happiness Tip #9: Show Gratitude

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I think all of us can find at least one little thing in our lives we are thankful for. The majority of us can find dozens if not hundreds of things. But a lot of times we don’t look for things to be grateful for. It seems a lot easier to complain about what we don’t have than recognize what we do have. I think a lack of gratitude is responsible for the majority of bad attitudes and bad days. If we constantly acknowledged all the good in our lives we would be happy a lot more often.

It’s true. The correlation between gratitude and happiness has been researched a lot. Just google it…even Harvard has a study showing the positive correlation between gratitude and happiness.

There are a lot of ways to express and cultivate gratitude in your life. A few years ago our preacher asked us to write down a list of 10 traits we were thankful for in our spouse. Some days it’s hard to remember one thing (am I right..) but I actually keep an ever growing list on my Google Drive, so on the days when it’s hard to remember one thing I am reminded of the 51 (that’s the current count) things I know I am thankful for in Blake. It makes me happier with him and with whatever the situation is that made me recall the list.

In the video experiment below, participants were asked to write about someone in their life they are thankful for and then they called the person and read them their list. Guess what? Their happiness increased.

Being thankful is easy but also it isn’t always easy. I know, that doesn’t make sense. It’s easy to say your thankful for something or to just say “thank you” to someone but sometimes it’s hard to do in a moment of anger. It’s even harder to really think about why your thankful or express the “thank you” sentiment a little more fully (“thank you because…”) I think that’s where the magic is.

If you’re in a bad mood, start thinking about all the good in your life. Think hard about it. Make a mental list of the good things and think about why you’re thankful for them. You can take it one step further and actually express gratitude to someone who has helped you or impacted you in a positive way. The result: your mood will change, you will become happier. It’s just science.

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Happiness Tip #8: The Power of Personal Development

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I’ve always liked the idea of reading non-fiction books on different business and success principals. I’ve bought dozens of books over the years (as in at least a dozen) and I’ve started most of them but then I get side tracked and I don’t finish them. I think I’ve always known that it’s important to keep learning after “real” school is over, but clearly I didn’t think it was important enough to actually do it. One of my weaknesses is I’m often satisfied with taking the first step and don’t take the rest of the steps necessary to get the most benefit. So I’ll buy the book but then not read it. I’ll make the to-do list but then not do the things on the list. It’s a weird mental block but I’m overcoming it. Preparation is important. The first step is crucial. But clearly, the value is in the action.

Recently, I’ve been focusing on the action part I’ve been missing before. I started prioritizing the importance of becoming better and learning more. I’ve read a few personal development books all the way through and can personally vouch for how beneficial it has been. To say it’s been “life changing” seems a little dramatic but I know if I continue this habit it will absolutely be life changing. Being reminded of your potential and how to reach it on a daily basis pays off in many incredible ways but for me it has ultimately lead to a more happy and positive attitude.

It is really easy to get trapped in the mediocrity and negativity which seems to be the norm in today’s society. Get up, go to work, bitch about how you hate work, come home, watch tv, go to bed, rinse, repeat. When it’s put like that doesn’t it sound so crappy? But that seems to be the norm. It’s sad. We are so much better than that and made for so much more than that. I am. You are too.

I know what you might be thinking… “those personal development books are a bunch of mumbo jumbo crap… it doesn’t work for everyone.” I’ve thought that before but really that thought process is just a testament to how jaded we have become. If you put the effort in, you can make any change you want and do anything you want to do. Did you catch the first part of that sentence because that’s the important part – “if you put the effort in.” The value is in the action.

If you don’t read personal development books, you’re missing out. Everyone can be better, happier, and more successful (whatever “successful” means to you) but you have to put the effort in and take the action.

Here are my TOP 2 favorite personal development books (that I’ve read so far).

  1. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero – this is my favorite.. If you want to start somewhere, start here! Jen is hilarious and this book is a fun read. It makes a lot of great points and really gives you kick in the ass to be better!
  2. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson –  Want to know how to be more productive – this is the book for you! The main point he makes is that really small actions, if done consistently, can produce huge results.

If you already read personal development books and have a different favorite, please comment below… the more suggestions, the better!

Also – if you hate reading, try audio books and listen in the car… at least you won’t have to hear any stupid radio commercials #winwin!

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Happiness Tip #7: Wake Up at the Same Time Everyday

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I used to be a slave to my snooze button. I would continue to snooze for 45+ minutes. I would rationalize away breakfast and showers. I would roll out of bed at the last minute and finally really wake up about 30 minutes after I got to work. Everything was rushed and stressful. Why did I do that? It makes no sense. The extra 9 minute increments of sleep just made me more tired. The snooze button was ruining my sleep and my mornings. I hated having a bad start to the morning every morning, but I was weak and my bed was so comfy.

In an effort to make my mornings less stressful and my days happier, I have started a new habit. I’m still in the process of establishing it, but it’s happening. For the past week and a half I’ve been getting up at 5:00AM every weekday. The picture above is a screenshot of my phone alarms. So far the second alarm hasn’t gone off, although I have waited until 5:04am to get up on a few occasions. Since the habit is still in the process of being created, it sucks to get up that early. Thankfully, it’s getting easier and the sucky feeling only lasts about 3 minutes and the rest of the day is sooo much better. It is worth it. It makes the mornings less stressful and my mood 100x better.

If you’re a slave to the snooze button and want to have happier mornings here are 3 tips to conquer the extra, futile snoozing.

  1. Don’t Think About It, Just Do It: As soon as your alarm goes off, get up. Don’t let one single thought get in between the alarm going off and you getting up. It takes me about .01 seconds to form some stupid rationalization to “sleep in” so I have to move quicker than that. No excuses. No rationalizations. Be strong and get up. If you have to, move your alarm far away from the bed.
  2. Create a routine or something you do right after you wake up. I wake up and immediately go downstairs (I have to remove myself from the vicinity of the comfy bed because it will call me back, I know it will) then I drink a glass of water and my pre-workout. The pre-workout commits me to working out.
  3. Go to bed early (or when you get tired). Getting up at the same time every day helps set your circadian rhythm so you should get tired about the same time every night. I love sleep and I need it, so I’m usually in bed by 9:30 and asleep by 10:30 pm at the latest.

Two final thoughts.

First, in addition to making my mornings happier and less stressful, I’ve also noticed an increase in productivity throughout the day which is an added bonus.

Second, to all the moms – this happiness tip is hard to implement when you’re still in survival mode. It’s fair to argue “survival mode” lasts until your youngest kid is 18 and out of the house but for the purposes of this tip, I would say it’s safe to try to implement a real schedule for yourself once your kid has gotten consistent with their schedule. I’m going to stay out of the wasp nest of the baby scheduling debate but if anyone is interested we had great success with the Moms on Call method.

I’m really hoping by this time next year I won’t even have to set an alarm to get up at 5:00 am. I will be a new person… what do they call it??… oh yeah, I’ll be a morning person 🙂

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Happiness Tip #6: Surround Yourself with Great People

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What are your goals in life? Do you want to be happy? Healthy? Successful? I think those are general goals for most people. Of course, everyone has more specific variations and additions to these, but generally speaking most people want to get better, be better, and improve throughout life. In order to do that, you have to surround yourself with people who will help get you there. Jim Rohn is right “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

For the purposes of this blog post we’re going to focus exclusively on happiness. It is a hell of a lot easier to be happy if you surround yourself with happy and positive people. Think about it- when you’re around negative people it’s easy to pick up their negativity. It naturally rubs off on you. Sometimes, you can “stay strong” and preserve your own positive attitude even in the midst of negative people, but it’s hard. A much easier solution is to not put yourself in the situation to begin with. We’ve all heard this lesson before in the context of peer pressure and avoiding the potential to make bad decisions, but, beyond that, it really does affect every aspect of your life. You become a product of those you surround yourself with in every way.

I’m not saying you should completely abandon your friends who are “Debbie downers” or “negative Nancys.” But manage the time you spend with them. And know they aren’t going to provide you with happy positive vibes so maybe you should share some of your positivity with them…bring their average up!

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It’s time to put yourself and your circle of friends under the microscope. Who are the 5 people you spend the most time with. Are those people positive, “glass half full,” happy people. Do they practice habits that cultivate happiness? If they do, figure out how you can spend even more time with them. If they don’t, it may be time to cut back on the time you spend with them.

Life is too short to spend a lot of time with people who suck the happiness out of you. Find people who make you a happier person. Find people who inspire you to be better. Find people who have achieved the goals you want to achieve and spend more time with those people.

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Happiness Tip #5: Be Nice

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Have you ever been so frustrated with someone you just let them have it? Did you yell? Curse? Overreact? Did you feel better afterwards? Did you feel like you taught them a lesson or made them pay for their mistake? Or did you feel like crap?

I think more often than not, when we react un-kindly, we feel like crap or, at the very least, we don’t feel any better and the person we reacted against feels a lot worse. So what’s the point. The short answer is – there isn’t one. Even if we feel like we’ve been wronged or someone else didn’t do their job correctly and we suffered, we not only rob others of happiness but we also rob ourselves.

Being nice isn’t always easy. Sometimes we have to choose to be nice when our inclination is to enforce justice, make someone “pay,” or “show someone who’s boss.” But we have the choice. We can choose to bring someone else down and bring ourselves down in the process or  we can choose to be nice and, at the very least, preserve our own happiness.

Being nice and showing kindness is scientifically linked to happiness. Your overall health is positively impacted by having positive emotion or thinking nicely about others – it’s proven. So, if your own health and happiness is directly improved by being nice, it seems rational to behave nicely and act with kindness even when you don’t feel another person is deserving of it.

Life it tough sometimes. Everyone struggles. Everyone has “off” days. I think we would all be happier if we just give each other a break. We can practice niceness both re-actively and proactively. If someone messes up your coffee order, the world is not going to end but if your reaction is to fly off the handle and make sure the barista “hears a piece of your mind about it” then your day will get crappier and they will certainly feel crappier which results in a lot of unnecessary crap!

From a proactive perspective there are hundreds of ways to be a nicer person and therefore a happier person.

Here are 15 easy ways to practice niceness (some of these may seem like examples of common decency but honestly, I’m not sure common decency is so common these days so we all could use a reminder)

  1. Laugh at someone’s joke even if you don’t think it’s funny.
  2. Hold the elevator for someone
  3. Tip your waiter/waitress well (even if you don’t think they deserve it)
  4. Give a sincere compliment
  5. Smile more
  6. Offer help when you see someone struggling with a task
  7. Practice random acts of kindness (pay for the lunch of the person behind you at the drive through, shovel your neighbors driveway after it snows, etc.)
  8. Ask someone how they’re doing and actually listen to the response – be genuinely interested
  9. Remove yourself from gossip – it’s a negativity trap!
  10. Agree to disagree… if a conversation gets touchy or you fundamentally disagree with someone, it’s ok… just re-direct the conversation in a positive direction and move on
  11. Treat others how you would like to be treated (ah, the Golden Rule…it’s a good one)
  12. Be polite – say please & thank you
  13. If someone is rude to you take note of how it makes you feel and use it as a reminder not to perpetuate the rudeness
  14. Hide notes of encouragement for your spouse, children or even strangers (I know it sounds creepy, but it will make their day!)
  15. When someone does a good job, let them know!

And one last word of advice from the always entertaining – Kid President (this kid knows his stuff!)

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. – Dalai Lama

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Happiness Tip #4: Exercise!!

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Have you ever gone for a walk or finished your workout and thought “Man! I really regret that!” … I’m thinking the answer to that is “NO!.” Exercise is something we don’t always want to do, but once we’re finished, we’re really glad we did it. Exercise is a habit that requires us to think more about how we feel after it’s over versus how we feel before we start.

I was going to provide a bunch of information and linked articles on how exercise actually makes us happy but then I found this infographic and realized it basically covers everything…plus I love infographics! Check it out:

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I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Find a physical activity you love doing and then do it everyday! If you hate the treadmill, don’t use it. If you think gyms are gross or can’t find the time to go, then workout at home. If you have crazy allergies, do something inside. If you get bored easily, mix it up. There are hundreds of different workouts out there… if you have never found something you love doing, contact me or check out this page – find your soul mate workout and then start doing it!

Seriously guys, add some activity in your daily life and make it fun. You will be happier!

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Happiness Tip #3: Leverage the Power of Positive Self Talk

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All of us talk to ourselves (I really hope I’m right on that one, if not this blog post is going to get real weird, real fast for most of you). So let’s assume everyone is like me and we all talk to ourselves throughout the day. Our minds are a running dialogue. The words we silently speak to ourselves throughout the day are critical. To take it one step further, they are life changing. You become what you repeatedly think. That is why positive self talk and using positive affirmations is super important in leading a happy and fulfilling life.

Y’all, we (humans) are pretty amazing. We actually have the power to alter our future using just our thoughts. I know that sounds a little out there, but it’s true. When we think positive thoughts (even if they aren’t true) our brain tries to reconcile those thoughts and make them true. For example, lets say you wake up one morning and you just aren’t feeling it -you’re tired, you want to go back to sleep and wait for tomorrow. If, in that split second you trade the thoughts of “ugh, I’m so tired I want to keep sleeping, I’m so jealous of sloths and babies and how much they get to sleep and how they aren’t responsible for anything” to “I’m ready to conquer the day, this is going to be the best day ever and I know I’m going to get so much accomplished” awesome things will happen. Now, I know that second train of thought isn’t actually how you feel, but using those positive thoughts (even if they aren’t currently true) will trick your brain into making them true. You will feel more energy, your blood will start pumping, your attitude has changed, and you will most likely conquer your day!

Here’s a great picture to illustrate if that got a little confusing:

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To my knowledge, science hasn’t proven specifically why or how positive affirmations work but it has proven that they do work. Positive self talk and using positive affirmations are linked to a lot of great benefits, here are a few:

  • Increased confidence
  • Better problem solving skills
  • Greater self worth
  • Lower stress levels
  • Greater physical strength

There are strategies on what types of affirmations to use (here are 100 examples) and the time of day it’s best to use them. Implementing these strategies is a great proactive approach. But if you’re more reactive in nature, just try to recognize when those negative thoughts creep in and turn the tables. Just saying “I CAN do this” instead of “I can’t do this” is a great starting point.

I’m going to share a slightly embarrassing but really effective form of positive self talk I use. A few years ago I noticed I was feeling down a lot, I knew I used to be really confident but somehow over my college years I lost that self-esteem I had as a kid. One day I heard this song called “All I Do is Win” by DJ Kahled… admittedly, I can’t understand most the lyrics because I’m from the south and my mind doesn’t listen fast enough for rap music- but I know the chorus(?) and it basically goes like this “All I Do is Win”… simple enough. That became my theme song. It gives me a burst fake confidence but most of the time I can’t tell the difference between fake confidence and real confidence so it does the trick. If I’m feeling down I turn on that song or play it in my head and it works. So what I’m getting at here, is you have to find what form of positive self talk and which affirmations work for you. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.

You are awesome and you are capable of anything; you just have to believe that and repeat it to yourself on a daily basis. Seriously, to at least one person (if not many) you are a super hero so start treating yourself like one! On that note – here is a great reminder of the power of positive thinking (and posing).

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Happiness Tip #2: Prioritize Your Sleep (10 Reasons You Should)

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Y’all, I love sleep. After having a baby almost a year ago, sleep is like a prized possession. But still, it seems like other things get prioritized over sleep – doing the laundry, watching another episode of a favorite tv show….or any tv show, staying out for one more drink, looking at facebook, and the list goes on. In the morning I realize I should have gone to sleep earlier because I’m still tired, but at night I legitimize staying up later than necessary. This is a habit I am changing and here’s why you should too!

Fatigue has further reaching effects besides making us feel tired, it literally impacts all parts of our daily life. Here are 10 reasons why you and I should make our bedtimes earlier than we think.

Reason #1: You Will Be Less Crabby

Yep, Harvard proved it, when you’re sleep deprived you feel more irritable and stressed which causes over-reaction and general grouchiness. When you get the proper rest you need, you feel more optimistic and patient. This also contributes to reasons #4 and #8.

Reason #2: You Will Get More Stuff Done

When you’re rested you are more productive. We’ve all heard the phrase – early to bed, early to rise… well, there is a ton of evidence on the benefits of early rising. Those who wake up earlier tend to be more productive and more successful than late sleepers. Also if you wait on that tv show and watch it tomorrow think of all the time you’ll save by not having to watch all the commercials – instant productivity (thank you DVR!)

Reason #3: You Won’t Have To Buy As Much Cold Medicine

More sleep is linked directly to immune support which means you won’t catch that cold that’s going around the office quite as easily and if you do, you’ll recover more quickly. This leads directly to happiness (Reason #10) because you won’t be wasting money on those insanely expensive cold medicines!

Reason #4: You Will Have a Safer Commute

Here’s a stat for you: AAA reports that people who had just 6-7 hours of sleep are twice as likely to have a car accident than those who had 8+ hours of sleep. I think this is mostly due to intense road rage caused by grouchiness (Reason #1) but other variables at play include alertness and concentration, which also increase with more sleep. And by all means, do not pull an all night-er and attempt to drive – if you go for 24 hours with no sleep and you might as well be drunk driving!

Reason #5: You’ll Remember Where You Left the Keys

I’m going to admit, I’m not 100% buying this one. I feel like I could sleep for days and still not remember where I left my keys. But it has been proven that more sleep leads to a better memory. For me a better memory would also contribute to Reason #9 (at this point Blake just expects that I have no idea where my keys are at any given time… or my wallet… or my chapstick)

Reason #6: You Will Have Fewer Hangovers

I’ve come to this conclusion based on no proven evidence but plain old common sense. First, if you’re going to bed earlier you won’t be able to stay out for an extra beer or cocktail and we all know “one more” usually means like three more therefore a lower likelihood of a hangover. Second, instead of night time cocktail maybe you master the art of day drinking which gives you more daylight hours to process the alcohol so when you sleep your body can restore the brain instead of sift through all the crap you loaded in it earlier in the day.

Reason #7: You will Be Healthier & More Attractive

There is actual evidence here – in Australia a study was done that showed those that got more sleep were leaner, healthier, and more physically attractive. First lets tackle the attractive part – we all know about tired eyes but, in fact, sleep deprivation effects your entire facial appearance. More sleep also improves the likelihood for exercise during the day and helps you feel less hungry by keeping your leptin levels higher. From an overall health perspective, more sleep leads to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Serious stuff.

Reason #8: Women Need More Sleep Than Men

I am so glad they have finally proven this! Sorry guys, it’s true… here’s the kicker: it’s because we use more of our brain during the day LOL. While we’re talking specifically about the ladies here – it has also been proven that lack of sleep is a major contributor to postpartum depression. With more sleep you are better at dealing with emotions and problem solving which are two crucial skills needed as a new mother. So stop catching up on laundry or cleaning – sleep when the baby sleeps…even if that means you are sleeping a lot – you NEED it!

 

Reason #9: You Will Have a Better Marriage

I would argue that most of the above reasons contribute here. If you’re happier, healthier, more attractive, and more productive your relationship will probably improve as well. But here’s the real reason your marriage will be better – 26% of people say their sex lives suffer because they are too tired. More sleep = less tiredness = more sex = better marriage (it’s math).

Reason #10: You Will Be Happier

It seems like more sleep leads to all kinds of good things in our lives. So go to bed earlier. Commit to getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night. I know it seems impossible sometimes but think about all the above benefits and realize it’s worth it!

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Happiness Tip #1: Stop Comparing

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Over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a bunch of posts on my favorite tips for having a happy, healthy life. I’m not claiming to currently have a happy, healthy life – but it’s a goal I strive for. Everyone can get better, right?

So tip number 1: Stop comparing yourself to other people. I think this is a trap everyone falls into on occasion or maybe more often than that. I’ve heard a saying that goes something like this – “Comparison is the thief of joy” and I think that is so true. There are two results of comparing yourself to someone else – arrogance or shame…neither of those are great qualities or feelings and they are definitely not joy!

If you compare yourself to someone else and re-affirm that you’re doing great in life or you’re in a better position than they are… you feel arrogance. But just because you have better shoes, a better job, a bigger income,etc.- does that really make you better? Maybe shoes aren’t important to them or their lesser income is earned by doing their dream job and they are completely happy with their situation …. maybe more happy than you… just sayin.

I think more commonly though, we compare ourselves to others and feel shame. We want what they have or think we are falling short because we aren’t achieving what they’re achieving. Here’s another saying – “you can’t compare your beginning to another person’s middle”… everyone is at a different point in their life and everyone has different priorities. A lot of us are  just “faking it til we make it” and putting all the good parts out there for everyone to see, but what you don’t always see are the doubts, fear and insecurities that everyone has.

We’re all on the same ride. Some of us are just trying to survive. Some of us are thriving. Most of us are somewhere in between. But none of that matters, as long as you’re doing your best most of the time. You’re doing great!

Motivate and encourage your friends, neighbors… and even strangers. Life is hard. Don’t make it harder and less joyful by attempting to size yourself up to other people!

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