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10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness

10 Simple Habits that Will Lead You to True Happiness

No people on Earth will have the same definition for happiness, and there has been a lot of debate about the nature of this elusive concept by many highly intelligent philosophers, artists and scientists over the centuries. No one has really been able to pin it down, but we can all agree that we need a sense of purpose, someone to love us back, financial security and acknowledgement of our skills and accomplishments.

The degree of importance individuals place on these concepts may differ, but they are essential. The big question, though, is can we make a bunch of small changes to our lifestyle and gradually build a better and happier future for ourselves, growing as people along the way? Well, I’d say yes, and here’s my humble take on the matter.

1. Reflect on your goals, needs and desires every day

People will often spout out gems of wisdom like “you shouldn’t care what others think about you”, but they are strangely silent when you ask them to provide some actionable steps for achieving this noble goal. Well, you can’t just let all feedback from your friends and family fall on deaf ears, but you need to understand what it is that actually make you feel good and motivated in life.

You will need to sit down and have a nice long talk with yourself at some point – empty your schedule for a day or two, stay in, play some relaxing music, create a comfortable atmosphere, have a couple of drinks if you need some help to open up, and start defining your desires, preferences and life goals.

Once you have a good idea of what you really want, you have to take some 10-15 minutes a day to reflect on these ideas and remind yourself of what you need to do to reach your goals.

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2. Start putting 20-25% of your paycheck aside

I’m not going to flat out say that money brings you happiness, because that’s just an oversimplification, but struggling to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table can really dampen the mood. The thing is, regardless of the size of someone’s paycheck, there is always a tendency to throw money away needlessly. It can be out of sheer ignorance or due to impulsive behavior, e.g. getting a six pack of beer after a long Monday or ordering takeout because you can’t be bothered to cook.

However, if you make a few small sacrifices and buckle down, it’s not all that difficult to take 20-25% of your paycheck and put it aside. You can use that extra cash to boost your 401k, create an emergency fund and get something you’ve always wanted a year down the line. It’s a safety net that gives you peace of mind and lets you work on becoming a happier person.

3. Try to solve problems and complete tasks as soon as possible

It might not seem like much at first, but dealing with problems quickly, with grim determination and brutal efficiency has hidden psychological benefits. Yes, at the basic level you will be less stressed out because you won’t have little obligations and chores piling up, but on a deeper level you will be developing a “doer’s mindset”, which can be applied in all aspects of your life.

It’s all about having that tactical timing that allows you to seize great opportunities and nip problems and possible conflict in the bud. This will leave you with lots of free time and very few regrets.

4. Get 4-5 hours of physical exercise per week

You don’t really need to overthink things when it comes to exercise – the key here is to be consistent and keep your body moving day-to-day and week-to-week. Get around 30-60 minutes of strength-building exercises 3-4 times a week, combined with some cycling, distance running, jump rope or interval training routine another 3 days a week, and you’re set.

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You can train at a gym or at home with virtually no equipment, or just take long walks, hike or play some sports when you don’t feel like exercising. This will pump up your body’s natural “feel-good hormone cocktail”, and make you feel limber and strong. It’s also a great confidence boost and a good way to get more comfortable in your own skin.

5. Stock up on books and read for at least an hour a day

It is incredibly important that you don’t just gloss over this point and say: “Oh, yeah, I have a couple of books I’ve been meaning to read, I’ll have some time on the weekend to get started.” Pick up a book right now and spend an hour with it, or just browse through a few books and prepare your reading list.

Don’t go for drivel and don’t even limit yourself to good fiction books alone – non-fiction books are a great way to improve your knowledge in many different fields, from business and time-management to fitness and cooking.

6. Learn to cook with healthy ingredients and limit junk food and sweets

Going cold turkey and swearing off sweets and junk food altogether may not be the best way to go, particularly if it is going to make you anxious and miserable. That being said, you should limit yourself to a few snacks here and there, and try to eat nice home-cooked meals the rest of the time. Not only will tasty nutritious food make you feel great and help you slim down, but your newly found cooking skills will be a great source of pride and nice way to impress the people you care about.

7. Go after the things you want without hesitation

This can be much easier to accomplish once you have learned to tackle problems as soon as they appear, but it still requires a lot of willpower and courage. We fear any kind of change and new things on a primal level, because the most ancient parts of our brains geared for survival know that any change to the status quo carries untold risks.

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However, while it takes a lot of mental power to push through those fears and go after the things we want, it is well worth the effort. The next time you see an attractive man or woman that seems interesting, just go up and start a conversation. If you’ve always wanted to try boxing or dancing, but were afraid of looking silly or people laughing at you, just take that leap of faith.

It will be a bit nerve wrecking and gut wrenching at first, but after you’ve got out of your comfort zone a few times, you’ll become much more confident and way happier.

8. Stay calm and polite, but be ready to enforce your boundaries

It may sound counter intuitive, but if you want to feel good it’s best to focus on making those around you feel nice and relaxed. Now, this is not some New Age mumbo jumbo about “positive energy” or even a version of the old karmic adage of “what goes around comes around” – you are simply ensuring that people are going to treat you well because you seem like a cool person.

That being said, remember that being polite is not the same as being submissive and always agreeing with others. You’ll have to set boundaries and enforce them from time to time, but at least if conflict does break out you’ll know that you’ve done everything you could to keep things civil and that a bit of impoliteness was unavoidable.

Smiling more, being nice and standing up for yourself when politeness fails will greatly reduce the amount of stress in your life.

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9. Go out in the world, socialize and study people’s behavior

Much like the T-800 series Terminator, the more time you spend with people, the more you learn. Some of us prefer a bit of isolation, but being sheltered from the realities of the outside world can cause you a lot of grief down the road, due to your inability to understand and effectively deal with people. Going out on the weekends will not only help you unwind and give you a chance to find a new partner and make new friends, but it will also help you learn more about all kinds of different personalities and how they interact socially.

When you have experience with all kinds of people and all kinds of situations, it’s much easier to keep your cool and make the right choices in your day-to-day life.

10. Adopt a skeptical mindset and learn to examine the information you are given

Knowing how people think and operate is a crucial part of avoiding being swindled, taken advantage of or emotionally abused. You need to understand that a lot of discussions on health, mental well being, morality and spirituality are actually sales pitches. If someone’s trying to sell you something or convince you of something vehemently, don’t be afraid to ask questions and look for solid proof of their claims.

You’ll save yourself a lot of money, nerves, trouble and health problems if you refuse to blindly believe outrageous claims and approach sweet-talking people cautiously.

This is by no means a complete list of things you can do to bring about happiness, but it’s a good place to start. Look at these points as guidelines that will help you build a solid foundation on which you can build the life you’ve always wanted. You might not fulfill every dream, but you will become a much happier person.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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