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Last Updated on December 14, 2020

9 Happy Habits That Will Change Your Outlook and Your Life

9 Happy Habits That Will Change Your Outlook and Your Life

From how you wake up in the morning, to the work you do, to the food you eat, our behaviors are a reflection of our mood and state of mind. How we respond to circumstances and situations creates a ripple effect and then a change or a consequence.

And everyday, we’re making tons of decisions, forming or sticking to habits and trying to cultivate a positive mindset in the process. Our habits make changes in our lives, some good, some not so good.

We live in a world where a lot of negative, scary, questionable, and often times, crazy things happen. We’re constantly consumed by what’s being said on the news, on social media, or on the radio, and it can be difficult not to internalize it all.

Our brains take in so much information at the speed of light and try to process the good, the bad, and the indifferent. Our habits shape us and affect our perspective on the things that happen to us.

It’s important to adopt happy habits that will allow you to be calm in your mind. Each day, especially if you live with depression and anxiety, mental health or self check-ins will be most beneficial for you. During these check-ins, you can do anything that you find enjoyable.

Happy habits are powerful enough to bring you joy, which is everlasting.

Adopting happy habits will strengthen your thoughts and how you respond to life events or transitions. So, here are 9 happy habits you can include that will radically shift your mindset and outlook on life.

1. Go on Nature Walks

Even in the winter time, I will go outside regardless of how cold it is, and spend time walking in nature. I’ve made this habit of doing nature walks, listening to my footsteps, breathing in fresh air, or marveling at wildlife.

Where I live, a lot of deer congregate (and lately, wild turkeys) in the wilderness amid my home. If I am having a stressful or hard day, I will focus on sounds outside. I focus on all of my senses. Calmness eases my thoughts.

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Recently, I’ve been going through difficult transitions and found myself relying on this time in the woods. The smell of burning leaves instantly relaxes me. Not sure why, but I’ve loved the burning maple smell since I was a kid.

2. Do a Creative Activity (That You Don’t Feel the Need to Share Online)

You don’t have to be creative to do something creative. Try coloring in those adult coloring books if your thoughts are driving you mad. Those Sudoku puzzles or word searches are things I like to do to take my mind off of the stress induced by daily life.

By doing puzzle-like activities, the mind goes quiet. Thoughts will fade and if something is bothering you, some kind of activity can change your perspective.

Doing things that get your creative juices flowing will open your mind to solutions to problems in all areas of your life.

Don’t think you’re a creative person? You can definitely change that with this.

3. 15 Minutes of Cleaning Each Day

If you spend only fifteen minutes a day cleaning, picking up your living room, kitchen or bedroom, you’ll immediately set yourself up for a stress-free day.

When I started devoting fifteen minutes each night to cleaning, I’ve been able to make more time for cultivating those happy habits that boost my mental health.

Cleaning can feel like a therapy or a meditation. Keeping your living environment in order will allow for more time to accomplish work tasks or other obligations.

4. 10 Minutes of Silence

Just ten minutes of silence or solitude can work wonders on your mental and emotional well-being. In those ten minutes, simply sit somewhere comfortable with your eyes closed and do breathing exercises. You could also do a brief self-hypnosis if you’re feeling particularly flustered or stressed.

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Make your own routine with this ten minutes of silence. I do my best work when I’ve had this time of quiet. It’s a way to add balance to your day and it’s a small thing you can do that’ll benefit you in the long run.

5. Try Journaling

At the end of every day, (I’ve been talking and writing about this type of journaling for years), keep a daily journal or a log of what you did that day and need to do the next.

If you’re someone who is hard on yourself or puts a lot of pressure on yourself, this type of writing will reshape your thinking about how you’re doing in life. It’s a way of dumping your workload on paper and seeing it for what it is, how simple and straightforward it is.

If you’ve got a truckload to do or there are things you’re forgetting to do, keeping a log will lift the weights off your shoulders and ease the stress and tension on your mind. It will restructure your brain and mind by keeping your emotions in tact so you can function at your highest level. It will also help you stay on track at the same time.

And a bonus: You’ll be less forgetful and know what you need to do to reach the finish line of work or other things that need attention.

Learn more about Why You Should Keep A Journal And How To Get Started.

6. Stretch for 15 Minutes Each Day or Night

For three years straight, and still, I’ve made this happy habit stick: fifteen minutes of stretching.

You don’t have to do yoga or twist yourself into a pretzel. I am talking about easy stretching anybody can do.

The habit of daily stretching will target your body, help you sleep better, and ease the tightness, strain or tension in your muscles.

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All of my stress sits on top of my shoulders and in my back, so I’ll spend fifteen minutes doing light or deep stretching to relax and unwind. You’ll feel lighter in your thoughts and mind when your body is feeling good.

The benefits of stretching range from fighting fatigue, insomnia, and eliminating stress. If you want to change your outlook and your life, focusing on how you’re feeling physically is a good place to start.

7. Make Small Salads Daily

Food is happiness, and how you eat affects the way you feel. It’s okay to splurge on a cupcake or cookies once and again but, studies now show that sugar, gluten and dairy contribute to depression and anxiety. They can overtax your system and result in severe fatigue or a crash of some kind.

I challenged myself to make a habit of preparing small, bowl-size salads (which takes me five minutes to make and does not require Masterchef skills). I select three vegetables and one fruit with spinach or something green.

Since I’ve been making salads each day, I’ve noticed a significant difference in my overall mood. Clean eating promotes happiness and this is a great habit to include in your regimen.

8. Volunteer or Give Your Time to a Cause

I’ve made a commitment to volunteer at my local art museum as often as my schedule allows. And let me tell you, my schedule is constantly slammed and jammed. But when I volunteer, I feel calmer and happier being away from the tedious artistic design work I do.

While I love my job, volunteering and giving to others has been extremely uplifting, fulfilling and enriching. You’ll find yourself feeling calmer, less rushed, and with more opportunities to enjoy others and life.

9. Take an Enrichment Class

If you can, get involved in the community and do an enrichment class such as cooking, sewing, yoga, a book club, or arts and crafts.

A lot of communities even have programs for people in their work field that are fun. For example, if you work in the I.T. field and would like to be more creative, you can take an enrichment class that introduces you to more avenues in your field or skills to expand on.

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Try something outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s once a month. There are people I know who work forty hours a week that still find the time to go to an enrichment program. Someone I know takes time out of their lunch hour to play basketball and exercise so they can return to their work with fresh eyes.

Doing things like that as well will break up your day and make you look forward to getting back to work.

The Bottom Line

To sustain a healthy mindset, you must take time for yourself and nourish your mind daily. Lifestyle practices such as mindful meditation, planting your feet on the ground and focusing on your breathing, or meditative walking produce calmness. Getting enough sunlight fuels the brain, boosts the production of serotonin, and hearing nature sounds intervenes in negative thinking.

When creating new habits, make sure to ask yourself how they will affect your health or outlook on life in the long-term. If there are habits you’re trying to let go of that sabotage your happiness, replace them with small habits.

The idea is to not put pressure on yourself, and instead, to explore and grow.

The change shouldn’t terrify you; it should spark inspiration and put you on a more fulfilling and purposeful path.

More About Pursuing Happiness

Featured photo credit: Patrick Carr via unsplash.com

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Tessa Koller

Author, Motivational Public Speaker and Artist

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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