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13 Surprising Ways to Make Happiness a Habit

13 Surprising Ways to Make Happiness a Habit

You know how some people seem to be happy no matter what happens to them?  They always have a positive outlook on life. They seem to enjoy things more than you and me, and their relationships with people thrive in a way that we only imagine.  You’ve probably wondered what it is about them that makes happiness so easy for them.  Well it turns out there is no special trick to happiness.  Just like anything else, it’s just something that we have to learn to make a habit.  Incorporate the following 14 behaviors into your daily life and you’ll find that happiness habits surround you.

1. Change Your Perspective

There are plenty of reasons to not be happy.  Someone cut you off on the way to work.  You got a ticket.  You made a bad grade or got a less than stellar performance review, etc.  The interesting thing about not feeling happy when these things happen is that you aren’t in control.  You have chosen to let external forces dictate how you feel about life.  When you learn that you have control over these things, simply by changing your perspective, the whole world changes.  For example, take the “someone cut you off on the way to work” scenario.  By making an excuse for that person, such as that they are rushing to get their pregnant wife to the hospital (or some other emergency), you excuse their wrongdoing and are not negatively affected by it.  Hopefully they make it to the hospital in time and bring a beautiful child into the world.  It turns out Your Perception IS Your Reality.

2. Get Some Sunlight

Sunlight makes us happy.  UV rays hit the skin and the body begins to produce vitamin D ( vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression, among other things).  When the sunlight hits your eyes it signals to your brain to slow down secretion of melatonin (a hormone that helps you sleep), and increases secretion of serotonin (a hormone associated with happiness and wakefulness).  What does all of this mean?  Getting more sun will make you happier.  If you aren’t getting at least 15 minutes of sun exposure on your skin per day, it’s a good idea to try and get out more.  Take a walk during lunch, sit outside for a few minutes instead of watching TV.  Make time for it.

3. Make a Life List

Life lists are awesome.  They are the theme park of life planning.  Think about the things you want to experience and accomplish before you die.  While it may sound like a morbid pursuit, it’s actually pretty life changing and inspirational.  Especially when you make plans to start checking things off your life list.

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4. Learn a New Hobby

Hobbies are fun ways to experience happiness.  Whether you love to cook, play games, paint, or anything else, the joy of learning a new hobby is one of the most enjoyable endeavors you can embark upon.  When starting a new hobby, focus on the joy of just experiencing something new. There is something magical about being a “newbie,” because with every experience there is something to be gained.

5. Focus on Appreciation and Gratefulness

Learning to show appreciation and to be grateful for what you have is, in itself, a reward.  People who express appreciation and take time be grateful are happier and have more positive outlooks on life. Start with a simple experiment.  Every night before you go to bed, write down something that happened throughout the day that you are grateful for.  It wont take long before that habit changes your entire perspective.

6. Meditate Regularly

While meditation often gets the reputation of being spiritual and strange to those who don’t partake, it has benefits for practically everyone who gives it a real chance.  I don’t see meditation as spiritual. I see it as therapeutic.  I sit quietly for 5-10 minutes per day (I don’t time it‒I just do it), and focus on me.  Sometimes I close my eyes; sometimes I don’t.  But I focus on my breathing, I take stock on how I feel (physically and mentally), and I visualize what my day is going to look like.  It’s almost like a pre-game ritual.  Try it.  You wont be disappointed.

Check out How to Meditate: 10 Steps to Meditate Anywhere

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7. Embrace Your Fears

Fear is one of the big zappers of happiness.  Fear leads us to worry, causing stress and a focus on negativity.  One way to stop fear is to begin welcoming it into your life.  Obviously you don’t want to jump into the deep end on this one, but start small and start tackling your fears.  You’ll find yourself stronger, more confident, and happier with every fear tackled.

8. Smile More

Where I live, it’s a common occurrence to exchange smiles with anyone you come into contact with. I’ve traveled enough to know this isn’t a common practice everywhere, but I think it should be. Smiling is easy to do, feels good, tells your brain you’re happy, and can be the one happy thing the receiver of your smile sees that day.  You can brighten up the lives of people around you with just a flash of your pearly whites.  With that kind of power comes great responsibility.  Use it, and use it often!

Check out 7 Benefits of Smiling and Laughing that You Didn’t Know About

9. Exercise Regularly

There are numerous benefits to exercise.  I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that.  Stress relief, health benefits, etc.  But my personal favorite benefit is the release of endorphins.  They are natural pain and stress relievers, and they make you feel great.  I didn’t believe in the endorphin rush, or Runner’s High, as it’s commonly referred, until I started running.  Now I can’t get enough.

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10. Embrace Your Negativity

Some people swallow and repress the negative thoughts and feelings they have, thinking this will somehow make them happier.  Unfortunately, it always seems to come back, manifesting in stress, physical pain, or otherwise.  The truth about the negativity is that it’s necessary to understand and accept that sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes you will be stressed.  Sometimes things will happen that you have no control over.  Understanding and accepting this will reduce the stress you feel from repression, allowing you to get back to the things that make you happy.

11. Challenge Yourself

One of the greatest things you can do in life is to set the bar high and then achieve.  By challenging yourself in ways that are achievable, but require work, you continue to work hard and improve yourself, often times leading to the outcome of being satisfied not with the accomplishment, but with the progress that you’ve made simply by having the goal.  Set challenging goals, and then create realistic plans to achieve them.  Every achievement becomes another step on the staircase towards your greatest, happiest self.

12. Volunteer Your Time

There is no quicker way to feel happy than to help someone else, especially someone in need of help.  Volunteering your time is addicting, not just because you’re helping people in need, but because you feel good doing it.  It’s a humbling way to honor humanity and be grateful for the blessings that you’ve received.  There’s tons of reasons for the good feelings associated with volunteering, but suffice it to say it’s a no-brainer for both quick and long-term happiness.

Check out 11 Facts About Volunteering That Will Surely Impress You

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13. Posture and Breathing

Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and take a deep breath.  Do it a few more times.  Feel that? Posture and breathing have a profound affect on your outlook on life.  In just a few moments, hunching and taking weak, shallow breaths can sap the life right out of you.  Focus on sitting up with your shoulder back and taking deep breaths as often as possible, and you’ll be happier throughout the day.

What did we miss?  What steps have you taken towards making happiness a habit? Tell us your habit in the comments below.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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