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4 Shortcuts to Happiness That Actually Work

4 Shortcuts to Happiness That Actually Work

Traditionally, most strategies for becoming happier that we learn about in life take a serious amount of time to implement.

It takes years of education and then hard work in order to achieve career success. It takes years of meeting people and interacting with them in order to find someone special, and to boot, not only do these strategies take a long time, but they don’t always make us that much happier (or that added happiness doesn’t last very long).

However, there are also what we might call shortcuts to happiness: actions that, if taken, can create an immediate and noticeable boost in our mood. They make us happier instantly. The problem is that many of the popular shortcuts either don’t really work that well (for example, checking your Facebook account non-stop), or they work in the short run, but create more harm than good in the long run (for example, consuming lots of alcohol).

The good news is that there are reliable shortcuts to happiness that are well-validated by psychological research and empirical data. These methods actually work and they work well for just about anybody. I’d like to share with you 4 of the top shortcuts to happiness, which you can start using as soon as you’ve finished reading this.

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1. Practicing Gratitude

You will always find both happy and unhappy people living in very similar conditions. For instance, there are rich people who are happy, but there are also rich people who are unhappy. The same goes for poor people.

The main differentiating factor doesn’t seem to be the external appearance of their life, but rather their level of gratitude. Happy people are grateful for whatever they have in life, big or small, and they know to appreciate life as it is. This is what makes them feel good on a regular basis. By deliberately practicing gratitude, you can enjoy the same positive emotions and be happy with your life. This doesn’t mean that you’ll stop wanting to improve your life—it’s perfectly possible to enjoy life as it is while seeking to improve it at the same time.

How do you practice gratitude? Several times each day, look at your life and try to identify the positive things about it. As you do so, let yourself become fully aware that you might not have had those things in the first place and that it’s amazing you have them now.

Think about it: you probably have a nice place to live, a warm meal to put on the table every day, a TV. a microwave, a smartphone, many chances to travel, and a ton of social opportunities. These are things that just a century ago most folks couldn’t even imagine, or would have had to really struggle to obtain. Not to mention all the small pleasures of life: a sunshine, a warm cup of tea, a nice song and so on. That’s something to be grateful for.

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2. Being Present

To be present means to have your focus oriented towards the activity you’re doing and the environment you’re in, instead of being in your head daydreaming or lost in your thoughts. It means to fully experience the moment at hand.

The interesting thing is that when we become present and we let reality flood our senses, all of a sudden we relax and we feel happy. Our problems fly away, our worries take a backseat, and we simply experience reality with delight. This is one of the many reasons why it’s worth practicing living “in the moment”.

The basic instructions for becoming present are simple: as you’re doing a certain activity, you shift your focus from internal to external; you focus your attention on the activity and the context, thus letting go of thoughts that take you away from the present moment. For instance, when you walk down the street, you may be inclined to daydream or dwell on your problems instead of being present, so this is a great time to practice this technique.

Shift your attention externally: notice the feeling of your body and of your feet touching the ground as you take each step. Notice the buildings you pass by, notice the people you pass by. Listen to the sounds around you. Immerse yourself in this sensory experience and you are now being present.

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3. Helping Others

Something psychologists have known for quite a while now is that we human beings have a deep, strong desire to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. We want to help the world, we want to help others, and when we do so, we feel happy.

In addition to the fact that helping somebody in itself makes us feel good, if this action is met with appreciation or kindness from that person, it will makes us feel even better. Fortunately, helping others is something that’s easily available at any time. And that makes it a viable shortcut to happiness.

Right now you can go out and buy something nice for a person in your life and then give it to them, or you can go to the website of a charity organization and make a donation to support a cause you believe in. There is no shortage of opportunities to help others, and I encourage you to take action when you can. It’s guaranteed to brighten your day, and somebody else’s as well.

4. Physical Exercise

Just about anybody who goes jogging, works out, dances, or plays any type of sports on a regular basis can tell you that these activities make them feel good. They generally feel serene, centered and content for hours after doing them. This is because all these activities are centered around physical exercise: when you exercise your body, your mind triggers the release of chemicals in your body that improve your health in the long term. These also give you an instant mood boost—endorphins, for example, are your body’s natural feel-good drug.

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When you’re feeling down, one of the best things you can do is a bit of physical exercise. It will swiftly make you feel a lot better. Of course, it’s always a good idea to also identify the core causes of your negative feelings and deal with them, but that’s something that can take time. It helps a lot if you can first boost your mood quickly, so then you can analyze the problem with more lucidly and seek the best possible solution for it. This is why I encourage you to make physical exercise of whatever type you are likely to enjoy the most a part of your daily routine—the benefits are astounding.

Happiness really doesn’t have to be something you defer for years and years. You don’t need to achieve a certain lifestyle in order to be happy: that’s just a myth. You can be happy right now and enjoy every single day of your life by using simple, tried and tested strategies.

Apply the potent shortcuts to happiness I’ve talked about, and I’m certain that you’ll experience remarkable results.

 

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Eduard Ezeanu

Eduard is a confidence and communication coach with 7+ years of experience.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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