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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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More by this author

Eduard Ezeanu

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

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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