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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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