Advertising
Advertising

How to Be 25% Happier in Five Minutes a Day

How to Be 25% Happier in Five Minutes a Day


    Remember when you got a raise and bought a new car, and you’ve been happy ever since?

    Neither do I.

    It doesn’t work that way, does it? We buy things, we achieve goals, we indulge ourselves—but none of it gives us lasting happiness.

    So, what does work? According to scientific research, the answer is gratitude.

    Advertising

    Unhappiness often boils down to fear in one form or another: fear of not having enough, fear of not being enough.1 For example, you might be miserable at work because you’re afraid you can’t do your job, and you’re afraid you’ll be fired. You might hate doing the bills because you’re afraid you don’t have enough money. If somebody cuts you off in traffic and you get angry they put you in danger, that’s also fear.

    But gratitude counteracts fear. If you can train yourself to be in a state of gratitude most of the time, you can reduce your fear and open yourself up to happiness.

    It’s not mystical, and it’s not difficult. Each night before you go to bed, make a list of five things you’re grateful for.

    It may seem foreign or awkward at first, but anybody can think of five things. You could be grateful for your family, a sunny day, a great meal, your health, your best friend, or a special moment. Even if things are going badly, you could be grateful for ways they aren’t worse.

    There’s no need to edit or judge. Whether the things on your list are as profound as a parent’s love for a child, or as frivolous as my love for milkshakes, the important thing is to come up with at least five things you’re grateful for.

    Advertising

    It doesn’t take long to have an effect. In one study, participants were 25% happier after doing this for only two weeks.2

    Why it Works

    By making a gratitude list every day, you retrain your brain to notice the positive. We encounter so much information every minute of our lives, our brains have to filter out most of it.

    Just imagine if we noticed every tick of the clock or every footstep—we’d never get anything done. But when you learn a new word, suddenly you see that word everywhere. That’s because it’s been reclassified as something important, so instead of leaving it in the background, your brain starts pointing it out to you.

    You can take advantage of that effect. By making the daily gratitude list, you put your brain on the lookout for things to be grateful for. Before long, you start noticing them everywhere.

    More and more, you notice positive experiences as they happen, and you feel grateful in real time. Later, you get  to enjoy the same experiences again as you remember them and put them on the list.

    Advertising

    Positive Effects

    One study found that after 21 days, participants who made daily gratitude lists were not just more optimistic and satisfied with their lives overall, they slept better and experienced less pain.3

    In another study, participants were asked to make daily lists for only a week. Not only did they exhibit more happiness and less depression by the end of the week, they were still feeling the effects six months later. This was especially true for the people who kept making the lists, even though they were only supposed to do it for a week.4

    I used this simple technique to help pull myself out of depression, and I use it now to keep feeling good. I hope it will work as well for you as it has for me.

    Silly or serious, what’s one thing you’re grateful for right now?

    1. What Happy People Know by Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth. Rodale, 2003, p. 24.

    Advertising

    2,3. “Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life” by Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 84, No. 2, 377–389.

    4. “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions.” Martin E. P. Seligman, Tracy A. Steen, Nansook Park, and Christopher Peterson. American Psychologist, Vol. 60, No. 5 (July–August 2005), 410–421.

    (Photo credit: Happy Jump via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    How to Be 25% Happier in Five Minutes a Day

    Trending in Lifestyle

    135 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together 211 Health Benefits of Black Tea that You Didn’t Know About 310 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day 410 Benefits of Sleeping Naked You Probably Didn’t Know 530 Inspirational Songs that Keeps You Motivated for Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on August 20, 2018

    35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

    35 Anniversary Ideas to Bring You Closer Together

    Every mature relationship has had a less-than-memorable anniversary. Maybe one of you forgot, or both of you got busy with work, kids, family issues, or something else. Whatever happened, the day came and went without fanfare. And neither of you seemed to notice or much care.

    But for the health of any relationship, it’s important to make important days feel special. Anniversaries offer the wonderful opportunity to relive beautiful memories, practice gratefulness for your partner, and to show your love and strengthen your bond. Make this year’s anniversary with your significant other something special  — one that will bring you closer together.

    Advertising

    The best way to create a memorable anniversary is to do something new and different together as a couple. Stretch yourselves a bit.

    Advertising

    While boredom can silently kill a relationship, new experiences reinforce the shared bond you already have and create strong new memories. Just think back to the most significant memories you have right now with your spouse and imagine what new ones you can create!

    Advertising

    While you enjoy your chosen anniversary activity, be sure to keep a positive attitude and make your partner happy too on that day. Leave all arguments and day to day detail behind. Just celebrate your relationship. Whether you’re going to spend the day together at home, getting away, or having a wild and crazy new experience together, you can have your best anniversary yet!

    If You’re Staying In

    1. Spend an evening with no technology, just the two of you and maybe a board game. It’s hard to keep ourselves away from our computers and smartphones long enough to have a meaningful conversation. Make a rule not to use your tech and you’ll rekindle your relationship!
    2. Make wine or beer together. If you enjoy drinking together, this is a fun activity to try together. Just remember to buy the necessary equipment ahead of time.
    3. Learn something new about each other. With an open mind, try asking some of the New York Times’ 36 questions that lead to love. They’ll help spark intimacy and will lead to some really honest moments.
    4. Have a lazy day. Breakfasts in bed, spend all day in bed talking and napping. Follow breakfast with champagne and dessert! If you feel like getting more active, cook together or play some games. Here’re some simple breakfast ideas for you.
      • Learn to dance at home. This is best for those active couples who work out together and also enjoy learning something new together. Just go on Youtube to find any music with dance tutorials and learn together.
      • Visit model homes or open houses and plan your dream home.
      • Have a special dessert – champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. Having an unusual treat makes a day feel extra special. If you want to make the dessert really special, try these tasty dessert recipes.
      • Create a playlist of your favorite songs as a couple. Choose songs that tell your story, and songs that you bonded over throughout your relationships. Here’re some love songs ideas for your inspirations.
        • Write your love story. Write it together or ave each of you write your own and then bring them together in an interesting, both sides of the story format.
        • Get a fondue pot. Fondue is a fun way to enjoy melted cheeses (for savory items) and melted chocolate (for sweeter treats).
        • Decorate! Turn your home into a dressed-up french cottage, a sophisticated restaurant, or simply with flowers. The different ambience will immediately change the feel of your home and make it feel like a staycation.
          • Talk about the future together. It might sound simple and everyday, but imagining how you want to spend your retirement together, or planning future trips can be exciting and romantic.

          If You Want to Get Away

          1. Take a day trip together to your favorite spot. If you live in a city, it can be incredibly refreshing to get away for an afternoon and drink in the outdoors.
          2. Go on a scenic drive and stop at a wine and cheese bar. Or, if you’re lucky enough to have lots of options where you live, try a brewpub. There are tons of small craft breweries with fantastic food options too.
          3. Go camping. Relatively affordable and, if the weather’s right, beautiful and romantic.
            • Take an overnight backpacking trip. For the more adventurous couples, backpacking is an even more intense way to challenge yourself physically while becoming one with nature.
            • Take a wine tasting tour. If you live on the West Coast or in the Northeast, take a drive to the nearest winery. Many offer relatively inexpensive tastings and deals if you purchase a certain amount.
            • Take a scenic train trip. Taking the train means less stress traveling: nobody has to drive, you don’t have to stop for breaks every few hours, and you can sleep if you need to!
            • Save up for a destination vacation. What better time than your anniversary to enjoy the beach at a beautiful resort?
            • Explore a new city. Whether you’re on a budget or have a lot saved up, you can have a great time just exploring an unfamiliar town.
            • Rent a cabin for a weekend away, in the woods or next to a lake or ocean. If you like the outdoors but can only take so much nature, try glamping.
              • Go on a retreat. Yoga retreats, meditation retreats, beautiful natural surroundings … they’re all the rage. Search for centeredness and calm with your partner.
              • Spend a day at a food festival. Many cities have fun and affordable food festivals, occasionally based on a theme. Check out your town’s (or a nearby city) calendar for inspiration!

              New & Exciting Experiences

              1. Go spelunking. Dark, damp, and utterly exciting!
              2. Go on a hot air balloon ride. Because the basket is relatively small, this can be a romantic and deeply personal – and yet thrilling –
                experience.
                • Try sky diving. If you and you S.O. are real thrill-seekers, sky diving can really push you to the edge!
                • Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or scuba diving. This may take you far away from where you normally live and work, which is an added bonus.
                • Experience white water rafting.
                • Drive or hike to the highest spot nearby for a new view of the world. America has tons of beautiful mountains where challenging hikes (or drives) can deliver breathtaking views.
                • Take a craft or cooking class. Up your craft skills or food  making skills, and enjoy something new!
                  • Take a wine and painting class today. These classes are easily found these days and even a beginning painter can create a nice painting. Challenging but relaxing, fun, and you get to go home with some artwork!
                  • Learn to salsa dance. Dancing is a fantastic way to actively get closer and coordinate physically with one another.
                    • Visit a nearby festival you’ve always wanted to go to. Have fun and let go with fellow audience-members!
                    • Spend the day at an amusement park together. Laugh and carry on like teenagers.
                    • Meet new people! At a restaurant, concert, or class, make it a point to meet new friends. Striking up conversation with someone you don’t know – but with whom you have shared interests – can be an adventurous and rewarding experience.

                    Whether your budget is big or small, and whether you have a little or a ton of time together, focus on each other. There are tons of options, in terms of location, level of physical activity, and cost. You can make the day special in a way that’s right for you!

                    Featured photo credit: Photo by Taylor L. Spurgeon on Unsplash via unsplash.com

                    Advertising

                    Read Next