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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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)

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    Last Updated on March 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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