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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 May 22, 2019

    10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

    10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

    There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

    One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

    In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

    Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

    1. Cat Camel Stretch

    Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

    Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

    Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

    Here’s a video to guide you through:

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    2. Go for a Walk or a Run

    This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

    Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

    The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

    Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

    Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

    3. Jumping Jacks

    Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

    Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

    4. Abductor Side Lifts

    Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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    Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

    5. Balancing Table Pose

    This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

    Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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      6. Leg Squats

      Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

      Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

      The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

      7. Push Ups

      You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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      An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

      Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

      This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

      8. Bicycle Crunches

      There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

      Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

      9. Lunges

      Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

      Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

      This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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      10. Bicep Curls

      You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

      Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

      Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

      Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

      Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

      These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

      You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

      Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

      More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

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