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10 Habits That Will Make Us Happier

10 Habits That Will Make Us Happier

Happiness is something that we all seek. Every goal we set, every achievement we pursue, every relationship we engage in, and every journey we embark on is really just an attempt to feel happiness.

All of us seek happiness, and it comes in various forms. However, our habits have a major impact on whether or not we experience happiness. This article will list 10 “Happiness Habits” that, if consistently practiced, will create a measurable difference in our lives.

1. Align Our Goals With What We Really Value

Quickly ask yourself these questions: Are my goals authentic? Why do I want to achieve [insert goal]? Do I truly value what I am pursuing?

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If our core values are not properly aligned with our goals and daily actions, there will be inner conflict.  It is difficult to sustain happiness with a perpetual sense of inner conflict.  Our goals and actions need to be aligned with what we uniquely value as individuals.  So if they aren’t aligned, we need to make a change today.  Either set a new goal that is aligned with something we uniquely value, or stop pursuing something that has little intrinsic meaning.

2. Visualize The Absolute Best Case Scenario

It is natural for us to envision “what could possibly go wrong” in a given situation.  In many cases this actually isn’t a bad thing.  It allows us to make peace with the “worst case scenario” and plan appropriately.  However, it doesn’t get us excited.  So if we feel so inclined to prepare for the worst, we should also have the habit of “seeing the best” as well.  When we see the best, it gets us excited, and it provides us with a sense of hope, confidence and creativity.

3. Give Our Very Best In Everything We Do

Inner conflicts are often at the heart of unhappiness. A great way to create an inner conflict is to give a half-hearted effort in what we are pursuing. We can’t always control our immediate circumstances. Things happen to us that are outside of our control, but we can control how we react to situations. We can control our actions, and we can control our attitude‒no matter what happens to us. When we live each moment of our life with a sense that we are always giving our best, we will feel at peace. We won’t have regrets, and no matter what happens to us we will hold our heads up high knowing that we did our best. This makes us happy.

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4. Move Towards What Scares Us

Fear stops us from fulfillment. It also inhibits happiness. When we move towards what scares us, we achieve a powerful personal victory. It is the victory of the self over the self. When we achieve this victory we feel fulfilled, and we feel happy. Moving towards our fear also increases our complexity as individuals, and causes us to learn. Both of these are results that make us feel good. A habit of moving towards fear should be done in small, measurable steps.  Are you afraid of public speaking? Don’t sign up for a TED talk quite yet (perhaps that will come later). Start first with a small venue. Expand your comfort zone a small step at a time. Over time (as this becomes a habit) you will be amazed at your growth, and one day when you stand on that TED stage, it will seem surreal, but you only get there one step at a time. One victory over fear at a time.

5. Be Present. Live For Today

Living in the past can sometimes be nostalgic (and memorable), but it can also be painful and depressing. It is so easy to recall past mistakes and missteps. It is so easy to dwell on failures and the things that we “should have done.”  Living for the future can sometimes be exciting (if we are proficient at visualizing a compelling future), but it can also make us anxious (and scared) when we start to think about all the things we must do to make that future a reality.  The solution to the dangers of past and future living is to live completely in the present.  The present is all that we have anyway.  When we live in the present, we experience flow.  We do better work.  We eliminate anxiety and we thwart fear.

6. Learn Something New

If we believe that learning leads to happiness, then we have an unlimited opportunity for an exciting and fulfilling life.  There are literally limitless opportunities to learn.  You can learn a new skill or a new language.  You can learn strategies and tools that will help you to cultivate your existing talents and abilities.  You can expand your knowledge of the world, and other cultures.  You can live your entire life, immersed in learning related activities, and still never know it all. The reality is that learning does make us happy. It gives us confidence. You don’t need to go back to school to learn (although that can be fulfilling as well), just go to your preferred search engine, type some keywords of things that you’d like to learn and start reading.  Build on what you know every day.

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7. Exercise and Eat Healthy Foods

The better we eat, the better we’ll feel. The more we move, the better we’ll feel. This habit is also one that will create immediate results.  Sometimes, when we are in a bad mood, or perhaps we’ve had a bad day at work, the solution is a simple one: get to the gym, go for a walk or run, get on the bike, or go for a swim. Whatever our preferred method is, the results are the same.  We feel better after we exercise.

8. Detach From The Opinions of Others

Relationships bring meaning, purpose and richness to our lives.  They also can be a significant source of pain and frustration if we become fixated on the opinions of others.  The reality is that not everyone is going to like us.  Sometimes, just by being ourselves, we unintentionally push people away, and if we try to change this (by being someone who we aren’t) we unintentionally push others away (who like our authentic version better).  There is only one of us, and that is the person who we need to be 100% of the time‒the real, authentic self‒and if it means that not everyone likes us, so be it.  We will be much happier over time if we live as who we really are, and detach from the opinions of others.

9. Detach From Results. Focus Only On Actions

This is a difficult one, but if we master it, it will change our lives.  We pursue goals because we want a result, and there is nothing wrong with this.  All of us do it.  However, if we become completely fixated on the result, and fail to achieve it, then we may look at the endeavor as “wasted time.” We also may be so disappointed in not obtaining the result that we won’t see all of the growth that we experienced.  Some people feel that the saying “the journey is the destination” is simply a cliche, but if we truly live it, it is far more.  When detaching from results‒and focusing only on our actions, on being present at each moment, and on giving the very best that we have‒becomes a habit, we have great possibilities for happiness.

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10. Live Life As A Great Experiment

When we are kids, anything is possible.  Life is one giant experiment and we are the great scientists. There are no failures.  There is only feedback.  We are willing to experiment and try just about anything that interests us.  There are no limits. Unfortunately, for many of us, this enthusiasm, and willingness to experiment, fades with age.  We get risk-adverse.  We start worrying about failure, especially if that failure is visible (and could lead to criticism).  We start doubting what is possible. We believe that we are being “practical” and “pragmatic” and we hypnotize ourselves to think that this is the grown-up way to act.  However, it often doesn’t make us happy, and we’d be happier if we just retained the curiosity we had as a child.  If we can capture the child-like innocence of treating life like a giant experiment, and we are the amateur scientists, then the world will remain a wonderful mystery, and we will constantly feel intrigued and happy.

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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