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10 Unusual Things That Can Actually Make You Happy

10 Unusual Things That Can Actually Make You Happy

I’m currently doing #100happydays and that’s what prompted this article. All the below things, at some point, have made me unhappy. However, being happy is a much more fun alternative. Bearing that in mind, I thought I’d explore how some things that seemed overwhelmingly and unequivocally negative could actually be positive. Here we go:

1. Traffic

Could you look at it as annoying? Sure. An inconvenience? Absolutely. But, yes, this has made me happy. And no, I’m not insane (okay, debatable). I love listening to music in my car and singing and rapping along, and traffic gives me time to listen to more songs. I’ve been in traffic on roads that have beautiful views either side. I looked outside and just appreciated it. The more standstill the traffic, the better. I can switch off from driving for a bit and chill. How often have I gotten angry over traffic? A fair few times. Being happy about it is more fun. Trust me.

2. When it rains

The weather seems to have a real effect on people’s happiness even though it’s out of our control. When it rains, I can sit inside and read. Watch Netflix. Catch up on my group chats. Spend time with my parents. And, one of my favourites, write articles.

3. When people complain

I used to find this so annoying. And I still do, to an extent. The more I hear it, the more I cringe. I just can’t believe how negative some people are. They can’t be enjoying life. They just can’t. To jump straight to the negative like that is unhealthy. And just plain boring.

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However, it does make me realise how grateful and happy I am. I would love to be able to help everyone whose first reaction is to complain (and maybe one day I’ll find a way), but, for now, I’ll just let it help me be even happier.

4. Spraining my ankle (while playing basketball)

Every athlete is thinking I’m an idiot right now. Let me explain. Every time I’ve been injured it’s forced me to sit on the sidelines. To watch the game. To study our team. Where are we going wrong? What do we do well? How can I make everyone better? It’s helped me be a more intellectual player. A calmer player. A more effective player. In my first game back from my last injury I was relentlessly assertive. I was fired up. I wanted to make up for lost time. I just played brilliantly. It was, arguably, my best game of the season and we demolished the other team.

See, all you athletes, I was going somewhere with this.

5. Girls rejecting me

This is something I used to be really embarrassed by, and I’m sure most people can relate. Rejection doesn’t feel particularly great. You put yourself out there and you get shot down, for lack of a better cliché. I remember walking up to girls, being really nervous, and then having those nerves justified by her being totally uninterested. Awesome. What I didn’t see coming was that this made being rejected easier, not harder. I started thinking that if I was rejected then she probably wasn’t worth my time anyway. And it actually became kind of fun. I started to realise that it’s a part of life, much as I was trying to deny that, so I might as well just enjoy it and be happy that I had the courage to approach her in the first place. And, surprisingly (or perhaps not), I’ve had more success since.

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6. When I ruin a song

This can definitely be one of the most annoying things. But this happened to me the other day, and I smiled when I realised what I’d done. I was confused at first. Why was I smiling? Then it hit me. It was a song I used to always, always listen to with my friend. I’ve no idea how many times we played it, but if I had to guess, I’d say around 32,593. It just made me think of those memories and how much fun we used to have. It really took me by surprise. In a good way, though.

7. Getting locked out and playing I spy

When we first realised we were locked out, I was pissed off. It was late. It was raining. My friend’s mum wasn’t going to be home for a while. We’d bought snacks to have while watching a film. The best laid plans of mice and men were going awry. At least we had the car to retreat to. Usually we would’ve all taken our phones out and started checking our “social” media. However, my friend’s wife didn’t have her phone, and she didn’t want to feel left out. My friend suggested we play I spy. At first, because I was annoyed about being locked out, I wasn’t massively enthusiastic. He said he’d go first. “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with … S.” Then, it was like we were children again. “Satellite dish!” “Streetlight!” “Storm!” It was awesome. Even at the time I didn’t appreciate how fun it was. Looking back, it really was. I can’t even remember what the thing beginning with S was. Details never seem to matter in end.

8. When my phone has no signal

Again, initially, this is annoying. I need to go on the internet! I need to check all my group chats! I need to Snapchat back! I’ve only recently realised how easy it is for me to let my phone dictate to me. To grab my attention whenever it wants. To be in charge, if you will. (I know. Bad pun. Not sorry.)

Recently, I didn’t (couldn’t) check my phone for a few hours. And you know what? Nothing happened. Nothing. And it was then that I thought that so much of what I do on my phone is unnecessary and just out of habit. Reply on WhatsApp, scroll on Twitter, check Facebook … it just doesn’t matter. Most of it’s just boring. It felt good to get away from the noise. From the clutter. I switched off my mind from social media and felt relaxed. Does your phone control you? What would happen if you switched it off?

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9. Saying goodbye to my best friend

My best friend lives in China. He came to visit England recently and we had a fun old time. Clearly, there’s the inevitable moment where we have to say goodbye to each other. What made things worse this time around was that his wife started crying. We were fine (kind of). But that almost got me.

When I got in the car to drive off, something strange happened. After my sadness subsided (which didn’t take long), I felt genuinely happy and started smiling. It was a bit weird, initially, but then I realised that, yes, we had to say goodbye for now, but I was going to see him again. Of course I was. We see each other less than once a year, but every time we do it’s as if we’re roommates in college again, blowing off assignments, not going to class, and playing video games until 2 a.m. This happened often. Sorry Mum and Dad. All those memories flooded to my brain, as well as all the more recent ones – his wedding in China, for example – and I was just happy. Another cool surprise.

10. Getting complimented

Getting a compliment feels amazing. The person didn’t have to say it. They could’ve stayed quiet and I would’ve probably been none the wiser. But, out of all the things they could’ve chosen to do, they chose to compliment me. They chose to notice something about me, make me feel significant, help me be happy for that moment. It’s such a selfless thing to do.

You might be wondering why I’ve put this on here. You might not think it’s unusual. It is. It’s really unusual. Don’t believe me? Give a few people a compliment today and notice how many of them try to brush it off. Try to ignore it. Almost try desperately to not let themselves believe it. Why? My (somewhat educated) guess is that they don’t feel they deserve it. They don’t feel worthy of it. That’s really sad to me. If you don’t think you’re “good enough”, it’s really difficult for other people to see that you are. When someone compliments me, I say thank you. They’ve selflessly given me a compliment, and hell yeah, I deserve to be complimented. I know there’ll be some of you reading this who’ll think I’m arrogant for thinking that. That’s cool. Would you advocate that I start thinking that I don’t deserve to be complimented? Don’t deserve to be liked, or loved?

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To finish …

It’s all about how you think, and why you think that way. We all think things are positive and negative as a gut reaction, but get hold of this reaction. Don’t just mindlessly believe it. Why do you see it as negative? Because society told you to? Because your parents told you to? Is it actually what you really think? If you could look at the world in any way, how would you look at it? Would you see positive instead of negative? Fun instead of boredom? Opportunities instead of problems? What view would make you happy? What view of the world would you tell your kids to have? One that suffocates them? Or one that sets them free?

Featured photo credit: jessicahtam via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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