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10 Unusual Things That Can Actually Make You Happy

10 Unusual Things That Can Actually Make You Happy
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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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