We experience happiness when we feel contentment, pleasure, and a consistent sense of purpose in our lives. What seems like an abstract phenomenon can be inspired by the most simple events, and taken away just as easily. Although our specific passions and interests may differ from others, and our corresponding involvement in these activities is linked to a form of happiness, many simple daily habits can be incorporated into our lives to promote our well-being.
I do not claim to be an expert on happiness. Rather, happiness has become a practice for me, requiring years of trial-and-error experimentation to recognize what habits consistently produce desired outcomes. What I wish to share with you are the general daily practices that work for me. Instead of providing a list of these habits, I have created a “schedule” for you to try.
When your morning alarm goes off: Drink a Tall Glass of Water
The first thing I like to put into my body when I wake up is water. The health benefits are plentiful, including helping to improve mood, energize muscles, and increase alertness according to WebMD. Although this seems like an intuitive step, we feel it necessary to include it on this list, and invaluable to get into the habit of doing.
Tip: keep a glass of water on your nightstand.
Right when you wake up: Breathing Exercise
Some might call this practice “meditation,” but I think of it as breathing. If you already incorporate this habit into your daily routine you are probably familiar with the added health benefits of meditation and focused breathing, including an overall decrease in stress, increase in focus ability, and increase in immune system health, according to WebMD. I prefer to do this right when I wake up.
All you need is 5 minutes. Set your alarm for 5 minutes before you normally wake up, rise after the first alarm ring, drink your water, and move your legs onto the floor so you are sitting upright on your bed. If you fear that you will fall back asleep and you have a chair with good back support, you can use this instead.
Simply close your eyes and breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, for 5 minutes. Try to think of only your breathing, keeping your mind clear of thinking about any tasks or other responsibilities. Keep your shoulders relaxed, breath deep and slow, and stand up after you are finished.
After you eat breakfast: Write Down Goals
A great time to do this is right after you eat breakfast and before you head to work, and all it takes is 5 additional minutes (at most). Grab a notepad and a pen, and write down 6 goals. Make half of these goals attainable that day, meaning they should be easy enough to complete within 12 hours if time is budgeted efficiently. The other 3 can be “carry-over” goals that are more long-term, such as financial budget plans you are working toward or a project you are chipping away at that is due at the end of the month.
The idea here is to create a sense of accomplishment each day by outlining both simple and larger goals for yourself on a daily basis. Many successful entrepreneurs claim that the key to big success is small goal-setting (read a fantastic Forbes article about small goal setting here). Happiness works in a similar way, such that if we are met with consistent accomplishment, no matter how small or large, these successes add to our sense of being on the right track.
On your way to work: Listen to Music, Not News
I am an avid NPR listener. I love staying updated on politics, hearing about local events, and I use this tool as my primary news source. However, I do not think listening to NPR or any other news outlet is conducive to happiness if these are the first sounds that enter our ears in the morning. Even the most reputable and trustworthy news sources are skewed such that they tend to provide more coverage on negative events/issues (read more about this phenomenon on Psychology Today).
Whether you walk to work, drive, or take public transportation, try listening to upbeat music instead of the news. Make yourself a playlist, or discover new music using your app’s radio function! You can listen to the news on your way home.
During the day/while at work: Get Outside
Especially important if you work in an office building with recycled filtered air. Get outside! Resources such as Health.com link getting outside to improved focus, increased mood, and helping to reduce depressive symptoms. This will also give you the opportunity to walk around, get your blood flowing, and enjoy the sun.
After work: Exercise
The benefits of exercise on mood are ample and well-supported by research. It is proven to lower cortisol and stress levels, produce endorphins, and keep our immune systems running strong. Make this a part of your daily happiness routine by incorporating an hour of cardio and resistance strength training into your schedule.