Eight simple ways to be happier today

13 Jan

So many “improve your life” articles include vague suggestions, like “know that you are loved” and “accept the things you cannot change.” Which are great and all – but how do I know, at the end of the day, if I’ve done those wishy-washy things? I’m a Type-A, plan-everything, to-do list kind of person. I want a real, check-off-able list.

This is my to-do list for a happy day.

1. Call someone. Your mom, a great friend from high school, an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Call them to say hi, ask what’s up, and have a conversation. Relationships are what give our lives meaning, and a 15-minute phone call can do a lot for keeping those alive.

2. Cook real food. Maybe it’s just pasta with some veggies thrown in, maybe you go all out and make a five-course steak dinner. Eating real food feels good, and cooking it yourself has the added benefit of being a fun accomplishment and a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life.

3. Go for a walk. Some people might get this same feeling from running, biking or swimming, but I’m lazy, so I walk. It’s not about exercise, although that’s a nice side benefit, it’s about just existing in the world. Take out your headphones for at least a few minutes, stand tall, and just look at the world around you. Take deep breaths, let your thoughts do whatever they feel like, and find something interesting to notice.

4. Work on a project. Depending on your level of fancy-ness, this may be your meal. But it should be outside of your job, a project that’s a little bit challenging (so no, watching all ten seasons of Friends doesn’t count) and something that you want to be doing. Write, draw, craft, build, whatever. Just do something you’ll be proud to complete.

5. Read a chapter. Of anything. Preferably on real paper, while sitting somewhere cozy. It’s fun, relaxing, and you’ll probably learn things, or at least impress people with your multitude of literary references.

6. See a friend, or make plans to. Most of us don’t have the unlimited bank account or incredibly widespread social circle to do something social every single day. But a couple times a week is important, and will keep you having things to look forward to and connected to your community.

7. Do something nice. Send your friend a note for no real reason, just to tell them you think they’re awesome. Give the Starbucks gift card in your wallet to someone else. Drop a dollar in a collection box.  Keep food in your car and give it to homeless people you drive past. Watch someone’s kids so they can grocery shop in peace. Just do something to make the world a little bit happier.

8. Tell yourself no. Yeah, this one’s a little weird and goes against a lot of typical advice, but I find it works better for me. When you find yourself wanting something that you think would make your already-fantastic-day a little bit better (a beer while cooking dinner, a dress you saw in a window while out for your walk, even just watching an extra episode when you told yourself you’d go to bed at 10:30) just say no. You’ll likely find that you didn’t need it to make yourself happy. The more times you say no, the more fun the times will be when you say yes to that treat, whatever it is.

Yes, there are a lot of things on this list, and there’s limited outside-of-work time in a day – but, especially if you don’t have kids, as I don’t, you’ll be pleased to find that you actually have plenty of time for all these things in the evening if you make them a priority. If you do all (or most) of them every day, you may find your happiness increasing even as your income, relationship status, weight, home and other external factors stay the same.

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3 Responses to “Eight simple ways to be happier today”

  1. autumnkovachak January 13, 2015 at 11:51 am #

    Good thoughts. I like it. I feel fortunate to be able to walk so much because I have felt the benefits of clearing the mind. Though tiring at times, I really do enjoy that part of NY. #6 is one I’ve been working extra hard at. I’ve had a lot of friends refer me to connect with their friends and I’ve also been on a quest to connect with photographers (and maaaaybe potential podcast guests??). It takes a lot of intention and time but the anticipation of that next coffee date makes me so happy!!

    • laurenkcampbell January 13, 2015 at 11:54 am #

      I’m not sure how relaxing walking in NYC would be, but I’m sure it’s nice not to have to drive everywhere! The friend thing will come, I’m sure – have you found any dancing yet?

      • autumnkovachak January 14, 2015 at 7:15 am #

        Well, headphones help with the relaxing part. It’s on my goal list for the month to buy a groupon for a dance studio because I’ve been wanting to take lessons for a while. There is a studio near my place that has a lot of different styles so I’m sure I’ll meet a mix of people there!

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