A life filled with joy is what most people wish for. There are countless ways to reach for what you want but, when it comes to happiness, little things can make all the difference
This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared on Lifehack
By using these methods suggested here, short moments of bliss will compound over time into huge amounts of happiness. The smallest changes recommended in this article, practiced as a way of life, will make you stand out from the overworked, overbooked and, somehow, bored crowd that seems to fill every street and every room nowadays. Focus on what matters and everything else will just fall into place.
Make sure you take the time to read all 12tips and tricks to seize the moments. Even if you only take what resonates with you – based on your personality and bigger life purposes – you can still highly improve your life starting today.
Say yes and no
Both are equally important.
Saying ‘Yes’ more often can expose you to tremendous new experiences. You can think big – like finally taking that trip – or, more local, like going to an improv show. Both are equally effective in transporting you to new states of mind.
The other side of the always-saying-yes-coin tells a different story. While, at first, saying ‘Yes’ can transform your life, it can be overwhelming to have too much on your plate.
This is when ‘No’ comes in. In order to be able to say ‘Yes’ to the things you want, you must also be comfortable saying ‘No’ to anything and everything else.
Take care of yourself
There is a reason why we are instructed to put our oxygen masks on first in case of an emergency; if we don’t, we can’t function and, if we’re not able to function, we cannot help others.
When you take care of yourself, you feel good. You feel good about yourself and about the day ahead. You feel like you can take on any challenge that might come your way.
Try to recall a day when you didn’t shower, didn’t change clothes and your big plan was to stay in, watch TV and indulge in some junk food. The only problem was that you needed something from the shop, so you left the house looking a mess, secretly hoping you wouldn’t bump into anyone you know. But you did.
What happened then? You tried to hide behind the shelves. When that failed you felt uncomfortable even making eye contact and you tried to shorten the conversation as much as possible, so you could return to the cave as fast as possible.
Now imagine the exact same interaction with you looking nice and smelling like someone who cares about themselves; much better, right?
Make a bucket list
If you’ve never written a bucket list, don’t worry; it doesn’t have to be filled only with life changing, dangerous experiences or expensive stuff. Start small instead.
Make a summer bucket list: wine in the park, that free outdoor concert.
Write a winter bucket list: go on a sleigh ride, build a snowman.
Make sure that, whenever you have another idea add to the list, you write it down. Read it every day and seize the opportunity when an item can be checked off. At the end, you’ll find yourself smiling every time you do it and that’s how you turn your mundane, day-to-day life into something that’s exciting and outgoing.
Go off your usual path
There is nothing simpler than this. Think about changing your route to work and back home from time to time. Think about trying that food on the menu – even you have no idea what it is. Think about listening to people you usually dodge.
Everyone has a story to tell, and most have mind-blowing ones to share. You can learn something new from every person you meet and every single new experience you try.
Spend time outside
Those who live in the city are lacking sun exposure, some fresh air and the peace that comes with it. Just make sure your days include some down time in the sun. If you say it can’t be done because of your busy schedule, try walking more from one building to the other, or just going outside while taking those short breaks from work.
Little moments like these count, and they add up in the long run. Don’t overlook them and don’t underestimate their power.
Whatever you do, don’t plan every minute
Don’t fill every minute with activities; leave time for leisure, for spontaneity. Your brain will thank you for this; your energy levels will too, and even your mood. This way, you also make room for the unexpected.
Ditch the digital
The studies are clear on this. The World Happiness Report, which comes out every year, backs this up. People spend more time online than interacting in person with each other, which has unprecedented negative side-effects on our happiness levels.
The logic is simple. If you want to keep your happiness level up, or to give it a boost, all you have to do is go old-school. Pay someone a visit. Read a magazine. Instead of watching a movie at home, look for an art exhibition. The possibilities are endless once you focus on the little things.
Ditch the map, the clock and the reviews
Ditch the map of the city. Don’t read the reviews for the restaurant, just sit down at a table and order. Don’t look at your watch, do what you feel like, be it two in the morning or afternoon.
Learn something new, continuously
Don’t get comfortable in your ways.
If you always wanted to cook better, but don’t have the time, the energy or the skill to organise yourself to do so, look for a cooking class. You may meet someone who will change your life.
Don’t wait for others to do things. I know we all wish to do things with our friends, but sometimes they don’t share the same interests. Don’t let that stop you. And remember, there’s no better time than the present, no perfect time in the future.
Do this, and you’ll thank yourself – and you’ll have some good stories to tell next time you chat with someone new in one of your adventures.
This is for you and for you only. Reward yourself for every little thing you do the way you want. You had a good day at work when everything you planned was done? Buy yourself an ice cream.
Rewards have double powers. First, the more obvious one – you give yourself a moment, be it in the form of an ice cream, a new pair of shoes you had your eyes on, or movie tickets.
The second power of a reward is that it acts as a motivation.
Everything on this list is connected. You try something new, you meet someone new. You don’t wait, you make it happen. You challenge yourself, you reward yourself.
The correlation between volunteering and happiness is indisputable. The World Happiness Report says that just giving time to others increases one’s whole wellbeing. Pro-social behaviour, like volunteering, is a double edged sword.First, it makes you feel better, which will make you act in the same positive way in the future and, second, it spreads happiness to someone else.
You can volunteer to do thousands of activities but, remember, we’re talking about the smallest possible actions you can take to boost your joy. Think about holding the door, giving flowers, paying compliments, smiling, returning a lost item. These small things all do wonders when trying to spread other people’s happiness and, paradoxically, this also increases our own happiness.
Now, this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? The same principle as using the oxygen mask first applies. There are countless studies that state the same thing. Without getting enough sleep we are more prone to errors, we fail to retrieve memories or to finish a basic task, even thoughts. Work out how much sleep is right for you because the amount one needs differs from one person to another.
The bottom line
Being happy is a state of mind that can easily be influenced by the smallest actions we take every day. Make a commitment to yourself, cover the basics, set some principles – easy to follow – and breathe.
What you need to remember is that you have to make your life work for you; as long as you know what you value, you’ll know what to do to seize the day and enjoy life more.