First of all, how awesome is the job title “Happiness Researcher”? Apparently it is a real career and Shawn Achor is just that – a happiness researcher out of Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage. His TedTalk on happiness and success is one of the most popular of all time with over 11 million views. According to his research, there are five super-simple habits you should be practicing each day to increase your level of happiness. Add these to your family’s daily routine and watch the joy spread!
- 3 Bits of Gratitude: Take two minutes (yes, it only takes 2 minutes) to look for 3 things you are thankful for. Now, these can’t be the same things every day, over and over. Look for new reasons to be grateful and be very specific. For example, “I’m grateful for my dad today because he put extra jelly on my PBJ sandwich, which means he pays attention to me and what I like”.
- 1 Positive Experience: Remember something good that happened that day. Try to recall the experience in great detail. This is like doubling the positivity because your brain can’t differentiate between the actual positive experience and the visualization of that experience. So it’s like you are getting the good stuff twice!
- 15 Minutes of Exercise: Cardiovascular activities get the body moving, the blood pumping and evidence is accumulating that it boosts your mood, too. Kidding Around Yoga has some great songs to get you and your kids moving, like this one:
- 2 Minutes of Breathing: Take 2 minutes (yes, again, it only takes 2 minutes) and stop everything. No texting. No cleaning. No TV. Just be still. Notice your breath. How does it feel? Note the length, texture, temperature, and strength of your breath.
- Kind Words: Use 2 minutes of your screen-time (2 is like a magic number!) and send a quick email or text to someone. Praise or thank them specifically for something. Try to send your kind words to a different person everyday. This habit builds social connections. And guess what the greatest predictor of long-term happiness is? Yep. The number and strength of your social connections!
These are all pretty easy and fast. I’ll also add that as for a quick happiness pick-me-up, do some heart-opening Yoga poses. B.K.S. Iyengar, the Yoga master credited for introducing Yoga to the West said, “If you keep your armpits open, you won’t get depressed.” Think about the posture of a sad person: head dropping, shoulders drooping forward, chest collapsed. Try sitting that way. How does it feel? You can’t get a full breath, you feel closed off and dark. Now, roll your shoulders back, lift your heart, gaze at the horizon (or higher). How does that feel? Better, right? Postures like Camel, Bridge, Bow, Wheel, and Cobra open your chest, flooding your heart and lungs with blood, energy, and light.
I know we are all busy, but when it comes down to it, don’t you have 20 minutes in your day to build habits that will bring you, and your family, a lifetime of happiness?