29 Jul 11 things to do every, single day if you want to be happier
via Inc.com by Jeff Haden
Obviously, we all want to be happier. But there’s another reason to wish to be more lighthearted and content: Happiness is definitely a result, but happiness is also a driver.
While I’m definitely into finding ways to improve personal productivity (whether a one-day burst of output, or a lifetime of increased effectiveness, or things you should not do every day), probably the best way to be more productive is to just be happier.
Happy people accomplish more.
Easier said than done though, right?
Actually, many changes are easy. Here are 11 science-based ways to be happier from BelleBeth Cooper, co-founder of Hello Code, which makes Exist, a cool app that connects all of your services to turn that data into insights about your life.
Here’s Belle Beth:
1. Smile more.
Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:
“A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.”
Of course, it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. (You’ve seen fake smiles that don’t reach the person’s eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There’s a huge difference between a fake smile and a genuine smile.)
“Smiling makes us feel good, which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.”
A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:
“Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).”
2. Exercise for seven minutes.
Think exercise is something you don’t have time for? Think again. Check out this seven-minute workout from The New York Times. That’s a workout any of us can fit into our schedules.
Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it is an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with medication, exercise, or a combination of the two.
The results of this study are surprising: Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels early on, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:
“The groups were tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent.”
You don’t have to be depressed to benefit from exercise, though. Exercise can help you relax, increase your brainpower, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.
We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier.
A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes:
“Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 x 40 minutes exercising and 6 x 40 minutes reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.”
Yep: Even if your actual appearance doesn’t change, how you feel about your body does change.
3. Sleep more.
We know that sleep helps our body recover from the day and repair itself and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out sleep is also important for happiness.
In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects positivity:
“Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories yet recall gloomy memories just fine.
“In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81 percent of the words with a negative connotation, like cancer. But they could remember only 31 percent of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like sunshine or basket.”
The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task throughout the course of a day, researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger.
“Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.”
Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day.
Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their entire workday.
“Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.”
And, most important to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees performed and how well they performed it…
…keep reading the full & original article HERE