In this oh-so-stressful world of deadlines, social drama, and, of course, social media, it’s easy to get caught up sometimes. Don’t worry yourself too much though, there are plenty of things you can do to dial it back a bit and remind yourself how to be happy.
Here are 16 ways to do that, picked up by Esquire when they spoke to “happiness expert” Andy Cope.
Get excited about every single day.
The day of the week is what you make it. Rather than attributing a particular emotion to a certain day of the week (like Mondays being known for the “Monday Blues”), start getting excited about every day, especially towards the beginning of the week.
If you think about it, because Friday is at the end of the week, it’s a little bit closer to the end, whereas “Monday is an opportunity to make a dent in the universe.”
Aside from the morbidity you might now be associating with Fridays, it’s worth trying to see Mondays in a better light.
While this might sound a little bit like something you’d read in a hippie manifesto, it’s actually not all mumbo jumbo. As it turns out, hugs can pass along endorphins, though “it needs to last seven seconds or longer” (count in Mississippi’s, obviously) for this to be the case.
It might be a little difficult for those of us with strict personal space boundaries, but the endorphins will probably help to ease the way a bit.
Turn gossip around.
There are very few people out there who don’t have a penchant for gossiping, especially with social media making it easier than ever. Talking behind someone’s back doesn’t really have to be used for the negative stuff though, despite the connotation.
Instead, Cope suggests that you should use the time to “Say nice things about people behind their back.”
Not only will people not be able to accuse you of being petty and untrustworthy (which can only cause hassles and often lead to a loss of friends or people gossiping about you—also a hassle), but if you’re only caught being complimentary, they’ll label you as a nice person and likely someone they’d want to associate with.
After all, compliments are a treasured commodity, and who doesn’t want to hang out with someone who only strives to make them feel great about themselves? We know we wouldn’t turn it down.
Greet everyone you meet.
Have you heard of the 10/5 principle? No? Well according to Cope, it’s when you “smile at everyone who comes within 10 feet of you and make eye contact and”—don’t panic here—”Say ‘hi’ to everyone within 5 feet (except on the subway).”
Now, before you protest this idea because you a) don’t want to talk to, let alone risk starting a conversation with, strangers or b) identify as being a bit shy, just remember that there are some people whose entire days can be turned around by just a friendly greeting.
Does it sound like something you might hear on an after-school special? Yes. But it’s been said more than enough times that there has to be some merit to it, right?
It sort of goes hand in hand with not judging a book by its cover—again, after-school special sort of motto, but it’s an adage for a reason. You never know what sort of day or week or month a person is having, whether they’ve had any pleasant encounters recently, and yours could just be the one to make them feel the slightest bit brighter.
List what matters.
Nowadays, especially in the West where we have so many material luxuries that other nations don’t, we have a nasty habit of taking things for granted.
Cope suggests making “a list of ten things you really appreciate but take for granted.” He’s confident that “health” will make the list, and he’s likely not wrong.
Just keep in mind that health oftentimes can’t be bought, and many seemingly dire issues, like school, work, etc. become moot if you’re not healthy enough to contend with them.
Write down your best moments.
Piggy-backing off the first list idea, Cope has another top ten list you should be making. This one is to document the happiest moments you’ve experienced thus far, to help you discover “that most of the things on the list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products.’”
If you’re particularly caught up with material wealth and “Keeping up with the Joneses,” so to speak, this can serve as a really cathartic exercise, as the goal is to push you to experience more rather than buy more.
Remember the highlights.
We all know that dreaded question you get at the end of a long day if you’re in a relationship or you talk to your parents often, “How was your day?” they’ll ask, and you’ll likely groan, even if it’s only internally.
Rather than subjecting others to this weighty question, try the alternative, “What was the highlight of your day?” as it will force people to focus on the good aspects rather than dwell on the opposite.
Feel how you look.
This is a bit more difficult for those of us who get overly excited at the thought of a day spent in pajamas, but you should generally make the effort to at least “Walk tall and put a smile on your face.” We’d even go so far as to say, generally look your best.
You don’t have to cake on makeup or spend an hour working with pomade, but if you put in the effort, you’re bound to feel good about yourself and your appearance, and that confidence will translate.
Make optimistic goals.
Rather than putting things the emphasis on negative goals, like getting through the week or making it until your next vacation, neither of which sound particularly upbeat, Cope suggests reworking your goal-setting strategy.
He suggests endeavoring to “‘Enjoy the week’ or ‘to inspire people,’” both of which are admittedly rooted in conscious hard work, but the outcome is likely to sustain you for much longer than just getting through an off-day, with no plan in sight afterward.
Concentrate on your strengths.
Another way you can focus on the good is by making another list—don’t worry, this is the last one, and it’s shorter. Cope suggests making a list of what you consider to be your strengths, the five most important ones.
Rather than concentrating on your flaws or downfalls—both of which we all have, no matter what we might portray to the outside world—he suggests that you “Be aware of them and start seeing opportunities to play to them more often.”
Practice the 90/10 way of life.
This is another principle Cope mentions, which is rooted in the idea that 10 percent of your happiness is uncontrollable and left to chance. Essentially it’s what happens to you. The remaining 90 percent of your happiness though, is said to “[depend] on how you react to these events.”
Now obviously, some events in that 10 percent are much more dire and life-changing than others, but the overall point is that we’re in control of our own happiness, nearly any situation can include a silver lining.
Reframe the lame.
Instead of viewing chores and other seemingly grueling tasks as punishments or, again, things to just get through, try looking at them from a different angle. An example is, “a leaking gutter means you have a house; paying tax means you have some income.”
When you just look at it as having to fix a leaking gutter, you might groan, but when you think about the alternative, it almost looks like a privilege, doesn’t it?
Have real experiences with real people.
This is a big one and quite possibly the hardest one of of all. At the present time, the Western world is reliant on technology for just about everything, including things that are best done manually—like making friends.
A friend, despite popular belief, is not someone who you’ve just met once while waiting on line at the store, had a ten-minute conversation with, and only “talk” to one when you comment on a post of theirs. A friend is someone who’s there for you through thick and thin, with whom you’ve shared real and memorable experiences.
Spend more time focusing on the latter rather than how many photos of yours the former liked. You have more to offer the people in your life than something so impersonal, so give that (your thoughts, ideas, loyalty, trust, compassion) to them.
Memories are what you hold onto in old age and during the hard times, not what your most successful filter was or who tagged you the most.