What makes you happy? I find directly pursuing happiness is difficult to do. Many times the things we think will make us happy fail to do so. Instead I like to focus on growth and developing a strong life philosophy that can guide you through tough times and help you enjoy successes.
But what about feeling good right now? I’ve found many different ways to give myself a jolt of happiness when I’m feeling down. Here is a list of different hacks I frequently use whenever I need a boost of positive emotion.
Hack One: Goals
Nothing creates a bigger jolt of enthusiasm than a new inspiring vision of the future. Too often people try to hold back their dreams and desires like holding in a breath. Unfortunately this only causes them to feel miserable as they suffocate. Even if your goal is something small it can provide you with a new direction.
Hack Two: Chores
Procrastination sucks. You can give yourself a boost in accomplishment by finding the smallest task you need to complete and doing it. Even if the task only takes five minutes, the sense of momentum usually lasts a lot longer.
Hack Three: Laugh
Don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Find something to laugh about, and if you can’t, laugh anyways. Find something funny, joke with friends or just laugh by yourself. You can’t help but feel a little happier after laughing.
Hack Four: Aid
Help someone who needs it. One small act of service can leave you happy all day. Counsel a friend in need. Give a sincere compliment. Donate blood. Help someone else to help yourself.
Hack Five: Socialize
One of the leading evolutionary theories for explaining the size of the human brain is our complex social structure. In the Stone Age humans formed groups of at least one hundred people and it took considerable brainpower to manage those relationships. Call up some friends or make some new ones and use your brain for what it was made for.
Hack Six: Inspiration
Find something to get you inspired, even if just for a short time. Inspiration without doing anything won’t accomplish much, but you can still use inspiration to boost your happiness. I have a couple audio recordings of motivational speakers. Their ideas are often common sense or mediocre but the short spike of positive motivation from their words is often priceless. Consider replacing your daily caffeine with some inspiration to give you energy instead.
Hack Seven: Exercise
Exercise releases various chemicals into your brain which leave you feeling good. Anyone who has ever had a “runner’s high” certainly knows the feeling. Spend a half hour doing some exercise. It will make you feel good and you can also take pride in your pursuit of a healthy body.
Hack Eight: Posture
Change the way you hold your body to reflect someone who is happier. Faking your state can bring back associations to a more positive state. Emotions and body language are two-way streets.
Hack Nine: Music
Music is a fast way to boost your happiness. Put on some music that makes you feel good. Even if you have to listen to Bobby McFerrin.
Hack Ten: Nature
In our highly industrialized lives it can be hard to return back to a more natural environment. Spend a few minutes in a park or in the wilderness. Notice the sounds of birds and the smells and sensations of nature. I don’t believe nature has any mystical New-Agey powers, but I do think that a dramatic change in environment can alter your state. Utilize those positive associations you have with the tranquility of nature to boost your mood and get away from the glow of your monitor.
Hack Eleven: Hug
Hugging someone you care about produces special chemicals that result in a positive state of being. Even better than the brain cocktail human touch creates is the feeling of connection with another person. Remove some of the distance and reach out. Just watch the pepperspray when hugging complete strangers.
Hack Twelve: Meditate
Meditation doesn’t have to involve some Buddhist mantra’s and bending yourself into a human pretzel. Just sit with your eyes closed and sensitize yourself to your own thoughts and feelings. Better yet, combine this hack with hack number nine for a double hit of tranquility – very Zen.
Hack Thirteen: Flow
Complete engage yourself in what you are doing. When Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi first described the term he mentioned that the state was one of the most enjoyable states a human could experience. Check out this guest spot I did at lifehacker for more information about flow.
Hack Fourteen: Game
Whether combined with hack number five or a solo event, playing a game can give you a positive boost of energy. Even just ten minutes of a casual computer game can give you a little mental reprieve from daily problems. I’m a very active player in the massively multiplayer game of life, but I do enjoy the casual minigames it contains as well.
Hack Fifteen: Journal
Deconstruct your thoughts by writing them down. Journaling can break down tough problems and it can also help you redirect your thoughts to more positive areas. Think of a journal as training wheels for positive thinking.
Hack Sixteen: Remember
Spend a little time to look back on fond memories, challenges overcome and goals achieved. When you look back at many obstacles you have already conquered, you can get renewed vigor to face your current ones.
Hack Seventeen: Gratitude
What are you grateful for? Look around and feel grateful about the things you already have and the life you already lead. Best of all be grateful for the excitement and fun new challenges will bring.
Hack Eighteen: Silence
Listen to the quiet. Turn off every sound possible so you can actually hear what silence sounds like. It might require a drive to a more secluded location, or turning off appliances in your house but near absolute silence is so rare it is amazing how beautiful it is when you can hear it.
Hack Nineteen: Smile
I know it sounds stupid, but try sitting and smiling for one or two minutes and see if you feel any better. This is a very quick hack and even a brief smile can create a tiny jolt. Better yet, smile when around other people, friendliness is contagious!
Hack Twenty: Gestalt
Gestalt therapy is a psychological tool, of which one of the focuses is to get people to notice the gestalt, or the relationship between figure and ground. This often manifests itself in your body. Right now there are thousands of sensations but you are only focusing on a few of them. Spend a few minutes moving your focus around through your toes and up to your head. This can give you a greater sense of control over your body and your environment. You might also want try focusing on different aspects of your environment.
Hack Twenty-One: Dance
Get up and move. The only bad dancer is the one who doesn’t dance at all. Use this hack in combination with hack number nine in order to appear sane in public.
Hack Twenty-Two: Create
Do something creative. Small acts of creation can yield amazing boosts of accomplishment, inspiration and well-being. “But I’m not artistic!” you cry. No bigger lie has ever been told. You might lack the practice with a particular medium, but anyone can be creative. Even if you aren’t Picasso, after you are done you can at least say, “Hey, I made that!”
Hack Twenty-Three: Mantra
Find a phrase you like and repeat it in your head. I’ve got a couple I use when I need an extra push or boost. You could incorporate a mantra into your daily routine or just use it when you need it. A mantra acts as an anchor to quickly bring you into a conditioned state of mind. Think of it as a desktop shortcut for your emotions.
Hack Twenty-Four: 110%
Commit to going another 10% further on your project before quitting. Give it that extra bit of intensity before giving up. Even if that little bit of intensity is futile, there is nothing more satisfying than properly exerted willpower. Most people talk about willpower like it is a pain to use. But in fact, it is usually the times when you don’t use your discipline that you feel bad.
Hack Twenty-Five: Rest
Take a short breather to recoup your energy or a vacation to revitalize your spirit. Completely relaxing and giving up the tension you have in your body feels good. If you don’t already, schedule out some times where you can really relax and let stress melt away, even if only for a few minutes a day.
Hack Twenty-Six: Water
Drink some water. Hydrating yourself fully can keep you energized. More energy means less stress and frustration. In addition the act of drinking an entire glass of water requires you to slow your breathing, which brings us to the next hack…
Hack Twenty-Seven: Breathe
Take some deep breaths. Try to see how slow you can make your breathing. I can usually slow down to 3 breaths per minute if I breathe deeply enough. This process forces your body to relax muscles in order to conserve energy and reduces tension. Spend a few minutes just observing your own breathing and you can have a mental reprieve from your problems as well.
Hack Twenty-Eight: Explore
Do something you’ve never done before. Exploring something new can give you a boost in happiness through variety and excitement. Cook a new meal. Travel to a new place. Take a different route to work. Listen to some new music. Life is an adventure, so why live in grey?
Hack Twenty-Nine: Read
No, not just online print (except for this blog, of course), but actual books. The kind made with paper. Reading, either fiction or non-fiction, opens you up to ideas with far more depth than can be skimmed in a television show or a blog entry. If you don’t always have a book to read at any time, go to the library and pick one up, I hear they are pretty cheap there. 😉
Bonus Hack: Respect Your State
When all else fails, stop trying to be happy and just let your emotions be. Accept how they are and don’t judge your feelings as good or bad. Detaching yourself from your emotions and actually listening to the message they are giving can be the key to happiness. Don’t dismiss emotions as the remnants of a reptilian section of your brain but respect them as a core aspect of your life. The irony is, once you detach and listen to your emotions you can start finding ways to get past them.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d appreciate any help spreading the word through a Digg or a nod. If you have any hacks of your own you’d like to share, put them in the comments and I might do a follow-up post. Image courtesy of flickr