Good habits can make you more effective. Great habits will make you happier. I’ve recently been trying to collect habits that make me appreciate life more. Finding the habits that make you more productive isn’t that hard, but placing the right rituals that impact your happiness is more difficult.
Here are the top ten I’ve found helpful:
- Keeping a Checklist – I agree with Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project, I like gold stars. Gold stars are those little markers of accomplishment. Keeping a checklist of to-do items doesn’t just make me productive, it makes me happier. When my checklist for the day is complete, I don’t feel pressured to continue working. And each check gives me a temporary feeling of satisfaction.
- Filling the Day With Activity – I always strive to reach that balancing point where my day is full but I can still accomplish what I want to. I can get into a depressed slump if I’m given too much time where I’m not doing anything. Making sure I don’t leave huge schedule gaps keeps me happy.
- Journaling - Taking time to dissect your thoughts on paper helps you feel better. Becoming happier means reducing the time you spend in slumps. Writing cuts off slumps by giving you more control over your thinking.
- Silence - Cut out the noise for a period of time. This may seem contradictory to “filling your day with activity” but it’s not. The absence of activity usually results in noise: television, web surfing and other distractions. Silence requires you will yourself to forgo the noise and simply think. Not easy to do in a busy world but it can keep you sane.
- Picking Up the Phone – Don’t isolate yourself. I make it a regular habit to reach out to friends. This helps maintain the connection and keeps me happier. I’ve found social networking sites like Facebook to be useful to keep track of some of my friends from University while I’m at home for the summer.
- Be Productive - Being productive at something you are passionate about can be a great source of happiness. Although it can sometimes be frustrating if I’m writing a post that doesn’t seem to be heading in a direction I want, I normally get a lot of happiness from writing here.
- Entertainment – Cut out activities that aren’t valuable or entertaining, but don’t scrap every source of high entertainment. Separate the activities you really enjoy from those that are only mediocre. That way you can fully enjoy them without feeling guilty about an imposing to-do list.
- Make Time For Goals - Carve out a portion of your week for regularly reviewing your goals. This time doesn’t just help you plan, it makes you happier. Thinking about your goals for an hour or two a week will inject some of the motivation you had when originally setting them. I check over my goals almost every week and I usually leave feeling much more enthusiastic than when I started.
- The Now Habit - Stop the flurry of planning, worry, guilt and frustration and focus your thoughts. Eckhart Tolle calls this focusing on the Now and realizing it is complete, that only your thinking makes it incomplete. The Hindu Holy book, The Bhagavad Gita, calls this focusing on the universal Atman or the underlying perfection of the world. Buddhists call this Nirvana and enlightenment. Focusing your thoughts onto something constant can anchor your emotions and make you happier.
- Spontaneity - Get the habit of allowing yourself to break your habits. Organize on the fly and be willing to take opportunities as they come. When I went to University, I learned not to plan every section of my day, but to take opportunities as they come. It takes discipline to stay productive in a chaotic environment, but it can create more happiness then if every portion of your time is predetermined.
…Now for a Shameless Plug:
How do you make these a habit instead of just an idea? I’d suggest getting a copy of my book, How to Change a Habit, which includes sections on how to change your patterns of behavior and thinking.