While we would all like to lead a fulfilling and enjoyable life, oftentimes the two goals seem incompatible and we find ourselves off track or in a rut. In fact, happiness is a state of mind that anyone can achieve, and reap many benefits from.
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, wrote that happy people tend to become more productive, more positive and more prepared for various aspects of life. Let’s look at some habits that can move us toward happiness and productivity.
As the logo goes, “Just do it!”
As important as we know many tasks are to get done — be it homework, a fix-it job or an office report — we somehow manage to delay them through procrastination, distraction or simple negligence. A common reason for this failure is that, instead of getting right to it, we stew over it for a while, allowing all sorts of negative notions to come up and prevent us from tackling the job.
Once we begin to consider all the difficulties we might run into, our confidence and enthusiasm erode, dread sets in, and we find excuses to avoid it. We then end up with an urgent situation where we no longer have sufficient time to do as well as we could have.
The solution is to make a habit of taking immediate action towards your tasks — don’t waste time thinking about them. Although some planning may be necessary for complex projects, you will find that many solutions come about organically in the midst of doing, which you might never have considered during weeks of planning.
As Mel Robbins wrote in The 5 Second Rule, “That moment of hesitation is a killer. Hesitation sends a stress signal to your brain. It’s a red flag that signals something’s wrong — and your brain goes into protection mode. This is how we are wired to fail.”
Take the sun and spread the light
It’s no myth that sunshine brightens both our days and our hearts. Serotonin and dopamine are mood enhancing chemicals in the body, and their release is stimulated by exposure to sunlight. A mere 10 to 15 minutes of exposure to the sun can recharge you each day and even improve your sleep at night, since it helps your body maintain its natural circadian rhythm.
Lack of exposure to sunlight can lead to fatigue and even depression. Winter, for many of us, means less time outdoors, shorter days, and cold, dismal weather. The sun still appears every morning, but with the combination of our bundling up and the sun’s decreased intensity, the recommended exposure increases to two hours.
Try making a habit of some daily outdoor activity. Not only will you catch some rays, you will also engage with nature and get your body in motion. As you become a more cheerful person, you may unintentionally emit the light you feel inside, finding the positive in all people and situations, approaching life with gratitude, and expressing compassion for others.
Declutter for a clear mind
A tidy environment improves focus and productivity. One study showed that visual chaos — like a messy bedroom or a cluttered desk can have a negative psychological impact. Maintaining a clean and tidy environment, and letting go of various unnecessary objects may relieve frustration and depression.
Fewer visual distractions will help you focus and support a calm and collected mindset, so be sure to keep up with your housework. Clean up after each meal, make your bed each morning, and avoid collecting clutter in your workspace.
While much of modern life is tied to technology, it is important to take breaks from the screen. Not only do devices distract us from real life playing out in front of us, the blue screen can also disrupt our sleep patterns by confusing our bodies as to whether it’s day or night. Besides, much of what is out there today is hardly worth viewing and could even be harmful.
Try using your free time for real-life entertainment instead, like frisbee with your dog, active sports, talking to people, or creating something. The more you step away from technology, the less it will control you. You may find that real life is more enjoyable than you thought, and also discover that you have more energy to tackle the challenges that come your way.
It’s natural to feel restless under pressure. We want to finish as much as possible, so that we can feel accomplished and fulfilled. However, getting too caught up with doing things can be overwhelming, and undermine our focus and determination.
As Jay Shetty, author of the book Think Like a Monk, puts it, “If you’ve ever spent the day jumping on and off calls, in and out of meetings, ordering this book from Amazon and checking that thread on Snapchat, you know that feeling of exhaustion you have at the end of it all? It’s a dopamine hangover,”
If you feel that life is a hectic struggle to accomplish things, make time to release the burden and experience serenity and tranquility. Remember that you’re taking a break, and really engage in the moment — noticing the sounds and little things around you, while dismissing the nagging worries and desires. As little as a half hour break can improve your focus and productivity.
Set realistic goals, not abstract ones
Resolutions and goals are great for self-improvement, but they need to be realistic rather than idealistic. As Rubin says in her book, “Resolutions work better when they’re concrete, not abstract: it’s harder to keep a resolution to ‘Be a more loving parent’ than to ‘Get up fifteen minutes early so I’m dressed before the kids wake up.’”
Giving yourself specific challenges to reach will naturally take you on the path toward achieving your ultimate goals.
By adopting some of these habits you can put yourself in a better position for happiness and productivity to enter your life. Take it step by step. Trying to realize all your goals at once will only lead to frustration; but if you can form good habits and stick with them, the rewards will come before you know it.