Are you keen to change your outlook and consider a fresh perspective for a happier life? This post highlights a mix of time-tested, unconventional, and research-backed tips and lessons for improving your happiness, health and well-being.
1. Let Death Refocus Your Priorities
Steve Jobs once said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."
2. Lower Your Expectations, or Upgrade Your Reality
Happiness = Reality – Expectations.
Much of our unhappiness stems from clutter: meetings for the sake of meetings; friends we don't really want to see; home goods and gadgets we don't really need but consume anyway. Movements like minimalism and "via negativa" teach that elimination, not addition, is the wiser path to peace of mind.
4. Study Stoicism
Stoicism is an ancient philosophy enjoying modern resurgence that is concerned with practical wisdom, self-control, and mental toughness. The best-known stoics are Seneca and Marcus Aurelius.
5. Don't Sweat What Others Think
While it may sound a little depressing, one of the most liberating facts about humans is that they spend almost all of their time focused on their own concerns. No one really cares if you look stupid.
6. 5x5 Rule
If it's not going to matter in 5 years, don't spend more than 5 minutes worrying about it.
7. Switch Off the News
Next to nothing in the news is useful or important long term. Be extremely judicious about what headlines and stories you allow through your digital filter.
8. Limit Social Media
While there is mixed research on the link between happiness and social media use, common strategies suggest trying a 1-week detox, setting a 30-minute daily time limit, and using social media as a reward or treat instead of regular amusement filler.
9. Try 15 Minutes of Meditation a Day for 2 Weeks
Mindfulness meditation often creates noticeable, positive change within a couple of weeks.
10. Spend More Time Connecting
According to the famed Grant Study (a 75-year-old Harvard study on adult development), good quality relationships are the most important factor in keeping us healthy and happy.
Studies have shown that people who volunteer tend to live longer and report greater happiness.
12. Perform a Random Act of Kindness
“If you’re depressed right now and you ask me ‘What’s the single most mood-lifting thing I can do?’ it’s to go out an help another person.” — Martin Seligman, former president of the American Psychological Association.
13. Don’t Waste Time Arguing on the Web
Winston Churchill famously said: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
14. One Minute Bursts of Exercise
Many people have heard that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, but few of us want to spend 40+ minutes at the gym. In that case, the following article may change your life: "1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion". (The headline really says it all.)
15. More Sunlight
Called the "Ignored Epidemic," low vitamin D is linked with a range of health problems, and millions are deficient in the sunshine hormone.
16. Less Sugar
Sugar is ubiquitous in the Western diet and most people (knowingly or unknowingly) are absorbing way too much. Besides being unhealthy, a number of studies suggest excess sugar can make you sad.
17. Eat More Fruit & Veg
A study of 12,000 adults found that adding 2-8 daily portions of fruit and veg could significantly increase happiness.
18. Take Probiotics
There is emerging research indicating probiotics (which improve gut health) may improve your mood.
19. Listen to Neuroscience-Backed Tracks
20. More Sleep
Next to proper diet and exercise, adequate sleep is one the most fundamental pillars in mental clarity and good health, yet it's estimated that 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
21. More Warm Light, Less Blue Light
Does light affect your mood? I don’t know where the science sits on this exactly. It’s more of a personal observation over many years: warm/amber light seems to have a calming effect, whereas too much blue light exposure (most offices) creates unnecessary eyestrain. Test it for yourself.
22. Build a Sanctuary
Create a scrapbook, a photo library on your computer, or start a Pinterest account where you'll be able to save images and ideas that inspire, relax, and take your mind to its happy place.
Note: This blog post was originally shared in April 2018, and it was refreshed and republished in December 2021 with up to date information and context.