Tips on how to be happier

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In my start of the year entry yesterday, I mentioned I had many tips on how I am making my ascent up the mountain, the main one being Know Thyself.

A few days ago, I fell on an article giving 52 tips for Happiness and Productivity: Handbook for Life, and when I went down the list, I realised I had incorporated nearly all of them in my life these past six months.

I thought I would share them with you, with added comments.

(the numbering has messed up and I can’t be bothered to fix it – they are all number 1 points anyway ;-))

  1. Try rising early. It’s not for everyone, I’ll admit. It may not be for you. But I’ve found it to be an amazing change in my life. It has made the start of my days much more positive, and I now have time for writing, exercise, and silent contemplation. I talked about this recently in my post 10 Benefits of Rising Early, and How to Do It.

Since I started my journey, I have realised I live my life opposite to others when it comes to sleep.

I appear to have my evenings in the mornings. I wake up at around 3 – 4 am every day (I have found this is where I have the most energy, focus and creativity – eg I seem to write my best blog entries first thing in the morning) and fall asleep at around 8 – 9 pm every night.

It has worked really well for me. I have found rising early means you spend less time procrastinating or being distracted. How easy is it to lose yourself on line in the evening, clicking links after links after links, or watching mindless tv programs keeping you up well into the night as there are no deadlines as such, only sleep calling? You can’t do that in the mornings see as you have a clear deadline (unless you don’t work) to get the day started and you are less likely to waste that time doing nothing.

good things

  1. Do less. This is both a happiness and productivity tip. Doing less will make you happier, because your life won’t be so hectic and filled with stress. You will have time for things that give you pleasure, for the loved ones in your life, for life itself. It’s also a productivity tip: if you focus on the essential tasks, the big ones, the ones that will give you the most return for your time, and eliminate the rest, you will actually be more productive. You’ll get fewer tasks done, but you will be more effective. See How to Pare Your To-do List Down to the Essentials.

I am not one of those individuals that need to fill their lives full of stuff. I have stuff that I need to do, eg shopping, laundry etc, the rest is pretty much free flow, little pressures, and I find I get more done.

  1. Slow down. Many new readers to this site have read my productivity articles and think that I’m all about being hyper-productive. I’m not. Long-time readers know that I am about a simpler way of life. Unfortunately, in my free-lance blogging, other websites usually ask me to write about productivity, so the preponderance of my productivity writing has given the impression, I think, that I think people should be churning out work at an amazing rate, to the exclusion of all else. Actually, I feel that life is much more enjoyable if you slow down. By doing less, you can actually get more done, even if you work more slowly. And when you’re not working, you should definitely try switching to slow mode. Drive slower (it is so much more relaxing), walk slower, eat slower. See Slow Down to Enjoy Life for more.

Ah, funny, exactly what I mentioned earlier – by doing less, I am getting more done.

  1. Practice patience. I’ve talked about how I’m trying to develop patience in my parenting article, How to Become a Patient Parent, but these tips really apply to everyone. If you easily lose your temper, you can become more patient with these tips. Once you’ve developed this skill (and it’s a skill, like everything else, not an unchangeable inborn trait), your life will become much saner and you will be much happier.

Patience is one of my biggies to develop and the only way to get it is by practicing it.

Every time I feel impatient, I become aware Patience needs practising, and so I force myself to slow down and actively practice patience. It has paid off many many times – All comes to he who waits.

  1. Practice compassion. This may be the most important tip of all, in my opinion. If you were to choose any of these, I would choose this one. The first part of compassion is empathy — and this ability to understand how others feel can be developed through practice. Start by imagining the suffering of a loved one. Understand their pain, the emotions they go through, and why they would react the way they would. By doing this exercise a number of times, you are developing a skill that can be applied to others — for every person you see, try to understand what they are going through. Try to learn and understand more about their background, and why they react the way they do. Once you’ve developed this invaluable skill, learn the other half of compassion — acting on your understanding, and helping others, alleviating their suffering, acting with kindness. This one thing can bring true happiness to your life, and the lives of those around you.

I am learning to engage with people from their view points, not from mine. Things that help: when meeting up with people socially, I practice listening to their story rather than wanting to share mine and I have found people love that (and they never realise what I am doing either, interestingly. Funny how us Human Beings can be so self involved).

This has helped me deal with the news of my father having Cancer. Ultimately, this is his story, and so I asked how he felt about it, never mind what I felt about it. Hearing his answers shaped how I should feel about it – I am not seeing this from my side of the fence, but from his, as it should be if you are wanting to love and support someone.

The other reason why seeing other people’s story instead of my feelings about them has helped me has been with forgiveness. I may not like how they live their lives, but it really isn’t my business – we all have our faults and it is our own decisions how we deal with it. It doesn’t mean I necessarily accept anything from everyone, it just means I don’t get angry with people anymore. If their behaviour isn’t one that I want in my life, I get to choose not to be around them.

  1. Find your passion. Another indispensable tip. This might be the second on my list of priorities. Find something you love to do, and your life will become immensely improved. You will love your work, the thing that you spend 40 hours (or more) a week doing. You will become more productive, procrastinate less, be less stressed. You will produce something you are proud of, and happy about. Read this article for some practical tips.

I have found a passion of sorts, and that is learning all I can about human behaviour (me). I am fascinated by the subject and extremely curious.

I have recently realised that Passion is an energy fuel, I shall develop this more in the coming year – in particular through creativity. It’s on my Mind Map.

  1. Lose weight. This only applies, of course, if you are overweight. But losing your extra fat (and when I say lose weight, I mean lose fat), decreases your health risks (obviously), makes you look better, and in general is very likely to increase your happiness about yourself. I actually recommend that you learn to be comfortable and happy with how you look now, and not feel negative about yourself even if you are overweight. However, I’ve found that losing weight (at least for me) is a great way to feel better about your body. Do not make this an unhealthy obsession, however — lose weight gradually, and enjoy the process. See the next two tips for the best methods for doing this.

Eight Kilos (1.2 stones) in 4 months – check.

I have always had an issue with weight, now I am doing something about it – very empowering.

  1. Exercise. Make this a daily habit. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, but for me, it’s made me feel so much better. I actually enjoy exercise now. It’s a time of contemplation for me, and I feel so much better about myself afterwards. See Top 42 Exercise Hacks and How to Make Exercise a Daily Habit and 7 Ways to Build the Exercise Habit.

Every work day I walk my friend’s dog, Theo and I plan to introduce a further exercise routine in my schedule (cross trainer). At weekends, I try to have at least a long walk.

Some days, like NYE, I don’t feel like taking Theo for a walk, but I still drag myself out. Within minutes, I know I have made the right decision.

  1. Eat healthy. I don’t recommend dieting. It’s too restrictive and you usually fall off it at some point. I do recommend changes to your diet, however — ones you make gradually, and that can be sustained for life. It not only helps lose weight, but really, once you start eating healthier, it is actually much more enjoyable. See my Top 15 Diet Hacks for more.

Check – one sure way I have found to do this is by cooking all my meals from scratch. If you are not a great cook, lazy or poor, even better. My meals are very simple, usually steamed vegetables and chicken or beef, some herbs and spices, little fuss, delicious.

By not making my meals masterpieces, I actually get to taste the ingredients individually. This has enabled me to develop an appreciation for good, healthy, simple food that has helped keep my diet healthy.

Who knew cawliflower could taste so nice, just as it is?

I have also realised recently I don’t see eating Naughty Food as a treat. In fact, I have found sometimes I just cannot. Eg before I left for my holidays, I thought I would get myself one of my favourites ready made dish to save time and when I looked at the nutrition information, I just couldn’t get myself to buy it. Instead, I bought most of the ingredients and did it myself. Ok it didn’t taste as nice as the ready made version (I omitted the cream from my home made version) but it still tasted nice and I knew exactly what was in it and none was Naughty.

It doesn’t mean I don’t eat Naughty Foods, but it is very rare these days. Having a Naughty Food diary for a while really helped too.

  1. Meditate. OK, you might be like me — not into New-Age stuff. But meditation can actually be a very simple method for relaxing, for bringing calm, for returning yourself to sanity, for contemplation. My friend Scott Young wrote a good post about doing that here.

That is the one thing I don’t do – I know it is sold as the Holy Grail of well being but I have found my mind isn’t clogged up with monkey talk that I need to quiet it down anymore.

I do a lot of mindfulness however, which is a sort of meditation. Particularly walking mindfulness, which I do every work day evening walking Theo. Within minutes, my mind becomes quiet and I am able to appreciate the beauty around me.

The easiest way I have found to be mindfull is to observe. Luckily, us French are experts people watchers so I find it really easy to shut my mind to my inner thoughts and open it to what’s going on around me.

  1. Get organized. This one’s not necessary. You could go through life wonderfully messy, searching for stuff, enjoying the search. But I’ve tried disorganized, and I’ve tried organized. The second is much more enjoyable to me. Read How to Never Lose Anything Again for a start on the subject, as well as how I keep my family organized.

Personally, this has been my most important change: getting organised. Without being organised, I would not have had the freedom to achieve all I have achieved.

My life is not regimented, but near enough everything is organised. I put time aside for laundry, house cleaning, make check lists for shopping, plan when to do what, eg get monthly gas/elec readings, I have an App to remind me when to take my diabetes medication. I use my alarm clock to tell me when I need to leave for work (so I can get engrossed in anything wihtout worrying about the time), the list goes on.

I guess my biggest organisational project has been my Mind Map.

  1. Think positive. Another one of the most important tips on this list, thinking positive — as cliche as it might sound — is one of the single best changes you can make in your life that will lead to so many more positive tips. As I wrote about here, learning to think positive was the skill that turned my life around. It makes everything else on this list possible. Read more about it here.

I have started reading a new book “Sane New World” by Ruby Wax and she talks about negative thoughts at the beginning – that nagging voice that is anything but nice. I realised reading this section that my monkey mind had stopped, mainly only positive thoughts enter my head these days! I was wondering how that happened and I realised that since starting this journey, if a negative thought enters my mind, I tell it “I am working on it”, and I have found it goes away. It is the truth though: I am not perfect, but I am working on being the best I can be :-).

  1. Simplify your finances. Cut down on the number of accounts you have, cut down on your credit cards, spend less, reduce your bills. Make your finances automagical. Simplifying your finances greatly reduces your stress. Also see 10 Habits to Develop For Financial Stability and Success.

I have always lived within my means so I have learned that lesson long ago.

Every so often, I revisit some of my expenditures and see if I can get a better deal and/or whether I still need to be spending that money.

This year, I plan to have separate saving accounts for different aspects of my life, eg, a travelling savings account, a car/house maintenance savings account, etc. I am hoping it will give me a feeling of Financial Freedom and make my spending even more enjoyable.

  1. Simplify your life. Another of my top tips. I’ve greatly simplified my life, in many ways, and I can say that having less stuff in my life, and less to do, has greatly increased my enjoyment of life. De-clutter, simplify your commitments, simplify your work space, simplify your wardrobe, simplify your rooms.

Absolutely. I have simplified my life any way I have been able to.

Eg, when I find a top at bargain price I like, I buy 2 or 3 of them if I can find them in different colours, I recently bought three new work trousers, all the same, I have 3 pairs of shoes for work that I wear. Decisions become easy this way.

Every so often, I tackle an area that needs work, eg, the pile of paperwork that might have accumulated in the past few weeks, the stuff in the garage that needs to go to the tip etc etc – little by little, nothing needs tidying up anymore, it is so freeing.

I have found limiting my choices on stuff that really don’t matter really helps too.

  1. Accept what you have. The problem with many of us is that we always think that we’ll be happy when we reach a certain destination — when we get a certain job, or retire, or get our dream house. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there, you might have a new destination in mind. Instead, try being happy with where you are, with who you are, and what you have. To do that, instead of comparing what you have with other people, or with what you want, compare yourself those who have less, with those who are going through tragedy, with those who are struggling. You will see that you actually are extremely blessed. And this can lead to more happiness with your current situation.

Again, this is something I have always practiced, whilst living within my means.

This is also what helped me start on this journey: accepting my life as it was. It removed any desires to want more/better/something else and so I could concentrate on me. The pay off being my life IS getting better and I am getting more and more to be grateful for.

I am always grateful of what I have these days, it is priceless.

This year I am starting a gratefulness piggy bank, where I will put money every grateful moment I experience, to be spent on whatever I fancy every six months or so. I just need to find a big enough piggy bank now.

  1. Envision your ultimate life. What would your ultimate life be like? Where would you live, what would you do, what would you do with your days? Come up with a clear picture of this, and write it down. Now, one step at a time, make it come true. Some ways of doing that follow.

A side effect of being happy with what you have means this exercise is hard work. Also until I fully know who I am and who I want to/can be, I don’t see the point. It’s on my Mind Map though.

  1. Set long-term goals. Your vision of your ultimate life will help you come up with long-term goals. Of those goals, pick one to accomplish within the next year, and really focus on that. Now, pick one medium-term goal to achieve in the next few months that will get you further toward your longer-term goal. Now decide what you can do this week, and today, to get you to your medium-term goal. Just choose one thing at a time, focus on it, make it happen, and then choose the next thing to focus on. See Think About Your Life Goals.

Same as above.

  1. Review goals. Setting goals is important, but the key to making them a reality is actually reviewing them (at least monthly, but weekly is better) and taking action steps to make them come true. Again, focus on one at a time, and really focus on them. Read Review Your Goals Weekly.

That will happen when I have goals. Because I am very happy with the way my life is shaping up, I haven’t felt the need to have goals, however, you could say my Mind Map is full of goals.

  1. Life mission. Related to envisioning your ultimate life, but different — it’s important that you think about how you would like to be remembered when you die — so you can start living the life that leads to that now. Live with purpose in life, and wake up every day with that purpose in mind. Read the Key to Dying Happy for more concrete steps.

My life mission currently is to be the best I can be. I am happy with that.

  1. Plan your big tasks for week and day. Give purpose to your day by determining the three most important things you can do with your day, and making those a priority. Do the same thing with your week to increase your productivity: pick out the big tasks you’d like to accomplish this week, and schedule those first. See Purpose Your Day and Plan Your Big Rocks First.

I have no major big tasks or plans yet – until I figured out the two points above anyway about setting goals.

When I do, I will definitely use this technique. I use it already for all the little tasks one needs to do in life and it is fantastic. I diarise everything I need to do in the future on my phone calendar with notifications, so I can forget about them all and I am reminded as and when they need to be done.  It leaves me free to enjoy life – priceless

  1. Maintain focus. One important key to achieving your goals is to maintain focus on them. To do this, again, it’s important that you select one goal at a time. This will prevent your focus from spreading too thin. It’s also important that you give yourself constant reminders of your goal, so you don’t lose that focus. Put up a poster of your current goal, or print it out and put it out somewhere visible, and send yourself emailed reminders. However you do it, find a way to maintain a laser-sharp focus, and the goal will come true.

I have found I can only maintain focus when I have a quiet life – by applying many of those tips, plus a few of my own, I have found I have got a quiet life.

  1. Enjoy the journey. Goals are important, but not at the expense of happiness now. It’s important to maintain a balance between going where you want to go, and being happy as you go there. It’s easy to forget that, so be sure to remind yourself of this little, but important, tip as you make your journey.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the road has been paved with panomaric view points and actually the journey is so enjoyable, I care not about the destination.

  1. Create a morning and evening routine. These are two great ways to add structure to your day, make sure you review your goals and log your progress, and get your day off to a great start. An evening routine, for example, could be a great way not only to wind down from a long day and review how your day went, but to prepare yourself for your next day so the morning isn’t so hectic. Your morning routine is great way to greet the day, to get some exercise or meditation or quiet contemplation, or to get some writing or other work done.

I am all about routine these days.

I walk Theo when I get back from work, I house clean on Saturday mornings, I food shop Sunday mornings, prepare my upcoming meals on Sunday afternoons, I do Elevate Brain exercises every morning, clean up after every meals, the list goes on.

Routine is the best way to re-program your subconscious I have found. It doesn’t take long for your mind/subconscious to get used to a new way when you do it repeatedly and it becomes second nature.

It also helps you easily achieve goals without needing to draw on your will power resources.

I am also in the routine of writing down my thoughts as they come up – I create checklist types of documents using a very simple App on my phone so I never need to remember anything.

When you get in a routine, the important stuff take care of itself and it frees you to enjoy life without nagging thoughts of what needs to be done. Priceless.

  1. Develop intimate relationships. It’s great to have a special someone, of course, but intimate relationships could be found with anyone around you. If you have a significant other, be sure to spend time each day and each week with that person, to work on your relationship and communicate and continue to bond. But if you don’t, there’s no need to despair (if in fact you are) … intimate relationships can be developed with friends, other family members, kids, roommates, classmate, co-workers. Every single person we meet is a fellow human being, with the same desires for happiness, for food and shelter, for an intimate connection. Find that common thread, be open and sincere, find out more about each other, understand each other, and give love. This can be one of the most important things you do.

Currently, the only intimate relationship I am developing is the one with myself. I am happy with that.

  1. Eliminate debt. Financially, this is a huge way to relieve stress and make you feel much more secure. I suggest that you get rid of your credit cards (if you have a problem with credit card debt or impulse spending) and create a snowball plan for yourself. It may take a couple of years, but you can get out of debt.

Because I have always lived within my means, I have never had any debts so I couldn’t comment. Although I can see how having debt would bring you down so I agree getting rid of them is the first thing I would concentrate on, should I ever have them.

Oh, I lie, I just remembered I do have a debt, my house via a Mortgage. And indeed, this year I will look at how to reduce its term – it’s on my Mind Map.

  1. Enjoy the simple pleasures. You can find these everywhere. Food (I love berries!), sunsets, sand between your toes, fresh-cut grass, playing with your child, a good book and a warm bed, dancing in the rain, your favorite music. You could probably make a list of 20 simple pleasures right now, things you enjoy that you could find every day. Sprinkle those little pleasures throughout your day. It makes the journey much more enjoyable.

Very good idea to make a list of simple pleasures.

Whilst on holidays over Christmas, I decided I will create what I call a Happy Tool Box. Basically I will add to the tool box everything I know makes me smile, laugh, feel good or happy to draw on it if I need to.

I am not sure yet how I will capture it but the list is growing of items I want to include.

I have doggies videos, children’s laughter, smells (grass, wood burning, pencil shavings, toast, vanilla, etc), Music, Comedy, paintings, flowers – the list goes on.

  1. Empty your inbox and clear your desk. This might take a little while to do at first, but once you’ve emptied your inbox and cleared off your desk, it doesn’t take long to keep them clear from then on. It’s a simple habit that’s vastly rewarding. I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from having a clean desk. I recommend you give it a try.

I must say I have always had an issue clearing my inbox, either out of laziness or fear of deleting something that I will need later.

My Yahoo inbox is out of control – currently contains 15881 emails. I have tried to clear it a few weeks ago but it was taking too long. I also thought about starting a new email account and start afresh, I haven’t taken this further yet – it’s not really a big deal.

I will get a chance to start from scratch in my new job though and I will definitely apply this rule.

I have found living in a mess drains you so I would apply this tip to your life in general. Clean up as you go along. Luckily in my household both my lodger and myself have adopted this rule and it has made such a difference to our lives – being more peaceful now we are not surrounded by mess.

  1. Build an emergency fund. This is standard-issue financial advice, I know … and yet it is extremely important. I cannot stress how important it is to have at least a tiny emergency fund in the bank. You often hear that you should have six months saved up. Don’t be intimidated by that. Start out with just a hundred dollars if you can. Cut back on a few things. Then build it up, every payday. Once you have, let’s say, $1,000, it will make a huge difference in your life. It’s not much, and you should still add to it every paycheck, but at least now you’re not living paycheck-to-paycheck, and if an unexpected emergency comes up you can pay for it, rather than not paying other bills and falling behind. It’s a simple step, but it will mean a lot.

Check.

I managed to get my emergency fund level to one I was happy with last year, just around end of October time  and so I haven’t saved for the following two months as I decided to wait until my new job to start my savings up again, I also had a couple of holidays coming up and I didn’t want to restrict my spending.

This year I will move my emergency savings elsewhere in its own account so I can just forget about it.

I must say I have been having fun not restricting my spending for the last two months – I has given me a taste of what Financial Freedom felt like, and I want more!

  1. Keep a journal. This is not one of the more important tips, but I can attest that it’s rewarding. I, for one, have a bad long-term memory, and by writing things down, I can look back and remember what happened a month ago. I just started this a couple months ago, actually, but ti’s been awesome. I started an online journal, something I call the one-sentence journal, and my goal is to just write one sentence a day. Sometimes I write two or three, but the idea is the same — just get one or two things down that happened that day, so I can always look back on it later.

I started this some time last year and I will admit I had to stop after a few weeks. The reason: it was so amazing I spent most of my spare time in the evening writing it. At the time, I had other things I wanted to do so I decided to park it, having fully realised its benefit.

I have use journalling for other things since, when I felt the need. For instance, I had a gratitude journal for a while, I also had a Naughty Food journal too when I noticed I was starting to eat rubbish food again. Again, once I got the benefit (I stopped eating Naughty Food), I stopped it, but I will have no hesitation using that technique to bring my awareness to anything that needs to.

Maybe I will try the one line journal…

  1. Use the power of others. Achieving your goals can be difficult, but using the power of others makes it much more likely to happen. For example, put positive public pressure on yourself by announcing your goal on your blog. Or join an online forum, or a group in your neighborhood, that you can count on for support. I have a mailing list for the May Challenge here on Zen Habits, for example, and our group has helped me stick to my goal of daily exercise even when I started to falter — and the rest of the group can tell you they’ve experienced similar success because of the positive power of the group.

I have preferred to use my own powers – as I mentioned, I am alone in life and I needed to get used to it – I can see the benefit of a peer support group, however at this moment in my life, it isn’t for me.

  1. Read, and read to your kids. I read all the time — it’s one of my favorite things to do in the world. I love to curl up with a good novel (or even a trashy one) and I can waste away an afternoon with a book. And I’m passing on my love of reading to my kids, by reading to them every day. I love spending time with them this way, and we all enjoy the stories we share together through books. See Best All-time Children’s Books.

Can’t comment about reading to your kids, as I have none, but reading, definitely. I have read so much in the past year. Although mainly books about self development or non-fictions.

Sometimes reading books frustrate me because of the time and length you need to read the whole book – I like to take notes as I read too – but you can’t beat a book. I think now I have completely disconnected from Social Media, I will have more time to read and not feel frustrated how long it takes.

I also love Kindle reading as it is easy to look up the definition of any new word.

  1. Limit your information intake. In our lives today, we get a tremendous amount of information through email, blog feeds, reading websites, paperwork, memos, newspapers, magazines, television, DVDs, radio, mobile phones and Blackberries. Not only can this be overwhelming, but it can be distracting and can fill up your life until you have no time for more important things. Go on a media fast to get control over your information intake, and to simplify your life

Quit Facebook/Social Media, quit the News (paper or televised) – they are all distractions.

I now only get information from sites I have asked for a Newsletter from, and have a couple of youtube channels I visit regularly. It frees me to spend my time other ways.

  1. Create simple systems. Once you’ve simplified your life, the way to keep it simple is by creating systems for everything you do regularly. Create an efficient system for laundry, mail and paperwork, errands, your workflow. Anything, really. See ways to Streamline Your Life and to make your mail and paperwork painless.

I have talked about this above – simple systems in a routine – simplify your life as much as possible, then life takes care of itself.

  1. Take time to decompress after stress. There will inevitably be times in your life when you go through high stress. Perhaps several times a week. To maintain your sanity, you need to find ways to decompress. Here are some great ways to do that.

Stress has its very own section as a heading in my Mind Map. I have realised I don’t do stress well and so I am planning to bannish it from my life once and for all. I believe it is possible.

Until then, when I feel stressed, I become very mindful and find ways to decompress indeed – such as New Year’s Eve, after I had had a stressful (even if fun) day, I decided to do nothing in the evening instead of going out as I had planned.

Stress is a real bad thing for the Body, Mind and Spirit. I feel it deserved my full attention on my Mind Map.

My Happy Tool Box will be a great tool to help me decompress.

  1. Be present. Time can go by extremely quickly. Before you know it, your life has passed you by. Your kids are grown and your youth is gone. Don’t let your life slip by — enjoy it while it’s here. Instead of dwelling in the past or thinking about the future, practice being in the here and now. Here are some practical tips for being present.

Everything evapores in the present moment, I try and visit it as often as possible, and using various techniques (observation, which I mentioned earlier), it is a place I am starting to live in more and more – Priceless.

  1. Develop equanimity. Keep your sanity through all the challenges that life throws at you. Rude drivers, irritating co-workers, mean commenters on your blog, inconsiderate family members. This takes a bit of practice, but you can let these things slide off you like you’re Teflon. Try these practical tips.

Again I practice mindfulness during those moments. I remember the first time I felt its benefits.

I was stuck in traffic and decided to just look around me and observe. The end result was I ended in absolute Awe how Human Beings managed to create such an amazing invention: the car.

Stoicism is also a good mindset to deal with this.

  1. Spend time with family and loved ones. One of the things that can lead to the greatest happiness, make this a priority every week, every day. Clear off as much time as possible to spend with those you love, and truly enjoy those times. Be present as you do it — don’t think about work or your blog or what you need to do. Read this for more.

Not for me at this time – but obviously I can see the benefits that would have.

  1. Pick yourself up when you’re down. There will always be times in our lives when we get a little down, even depressed. Take action to get yourself out of your slump. Here are some great ways to do that.

The only times I have felt down in the past six months have been when I have suffered from a cold or some other little health issue. I have felt down because it stopped me from living my life the way I had laid it out – ie, my routine gets out of sync, I can’t walk Theo etc. But I have learned to accept that maybe it is my body telling me I need a rest and so I rest.

If I ever feel properly emotionally down, I am hoping that Happy Tool Box I am building will help bring me out of my funk.

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others. This is hard to do, but it can be a great way to accept who you are and what you have. Whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to a co-worker, a friend, or someone famous (those models on magazines with amazing abs), stop. And realize that you are different, with different strengths. Take a minute to appreciate all the good things about yourself, and to be grateful for all the blessings in your life.

I don’t compare myself to others per say – I am very happy where I am at in life – however if I find something in someone I really like, I will try and see if I can introduce it in my life. Eg there is this person I have connected with at my previous place of work and I absolutely love her dress sense – when I am at the weight I want to be, I shall try and introduce more of those types of clothing in my life (she is very petite). Incidentally when I told her how much I loved her dress sense recently, she said she based it on the French – so since I am French, it shouldn’t be hard for me to get the style 😉

So my advice is don’t compare yourself to others, however there is nothing wrong with trying to introduce something in your life you like in others.

  1. Focus on benefits, not difficulties. If you find yourself struggling to do something, or procrastinating, stop thinking about how hard something is, or why you don’t want to do it. Focus instead on what benefits it will have for you, what opportunities it will create — the good things about it. By changing the way you see things, you can change how you feel about them and make it easier to get things done.

I must say I have had no problems focussing on the benefits especially as they have come thick and fast (weight loss, new job, awe moments etc)

  1. Be romantic. If you have that special someone, find little ways to be romantic. It can do wonders to keep your relationship alive and fresh. It doesn’t take tons of money, either. See these ideas to get you started.

I don’t have a special someone – however, I do have me and I do treat me to romance. I love lights instance and I keep adding subtle lighting to my home. It gives it a romantic feel. I love it.

  1. Lose arguments. I know someone who just celebrated his 50th anniversary, and I asked him for his secret to a long and happy marriage. He told me, that if I ever get into an argument with my wife, to just shut up. What he meant, I think, is that I shouldn’t try to be right in every argument. I think this is a reminder many of us need, not just the married ones. But instead of just giving up the argument, instead of trying to be right, instead seek to understand. Really try to understand the other person’s position, to see it from their point of view. This little tip can lead to much happiness.

I have decided a while back to try and never argue – partly from tips I read in the book “How to win friends and influence people”, partly because I find arguing draining and stressful, partly because I read an article from You Are Not So Smart that explained very well how arguing is futile.

Arguing is aggressive too, it has no place in my life. I much prefer discussions these days.

discussions.jpg

  1. Get into the flow. This is both a happiness and productivity tip. Flow is the term for the state we enter when we are completely focused on the work or task before us. We are so immersed in our task that we lose track of time. Having work and leisure that gets you in this state of flow will almost undoubtedly lead to happiness. People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge. Get into that flow by first doing something you are passionate about, and second by eliminating all distractions and really focusing on the task before you.

That’s the interesting thing about my life. Being as organised as I can, I have found I am able to get into the flow very easily and very often. As I mentioned earlier, once all the important, and not so important, things are taken care of in your life, you are free to be present and be in the flow. Priceless.

  1. Single-task. I don’t believe in multi-tasking, at least not on a day-to-day basis. Instead, focus on one task at a time. This leads to greater productivity and less stress. You can’t go wrong with that kind of combination. See these tips for more.

Absolutely. If I start to have a list of stuff that needs doing, I diarise each for a day in the future on my phone calendar App, then I get a reminder on the day, and it is easy to do (just one task), it is amazing how much I have accomplished doing this, and I never procrastinate these days.

  1. Be frugal. This is a habit, rather than a goal. It is a way of living, a different mindset, and the best way to live within your means. It doesn’t mean being cheap or forsaking pleasure, but it does mean finding less expensive ways to do things, learning to live with less (and be happier in the process), and controlling impulse spending. I don’t have a single article to give you as reference, but frugality is a recurring theme on Zen Habits.

I have always had that one sussed, however, I have realised lately just how much: I was hoping to plan another trip to Amsterdam in March, however, I realised I had things to sort out in my house that would cost money. So I made the choice to sort the house stuff first, and then if my finances allow, I will book my trip.

I also have cost limits for items I buy, eg if I buy a book, it has to be below £5 (including postage), if I buy a new top, below £15 etc. The only thing I do spend money on is usually shoes. I will not wear uncomfortable shoes, the comfort of my feet is very important to me, and I have found usually good shoes cost money. However, they seem to last the distance, so win-win.

As much as I am generous, to a degree, with others, I am very frugal with myself. It has worked well for me.

  1. Start small and slow. Regular Zen Habits readers know that I advocate starting slow with any goal or habit change, and starting with a small goal rather than a big one. Why small? Because it’s something you are sure to achieve — and once you do achieve it, you can use that success to push you to further success. It’s a simple technique, but it really works. Start slow when you start exercise, or other similar activities — there’s no need to rush it in the beginning, to overdo it. You have the rest of your life!

One step at a time takes you far up the mountain indeed.

  1. Learn to deal with detractors. We all face detractors in our lives. They are the naysayers who, even if they are well-intentioned, will make us feel unworthy, or that you cannot achieve a goal. They will tease or be negative. In order to achieve your goals, you need to learn how to deal with these detractors and overcome this common obstacle. Read these tips for some ideas.

I have very little people in my life (out of choice and particularly for that reason, ie I don’t need interference from those types of people whilst on this journey) so I don’t have that problem.

I had an issue with someone in my old job that, try as I may, I couldn’t find a way to deal with it but this has now gone away as I am about to start a new job – hopefully I won’t come across that issue again but if I do, I will carry on looking for ways to deal with it.

Challenges are what enables you to grow.

  1. Go outdoors. These days, too many of us spend so much of our time indoors, especially if our jobs and our ways of having fun are all online. Our kids are often just as bad or worse, with so many ways to watch TV, surf the internet or play video games. Get them and yourself outdoors, appreciate nature, the beauty of the world around us, and the fun of physical activity. See this article for more ideas (to do with or without kids).

Every evening, after work, walking Theo – it’s magical.

  1. Retire early. This isn’t a sure way to become happy — you can retire and be bored out of your mind and unhappy — but it’s surely a cool goal. And if you do something meaningful with your life, such as volunteer and help others, it can be a way to be really happy. It’s not an easy goal, either, but you can retire early by cutting back on your living expenses, increasing your income, and investing the difference. The more you can do of all three, the fast you’ll retire. And that’s a truly liberating idea.

Well, I am a bit young to retire and I enjoy my work so we shall see.

I do retire to bed early though and that is very beneficial 😉

  1. Savor the little things. Sure, the big things can bring big pleasure, but there are so many more little things in our lives. Savor them when they come up. It’s a way of practicing being present — stop and notice what you’re doing right now, what’s around you. And take time to enjoy it. Read this article for more.

Savouring the little things produce Awe moments. This is what made me think of creating a Happy Tool Box.

  1. Be lazy. There’s a time to be productive, and there’s a time to be plain ol’ lazy. I like the latter, and do it every chance I get. Does that make me a lazy person? Probably not, but even if it does, I don’t care. It makes me happy, and the kids love being lazy with me.

A few weeks ago, I told my lodger I was actually quite lazy, he looked taken aback and said he never figured me as lazy, the way my life is organised and all I do. I said to him the only reason my life is so organised is so that I can be lazy and not feel bad about it – then I pointed out to him: “Think how often you see me laying on the sofa reading a book, watching a video or doing very very little, even napping?” – He realised indeed that was a lot. Funny isn’t it people’s perceptions of you.

  1. Help others. While finding pleasure in life is one way to be happy, doing something that is more than you, that helps others to be happy or to suffer less, is even more rewarding. I suggest you find a good cause or two and volunteer some of your time. You don’t have to commit to big chunks of your life, but just volunteer for a couple of hours. All of us can find a couple of hours in a week or a month. If you do this, you will find out how tremendously happy this will make you. You might even become addicted.

On my Mind Map. The problem I have with this one is sometimes people use this as an escapism from facing their own problems. I don’t like escapism. So help others by all means, but ensure you have helped yourself first would be my advice. Once you have found the key to your own happiness, then you can spread that shit everywhere.

Well this entry is long enough as it is, I will add my personal tips for a Zen Life in another post.

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