I’m on Pharrell’s team, I truly do think happiness is my truth. I consider myself a generally happy person, and to be honest I like that about myself quite a bit. I believe it’s important to the wellbeing of humans to experience some form of joy or cheerfulness every day!
Sadly though, millennials experience a greater amount of anxiety and depression than previous generations. How sad, you guys! Learning to find happiness in today’s world may not always be easy, but it is definitely possible.
If there was a way that you could become happier every day, would you do it? Enter Shawn Achor, official happiness researcher (excuse me, can that be my job?). Tote challenged me to do these happiness boosting exercises to see if they could make me even happier. According to Achor’s research, these exercises lead people to be overall much happier, which causes them to be healthier, more productive and creative at work, and closer to their loved ones.
Kind of sounds like a no-brainer, don’t you think? I have no problem with becoming a happier person, so I happily (was it already working?) took on the challenge. To test out these claims, I followed each of the happiness-boosting exercises for a week.
Give one a try!
- Three acts of gratitude
This exercise has you spend two minutes a day thinking of things that you are grateful for. According to Achor’s research, this step will teach your brain to think in new patterns and learn to be more optimistic. It’s important to choose new things each day and be specific (aka, no saying “I’m grateful for my family, job, and health.” Boring!). Eventually this exercise will become a habit!
I always have things I’m grateful for, but I don’t necessarily single them out in my day-to-day life. The things that stood out to me while completing this exercise were fairly standard, but each had a varying degree of importance for me. One day, it was being grateful for the pets that I’m honored to be trusted to pet sit. I’m grateful for my own pets, which bring smiles to my face every day. I am thankful for getting the mail from the mailbox, even on days when it’s just bills and junk. I love seeing the birds outside, now that it’s warming up, and the beauty that comes with nature in summer. Animals always increase my happiness, because they never cease to put a smile on my face. Being able to find happiness in others allows you to find happiness in yourself.
- The Doubler
For this exercise, use two minutes a day to think about positive experiences that have happened in the last 24 hours and list each detail that you remember. This works because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience (so this doubles the most meaningful, happy experience of the past day for your brain).
The day that stands out the most to me when I did this exercise was when my brother and I went out to dinner with my 90-year-old grandmother. We both cherish spending time with her, because she loves and cares for us so much. I got to share all my writing accomplishments from the semester while we ate dinner. And then I helped her look up Tote Mag online! She loves to read everything I write, which I enjoy sharing as much as I enjoy writing. Family is everything to me, and spending time with those who care so much for me, never ceases to bring a smile to my face. Family is the connection that sustains forever, and time spent with family can never be replaced.
- The Fun fifteen: Fifteen minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day
This happiness exercise is actual exercise! According to Achor’s research, doing this practice is the equivalent of taking an antidepressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next two years.
For sure, this exercise was my least favorite recommended happiness booster. I hate forcing myself to work out (please tell me I’m not alone). But the days when I walked longer and was conscious about taking flights of stairs rather than the elevator led me to feel better overall. I was happy, or maybe I just felt competitive with myself when I saw the number of flights of stairs I climbed on my iPhone health app.
Take two minutes to breathe. Do not do anything else other than concentrate on your inhales and exhales. Simple, no? According to Achor’s research, doing this quick two minute breathing practice at Google’s headquarters raised accuracy rates, dropped stress levels, and improved happiness. Sign me up, please.
Finding two minutes of zen in my schedule is not always easy, especially when every minute is dedicated to school, working, writing and keeping up with social media. I never knew when the perfect moment to drag myself away from all my activities would be, so I had to figure it out. Most of the time, it was the point in the day where I was basically ready to go to sleep, but still had things to finish. Those two minutes were the most relaxing part of my day and left me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next thing. Breathing was by far my favorite exercise in this weekly challenge.
- Conscious Acts of Kindness
The last part of the exercise is considered to be the most powerful by Achor and his research team. This is because those who use this technique have very high social connection scores. According to Achor’s study at Harvard, the correlation between long-term happiness and social connection score is 0.7, which is higher than the correlation between smoking and cancer. Here’s how you do it: for two minutes each day, start work by writing a positive email or text praising or thanking one person you know. The important thing is to choose someone different every day!
As much as I loved the breathing exercise, I also really enjoyed this challenge. I often found myself sending encouraging notes to different friends or spending time thinking about ways I wanted to thank people who have been particularly great recently. On the morning of my French final, I gave my professor a thank you note for a great semester. I had been dreading taking French, so much so that I left it until the end of my senior year. However, it turned out to be one of my favorite classes, and I left the course feeling magnifique! Putting a smile on someone else’s face put one on mine in return.
After spending a week of doing these happiness exercises, I can sincerely say that I found myself feeling more refreshed and whole. It is easy to do these acts unconsciously, because they may be part of your daily routine. But when you take time to truly think about thanking people, breathing, exercising and reflecting on the day, you will wake up and go to bed just feeling happier.