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Habits that are proven to make you happier

A question

Guess how much of amount of your happiness that is caused by what you do.
(a) 0%
(b) 25%
(c) 50%

If you answered 50% give yourself a gold star. In case you are wondering, 40% of the rest of your happiness comes from simply deciding to be happy. Imagine what would happen if some of those habits also happened to be actions that contributed to your happiness! You could be automatically happy every day!! 

Why be happy?

If you aren’t sure if it’s worth the effort to be happy, let me give you a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me.) Well first off, researchers from Warwick University in England found that happier workers were 12% more productive than average and unhappier workers were 10% less productive than average.

Researchers from the University College London found that happier people have greater protection against heart disease and stroke. A study in Milwaukee that the happiest people lived nine years longer than the least happy ones.

So by being happy, not only will you enjoy life more, you will be more productive, you will be healthier and you will probably live longer.

I should say at this point, you can’t habit yourself out of depression. If you have persistent feelings of sadness or loss of interest, please, please, please, seek professional help.

Happy actions.

I will start by sharing some specific actions you can do that will contribute to your happiness and then I will explain a simple method to create new habits. The following actions have been found by researchers to scientifically make people happier.


Exercise gets your endorphins flowing. Endorphins are a natural chemical that your body releases that fees a lot like morphine. Scientists have found that the happiest people exercise on a regular basis. Not only does exercise make you happy though, recent research suggests it improves health too! The great thing about exercise is it comes in many forms and you can usually find one you enjoy. Maybe it’s going for a walk by the beach, maybe it’s playing a round of golf, maybe it’s going to the roller disco, maybe it’s going skiing, maybe it’s playing basketball, maybe it’s playing badminton. Find something action that you enjoy going and make that your form of exercise.


The happiest person measured by scientists was a Buddhist monk. Guess what he does on a regular basis? Meditate! There are a lot of misconceptions about meditation. You don’t have to be a Buddhist or a hippy to meditate though (Google even teaches its engineers to meditate.) Meditation doesn’t mean clearing your mind of all thoughts. Meditation can be as simple as breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and just focusing on that as you sit comfortably.

Positive input.

The more you hear something, the more you believe it to be true. If you hear bad things all the time you will think everything is bad. If you hear good things, you will be more inclined to think things are generally good. Start your day with some positive input. Avoid the TV news, it will just depress you. Read, watch or listen to something constructive and positive. Learn about something you are interested in. Read about something that will help you do your job better. Heck – read a joke book at the breakfast table!

Good deeds.

Do a good deed. Research at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that people who help others for 2 hours a week are happier (it’s true!) You don’t necessarily have to do those 2 hours all in one go. In fact, I would say if you can split that time up during the week it would help your own happiness more than doing it in one lump. Your good deeds don’t have to be “big” for you to get the happiness benefit. It can be as simple as writing a loved one a special note, or making their lunch as a surprise. Or offering to go start their car or clear off the snow. Or sending a complimentary email to someone first thing in the morning. Or getting someones work set up for them before they come in. Or giving someone a ride to work on a rainy day. The good deeds can be really small and still give you a big feeling of happiness.

Go for a ‘good walk.’

One of the easiest ways to cultivate your own happiness is to take a ‘good walk’. Simply go outside and take a good walk with good people and discuss good things. A ‘good walk’ will give you fresh air, exercise, companionship and a positive focus – all proven to cultivate happiness.

Take A Good Walk – Getting outside gives you fresh air, sunshine and exercise – all proven to make people happier. Spending just 20 minutes outside in good weather contributes to a person’s good mood. Exercising for just 7 minutes a day makes people more relaxed and makes them feel better about themselves.

With Good People – People who have good relationships with family and friends, and feel cared for, live longer and are happier.

Discuss Good Things – People who cultivate positive thoughts by focusing on good things and smiling are more engaged in their work and have better moods. People who express gratitude have increased happiness and life satisfaction and decreased depressive symptoms.

Good questions to answer while taking your good walk:
“What is the best thing to happen in the last day?”
“What are you grateful for at the moment?” 
“What are you looking forward to this week?”

Incidentally, these questions are based on an organizational development theory called “appreciative inquiry.”

Find a way to go for a good walk every day! If the weather isn’t good, then walk inside. If no one is available then go for a walk by yourself and think good thoughts to yourself.

Be grateful.

Express gratitude on a daily basis. There’s a lot of research been done on this too. People who express gratitude 3 times a day have been scientifically proven to be happier.
Share something you are grateful for at the dinner table, put it on facebook, write it in your journal, send yourself an email – it doesn’t matter how you do it!


OK, so I have shared several things you can do which will make you happier. How can you make them a habit? Well, the good news is new habits are actually simple to create. You just need some small sticky notes and a pen. The 3” x 3” adhesive note pads (also known as “Post-its” or “Stickies”) work perfectly for creating habits.

As you are thinking about what new habit to create, keep the following attributes of a good habit in mind. A good habit being defined as one you have the best chance of being able to build successfully.

Good habits are:
  • Small.
  • Simple.
  • Sustainable.


Good habits are small. Research has shown that people are more successful in sticking to new habits if they start small and build them up over time. Think about it, are you more likely to go from never running at all to running 5 miles overnight? Not likely. You are far more likely to go from never running to walking half a mile, to walking a mile quickly, to jogging a mile, to jogging 2 miles and so on. Start small, make that a habit and then grow it over time.


Good habits are simple. You want to remove as many obstacles to creating your new habit as possible. If you want to do good deeds, you could create a spreadsheet to track how many people you help every day or you could just decide to do something nice for the first person you see after breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you go the spreadsheet route you’d have to also remember to record every interaction throughout the day in your spreadsheet.


Good habits are sustainable. You want to be able to do your new habit everyday, everywhere you go. If your new habit was to use the stairclimber machine at the gym but you travel for work every other week you aren’t going to be able to sustain this habit for very long. 
You could make your habit to workout for 20 minutes a day. You can find a bodyweight workout you can do anywhere or you can use the stairclimber machine when you are able to get to the gym and do something else when you travel.

Once you have a small, simple and sustainable habit, you need to pick a trigger for your habit. A trigger is something that will cause you to do your habit. It is difficult to create a whole new habit or routine from scratch. It is much easier to create a new habit if you can find a trigger for your habit. With a trigger your chances of success are far greater.

Triggers are typically things like:
  • An existing habit.
  • A specific time of day.
  • An alarm or calendar reminder.
Some examples of triggers are:
  • After your shower.
  • Before you eat breakfast.
  • After you brush your teeth.
  • After you get dressed.
  • Driving to work.
  • When you make your lunch.
  • After you drink your first coffee.
  • When an alarm goes off.
  • When a reminder pops up.
  • At lunchtime.
  • After you have eaten dinner at night.
  • At 8.00pm.
Decide what the trigger for your habit is going to be and write your habit and trigger on a sticky note in the present tense.

For example “I workout at 6.00am for 20 minutes every day.”

Place this note near your trigger to serve as a reminder to do your new habit.

You want to make this habit something that you continue doing for an extended period of time. Commit to doing your habit every day for 60 days. Research has shown that this is how long it actually takes to create the average new habit. Easier habits can take slightly less time to form and more challenging habits can take slightly longer, but most habits can be formed within this 60 day timeframe. 

Draw a small grid with 30 squares on your third note and mark down every day you do your habit.
Commit to never missing more than one day in a row. The mind doesn’t like to see breaks in
a pattern so by seeing your growing chain of successful days it will encourage you to keep going. It’s also a great motivator to see how many days you have already done. Once you have filled your first 30 squares, make another sticky note and track another 30 days.

Happy habits.

The following are some specific “happy habits” you can adopt.
  • Mediate after you have brushed your teeth.
  • Read something positive while you eat your breakfast.
  • Share one thing you are grateful for at dinner every night.
  • Do jumping jacks or push-ups during commercial breaks on TV.
  • Exercise for 15 minutes at 6.30am every day.
  • Go for a ‘good walk’ with a friend at noon every day.
  • Walk for 20 minutes after dinner every night.
  • Contact one new person in your field of work every Friday at 10.00am.
  • Mute your phone when entering a social engagement.
Go be happy!
Pick one habit and give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen – you’ll be healthier, live longer and more productive!