I’m a big fan of setting and working towards goals. Some years ago I discovered that I had far more power over my life than I had previously realised. I began setting goals and working towards them. My life began moving in a far more positive direction and I began to grow and develop as a a person.
This is all very positive and I can’t recommend goal setting highly enough… but this process can lead us to focus on long-term success, rather than immediate happiness or joy. I don’t believe this has to be an either/or proposition.
Who doesn’t want to experience more joy and happiness on a daily basis? When we pursue longer term goals, we often end up telling ourselves things like “I’ll really be happy when…” and forgetting that we can take action to make ourselves happier right now.
If you’d like to become happier today, here’s an exercise which will only take a few minutes, and may well create more happiness in your day to day life.
Lets get started. You will need:
5-10 minutes of time
A journal/sheet of paper/computer/smart phone
Your memory and imagination
Step One – Give yourself 5 minutes to write down at least 30 activities that make you happy.
If you’re suffering writer’s block, here is a sample list (my own) to give you some ideas:
- Hug my wife Elaine
- Do some good
- Pet my dog Wilf
- Drink a ‘real’ coffee
- Listen to music
- Take three slow deep breaths
- Play/practise a musical instrument
- Do a crossword in the pub with Elaine, while drinking a pint of real ale
- Go for a walk outside
- Listen to something inspirational – a speech, podcast, audiobook
- Sit by a fire
- Sit outside with the sun on my face
- Go for a bike ride
- Go for a run
- Meet friend(s)
- Spend time with family
- Phone friend(s)
- Have an early night
- Have a lazy morning lie-in (but only occasionally)
- Go to see live comedy
- Go to any live performance
- Watch something funny on TV
- Sofa time with Elaine
- Watch a film
- Create something – write/compose/make/draw
- Have a nice glass of wine with some cheese
- Have a night or several away (travel)
- Go out for breakfast
- Write in a journal
- Have a hot drink on a cold day and vice versa
- Walk barefoot on the beach/on some grass
Step Two – Go through your list and ask yourself if each activity would bring you joy or pleasure (I believe that there’s a significant difference.) If you did these things consistently are there any which would cause harm rather than benefit? If there is anything that you wouldn’t want reported on the front page of the local newspaper, you might want to remove it from your list!
Step Three – Go through your edited list and put a tick next to all of the items that are either free or inexpensive. If your list is anything like mine, the majority of items will fall into this category.
Step Three – Go through your list again and see how many of these you could do every single day if you wished. Pick your top three from this shortlist and consider making an effort to do all of them every day for a week, starting today.
Step Four – Is there anything on your list that you haven’t done in a while, say the last six months? Why not work out a plan today to do one of these in the near future. Make an appointment with yourself, put it in your diary and do it!
Step Five – Which of the items could you do immediately? Why not choose one and do it now!
I believe it was Aristotle who said “We are what we repeatedly do.” If we repeatedly do things that make us happy, surely we will become happier people. It is worth keeping your list accessible, perhaps on a smart phone or in a journal, and adding to it over time. You can also use this list to form the basis of a perfect day (more on this in a future post.)
Have fun with this exercise – I know I will! If you’d like to share your thoughts please tweet me @dfrancisdrums with a photo of your list using the hashtag #happylist
Disclaimer: If you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression, there are far more important things for you to do than to read this blog. Please make an appointment to see your doctor, or a trained counsellor. I know that both of these can make a huge impact, and help you to turn things around.