February 20, 2023
When I strike up a conversation with a random stranger and they ask me what I do, I always respond, ‘I’m a happiness hacker’.
This usually prompts a smile and a ‘Tell me more!’ Sounds pretty interesting, right?
Who doesn’t want to be happy, and who doesn’t feel that’s a struggle today?
Let us explore the concept of happiness hacking and some exercises you can do to help you inject a little more joy and calm into each day.
What is happiness hacking?
The best way I can describe happiness hacking is like a yoga practice.
This may conjure up images of crossed legs and esoteric chants, but anyone who practises yoga knows that it can be a true test of the mind and body.
The practice of hacking happiness is not dissimilar: you have to show up every day and experiment with different positions; you will have good days when you hold a pose forever, and other days where you fail and fall flat on your face.
However, you will get better with consistent and persistent effort. It’s not so much the outcome we focus on — that’s a by-product — it’s the trying that matters.
Ask yourself: when was the last time you committed to spending deep, focused time on you, on what makes you happy and bringing more of it into your everyday?
Sadly, this seems a rarity, yet it’s a necessity for thriving.
While there is more on hacking happiness in mybook, (you can grab yourself a copy here), I want to share with you three power hacks that can help you instil a little more happy into each and every day.
Happy hack #1: Try the Busy = Bullshit Challenge
Let us reframe the narrative around being busy.
When I ask a large audience who in the room feels ‘not busy’ and one person proudly raises their hand, the room all turn their heads in awe of this enigma.
What is it about NOT being busy that makes so many of us uncomfortable?
Ask yourself: when you take away the busyness in your day, what is left? How does the thought of it make you feel?
HACK:Ditch the word ‘busy’ from your vocabulary for one week. I dare you! You may like to experiment swapping it for ‘positively engaged’, or select your own, positive word or phrase to fill the void of the word ‘busy’. Note what happens over the week. How does this change make you feel? How do other people respond?
Happy hack #2: The Gift of Gratitude
Let me share something with you, being thankful through my daily gratitude practice is one of the things that helped me mentally get through 6 lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now I want to share with you the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude and a couple of simple ways to experiment with a gratitude practice to find what works for you and inject more of what feels good into each day.
There are a plethora of research studies that demonstrate how the practice of gratitude increases one's happiness whilst, would you believe, reducing the level of inflammation in one's body. A regular gratitude practice can also reduce anxiety and elevate optimism.
Gratitude releases dopamine which makes us feel good and helps our brain connect the action of gratitude with positive feelings.
HACK: Write one hand written letter a week, to someone telling them how grateful you are for them and why. Or, why not invest in a gratitude journal like I do and write down 3 things that you are grateful for each day. It literally takes 5 minutes. I do this at the start of the day as part of my morning ritual and it helps set the tone for the day I want to have.
Happy hack #3: Prioritising yourself
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Think about it for a moment. Are you checking your phone, emails, social media before your feet even touch the floor?
You have already read (above) how productivity has become our disease and how it’s wired us towards a constant state of doing (aka being busy is bullshit)!
How we start our day is no exception
As soon as we wake up, many of us unconsciously activate “doing” mode, checking email, sorting kids, looking at social media…
What this does is it immediately places our brain into reactionary mode.
Where we are responding to the requests of others.
Which can activate those busy anxious vibes we’ve been working on ditching.
Gifting yourself the start of the day is about embracing a proactive intentional approach to how you kick off.
It’s about bringing meaning and intention to the forefront of your day enabling you to take back control of where your day goes and inject more of what matters to you into it!
So how do you gift yourself the start of the day?
Through experimentation and practice.
What works for you might be very different to what works for me.
With that in mind let me share with you a sample of how you might like to gift yourself the start of the day and you can either tweak it or completely redesign it.
BJ Fogg is a renowned Stanford behavioural psychologist.
And like me, he is a firm believer in the impact small changes can have over time on our mindset and our behaviour
One of the most popular habits he teaches his students is what he calls the Maui habit
He calls it the Maui habit because he first started practising it on the island of Maui, Hawaii when he got a birthday gift of a ukulele and a greeting card from a friend on which it was written: “Every Day is A Gift.”
Every day as you get out of bed as your fit hit the ground the first thing you say is
Today is going to be a great, awesome or even amazing day.
You choose the word that works best for you.
Sounds crazy right, it's almost too easy.
But here’s the kicker, what these words do is they permeate the subconscious mind driving your behaviour throughout the day towards things that reinforce what you’ve told yourself.
Your brain focuses on the good things in your day that reinforce your little habit and you start appreciating them.
HACK: Create a 15 minute ritual that makes you feel good at the start of each day.
Experiment with it for a week and observe how you feel. You could use theingredients list exercise, mentioned in this blog to help you decide what rituals you would like to focus on.
Let’s take a minute to reflect. These are the three happy hacks you can try today:
Wish there was a handbook to help you shift from feeling like you're existing rather than living?
If the answer is a hell to the yes best you grab your very own copy of my book Hacking Happinesshere.
It’s literally a compass to help you build the clarity, courage and confidence to step into the meaningful and impactful change you seek.