Twelve paths to happiness, pick one

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Your author, deviating for a day

If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ve found that it’s possible (and even fun) to make big changes in your life. And you’ve taken a little quiz that will help you figure out your unique view of time.

Now we’re going to get down to business. The creators of that quiz worked together with a colleague (author of The How Of Happiness) to group specific happiness-inducing activities into the different time-perspectives.

So all you need to do is look at the following chart, find the time-perspectives you want to work on, and do the corresponding activities. I’ll write a post highlighting each, though I recommend you only pick two or three to work on, and no more than one at a time. (See below for more tips).

Time Perspective
Past Present Future Transcendental Future
Activity Express gratitude Practice acts of kindness Cultivate optimism Practice religion or cultivate spirituality
Avoid overthinking & rumination Nurture relationships Develop coping strategies
Learn to forgive Increase “flow” experiences Set and pursue life goals
Savor live’s joys Take care of your body (exercise/diet)

Those are the twelve (+1, if you include the Transcendental Future) paths to happiness.

I’m going to begin with Meditation in my next post. Why mediate? How to get started?

A note on starting a new habit.

frog and toad willpower

Why is starting a new habit so easy when it’s a bad habit, but hard when it’s a good one? I’m not sure, but I do know a few things about getting good habits to stick.

After training for–and completing–a half-marathon, I realized that running the race was the easy part. It was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, for a couple hours. The hard part was the months of training: turning down late-night social events so I could get up in the morning to run, etc.

I did some research on how to set myself up for success (including reading this great book about habits) and found that making changes requires willpower. Willpower is like a muscle, you can make it stronger by exercising it. Also, you use your willpower muscle throughout the day (e.g. by going to work instead of the park, avoiding a second dessert after dinner). By the end of the day it’s worn out! It’s strongest in the morning, so that’s the best time to put a new activity into your routine. (Also, a habit needs a trigger, and “I just got out of bed” is a pretty solid one)

I set up a “motivation station” right next to my bed. It had…

  1. a monthly calendar of each run I was going to do. I could see the previous days’ runs crossed off. (Read up on dopamine to learn why this is such a powerful motivator)
  2. everything I needed to start my run (so I could roll out of bed and not scramble for stuff in the dark)

You can use this pattern “trigger + motivation + preparation” for pretty much any new habit. Also, most habits take about 2 months to stick, so don’t give up!

Catch you on the flipside in 2015, when we’ll start getting happier!

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