- Small changes to your daily routine can make you a lot happier.
- Those changes include journaling, practicing gratitude, and even ordering takeout dinner.
- We collected a list of 10-minute tweaks you can make starting today, and why they’re helpful.
Sometimes it’s the big things that make us happy — the birth of a child, an impressive promotion, winning the lottery.
But other times, it’s the small things. Think capturing the most beautiful photo of a flower garden on your way to work, or hugging a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
It’s the second type of happiness boosters that we’re focusing on here. Below, Business Insider has rounded up seven tweaks to your daily routine — all of which take 10 minutes or less — that can make you happier, healthier, and more productive. Read on for ideas you can implement starting today.
Jot down your thoughts and feelings
Author and investor Tim Ferris recommends jotting down your thoughts in a journal every morning.
Ferris uses “The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal” by Julia Cameron, and emphasizes that the process of writing matters more than the final product. What’s more, journaling allows you to get fears and worries out of your head so you can stop fixating on them.
Another journal option is the “Five Minute Journal,” which comes with inspirational quotations and thought-provoking questions.
You can switch things up and journal in the evening if that’s more convenient.
Chat with a fellow commuter
A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that people are much happier during their commutes when they engage another passenger in conversation.
Still, most people surveyed said they expected their commute to be less positive and productive if they talked to a stranger.
If you can get over the fear that you’d be bothering someone else, you might be doing them — and yourself — a favor.
Take one beautiful photo on your way to work
That’s a tip from Mo Gawdat, who is an executive at Alphabet’s moonshot lab, X, and the author of “Solve for Happy.” Every day during his walk to the office, Gawdat searches for something beautiful and snaps its photo.
The idea behind searching for one perfect photo is that it prevents Gawdat from thinking distressing thoughts, since he’s fully engaged in searching for beauty. He calls it a form of meditation: Instead of focusing on his breath, or a spot on the wall in front of him, he’s focusing on the world around him.
Plan something joyful for tomorrow
Forcing yourself to be happy generally backfires.
A 2014 study, published in the journal Emotion, found that the key is “prioritizing positivity,” or structuring your day so that it includes activities that are likely to make you happy.
To schedule your days to maximize happiness, study co-author Lahnna I. Catalino told Scientific American you should “reflect on the activities that bring you contentment or joy and make time for these events in your daily life. For some people, this could mean regularly setting aside time for gardening and cooking; for others, it could mean making time to connect with good friends.”
The idea is not to force yourself to feel any specific way at any given moment.
Set one priority for this evening
It’s tempting to waste the hours after you get home from work — you’re tired and there aren’t any hard deadlines to meet like there are at the office.
So productivity expert and author Laura Vanderkam recommends setting one (simple) priority for every weekday evening. Maybe you want to go for a walk with your family after dinner, or call a friend, or read 100 pages of a novel, or go to a gym class.
Vanderkam said: “It is very easy to come home after work and just feel like, well, I’m too tired to do anything. But you have several hours then that are going and you will never get that back.”
Consider outsourcing a chore
A recent cross-cultural study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people who spend money to save time tend to be happier than those who don’t. Think paying for a meal-kit service or hiring a house cleaner.
Interestingly, few people surveyed said they would spend a hypothetical sum of money on services that would save them time, suggesting that most of us aren’t aware of this connection.
Ordering takeout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day might be going overboard. But sending out your laundry today and having a Task Rabbit assemble that bookshelf tomorrow might save you a headache in the long run.
List three things you’re grateful for
The “three good things” exercise was developed by psychologist Martin Seligman and colleagues. Here’s how it works, according to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center:
Every night before bed, write down three things that went well for you, along with an explanation of why they went well. The good things can be as seemingly small as your partner taking out the garbage or as big as getting a promotion. Make sure you include as much detail as possible, as well as how the event made you feel.
Seligman and colleagues found that people who used the three good things exercise felt happier and less depressed for six months.
Again, you can do the same exercise in the morning, if that works better for you.