15 minutes happier: one day, some day

When to use: When you’re feeling as if everyone else has a claim on your time.

Supplies: The outdoors, a pen or pencil and paper.

Instructions:

  • Take a 10 minute walk – preferably outside. Leave your phone and music behind. The purpose for this quick walk is to be alone with your thoughts.
  • Ask yourself: What would I want to do if I had an entire day to myself?
  • Any thought is valid – you’re brainstorming as you move, so give yourself permission to entertain ideas that might feel crazy or impossible.
  • After 10 minutes (or longer, if you’ve found the time), note the ideas which excited you most. You can save this list to your smartphone, too.
  • Bonus: make a date with yourself to put some of your ideas into action. One day to yourself every three months will have transformative and restorative impact.

 

Why it works:

  • “Take a hike!” is compassionate advice: going outside is proven to have many benefits, including increasing your creativity, focus and connection to others.
  • Walking changes our brain chemistry, and helps us each do our best thinking.
  • Articulation is the foundation“: Clarifying what you want, and being able to verbalize your intentions is the foundation for setting yourself up for success. When  unexpected free day finds it’s way on to your calendar, you now are better positioned to make the most of it.

 

Inspiration: I started thinking about how I would spend a free day to myself after another working mom asked the same question in a discussion group. Over the summer, she was going to have a furlough day each week, and wanted to know what everyone would do with it. The answers ranged from cleaning the house alone to going to a spa to reading at the beach to visiting friends. There’s no right answer, just an answer that’s right for you.

Then I remember that Julia Cameron introduced the concept of an artist’s date in her seminal work The Artist’s Way. One full day as a commitment to your own creative priorities. An artist’s date need not be artistic, just inspiring and restorative. If you’re able to give yourself a day, and are willing to share how you spent it, let me know!

Happiness Exercise: Pile of Good Things

pileWhen to use: When you want to bring a little more joy to your day, and aren’t sure where to start.

Supplies: A pen, paper, other pens in different colors, or highlighters.

Instructions:

  • Set a timer for 5 minutes, and write down everything that comes to mind when you ask yourself “what makes me happy?”. This can be either a list or more free-form mind map, just keep writing until the time is up. Now is not the time to edit or erase – your goal is to keep your pen moving for the full five minutes.
  • Once the time is up, use pens in different colors – or highlighters – to circle things you can do weekly, monthly or those which require more planning. Look at your typical week, and see which of the things that make you happy can be scheduled. Like all those women’s magazines say, making an appointment with yourself can be powerful. Honor your happiness commitment!
  • Bonus: Identify five things that can be done in under 10 minutes. Keep that list handy (maybe add it as a note in your smartphone?), and the next time you have small amounts of found time, such as waiting for an appointment, take action on what makes you happy.

 

Why it works:

  • Knowing what makes you happy before it happens helps increase your awareness. Hot coffee in a real mug makes me happier coffee in a paper takeaway cup, and now I notice all the times I enjoy my coffee from a  real mug. I may not drink more coffee, yet I notice my coffee-joy each day.
  • Anticipation of something makes up a significant portion of enjoyment related to that experience. Consider vacations: part of the benefit of a vacation is looking forward to it (as well as the memories it provides).
  • Happiness is a choice: identification and prioritization of what makes us happy means we are choosing happiness more often.

 

Pro-tip: Experiences and connections make us happier than material goods in the long-term. In reviewing your list, keep an eye out for a balance between those things that may skew more towards instant gratification and those which build sustained happiness.

A word of caution: You are in control of your feelings. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, No one can “make” you feel anything without your consent. Your pile of happy things will grow faster if they are not dependent on someone else to do something – focus on what you can control.

15 Minutes Happier: Your Best Friend is Write

Happiness Exercise #3: Best Friend Correspondence

When to use: When you’re stressed, you’re working through something difficult or being harsh with yourself.
Supplies: a journal or paper, your favorite pen or pencil
Instructions:
· Carve out 15 minutes that will be interruption-free
· Write a honest-to-goodness old-fashioned letter, as if your best friend was in your shoes, dealing with your stress
· Start with a greeting: “Hey, sweetie!” and “Hello, friend” work for me
· Close your letter: “Hugs”, “Love”, “Call me”
· Take a few minutes to re-read what you wrote, underlining or circling the kind words, encouragement and compassion you’ve likely given your best friend and may have been withholding from yourself

Why it works:
· Self-talk is powerful! What we tell ourselves and what we tell those we love are often very different messages. We are harsh and unkind to ourselves in ways we would never be to our friends.

· Your thoughts shape your experiences. If you’re telling yourself you’re failing, rather than learning, or showing grit, or trying something new, your experience is framed as failure. How you talk to yourself is the cornerstone for shaping how you experience life.

· Writing on paper rather than typing your letter strengthens the connection between what your mind is saying and what your mind is hearing.

Pro-tip: If there are words of compassion or encouragement that came through in your letter that you really need to hear, write those words out several times separately as an approach to more positive affirmations and self-talk.

About 15 minutes happier exercises
Why 15 minutes? Because anyone can find at least 15 minutes in the day for themselves.
Why be happier? Well, why not? To make a business case for this investment of your time, several studies have shown happiness drives success, not the other way around. If we want to succeed in building fulfilling and purpose-driven lives, a good place to start is to make sure we’re doing things to make ourselves happy. Each exercise is designed to be done anywhere and at any time. I like to actually leave my desk for a lunch break a few times a week – not too much to ask! Find 15 minutes in your schedule, and let’s get started. Let me know how your 15 minutes went in the comments – or if you have an idea for a future happiness exercise.

15 minutes happier: Rainbow Photo Safari

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Happiness Exercise #2: Rainbow Photo Safari

When to use: When you’re stuck in a routine that feels like a grind or need new perspective.

Supplies: the outdoors, a camera, comfortable shoes

Instructions: On a 15 minute walk, challenge yourself to snap pictures of:

  • Something in each color of the ROY B. GIV rainbow (beginner)
  • Things you see in order of the rainbow: find something red before looking for something orange, and so on (intermediate)
  • Seven things in each color category over 15 minute walks each day of the week: red on Monday, orange on Tuesday, etc. (expert)

Why it works:

  • Taking pictures instead of only noticing the colors around you encourages the mind to shift perceptive
  • Being outside in the fresh air engages all your senses, helping increase the likelihood you’ll focus on being in the moment
  • Looking for specific colors increases the changes you’ll notice something new about your environment – even if it’s your neighborhood you’ve walked daily. Who knew your neighbor has a purple front door?

Pro-tip: Something that is pink may look red when lined up in order with the other colors of the rainbow, and something almost white can look yellow when between orange and blue. Give yourself leeway to be creative in what “counts” in your rainbow.

 

About 15 minutes happier exercises
Why 15 minutes? Because anyone can find at least 15 minutes in the day for themselves.
Why be happier? Well, why not? To make a business case for this investment of your time, several studies have shown happiness drives success, not the other way around. If we want to succeed in building fulfilling and purpose-driven lives, a good place to start is to make sure we’re doing things to make ourselves happy. Each exercise is designed to be done anywhere and at any time. I like to actually leave my desk for a lunch break a few times a week – not too much to ask! Find 15 minutes in your schedule, and let’s get started. Let me know how your 15 minutes went in the comments – or if you have an idea for a future happiness exercise.

 

15 Minutes to Happier: Reverse Bucket List

15 Minutes to Happier: Each month, I’ll share an activity to make you happier.

Why 15 minutes? Because anyone can find at least 15 minutes in the day for themselves. Why be happier? Well, why not? To make a business case for this investment of your time, several studies have shown happiness drives success, not the other way around. If we want to succeed in building fulfilling and purpose-driven lives, a good place to start is to make sure we’re doing things to make ourselves happy.

Each exercise is designed to be done anywhere and at any time. I like to actually leave my desk for a lunch break a few times a week – not too much to ask! Find 15 minutes in your schedule, and let’s get started.

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Happiness Exercise #1: Reverse Bucket List
It’s easy to get caught up in the rise and grind of daily life. Focusing on what needs to be done next becomes a habit to make sure nothing really important gets missed. It also means what hasn’t happened – yet – gets more attention than past accomplishments. Your Reverse Bucket List is dedicated to giving yourself credit for your wonderful achievements. 

  • Supplies: pen or pencil, paper, timer
  • Instructions:
    • Set timer for 10 minutes
      • List anything you’ve already done which make you proud
      • After 10 minutes, read through your list and pat yourself on the back
    • Set the timer for 5 minutes
      • Write down the skills, characteristics and lessons learned from what you’ve already done.
      • Post the your list of learnings in a visible place. Use the second list to remind yourself of all the skills, decisions and experiences you already have that will fuel your future.

A note: Do not limit yourself in what is considered an achievement. Now is not the time to censor yourself! Whatever memories you look back on and think “I’m proud of that experience…”, write it down.