In this episode of the Feel Good Effect, we’re talking about the 10 simple, daily habits you can focus on to live a happier life!
After 150+ guest interviews, these ten actionable habits are the ones that stand out as making the biggest difference in happiness & health. Keep reading to learn about them all!
10 simple daily habits for a happier life
In last week’s episode (the 200th episode of FGE!) we talked about what it really means to be healthy based on definitions from over 150 guest interviews and ongoing conversations with you, listeners and readers.
In this episode, we are talking about science-backed, life-tested, actionable habits you can incorporate into your daily life for more happiness and health, no matter who you are or your life circumstances.
These are tiny habits that make a big difference, small habits that create big change. And the good news is that they don’t have to be a huge time commitment or a big financial investment.
1 | gratitude
I feel like gratitude is one of those things that’s overtaught & often misunderstood, so here’s what I mean when I talk about gratitude.
Gratitude is not about thinking positively all the time, practicing “toxic positivity”, or ignoring negative emotions. It is simply being able to see the good within all the other bad, chaotic, stressful things that happen in life. It’s training your brain to notice the good that is there all the time.
My favorite conversation on gratitude out of all the FGE episodes was with Dr. Rick Hanson. Gratitude is fundamental to happiness and having a gratitude practice is a habit of happy people.
getting started with gratitude habits:
- Start a simple gratitude journal: Write down 3 things you are grateful for right when you get up or before bed
- Write gratitude notes: Tune into the FGE episode with Gina Hamadey for more on this simple yet meaningful exercise
- Go for a gratitude walk: Turn off all your distractions and really notice the beauty around you, gratitude for your body, and for the air you breathe.
2 | flexible thinking
The idea of flexible thinking is covered in my book, The Feel Good Effect, and really the opposite of all-or-nothing thinking.
Rather than seeing things as black or white, all-in or all-out – happy people are able to see the middle ground, the grey area, and often pick a choice somewhere in between that works best for them (if the extremes aren’t sustainable or don’t work for them in real life).
3 | self-knowledge
Knowing yourself and making decisions from that place is a cornerstone habit of happy people.
When you know what you like and don’t like, what your values are, and how you want to feel – that’s when you are able to create a truly happy life for yourself. When it comes to defining ‘healthy’, what really matters is finding a definition for yourself (which really requires knowing about yourself).
Find a daily practice of slowing down and asking, ‘what do I need right now?’, based on Dr. Kristin Neff’s guide to fostering self-compassion.
Other guests who taught and offered great suggestions for self-knowledge:
- Sebene Selassie: How to Connect and Belong
- Alex Elle: Self-Care
- Camille Styles: Things to Leave Behind
- Morgan Harper Nicols: Reclaiming Creativity
4 | movement
Most happy people have some kind of movement practice. It does not necessarily have to be a daily exercise routine, but happy people move their bodies consistently and in a way that feels good for them.
In her interview, Dr. Kelly McGonigal explained that, just “three-minutes of movement can change your mood toward happiness”.
Think about your own life. If a movement habit is something that hasn’t happened yet, it may be because of inflexible thinking or feeling like it counts or doesn’t count.
Try reframing movement or exercise as a happy habit instead. Stretching, moving, walking, yoga, axe throwing or really anything that moves your body – it all counts!
5 | nature
Time in nature is very happiness supporting.
This might mean going outside and taking a walk (it doesn’t have to be a 5-mile trek in the mountains if that’s not accessible to you). You could even take it one step further and bring some plants inside your home & workspace; any connection with nature has been shown to improve happiness.
If you can find your way to the water, beach, mountains, or to any place where you feel connected & grounded – that time in nature can be quite restorative and is also connected to happiness.
6 | self-compassion
Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness that you would show a loved one. This is a core happy habit.
When you can treat yourself with kindness and realize that making mistakes is truly just part of being human, it is so connected with happiness.
Self-compassion is my #1 recommended happy habit to take on, and there is lots of information about how to do that in the Feel Good Effect book.
7 | growth
The feeling of growth or progress is fundamental to human happiness. Self-improvement doesn’t have to be self-punishment or a way you’re not living up to another set of impossible standards, but it can be a feeling of growth in your life and knowing that you are not stagnant.
Creating a habit around growth could look like starting a hobby, volunteering at a school or church, taking on a new project outside of work, or taking on a new role within work. There are so many ways we can feel growth within our lives – but if you’re not feeling it right now, think about what kind of habit could support a feeling of growth (whether it be professionally or personally).
8 | connection
We all know this (even more deeply after the last 18+ or so months) that a lack of connection is an unhealthy habit.
As things begin to open back up, we have a chance to (re)develop some of our connection habits. This could be connecting with yourself or connecting with your community, friends, or other meaningful relationships.
If you are feeling a lack of connection, think about tiny habits you could adopt to help foster it in your life. Whether it’s sending a text to a friend on a regular basis, using apps that allow you to leave voice messages (great if talking on the phone just isn’t a sustainable habit).
Ask yourself what your daily habits are that support connection and where you want to focus your energy.
9 | play
For me, play as a habit is where I struggle. I have never been good at play, as a kid and now as a parent. But maybe play comes really easy to you and you are able to prioritize it and make it multiple habits.
If it is a little harder for you, it could be combined with other habits – like being in nature, going on a hike, playing on the beach, or being in the water. It can look different for everyone and might be something to think more about how you could include play into your happy habits.
10 | rest
Cultivating a habit of rest is fundamental to happiness.
Always working, moving onto what’s next, and not giving yourself any downtime is not conducive to happiness. You can use the 4-R daily routines to create habits around rest, creating good habits around sleep hygiene, getting to bed on time, napping, taking an entire weekend day off, or closing out of social media for days at a time.
make it work for you
These habits can look a lot of different ways, but without habits around these happiness fundamentals, they will likely not happen.
Habits help you make these 10 things happen automatically and happen more regularly in your daily life.
If you feel overwhelmed at where to start – think about how you feel & how you want to feel. And then look for the bridge between the two.
Then pick one thing or just a handful of things, and let those first few things be guided by what habits are going to be supportive of that type of happiness in your life.