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5 Mental Habits That Will Make You Happier

The magic of our small daily rituals

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Self-improvement rarely ever works the way we think it will. It’s the paradox of becoming better.

When you talk about improving your life, you need to challenge yourself mentally every day. Your mindset is everything in life, and this can be build by doing small mental exercises.

I can admit that I used to have a weak mindset.

I needed to challenge myself more often and practice getting out of my comfort zone.

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” — Marcus Aurelius

Training your mindset will help you eliminate negative thoughts and focus on the things you can control.

Here are five simple exercises you can do — regardless of who you are or what you look like.

1. Early morning reflection

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. You need to reflect, early in the morning.

Of course, it’s actually harder than that. It’s not about planning what you will do that day, it’s about how you may react to what you will do and also what others will do.

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …” — Marcus Aurelius

Firstly, be thankful that you have actually woken up, many people will not have this privilege today.

Secondly, plan how you will embrace your values and avoid your temptations. Pick something you want to become better at such as kindness or a personal strength you want to cultivate and think about how you can incorporate into the day ahead.

Mentally check how you will deal with any difficult situations that you know will arise.

Perform light exercises using your own bodyweight.

Most importantly, remind yourself that the only things you can control are your thoughts and your actions. Everything else is uncontrollable.

2. Negative Visualisation

As humans, it’s natural for us to get used to the things we have and then begin to take them for granted.

Negative visualisation is a simple exercise that can remind us how lucky we are. The premise is simple, just imagine that bad things have happened, or that good things have not.

You decide the scale of the catastrophe:

  • Losing all your possessions
  • Never having met your spouse
  • Losing a family member
  • Losing a sense such as your sight or your hearing.

You can also imagine how situations that you are about to embark in will go wrong. You may think this type of pessimism is not conducive to a happy and fulfilling life, it can actually turn your life into pure gold by making you realise that all these bad things that have not happened to you.

Life can change very quickly, it’s important to practice being grateful for things that you have.

3. Physical self-control training

Mental toughness is mandatory if you want to thrive in your career and in life.

This exercise consists of purposefully experiencing physical hardship and also going without things one’s enjoys. In some way, it’s the practical version of negative visualisation.

Physical self-control training serves as a dual purpose:

  • To prepare ourselves in case we actually have to face physical hardships or we lose some, or all, of what we have.
  • To train ourselves not to desire things that are outside of our control. Remember that we can only control our thoughts and our actions. Everything else is uncontrollable.

Some examples of this include:

  • Drinking only water for a set period of time.
  • Going outside in cold weather without a jacket.
  • Or, spending a day without using your phone.

It’s so important to view everything as transient. You, the things you own and everyone you know will one day cease to exist. View everything as if it was on loan.

4. Bedtime reflection

This is one of the best exercises that you can develop for meaningful personal development.

It’s the opposite of the morning reflection, instead of reflecting on what is going to happen, you reflect on what has happened. Mentally replay your entire day and then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I behave according to my principles and values?
  • Did I treat the people with whom I interacted with in a friendly and considerate manner?
  • What vices have I fought?
  • Have I made myself a better person by cultivating my integrity

Write down one thing you want to improve the next day, no matter how small. You may be surprised at how you change if you keep this up for months on end.

Remind yourself that this day has finished and there is nothing you can now do to change it. Accept everything that has happened, whether good or bad.

Other things you can do include planning for the next day, write down a few notes on things to think in the morning.

In other words: Learn from your mistakes.

5. Mindfulness with urges

When you try doing something hard or very uncomfortable, you’ll get an urge to quit and put it off.

Those urges don’t serve you well, the more you put them off the more you get used to quitting when things get hard. This is something you have to train your mind with, it’s like building muscle.

Instead, develop mindfulness around those urges, and you’ll see that you don’t have to follow them. You have a choice, you just have to become aware.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” — Eckhart Tolle

One of the best ways to practice being mindfulness is to set a time for yourself where you do nothing for 10 mins. For example, for the next 10 minutes, you can do nothing but where your book chapter (or exercise, meditate).

With practice, you’ll learn that you don’t have to control your thoughts or urges but you stop letting them control you.


  1. Early morning reflection
  2. Negative visualisation
  3. Physical self-control training
  4. bedtime reflections
  5. Mindfulness with urges

People with a higher degree of self-control spend less time debating whether to indulge in behaviour that is detrimental to their health and are able to make positive decisions more easily.

They don’t let impulses or feelings dictate their choices.

Instead, they make level-headed decisions. As a result, they tend to feel more satisfied with their lives.

Practice one or two of these habits every day and you’ll see a substantial improvement in your life. Make the habits so small and easy that you cannot say no.



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Pach Deng

Pach Deng


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