5 Ways to Train Your Brain Every Day for Happiness
You have to train your brain to be positive just like you work out your body. — Shawn Achor
Over the last few years, I’ve interviewed multiple happiness researchers, read books written by several, and even implemented many of their suggestions into my life. What’s become quite apparent from my conversations and my reading is that happiness, like most things, is a skill. It’s something that you actively have to work at, (unless you’re one of those people who walks around on cloud 9 like a zen Buddhist on ecstasy).
Psychologist Robert Emmons, who has spent nearly his entire career studying gratitude, has found that few things in life are as integral to our well-being.11Countless other studies have shown that consistently grateful people are more energetic, emotionally intelligent, forgiving, and less likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely. And it’s not that people are only grateful because they are happier, either; gratitude has proven to be a significant cause of positive outcomes. When researchers pick random volunteers and train them to be more grateful over a period of a few weeks, they become happier and more optimistic, feel more socially connected, enjoy better quality sleep, and even experience fewer headaches than control groups.” — Shawn Achor
A daily gratitude practice can have a profound impact on your life. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t have to be grateful for the massive raise you got, the round of funding your company just received, or the book that sold a million copies. If that’s all you’re ever grateful for, you’ll be continually dissatisfied. It can be as simple as being grateful for the shorter line at Starbucks this morning. And if you need more insight into this, watch this animated short with Tim Ferriss on what makes someone truly wealthy.
2. A Good Night’s Sleep
While we sleep, the brain is able to get rid of toxins, including proteins that are associate with Alzheimer’s disease. — Arianna Huffington
After a year-long battle with depression, that was largely exacerbated by sleep deprivation, sleep is not a luxury to me but an absolute necessity. When I don’t sleep well, my productivity, creativity, and overall level of performance don’t just suffer the next day, but for multiple days after. A good night’s sleep might be the most underrated lifehack at our disposal.
In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Fitness, John Raty cites exercise as one of the major cures for nearly every mental health ailment we face. If you’ve ever gone to the gym when you’ve felt like complete shit, you’ve probably noticed that you come home feeling much better. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make us happier. It’s not a coincidence that many of the world’s most successful and happy people are extremely physically active.
Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actuallygrow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend years in sequestered, celibate silence to experience a boost. Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out.” — Shawn Achor
Quite frequently our anxiety and unhappiness are a result of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. That’s where meditation comes in. It teaches us to be present, even if it is just for a brief window of time each day.What you’ll notice however is that as you meditate more, you’ll be able to stay present and focused for longer periods of time.
Enjoying this essay? My newsletter could be a good fit for you. You’ll receive a weekly article like this as well as immediate access to a swipe file, where you’ll get my best tips on honing your daily habits, productivity, and creativity. I’ll also send you a guide on finding the courage to carve your own path, rather than following someone else’s footsteps. Get it here.
5. Do Deep Work
A workday drive by the shallow, from a neurological perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most the shallow things that capture your attention seem harmless and fun- Cal Newport
A while back I wrote a piece about the many reasons deep work is so fulfilling. All you have to do is compare a day spent mindlessly binging on social media to a day deeply immersed in something you care about, and it becomes clear why deep work makes us happier people. When you do deep work ,you spend more time in flow, which in turn will make you much happier.
In my experience, these things, don’t just make you happier. They make you more productive, creative and successful. Give them a try for 21 days and see what happens.
Before You Go…
If doing the best work of your life is important to you, you’ll love my free guide: “Optimizing Productivity & Creativity.”
The tactics I’ve packed into this guide allowed me to write over 1 million words in the last 2 years. What could it do for your life’s work? Don’t miss it.