Happiness Workout #0: 5 Minute Happiness Audit
Note: this series of short essays was an experiment to see if I could help my friends and family become happier. In its original form, it was an email sequence that was sent on a weekly basis. Due to other commitments, I ended the email sequence, but wanted to publish the content in case you, dear reader, find it helpful.
Hello, Soon-to-Be-Happier Person,
Congratulations on taking the first step to being a happier person! Happiness is a muscle that, with conscious effort, can be strengthened. Every week, you'll get a series of "workouts" that improve that muscle and (hopefully) make you a happier person, straight to your inbox.
Throughout this workout program, there are going to be three key principles:
1. Happiness comes when we remove habits that promote suffering.
2. Happiness comes when we reduce desire and increase gratitude.
3. Happiness comes when we focus on helping others, rather than helping ourselves.
More on all that later. Your first workout will come tomorrow, but for now, let's lay a foundation.
Before We Start: Happiness Audit
This will take you less than 8 minutes, but will form the basis for the next few months. You might be tempted to put this off until later. I'd recommend instead doing it right now, while your momentum is high. Also, reflecting on happiness is always better than doing work, right?
Step 1: Either grab a pen and write the following down, or type the following headers into your phone's notes app.
- What Makes Me Happy...
- What I Do to Take Care of Myself...
- What I Don't Do Enough Of...
Step 2: Write down your answers to the first question in a bullet point list. Be as specific and wordy as possible: instead of "a sunny day", push yourself to "lying down in the park on a sunny day with music playing." Put a timer on your phone for 2 minutes and start writing - aim for ~8-10 things in your list, each 4+ words long.
Step 3: Take 2 minutes and now answer the second question. Think through what design researchers call the Five Human Factors - what are the emotional, mental, social, cultural, and physical things you do to keep up your happiness levels? Same rules as above apply - be specific!
Step 4: Put another 2 minute timer on and answer the final question. What do you wish you did more of? Your 1st and 2nd answers will help supply some of the answers, but try to also come up with some new things you wish you did more of.
Step 5: Lastly, re-read your entire list from start to finish (ideally out loud, if you're alone). Underline the 3 most important answers from each question. Pick a time in the next 7 days to each of these most important things.
Done! Once you have it written, copy and paste the text (or take a picture of your handwritten notes) and email it to yourself. We'll return to it in a few weeks time.
See you tomorrow for the first real workout
"The most important trick to be happy is to realize that happiness is a choice that you make and a skill that you develop. You choose to be happy, and then you work at it. It’s just like building muscles." - Naval Rakivant
This is the first in a series of short articles. Click here for part two.
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