Scientific studies have shown that we can have an impact on our happiness by adjusting the tiny little habits and routines that constitute our daily lives — we are, in fact, in control of our outlook on life.
It’s amazing how a few tweaks to our daily habits can become a catalyst for meaningful, positive change. Here are a few simple things you can do every day to feel happier at home.
1. Make your bed. Gretchen Rubin, New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project, explains that this little task is one of the simplest habits you can adopt to positively impact your happiness. My sister taught me a trick to basically make the bed while you’re still in it. When you’re on your back, kick the corners of the comforter/quilt/blanket and line it up with the corners of the bed. Then when you get up, it’s a quick tidy-up and you’re done. Visually the bed takes up a huge portion of the room and when it is orderly and neat there’s no nagging feeling of another ‘to do’ item or mess to deal with.
2. Bring every room back to “ready.” I learned this trick from Marilyn Paul’s clever book, It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys. It’s a known fact: Clutter causes stress; order creates a haven from it. This mood-boosting routine is simple: Take about three minutes to bring each room back to “ready” before you depart it. (Unless you have a toddler, or a partner who likes to simulate earthquakes, three minutes should be sufficient.)
3. Display sentimental items around your home. One reason that experiences (and memories of those experiences) make us happier than material things is due to the entire cycle of enjoyment that experiences provide: planning the experience, looking forward to the experience, enjoying the experience, and then remembering the experience. Make your home a gallery of positive memories.
4. Start a one-line-a-day gratitude journal. Before bed, simply jot down one happy memory from that day. (If you have kids, you can ask them, “What was the best part of today?”) Reflection is an important part of happiness, and pausing to reflect on a positive event from each day cultivates gratitude. (An added bonus: Later, when your memory is defunct, you will already have all of your meaningful adventures recorded!) I’ve been doing this for years and write many things I’m thankful for each day – or for groups of days when I get busy and put it off. It’s always a task I return to because when I’m done, I feel so much better about myself and my life.
5. If you can’t get out of it, get into it. The laundry, or dishes are not going to clean themselves, so you will have to do it at some point – might as well make the most of it & do what you can to make it fun. (Unless, of course, you can outsource these types of jobs, in which case I say: Yay for you!) Upbeat music I can sing along with turns a chore into a task and I’m done before I know it. Find something that works for you and you’ll have way more fun in your life.
6. Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day. I’m still working with this one because my “to do” list fights for top of mind placement, but I’m getting better with practice. Your daily intent could be something like “be productive” or “enjoy today’s delicious moments” or it could be something more specific like “say thank you to my loved ones today.” But it should not be another “to do” item on your list.
7. Do small favors for your housemates, expecting nothing in return (not even a thank you!). (That’s right, I said it: nothing!) I live alone so I do nice things for strangers like leaving small bits of coins on newspaper racks or fire hydrants. I trust that whomever needs it most will find it first and (s)he will know it was left there on purpose, not just dropped on the ground. You could also take the trash out for your roommate, just because or do something to nuture the spirit of generosity inside yourself. The ability to cultivate strong, healthy relationships is one of the biggest contributors to health and happiness, but when you start to keep score, the benefit is lost. (No! It’s YOUR turn to clean up the dog poop!) It’s a well-known fact: When you do good, you feel good.
8. Call at least one friend or family member a day. You can do this while you clean, while you make the bed, or while you walk the dog. Texts and emails do not count! Make an actual phone call to a loved one, just to chat and catch up. We humans are social beings and studies show that even when we don’t feel like it, even if we are naturally introverted, socializing with our loved ones makes us feel better & it makes them feel better knowing that you love them enough to reach out.
9. Spend money on things that cultivate experiences at home. Save money for a new grill for parties or a new DVD for family movie night — something that will encourage you to have people over and entertain. Plan a summer barbeque, invite your closest friends, kick back and relax. (And remember #3 – don’t forget to print out the pictures to remember the good times.)
10. Spend a few minutes each day connecting with something greater than yourself. Whatever your spiritual beliefs — or non-beliefs — may be, studies show that connecting to a high power is correlated with happiness. Just stepping back to realize that we are part of an enormous universe can put some perspective on your annoyance with the rabble of everyday life. Before bed or in the morning as you’re starting your day, spend just a few minutes contemplating something larger than yourself. It can be something you do while drinking your morning coffee. Take a walk in nature. Write in a journal. Create a sacred space in your home. Or if formal spirituality is really not your thing, remember tip #5 and turn your daily shower into a moving meditation on the cleansing power of Spirit.
Simple things like these can have an exponential impact on the level of happiness you experience and that goodness radiates from you to make our world happier for everyone.