As you may know, I was furloughed at the end of March and I put a shout out on LinkedIn for suggestions of courses I could do with my newly found freetime. I had some great suggestions and my eyes were opened to how much free learning there is out there if you take the time to look! I decided to choose a course on the science of wellbeing, this is a free course run by Yale University which has also birthed The Happiness Lab podcast. Now I don’t consider myself an unhappy person but I soon realised that it doesn’t matter, this course teaches you practical steps to build habits to improve your happiness and wellbeing. It also teaches you about the ways our minds tell us things we want we actually don’t want and which won’t make us happy in the long run and sometimes even the short run! Crazy huh, who knew that we are literally our own worst enemy!!
So, given that this is mental health week I thought I could share with you some of the ways in which we can build habits and help ourselves improve our happiness. Don’t get me wrong I can’t make you constantly happy, that’s not possible and also wouldn’t work, but you do things to improve your happiness and your overall wellbeing, if you’re willing to put in a little bit of effort every.
Each of the subjects I talk about really should be done for more than one day for them to become habits and maybe not all of them will work for every single one of you but I would encourage you to try and do each of them for at least 7 days. If that feels too much then make a note afterwards of how you feel and hopefully you’ll find one or two that have an immediate positive impact and perhaps choose those to do for more than one day.
I hope you find them useful and I’d love to hear any feedback you have.
We often hear that we’re not present enough in today's’ world. We’re often looking forward to something or ruminating and thinking of something we’ve done in the past that we wish we could change. Well, the act of savouring helps us to step outside of an experience, to review and appreciate it and stay in the moment. Savouring something intensifies and lengthens the positive emotions that come with doing something you love. Therefore, today I’d like you to pick an experience and truly savour it. It could be as simple as a delicious meal, a walk, maybe coffee in the sunshine, basically any experience that you really enjoy. To enhance the savouring experience you could share it with another person (not via social media), think about how lucky you are to enjoy such an amazing moment or keep a souvenir of that moment maybe with a photo. At the end of the day, take time to remember the activity and write it down.
Gratitude is a positive emotional state where we recognise and appreciate what we have in life. Research shows that taking time to experience gratitude can make you happier and even healthier. Take 5-10 minutes today to write down 5 things for which you are grateful. They can be little things or big things but you really have to focus on them and actually write them down whilst taking a moment to be mindful of the things you’re writing about (e.g, imagine the person or thing you’re writing about).
To help build this habit you should do both of these things every day this week, try to choose different things to savour and be grateful for different things every day. Don’t worry if you can’t always find 5 things to be grateful for just recognising and being grateful for even one thing will help you towards the positive emotional state that gratitude brings.
Research has shown that happy people are motivated to do kind things for others. So, today I’d like you to perform a random act of kindness. Now I know that this can be difficult given the current situation but it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming, it should however be something that either helps or impacts another person. For example, you could say something kind to a stranger, send someone a letter or card, donate £5 to a cause you believe in, buy someone flowers, or perhaps go to clickfoodie and send someone something. Jon’s parents sent us a Cornish cream tea hamper out of the blue last week and it was such a lovely surprise.
At the end of the day, write down your random act of kindness and if you note it made you feel good then why not try to do one a day for the next 7 days.
Being recruiters I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to you all that social connections matter and that happy people spend more time with others and have a richer set of social connections than unhappy people. Studies even show that the simple act of talking to a stranger in the street or the person at the check-out can boost our mood more than we expect.
So, today make a social connection, it can be a small 5-minute act like sparking a conversation with your neighbour or the barista (if there are any take away coffee places near you open), maybe it’s smiling at people and saying hello whilst out for your daily exercise. Or take some real time to connect with a friend or a family member you haven’t talked to in a while. The key is that you must take the time needed to genuinely connect with another person.
At the end of the day write down the social connection you made and how it made you feel then and now as you’re writing it down.
Now more than ever getting exercise is really important, I think if you’re furloughed then it’s possibly been easier than those who aren’t and who get caught up in work. Rest assured though that research shows 30 minutes of exercise is not only good for your physical health but it can boost your mood too. So, today, you’ve guessed it, take 30 minutes to do some exercise, whether it’s a walk, an online class, gardening or just dancing around your front room to some music. I’m not asking you to get sweaty and out of breath but to get your body moving a bit more than usual. Afterwards, take a moment to write down and notice how much better you feel after getting some exercise.
This next one is a hard one as I know that there are people who struggle to sleep and literally have tried everything and me saying ‘get more sleep’ really won’t help! I also know that many of us are having the weirdest dreams at the moment and that’s because of the current situation and it’s hard to do something about it. However, one of the reasons we’re unhappy in our modern lives is that we’re consistently sleep deprived and sleep can improve your mood more than we often expect. We’re all different but the general consensus seems to be that around 7 hours of sleep is ideal to help us lift our moods. There will always be deadlines to meet, friends to zoom, news and social media to update us but sleep is going to make us feel better both physically and mentally. So, tonight practice good sleep hygiene – no devices for an hour before bed, try to avoid caffeine and alcohol and maybe take a bath before bed or read once you’re in bed.
Doing this for 7 days may seem a little daunting so perhaps try to nominate 4 nights where you’ll practise good sleep hygiene and bedtime routine to help you get 7 hours of sleep.
For you old school Stopgappers who remember when we used to identify with animal traits I’m a monkey for the more recent of you then I’m a 9 P. This should make you all chuckle and recognise that I struggle to finish things. There are days when I say I’m like a monkey jumping from task to task without finishing anything! Focus and mind wandering though is not something that’s only applicable to people like me. Apparently our minds wander almost 47% of the time, so when we’re trying to focus we’re often thinking about what’s for dinner or why hasn’t that candidate returned my call! The fact that our mind wanders is potentially unique to our species so it’s actually pretty cool and to be honest daydreaming about your holiday and lying on the beach in the sunshine is kind of nice. However, that aside research shows that it actually has an impact on our happiness. So how do we stop our mind wandering, well meditation has been shown to help control our minds, increase our grey matter and strengthen the brain. So it’s kind of like working out for the brain.
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