I’ve written 10 books on happiness—here are 5 tiny habits that make me
feel happier and healthier every day
Published Thu, Jun 22 202310:19 AM EDTUpdated Thu, Jun 22 202312:55 PM EDT thumbnail
Neil Pasricha, Contributor
Annika Mcfarlane | Digitalvision Vectors | Getty Images
The news is full of reasons why so many Americans feel unhappy: social
media addictions, economic fears, climate change and the decline of
social trust, just to name a few.
But we rarely talk about reasons to be happy. As a New York Times
best-selling author, podcaster and speaker focused on intentional
living, I want to change that.
I’ve written 10 books and journals on happiness, gratitude, habits and resilience that share how to cultivate a positive mindset amidst chaos.
Here are five research-backed practices I do every day to feel happier:
1. I wake up and look at my ‘ikigai.’
Ikigai is a Japanese word that roughly translates to “the reason you get
out of bed each morning.”
Every night, my wife and I write down our ikigai on a blank index card.
We fold them in half and set them up like tents on our bedside table. It
serves as a north star and helps us wake up with a sense of purpose.
Sometimes I’ll feel lofty (“Helping people live happy lives”), or laser-focused (“Finish writing the next chapter of my book”). Other
days, I’ll try to neutralize my morning anxiety (“You have enough”).
2. I walk three miles a day.
Physical activity boosts happiness, studies show. I choose walking
because it’s good for your health and improves creativity. Another
benefit: it brings out my inner birder.
The average walking speed is about three miles per hour, so taking just
one of my meetings while walking gets three miles in. Since I’m not surrounded by screens, I’m more focused, too.
For inspiration, I recommend the essay “Walking” by Henry David Thoreau.
3. I follow the ‘wear one suit’ rule.
It’s easy to be distracted by random thoughts when you’re doing an activity. But research shows that your happiness rises when you don’t
allow your mind to wander, and you focus on just doing that one thing,
whether it’s shopping or cleaning or listening to a podcast.
My “wear one suit” rule helps me stay focused: I wear the same suit
jacket, dress shirt, blue jeans, running shoes and watch to every speech
and interview I do. This way, I’m not thinking about my outfit before,
during or after my appearance.
The same goes with breakfast. I’ve been drinking the same morning
smoothie for 15 years. Then I’m not worrying about what I’m going to
make for breakfast tomorrow as I’m cooking dinner.
4. I write a cue card.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, I write a list of the next day’s three
most important tasks before bedtime. I always start with the hardest
task, such as writing, which for me takes up more energy than anything else.
A laundry list of 20 things would feel like too much, so this
prioritization helps me sleep better. And by choosing only three tasks,
I’ve already done the hard work of deciding what not to focus on.
I buy 100-packs of index cards from the dollar store, and each time I
burn through a pack, I’ll congratulate myself for having 100 focused days.
5. I lock up my phone around sunset.
Studies show that blue light can suppress melatonin, affecting your
sleep-wake patterns. Poor sleep can decrease happiness.
When I interviewed Johann Hari, author of “Stolen Focus,” he told me he puts his phone in a lockbox with a timer every night. Now I do the same
thing to limit blue light exposure. I also use dimmer lights and read
fiction to help my brain fade into a deeper sleep.
With all habits, the goal isn’t to be perfect, but to feel a little
better — and happier — than before. So don’t beat yourself up if you
fall off course. Just try to get back on track the next day.
Neil Pasricha is a leading authority on intentional living. He is a New
York Times bestselling author of 10 books and journals, including ”The Happiness Equation″ and ”Two-Minute Mornings.” He hosts the
award-winning podcast 3 Books, and has given speeches at TED Talks and
SXSW. Follow him on Twitter.
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