Five Ways To Make Yourself Happier, Starting Today

Apr 20, 2015

Never tell a despairing person your philosophy of happiness.  Action items - ways to max out everyday life with gratitude and compassion - are worth more, when it counts the most. We heard a shortlist from Dr. Amit Sood, author of The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living in January, and he was back on Think earlier this week. 

1. When you wake up, think of five people you're grateful for.

The decline begins when our minds wander into negative ruminating thoughts, Sood says. We're going to space out at times, no matter what. But, he says, we can at least send our minds in a better direction. 

“Every day of my life, I wake up and my first thought is: I think about five people in my life I’m grateful for," Sood says. "I usually start with my wife, and I think about something nice that she did in the last 24 hours, and I send my silent gratitude to her even though she may be sleeping by my side."

It's easy to remember to complete this ritual before you get out of bed. Another opportune time: At a stoplight, instead of tapping your fingers waiting for the light to turn green. 

2. Notice one thing you've been too wrapped up in yourself to see.

“If you look outside and you say a baby giraffe walking, that may draw your attention - but not a cute Pomeranian perhaps. So have a low threshold. Don’t wait for the perfect rainbow to enjoy it. Pay attention to the little cloud formations," Sood says. 

3. Make up good stories about strangers you pass. 

"Biologically, when I feel I am being liked, or when I am liking you, it’s just the same thing," Sood says. "It’s such a simple way, when I see a stranger in a mall, if I just wish that person well silently or somehow create a positive story around that person – 'Oh, this person must be a very kind dad' or 'Oh, this must be a very loving, doting grandpa' – I’ve given myself a little reward."

4. If your self-image depends on someone else's view of you, at least take a moment to make sure it's the right person. 

“Look at yourself with the eyes of the person who loves you the most, and not with the eyes of the person who doesn’t like you,” Sood says. 

5. Greet your family or roommate or colleagues like you've been away for months. 

“Our attention is geared evolutionarily to pay attention to three things: threat, inordinate pleasure and novelty. Because novelty is where growth is … when we find novelty, we feel rewarded, we feel happy," Sood says. "So we crave it … it’s really rewarding if you find good things novel, like your loved ones.”

When you arrive at work or come home, greet whoever is there heartily, like you've really missed them. This will infuse relationships with that novelty that's so needed to sustain our connections, Sood says. 

Listen to the full conversation with Dr. Amit Sood 

Listen to Think at noon at 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday on KERA 90.1 FM or stream online. Catch up on previous shows here.