It’s no secret that habits are incredibly important to our happiness. By learning to automate certain behaviors — and working hard to break habits that aren’t serving you — you can improve your physical and mental health and achieve your dreams.
Sometimes, habits can feel big and intimidating. For example, promising yourself you’ll exercise for an hour every day or deciding to meditate for half an hour before bed often sound good in the moment, but when push comes to shove, it can be hard to actually stick with it.
Luckily, there are a lot of small, bite-sized habits that can make a world of difference. So get out your habit tracker, because you’ll want to write these ones down.
1. Write down one thing you’re grateful for every day
10 things can feel intimidating. Three things can, too! Instead, write down just one thing you’re grateful for right before bed (or in the morning, if that works better for you).
2. Meditate for three minutes
Meditation is amazing for our brains. But it doesn’t have to be a long, intimidating practice — just three minutes can make a world of difference. And believe it or not, apps like Headspace actually have three-minute meditations available.
3. Play a song you love
Music has the power to switch our mood from bad to good, to completely reframe the way we think, or even help us get a good cry in. Spend an hour or so putting together a playlist of songs you love; that way you can always find a song to play that fits your mood and needs in the moment.
4. Get a plant and take care of it
Taking care of something like a plant or garden can inspire a lot of joy. If you want to keep this habit manageable, get a house plant that’s easy to keep alive and make sure it’s getting adequate water and sun.
Caring for a houseplant can help improve happiness.
5. Start going to sleep 10 minutes earlier
It’s estimated that sleep-related problems affect between 50 and 70 million Americans. If you know you’re not getting enough sleep, don’t decide you’ll go to sleep an hour earlier if you know that’s not realistic for you. Make it 10 minutes. You might be surprised by what a difference that 10 minutes makes in your energy levels.
6. Start your day with a positive affirmation
Affirmations hold a lot of power. When said out loud or written down first thing in the morning, they can set the tone for the day, relieving anxiety and increasing confidence. Also, harnessing the power of a daily positive affirmation doesn’t take long at all, so this should be an easy one to add to your routine.
7. Engage in exercise “snacks”
We often think of exercise as something we need to set aside an hour or two for. But that isn’t the case! If it’s tough for you to make time for exercise, try finding little pockets of time when you can prioritize movement. For example, a 20-minute walk on your lunch break, or a 10-minute yoga flow first thing in the morning. By the end of the day, you’ll realize you’ve moved quite a bit.
8. Try morning pages
Doing something first thing in the morning makes it easier to stick with because it becomes automatic — and because you’re too tired to talk yourself out of it (this works for the gym, too!). So if you’re having a hard time prioritizing a journaling practice, try writing just one page in the mornings.
9. Indulge in a luxurious scent
Whether it’s in the form of a perfume, a flower, a candle, or something else, indulging in a scent that brings you joy or calms you down is an easy way to elevate your happiness — and it doesn’t take any time at all!
Embracing the power of scent can make you happier — and it takes no time at all.
10. Get better at saying no
This habit will go a long way in terms of elevating your happiness. By simply getting in the habit of saying no when you don’t want to (or can’t) do something, you’ll quickly find that you get a lot of time back and feel much happier.
If you’re someone who always does everything, try delegating a few tasks. If you always cook dinner, ask your partner or roommate to clean up. If you can afford it, try hiring someone to clean your home one or two times a month. By getting in the habit of delegating rather than doing everything, you’ll quickly see an uptick in happiness.
12. Do a light meal prep once a week
Meal prep doesn’t have to mean getting every meal ready for the entire week. Just meal prepping one or two meals (or even snacks) can work wonders for your stress levels. So set aside some time on Sunday night or even Monday morning — you’ll quickly notice what a difference it makes.
This isn’t a habit so much as a “one and done” task that will make your life so much easier. Automate essentials like toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, or anything else you need every month by utilizing subscriptions on the website of your choice. Set up autopay for bills so you don’t have to worry about late payments, and automatically have a certain amount of your paycheck transferred to a savings account if you’re in the financial position to do so.
14. Practice deep breathing
This is slightly different from meditation and can be done at any point in the day: All you have to do is stop and take 10 deep breaths and — voila! — you’ll be calmer.
15. Take breaks
Whether you work outside of the home or not, getting into the habit of taking breaks, however short, will not only make you happier, but make you more productive.
16. Schedule tech-free time
Unplugging is hard work in 2022. But when you schedule tech-free time, whether it’s five minutes or five hours, you’ll be more likely to actually separate from your devices. Time without your phone will allow for mental clarity and lead to a mood boost.
Turn tech breaks into a habit.
17. Set boundaries and stick to them
Setting boundaries is a great first step toward taking better control over your free time, but the hard work (and habit aspect) is in sticking to them. Every time you remind someone of a boundary — even if that someone is yourself — you’re strengthening your habit.
18. Read a book for 15 minutes a day
If you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution to “read more” on more than one occasion, guess what? You don’t have to plow through a novel a week to make this a reality. Simply read for 15 minutes a day. This can be first thing in the morning, right before bed, on your commute, or at any other point in the day when you can find some time.
19. Find little ways to spend more time in nature
Spending time in nature is correlated with better physical and mental health, but you don’t need to live near lush hiking trails to reap these benefits. Take a walk in your neighborhood, or if you work from home, situate your desk by a window. If neither of those are an option, try adding a picture of nature to your living space or workspace — studies show that simply looking at nature is correlated with benefits.
20. Celebrate small wins
No, you might not have reached your big, pie-in-the-sky life goal just yet. But getting in the habit of celebrating smaller goal achievements and little wins along the way will not only improve your happiness, but help you keep up the momentum.
21. Give back in a way that feels sustainable to you
As they say, it feels better to give than receive — and there’s no question that giving back and volunteering leads to improved happiness. But if you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to volunteering, don’t commit to that — instead, find smaller, more sustainable ways to give back to your local community. Don’t know where to start? Check out the site Volunteermatch for some ideas.Next up, thinking about doing some spring cleaning? Start with this checklist.