Make 2019 your best year yet with 10 hacks for happiness and realistic resolutions
Too many resolutions are hard work and, let’s face it, you’re never going to stick to them if there’s too much effort involved.
So says happiness doctor Andy Cope, who has spent 10 years researching positive psychology and delivers courses, centring on themes of happiness, in businesses and schools across the world.
Tiny changes which you can realistically stick to will make the difference, he says. “Small habit changes are like compound interest. They add up. For example, let’s imagine that instead of salad you sneak a burger. On that day, there is no difference. You won’t notice it in the mirror.
“But in 12 months, the habit of salad after salad after salad will have made a compound and noticeable difference (as will burger after burger after burger).”
Cope, whose book Happiness: Your Route Map To Inner Joy, is now out in paperback, offers 10 realistic resolutions to make 2019 your best year to date…
1. COMMIT TO EXERCISE
Don’t kill yourself. Thirty minutes a day is fine. It might feel like a chore at first, but it releases all sorts of lovely chemicals which will infuse you with a Ready Brek glow. It doesn’t have to cost anything. A brisk walk at lunchtime is fine.
Commit to getting your full eight hours of shut-eye. A University of Warwick study calculates that good sleep is worth £200,000 to your wellbeing. So treat yourself to a lottery win.
3. EAT WELL
Live by the Japanese concept of Hara Hachi Bu. It means stop eating just before you’re full. It’s the smallest change of habit that will have the biggest impact.
And these are Hope’s additional dos and don’ts for eating properly:
Do sit down and eat as a family (as often as possible). If it’s not happening, insist that it does.
Do appreciate your food. That means savouring it and thanking whoever provided it. That might be God but, more likely, Tesco Extra.
Don’t eat anything delivered to your door by someone on a motorbike.
Don’t eat anything passed to you in your car through a hatch.
Don’t eat fast food more than once a week. And eat it slowly.
Don’t eat anything your great grandma would not have recognised as food.
If you’re thinking of giving Veganuary a go – here are our top tips on how to ace it.
4. CELEBRATE STUFF THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN
Sadly, unless you’re a black belt happiness ninja, your mind doesn’t sit in traffic thinking how lucky you are to have a car. It curses at the long meeting instead of rejoicing that you have a job. It tuts at the crumbs on the worktop instead of being grateful you’ve got wonderful children.
The opposite of savouring good experiences is to notice the many things that could have gone badly, but didn’t. Hence the mind-bending question, what hasn’t happened, that you didn’t want, that you haven’t celebrated?
I woke up and didn’t have toothache. I got to work without crashing my car. I haven’t got diabetes. My children aren’t poorly. I haven’t just stubbed my toe…
Of course, it’s hard to notice something that didn’t happen. Have a go, it’s fabulous fun. In fact, it’s one of those mental muscles that gets stronger the more you exercise it.
5. SAVOUR THE F-WORD
Make 2019 the year of the f-word. The word? Failure. Dirty, rotten, despicable failure.
Not failure the result: Losing the business, losing the relationship, failing the interview. But failure the process: Learning, improving, becoming fighting-fit, installing effectiveness, broadening, widening, gaining wisdom, picking yourself up and smiling and trying once again.
Failure, yes. But stay in the game. If we’re unwilling to fail, we’re unwilling to succeed.
6. CELEBRATE YOUR PLOT TWISTS
You are a storyteller. Stories link us to our ancestors and to those who don’t yet exist.
And don’t we just love a tragedy? If you’re not careful, problems loom large and they can dominate your back story. They become well-rehearsed tales, magnified and re-lived every time you tell them. It’s easy to become the victim. Bad things always happen to you, right?
But, of course, you’re the author. It’s your life and your story. You might not be able to change the events that have happened, but you can re-cast yourself as the hero. So, when something doesn’t go according to plan, it’s not a nightmare, crisis, challenge or problem, it’s merely a plot twist.
All good stories have a plot twist, an unexpected turn of events that nobody saw coming. Your life is a story. Plot twists are inevitable. They exist because you’re alive.
7. HUG MORE
The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds. However, for the love to transfer, a hug has to last seven seconds or longer. There will be about 12 people in your life who are emotionally close enough to warrant a seven-second hug.
So hug your 12 and hang on for the full seven seconds. Hugging releases feel-good chemicals and when you feel great, life gets a whole lot easier. Two notes of caution: This is not for strangers in the park, and don’t count out loud, it spoils the effect.
8. ENJOY MORE MOMENTS
Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life. The general rule is that happiness comes from doing stuff, rather than accumulating stuff. You’ll realise that most of the things on your list are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. In 2019, set your stall out to have more experiences.
9. MAKE MONDAY THE NEW FRIDAY
Here’s a terrifying fact – a seventh of your 2019 is going to consist of Mondays. That’s too much time to simply write off. So dare to stand out by celebrating Mondays.
If you think about it, Friday’s a nightmare, another week closer to death. Mondays are a chance to get stuck into a new week and make a dent in the universe.
10. CUT DOWN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Cut your tech time by a third. We’re not saying you should cease screen time, merely that you will glean more happiness from real people, real relationships, fresh air, views and actual eye contact.
Happiness: Your Route Map To Inner Joy by Andy Cope with Andy Whittaker and Shonette Bason-Wood, is published in paperback by John Murray Learning, priced £9.99. Available now.