We all want to be happy. But with work getting you down, the monstrously cold weather, the inevitable jealousy you get stalking other people’s lives on Instagram and the near-constant stream of bad news about how the world could blow up in a fiery mess at any minute, finding space in your life for happiness can be difficult.
So in an effort to help us boost our happiness and improve our outlook on life in 2018, registered psychotherapist Richard Nicholls has released a new book called 15 Minutes to Happiness that’s stuffed with really useful advice.
Speaking to me about his book, Nicholls said: “I was inspired to write this by my many clients over the years who had never felt it useful to challenge their thoughts and emotions. They saw themselves as stuck and unchangeable, as if they had a predetermined destiny to be unhappy.
“If in just a few moments of spending time with someone you can teach them how to change their mind and be open to the possibility that they are capable of change, then you can create optimism that allows them to challenge their negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves.”
He added: “In reading my book I hope to help people understand more about what makes them tick. To create a domino effect that starts off with the optimism that comes from realising that they have the capacity to change and leads to a healthy mixture of both accepting who they are with the problems that they may have and improving their life because they know that they deserve to be happy.”
While he readily admits that some people may require more in-depth treatment like talk therapy to deal with certain mental health issues, he hopes his book can “be a good starting block” for everyone.
Here are some of the helpful tips and pieces of advice from his new book on how to be happier this year:
1. Quick happiness boosting idea #1
Take time to look through photos that you’ve taken over the last few months of the experiences you’ve had and keep those memories fresh.
2. Quick happiness boosting idea #2
Take a moment or two to send a text message to someone thanking them for being part of your life. It doesn’t have to be particularly fancy, simply thanking them for making you smile that day is enough. See these ideas as confirmation of how fortunate you are, despite any negatives that may have gone on in your life. It will remind you that good things can and do happen to you.
3. Affectionate writing exercise
Spend 15 minutes writing about some positive things that have happened to you. Write about some of the good things that you’d like to see happen in the future. Write about things that you plan to do. Write with passion and enthusiasm.
On the days when you don’t get the opportunity to write about these things, make sure you at least go to bed with a small list on your mind of three reasons to be grateful.
4. Mindfulness exercise
- Set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes and find a comfortable place to sit.
- Close your eyes or find a comfortable spot in front of you to hold your gaze.
- Be aware of your breathing – breathe deeply and efficiently, right from the bottom of your lungs and push your tummy out with each breath.
- Begin to notice that the gaps in between the in-breath and the out-breath get slightly longer.
- Notice any sensations you are feeling.
- If your mind wanders off, accept it and bring your attention back to your breathing.
- Repeat this process.
- When the time is up, open your eyes or lift your gaze and take a moment to notice any sounds in your environment.
- Notice how your body feels. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
- Rest for a moment or two and decide how you’d like to continue with the rest of your day.
5. Social Media Detox
If you’re feeling a little too dependent on social media to feel connected with the world, then you might consider taking a break from it. Think about implementing one of the following ‘levels’:
LEVEL ONE: Only use social media outside of working hours. Instead, practice breathing exercises or take a quick walk.
LEVEL TWO: The same as level one, but also make a conscious effort to restrict how often you use social media outside of working hours too. When you’re at home try keeping your phone in a different room and only check it once per hour.
LEVEL THREE: This time, add in the restriction that three nights per week you won’t use social media at all.
LEVEL FOUR: Delete the app and maybe even consider deactivating your account. You can always go back to it if you need to in the future.
6. What do you love to do?
Grab your pen and paper, sit down somewhere and write out a list of things you really love doing.
- Ask yourself: what are the activities that you enjoy more than anything?
- List as many as you can, no matter how simple or how pointless they may seem.
- Plan when to do them.
- Put it in your diary to remind you that it’s important.
- Be realistic. Schedule in steps that lead you to the activity, not just the activity itself.
And one thing Richard Nicholls suggests before embarking on your quest to happiness is first taking stock of how happy you are now – and then seeing if you’ve improved down the road. This test, which should only take a few minutes, is based on one in his new book. Let us know how you get on!