10 simple daily habits to build for a happy life

The best way to be happy is to buy a Mercedez-Benz S-Class.

Just kidding! I wish finding happiness was that easy.

And the classic mistake we make is to think that we’ll be automatically happy when we reach an arbitrary milestone – e.g., I’ll be happy when I get a job, when I’m married, or when I’ve so many crores in my bank.

None of those things per se will have a lasting effect on our happiness. Instead, there is a much simpler way to be happy – cultivate the right daily habits.

So, let’s take a look at the top 10 daily habits to build a happy life.

1) Meditation 

Meditation has endless benefits.

It helps reduce stress, improves overall emotional health, increases attention span, and helps sleep better. All these things directly correlate with a happier life.

While there are different ways to meditate (breath meditation, vipassana, transcendental meditation, mantra meditation, zen, etc), we recommend you start with ‘Mindfulness of Breath’. Here is our comprehensive guide on how to meditate.

How to inculcate the meditation habit:

  • If you don’t have a strong preference otherwise, start practicing mindfulness of breath.
  • Sit comfortably and start with a few deep breaths. Then let your breathing become normal and observe the sensations of each breath. You will find detailed instructions in our comprehensive beginners meditation guide.
  • Start small – maybe with 10-15 min of meditation. Here is a 10 minute guided meditation recording.
  • Fix a time and place for meditation. Alternatively, resolve to do it just before or after an existing habit, e.g., ‘Just after I brush my teeth, I will meditate for 15 minutes.’

2) Workout

When talking about tips to be happy in life, we can’t miss out on exercising.

Studies have concluded that exercise has a huge impact on happiness. And I can personally vouch for it – every time I finish a run or my gym session, I feel amazing.

Workout not only helps raise your good cholesterol and lowers blood pressure, but it also helps fight stress, depression, and anxiety.

So, whether it’s gym, yoga, aerobics, Zumba, cycling, or jogging – I guarantee that it is worth the effort. All you need is at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times per week.

How to include exercise in your life:

  • Choose to walk or cycle if possible. Take staircase instead of elevators
  • Make workout as sacrosanct as a doctor’s appointment – make exercising your number one priority. Nothing else should come in the way.
  • Go for a 10-15 mins walk after dinner
  • Try different types of workouts to see what interests you and suits your body.Here is my personal workout routine: Three days of gym followed by one day of running or cardio, and then repeat. Every week, I may take a day off for recovery.
  • Incorporate physical activities you love, e.g., take up classes for tennis, badminton, skating, dancing, or anything else that you enjoy.
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3) Journaling 

Journaling is the most underrated and yet, the simplest way to bring joy into your life. 

According to research, journaling acts as a therapy. It allows you to develop clarity about your thoughts, identity patterns in your behaviour and then, take corrective steps. Journaling lifts your mood and almost always makes you feel better.

If you ever wanted to include journaling into your daily routine, consider this as a green light.

The most popular types of journaling techniques are:

  • Stream of consciousness, where you allow your thoughts to flow on a paper – have a conversation with yourself about whatever is on your mind
  • Gratitude journaling
  • Unsent letters (to get closure to certain events)
  • Journaling with prompts

How to start journaling for mental health:

Here is a quick way to start your day with journaling.

  • Pick a journaling technique that works for you. Gratitude journal is a good place to start for a beginner.
  • Do not judge yourself as you write.
  • Schedule 10 mins into your calendar for journaling. To make it easier, do it right after you wake up or your meditation, or in the evening just before you go to sleep.
  • If you are an absolute beginner, consider using these daily journaling prompts:
    • What happened today and how did you feel? 
    • How can I make today a wonderful day?
    • A recent challenging experience, and what I learned. 
    • What are you grateful for, in your life?

4) Break smartphone addictions 

While smartphones make our lives easy, using them too much is as bad as compulsive gambling and drug abuse.

It leads to anxiety, depression, behavioural issues, fear of missing out, and disturbed sleep patterns – all of which snatch away your happiness.

How to break phone addiction:

  • Uninstall all the unnecessary apps. For example, shopping sites, games, or even social media
  • Whenever you feel the urge to pick up your phone, ask yourself if you really need to
  • Do not take your phone to the dining table or to your bedroom
  • Turn off the notifications for all apps, as far as possible
  • Focus on pursuing hobbies that don’t need a phone

Check out our Beat Smartphone Addiction bootcamp if you want to break your digital addiction.

5) Do focused work every day – experience flow

We often spend the whole day caught up with emails, calls, and small tasks which don’t make any lasting impact on our life. E.g., From all the emails you sent out last week, do you feel any tangible benefit? Probably not.

We make real progress in life when we work on challenging tasks that require long periods of focus – that is called ‘deep work.’

Also, when the task difficult matches your skill level, you can get so absorbed that you even lose track of time – this pleasurable state is called ‘flow.’

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Deep work enhances our sense of well-being by giving us a sense of progress, improving our comprehension, and boosting our productivity manifold.

Hence we recommend doing 1-2 hrs of deep work every day.

How to begin doing focused work every day:

Here is a structured approach to incorporating focused work into your daily routine.

  • Decide on the time slot for each day one day in advance. If possible, set the schedule for the whole week.
  • For each session, set achievable goals. Think through them in advance
  • Before you start your focus session, allow your mind to calm down – you could meditate for 5 minutes if you like
  • Switch on a timer for between 30 to 50 minutes and start your deep work.
  • During the deep work session, do not switch your attention to any other task.
  • After the session, take a 10 minutes break – you have earned it.

To train yourself in rigorous deep work in a structured manner, check out our Deep Work and Flow bootcamp.

6) Fix your sleep 

You need between 7-9 hrs of sleep (eight hours on average) to combat stress, anxiety, snoring, and a fall in productivity.

In fact, studies have shown that even partial sleep deprivation can negatively impact a person’s mood and give rise to irritability. That means you can bid happiness buh-bye if you aren’t sleeping well.

How to start fixing your sleep:

  • Reduce your screen time, especially in the evening. Avoid using gadgets at night, at least 1-2 hrs prior to sleep. Instead, read a book or spend time with family.
  • Dim the brightness and blue light element in your screen by using Flux.
  • Cut down on your caffeine intake, especially in the evening. Anyone who finds it difficult to fall asleep should avoid coffee post-lunch.
  • Meditate for 10 minutes before sleeping. You can also write an evening journal.
  • Set a time to go to bed every day and follow it.

7) Waking up early

Research has shown that people who wake up an hour earlier than usual, while sleeping adequately, have lower risks of major depression.

In fact, there are studies suggesting that waking up early can make you happy and healthier. Voila!

How you can start waking up earlier:

  • To wake up earlier, start sleeping earlier so that you get ample sleep – there is no way around that.
  • Open your curtains and allow maximum light exposure in the morning. It helps reduce the formation of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone).

Do the opposite at night, ensure everything is dark to stimulate the production of melatonin.

  • Stick to your schedule and avoid using gadgets in bed.
  • Avoid eating late at night or drinking caffeine/alcohol.
  • Stop snoozing your alarm. Keep your clock far away for you to actually get up from bed in the morning.
Also Read:   A complete step-by-step guide to waking up early and building a morning routine

Want to be a morning person? The Become A Morning Person bootcamp will help you.

8) Eating non-processed food

Did you know that eating highly processed food can result in chronic health problems like diabetes, obesity, cancer, and fatty liver?

On the other hand, researchers have noticed that people who consume fruits and vegetables experience better moods.

Wow, isn’t that enough to make the switch?

How to start cutting processed food:

  • Don’t go cold turkey. Aim at eliminating 1-2 foods at a time.
  • Say goodbye to packaged juices, sodas, etc., and start drinking more water. One way to make it happen is to take a lot of veggies and fruits. Automatically, it will fill you up and reduce the consumption of processed food.
  • Cut down on sugar intake in all forms.
  • Pick whole grains over processed ones.
  • When you go to the supermarket don’t impulsively buy processed food. If you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it. And the converse is also true.
  • Keep healthy snacks to munch on (e.g., nuts, carrots, and fruits)

9) Reading books for 30 min each day

If you read just 30 min every day, in two weeks, you can finish a 300-page book. Reading books is like a software upgrade for your brain.

Also, reading is enriching and soothing like a walk or having a warm cup of tea.

And, if that wasn’t enough 88% of rich people “devote thirty minutes or more each day to self-education or self-improvement reading”

So have I convinced you to start reading more?

How to include reading in your life:

Immersing yourself in a much-loved book is one of the best habits for a happier life. Here is how to make it a daily habit.

  • Start replacing your screen time with a book you like
  • Schedule your reading time every day
  • Use your idle time to read. You can make it a habit to read before going to bed

10) Spend time on hobbies or learning something new 

We often get so caught up in work and day-to-day life that we forget about having fun. And a great way to have fun is to pursue hobbies or learn something new.

Wondering what to take up? If you don’t have any ideas, here are a few – cooking, pottery, painting, gardening, etc. Pick anything that makes you happy. The important thing is to spend time doing things you find enjoyable for their own sake.

The last word

Don’t wait for that perfect job or marriage or bank balance to be happy – it is a mirage. You can be happy right now – just build these habits.

And you don’t have to do them all – just pick one or two to get started.

So, what’re you going to start with?

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