1. Change your reaction to stress
The old routine: When the physical signs of stress kick in, you start to believe that you’re headed for certain disaster.
The new habit: Tell yourself that those reactions are just your body gearing up for whatever’s on your plate.
Why you’ll be happier: When volunteers who were about to deliver a speech were told that their stress was really just a sign that oxygen was pumping to their brain to help them thrive under pressure, they reported feeling better and performed better than volunteers who tried to ignore or minimize their stress (in a study from the University of Rochester).
2. Have this kind of date with your partner
The old routine: You talk all the time about work stress, money, what’s for dinner etc.
The new habit: Set aside 10 minutes every day for a conversation that doesn’t revolve around to-dos.
Why you’ll be happier: Having open-ended conversations is critical to maintaining a happy union, says Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and the author of 5 Simple Steps to Take You Marriage From Good to Great. Her suggestions: “If you won the lottery, where would you go and why?” or “If you could start over with any career, what would it be?”
3. Before you walk out the door in the morning
The old routine: Run through the phone-keys-wallet mental checklist.
The new habit: Add your sunglasses to the list.
Why you’ll be happier: Your mood and your facial muscles are linked and you need to stop squinting. Squinting (which mimics the look you take on when you’re mad) can make you feel angry, says Daniele Marzoli, PhD, a psychologist at Italy’s University of Chieti-Pescara, who adds that the effect is pretty much instantaneous.
4. Take a quick break at work to socialise
The old routine: A demanding job means you’re laser-focused at work with not a social minute to spare.
The new habit: Check in daily with a favourite work colleague, even if it’s just 5 minutes.
Why you’ll be happier: People with a best friend at work are 47 percent more likely to have received praise or recognition in the past week, possibly because having a buddy at the office increases your motivation and productivity. And social time with your colleagues is the only thing proven to even come close to making us as happy as we are outside the office, reports a study from the London School of Economics.
5. Add flowers to your life
The old routine: You don’t notice your coffee table bouquet is dead until the petals are everywhere.
The new habit: Buy new flowers before the old ones are done.
Why you’ll be happier: Women who saw flowers when they woke up said they felt happier and less anxious at home and more energetic at work (a study led by Harvard Medical School psychologist Nancy Etcoff, PhD). Plants and flowers can serve as a subconscious cue that our environment is safe and prosperous, giving you a more positive outlook for the day.
6. Give back at work in small ways
The old routine: When co-workers ask for help, the answer is almost always “I wish I could—too busy.”
The new habit: If the request is relatively small, say yes.
Why you’ll be happier: Lending a helping hand at work increases your happiness, found a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In another experiment, when people helped others for just a little bit of time each day, they actually felt like they were less time-constrained, possibly because their altruistic action made them feel more confident, useful and capable.
7. Check your posture regularly
The old routine: You only break from slouching when you notice that dull ache in your back.
The new habit: Set an hourly (or even half-hourly) reminder to assume the proper position.
Why you’ll be happier: Good posture can make you feel happier, more enthusiastic, more excited and even stronger. It can also make you more likely to remember the positive things in your life, according to a small study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry.
8. Rethink Your “Variety Is the Spice of Life” Approach
The old routine: You try to keep your days unique from one to the next.
The new habit: Automate at least one daily decision
Why you’ll be happier: The more choices you have to make in a day, the more your stamina, judgment, emotional self-control—and your happiness, by extension—get sapped. As psychologist Roy Baumeister explained, the willpower you use in decision-making is like a muscle that gets fatigued. One less choice to make means a little more energy left over.