As Annie Dillard writes in her book “The Writing Life,” “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
There’s no short-cut to a happy life, but there are simple things we can do to help us get there.
“We have a choice in our lives, in our behaviour, and in our thoughts, as to what we want to focus on and what type of people we want to be,” host of “The One You Feed” podcast Eric Zimmer told Business Insider.
Zimmer has talked with nearly 200 psychologists, mindfulness teachers, and life coaches about overcoming fear and fostering happiness. He has found happiness takes more than positive thinking. It takes constant and consistent effort to live your best life.
Here are a few strategies to start your journey today:
Even if it’s just for two or three minutes a day, a daily meditation practice helps you be more present, focused, and empathetic, Zimmer said. Meditation can also help you understand how your mind works and avoid mental autopilot.
“Happiness is predicated on being aware,” he said. “It’s important to start training that muscle.”
If you’re a beginner, try sitting in a quiet space for a few minutes at the same time every day. Be attentive to only what is happening in that moment, concentrating on the breath. When a thought comes up, return to the breath.
Sitting meditation is also not the only way to be mindful. Zimmer said you can try other activities, like running or even cleaning up, as meditation as long as you practice being in the moment.
2. Set phone alarms to fight zombie scrolling.
Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr feeds are designed to get us to keep scrolling. YouTube and Netflix’s autoplay features are engineered to get us to keep binging.
“We have a natural desire to distract ourselves with our phones, which is not always a bad thing, but you should be consuming something you care about,” Zimmer said. “The more we are conscious about how we spend our time and do things that matter to us, the more content we will be.”
We can actually use our phones to avoid mindless Internet use. If you only want to use Facebook for 10 minutes, set an alarm. When it goes off, log off immediately.
You can also set random check-ins during the day, and then ask yourself these three questions: Where am I? What am I doing? Is what I’m doing important to me?
3. Play the alphabet game to derail negative thoughts.
If you notice you have a lot of negative thoughts, Zimmer recommends trying the alphabet game.
Start with A, naming something you appreciate that starts with that letter. Then move to B, and do the same until you get to Z.
It’s a great strategy to get yourself out of unhealthy thought patterns, Zimmer said.
“It brings your brain back and can be more effective than just positive thinking. The puzzle aspect helps gratitude stick more,” he said.