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5 Steps to Happiness

"Big things have small beginnings" - Prometheus

Over the last week I have made five small changes which have already had huge beneficial effects; lowered stress, diminished feelings of pressure and an overall boost in happiness.

Maybe it’s just a good week, but maybe some of these little changes could also help you to unlock a new way of living…

1) No notifications on my phone

I turned off all push notifications on my phone. I no longer receive email alerts, Slack messages, or any work related notifications.

Before doing this I thought why do I have these enabled? The answer was to feel reactive and more in control. The reality however was that I would regularly check my phone out of work, even when I wasn’t expecting anything. If a notification appeared I’d feel obliged to respond to shake off the looming feeling that there was something that needed doing.

I got this idea from a couple of places; Tim Ferriss talks about this being essential in order to step closer to digital minimalism. I liked the concept but was a little unsure about actually doing it myself. I then spoke to a friend at work who manages a large team and who turned off his notifications. I thought if he can do it without repercussions, surely I can too.

The outcome: waking up in the morning and not being bombarded with notifications before I’ve even stood up is a completely refreshing feeling.

2) Decisions, decisions, decisions

Certainty in decisions came after I heard two pieces of advice.

The first was Derek Sivers; “if it’s not a hell yes it’s a no’. This prompted me to start thinking more about each decision I was making. You’d be amazed at the sort of things that can be questioned using this, from dinner suggestions to deciding on what to listen to, watch or read.

The second piece of advice was referenced to by Tim Ferriss who says don’t use ‘7’ when you’re rating something from 1 to 10. Using this has given me a clear distinction between something that is great versus something that is average.

The outcome: certainty behind decisions and confidence in my choice has had really positive self-affirming effects.

3) Meditation

I had never considered meditation and certainly didn’t ever see it being part of my daily routine. This changed when a friend recommended I watched this introduction to get a little bit more insight. When I asked myself “Is it worth trying this out for 10 minutes to see what happens?” the answer was “Hell yes!”.

I’ve since been using Headspace to spend 10 minutes a day clearing my head of thoughts and really feeling in the moment.

The outcome: post-meditation I feel calm, clear headed and open minded which puts me in a much more measured state of mind to start the day.

4) Battling sleep

I listened to this podcast with Arianna Huffington where she talks about sleep. I’m a relatively normal sleeper apart from that I’ve never been able to ‘lie in’. As soon as I’m awake I need to get up, be active and start the day.

I live with my boyfriend which means physically getting up upon waking crazily early isn’t an option. Waking early would involve me lying there, annoyed at myself for being awake, frustrated that I couldn’t get back to sleep and worrying for the effect it would have the next day.

Then I heard Arianna talk about how when she wakes early she treats it as a special time to herself to meditate and be still. She talks about the importance of surrendering to sleep rather than battling it.

The outcome: I no longer experience negative feelings when I wake early. I use some of the meditation methods to clear my mind and feel serene. Even if I don’t go back to sleep, the next day I feel rested and energised.

5) A new way to run

Running is something I’ve always done for fitness reasons, not because of any running buzz. It wasn’t something I particularly looked forward to and would go first thing in the morning to get it over with. That was until I listened to Chris Bennett, Nike’s Running Global Head, speaking about it.

He brought to light a notion that running doesn’t need to be a challenge. It’s something you should enjoy and that when you’re doing it you should be able to ‘talk, laugh and have a heated argument’ – not be out of breath and knackered. He questions why running needs to be a set length of time or distance; a 5-minute run is still a run, and will lead to a feeling success so the next day you’re more inclined to do another 5-minute run!

The outcome: eliminating personal expectations of time, distance or fitness has allowed me to enjoy running. It’s now something I look forward to! It’s time on my own to think, look around me and be happy.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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