How To Find Happiness in 5 Minutes

The usual advice about how to find happiness involves changing our attitudes. While this is true, sometimes we just need a quick and easy pick-me-up.

The good news is that there are simple time-tested techniques that can instantly lift us. Here’s a list of how to find happiness in 5 minutes, with an explanation of why each method works.

The catch, of course, is that you have to actually do the 5-minute exercises instead of just reading about them. If you merely read, you may nod in agreement but you won’t experience any happiness. If you actually do the exercises I guarantee you will feel happier, or I’ll give your money back! :)

1. Write a grateful list

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or or something more.”

- Brother David Steindl Rast

The happiest year of my life happened when I started keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 5 things I was grateful for at the end of each day. These could include a day of work completed, hugging a child, fine weather, three square meals, receiving a compliment, hearing from an old friend, or just waking up alive.

Experiments at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston suggest that people who kept regular gratitude journals “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and… were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals.” This simple 5-minute exercise could change your life.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Grab a pen
  • Take out your journal or find a piece of paper
  • Write down five things that you are grateful for in your life
  • Do this for 5 minutes everyday for lasting impact

2. Celebrate your sense of sight

“Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hand, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is.”

- Maxim Gorky

Some of the happiest times in my life were after a terrible headache when I went to sleep after taking strong medication and woke to the pure joy of being without pain. When you give up something you take for granted, like being without pain or being able to see, you can experience happiness at just being normal.

The same research quoted above explains that when we experience appreciation for something, “the calming branch of the autonomic nervous system is triggered” and “more positive emotions emerge, leading to beneficial alterations in heart rate variability” resulting in the “capacity to be peaceful and calm.” Appreciating your senses have benefits that are not only emotional but physical.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Set a timer to go off in five minutes
  • Tie a blindfold around your eyes
  • Go about your normal routine as best as you can
  • When the timer sounds, take off the blindfold

3. Stretch your muscles

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional and mental states.”

- Carol Welch

People who practise yoga will attest to the feeling of well-being after even a short session. Yoga may not be your cup of tea, but certainly most people can engage in simple stretching exercises. I never fail to be invigorated after stretching my major muscle groups. Even a single stretch leaves me feeling better.

According to the Institute for Somatic Study and Development, stretching releases tension in your muscles and sends sensory signals to your brain that stimulate your neural pathways. Also, you tend to breathe more deeply when you stretch so the increased oxygen flow makes you feel better straightaway. Remember to stretch very slowly and gently, relaxing into the stretch rather than forcing it.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Rotate your head slowly clockwise, then anti-clockwise
  • Swing your left arm in a full circle, forward then backward
  • Do the same with your right arm
  • Bend over and rotate your torso from your waist
  • Squat down with your left leg stretched out to the side
  • Do the same with your right leg

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, try this video instead:

4. Take deep breaths

“Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.”

- Krishnamacharya

Are you a shallow or deep breather? Most people take shallow breaths. Put your palm over you lower abdomen and take a deep breath. If your stomach moves inward as you pull in air, you’re a shallow breather. If it pushes outward, you’re breathing deeply.

Discovery Health explains that “deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen, promoting health in many ways, from stimulating the digestive process to improving fitness and mental performance.” Deep breathing activates the lymphatic system which drains your body of toxic wastes. Your lymphatic system has no heart-like pump to keep it going; it is maintained by muscular movement, gravity and breathing.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Breathe in for 4 counts (roughly 4 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 16 counts
  • Exhale slowly for 8 counts
  • Do this for 10 breaths

5. Feel your pulse

Happiness pulses with every beat of my heart.

- Emily Logan Decens

You may have heard the advice to be happy just because you’re alive. We all know we’re alive, but perhaps seldom feel alive. The quickest way to feel alive is to literally feel your life blood coursing through your veins, bring life-giving oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body.

Heart facts from the Cleveland Clinic help us to appreciate just what being alive really means. In just 20 seconds of your feeling your pulse, your blood would have circulated through your entire vascular system. Your system of blood vessels is over 60,000 miles long – enough to go round the world more than twice!

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Place your 2nd & 3rd fingers on your wrist under the thumb
  • Feel the blood coursing through with each heartbeat
  • Count the number of beats per minute if you wish
  • Think about what it means to be alive

6. Recall the adventures of your hands

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour.”

- Hazel Lee

The first time I found happiness in my hands was after reading Davina’s post Inspiring Hands. I’ve always found my hands big and veiny, like a man’s hands. That day, I just looked at my hands and remembered all they’ve been through with and for me. This is a surprisingly easy and effective exercise.

Research has found that our memory is biased toward happiness. When you make an effort to remember events in your life, your memory will work for you and find happiness in those memories.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Examine your hands closely
  • Remember what each hand has done in your life
  • Re-live the happy times in as much detail as you recall

7. Be still in silence

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Silence offers untold treasures that few people access, not because they don’t know how to but because they don’t take the time to be still. While silence may be uncomfortable at first if you are used to have noise around all the time, you will find in the silence parts of yourself that the noise has drowned out. Happiness is not a crashing thunder, but a gentle whisper that you have to be quiet to hear.

A 2005 American Housing Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that more than 100 million Americans are regularly exposed to noise levels above a reasonable level (55 decibels). Studies show that chronic background noise activates your stress response and leaves you fatigued and irritable.

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Turn off the TV and any other sound-producing devices
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes
  • Just sit there listening to the little sounds of silence
  • Notice how your ears feel when they’re treated to silence

8. Stand and sit straight

“This is my ‘depressed stance’. When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed you’ve got to stand like this.”

- Charlie Brown

How to find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • View your standing or sitting profile in a mirror
  • Adjust your posture as close to these diagrams as you can

This is Part 1 of the 3-part series:

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