In the past, I've provided many ways to be happier at work, more motivated, and more productive. Much of that advice, though, requires a fair amount of effort to implement. So as this year ends, I'm going for solutions that are 1) quick, 2) easy and 3) science-based.
With that in mind, here are six things you can do today (or tomorrow) that will make the next year into something really special. Enjoy!
1. Don't make New Year's resolutions.
Far from making you happy in the new year, resolutions are setting you up for failure. Less than 10% of New Year's Resolutions are ever achieved, according to Psychology Today. As bestselling author Ray Williams ("The Leadership Edge") points out:
"The first two weeks usually go along beautifully, but by February people are backsliding. And by the following December most people are back where they started--often even further behind."
As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, "Insanity [is] doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Since resolutions are actively counterproductive, give them pass in 2017.
2. Delete (or re-target) your news feeds.
While news outlets want you to think it's your civic duty to stay abreast of the latest disasters, 99% of what you see on the news is useless information unless you plan on taking action of some kind (which is seldom the case).
More important, news that's full of violence and negative emotions is toxic to your health and happiness. According to British psychologist and media expert Dr. Graham Davey, quoted in the Huffington Post:
"Negative news can significantly change an individual's mood -- especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering and also the emotional components of the story."
The easiest way to isolate yourself from negative news is to delete your news feeds completely or at least change your preferences so that you get news that uplifts you or provides you something useful (Like, well, this website!)
3. Create a success playlist
According the medical advice site eMedExpert.com, Music (providing it's not too loud or too jarring) relieves pain, reduces blood pressure, promotes recover from heart ailments, reduces headaches (including migraine) boost immunity and reduces seizures.
That's not all. Music also increases higher brain function including reading and literacy skills, spacial-temporal reasoning, mathematical abilities and overall emotional intelligence.
Finally, and most important, music enhances your ability to recall autobiographical information. With that in mind, create a playlist of songs that remind you of your best experiences in life. Crank it up when you need a happiness boost.
4. Give away 10 objects you don't love
Clutter doesn't just make you less productive, it also may be making you unhappy. According to psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter writing in Psychology Today,
"Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important, [making]it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.
Clutter signals to our brains that our work is never done [and] inhibits creativity and productivity by invading the open spaces that allow most people to think, brain storm, and problem solve."
Unfortunately, a massive push to de-clutter probably isn't going to happen (especially if it's a New Year's resolution!), so here's a quick and relatively painless alternative.
Go through your home and office and pick out 10 objects that you don't love. Either throw them away or (better) yet, leave them someplace (like curbside) where somebody else who might want them will find them.
5. Cut negative people out of your life.
As a recent article in the New York Times pointed out, friends can have almost as large an emotional impact on your life as your spouse. That's fine if your friends are lifting you up; but it's bad news if they're bringing you down.
It's one thing to cheer up a friend who's down once in a while, but it's quite another to tolerate a relationship where the other person is constantly negative. Best case, it's a drag on your own happiness. Worst case, you'll be pulled down into the morass
So cut the Debbie-Downers loose.Give them a change to change their ways, but they won't or can't comply, stop answering their emails, stop taking their calls and un-friend them on Facebook.
You'll feel better immediately.
6. Pick up a new (or old) hobby.
Finally, you can make 2017 a better year by taking the time to pursue a hobby, preferably one that's not work-related. According to psychologist Jaime L. Kurtz, writing in Psychology Today,
"Hobbies get us out in our communities, meeting people we otherwise wouldn't, sharing our passions, and forming.. that social connection is a key component of happiness and a meaningful life.
Hobbies add layers to your identity, richness to your self-concept. People want to be around those with passions... You not only feel more inspired when you have a rich and active life, but you will inspire others as well.
Hobbies help you cope with stress. They remind you that that are many facets to your self-concept... As such, a blow to one aspect of your identity is less damaging. Simply put, your eggs aren't all in one basket."
Now, I know what you're thinking: I don't have time for a hobby and I can't be happy if I'm not accomplishing my goals. Well, yeah, of course. But here's the thing: as my Inc.com colleague Jessica Stillman recently pointed out, hobbies make you MORE successful and MORE likely to achieve your goals.
I need hardly note that the holidays are an excellent time to take up a new hobby... or to dust off an activity that you've enjoyed in the past. Don't make a resolution... just do it and keep doing it.
You'll be all the happier that you did.