Happiness is something you have to rediscover at times.
You've fallen into some bad patterns of thought, your career has taken a downturn, or you just can't get that widget company off the ground. It's time to go searching for happiness again. In my experience, your outlook needs reconfiguring on a daily basis. The method below can help. Use this process each day to give yourself a boost without caffeine (although that can always help).
Note: This method is based on my original 7-minute morning routine, something that several thousand people already do each day and about 500,000 people have read about. It is also backed by science, as studies have shown that a period of sustained attention to any subject can help you reset and reconfigure your thoughts on that subject, even when it comes to happiness and personal fulfillment.
1. Before you start: Prepare
Make sure you do your homework on your own happiness. That means having the information you need handy, such as any encouraging emails, handwritten notes from colleagues, or other information you've collected that will help you think about your success. Keep a collection of these printed messages in a folder. You'll also need a way to keep time for the seven-minute period (e.g., the stopwatch on your phone). And you'll need a journal and a pen. Find a spot where no one is around. Queue up some of your favorite music on a phone or tablet if desired.
Note: What if you don't have any encouraging notes? Well, it means you are not looking hard enough. Dig deeper in your email, hunt around for cards from colleagues. Or ask co-workers, friends, or your spouse to send you an encouraging note. It might seem weird, but it's OK to solicit the positive feedback.
2. Minute one: Review your notes
Set the timer for seven minutes, play music softly, and start the routine. Review your printed notes by reading through them one by one, and take out your journal. Write down at least five things from the printed documents that are encouraging to you. What did you do right? Why was the project a success? How did you contribute? Make sure you write down how you played a role. Keep an eye on the time and write these notes in a journal for exactly one minute and then stop.
3. Minute two: Breathe a little
OK, you've documented your success. Now, relax. How does breathing in a deliberate way help you find happiness? Studies show it puts you in a more relaxed frame of mind. More important, it helps you think clearly. Take one minute to just sit and breathe in and out, preparing your thoughts for the next two steps. Amazingly, few of us actually stop and breathe intentionally during an entire workday. Do it!
4. Minutes three and four: Write down your biggest stressors
For the next two minutes, write down anything that's stressing you out. You can't overcome something if you don't know what it is. Write down at least three things facing you today. These might be the things that are making you unhappy or worried; they might just be difficult tasks. Keeping a journal works because you are identifying your daily challenges. By writing them down, you take a step toward overcoming them. You corral them. You make a boundary for them.
5. Minutes five and six: Read your notes aloud
I'm not sure where I heard this, but it's incredibly helpful: Did you know you can't speak out loud and think a negative thought at the same time? That's why, for the next minute, things might get a little awkward and that's OK. Read your most encouraging notes aloud. Say them slowly and deliberately. Shout them if that helps! You have my permission to get a little emotional in this step. Most important, by speaking the positive and encouraging notes you wrote down earlier, you take a step forward in making them a reality. You give them substance.
6. Minute seven: Debrief
When the timer hits six minutes, it's time to debrief yourself. What did you learn? How were the encouraging notes helpful? Do you need to repeat an encouraging note? Are you still stressed? Go over what you wrote down and the challenges you face. Make a quick plan to deal with the stressors (although that's the purpose of my 7-minute journaling routine), but mostly relish what you learned.
That's it! You took seven minutes out of your day to review some encouraging notes and read them aloud as a way to make them a reality in your life. You took some steps in embracing those ideas. You wrote down a few challenges. The best part? You focused on what you are doing right. That's the biggest win.
Please, please, please let me know if you follow this routine and how it's working. I want to be supportive and help you tweak the process if needed.