6 daily habits that are hard to stick to but will make you much happier

A lot of people who find themselves in the pursuit of happiness long for a holy grail hack.

That one piece of advice that will turn their life from somber to jolly.

Preferably in a matter of minutes, because they don’t have all day.

Guess what?

You already know what you need to do to boost your mood levels.

You’ve heard the advice time and time again.

You can recite it by heart.

Yet you’re also keenly aware that there’s a difference between knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it.

So you keep looking, hoping for a researcher to come out and say that the key to being content is to stare at your phone for 11 hours per day and change absolutely nothing.

We’re not there yet.

For now, here are 6 daily habits that are hard to stick to but will make you much happier.

We all need a reminder of the tactics that work from time to time.

1) Practicing gratitude

At the beginning of the year, I made a list on my phone titled 2024 Happy.

My goal was to open it before I went to bed each night and write one thing from that day for which I was grateful.

Even when I was in a horrible mood, I still tried to come up with something, no matter how minuscule.

Looking back, chaotic entries for January include:

  • Made delicious yet crumbling tacos I ate with my bare hands
  • Went to a drag show that filled me with positive energy
  • Jeremy Allen White stars in a new ad I am supremely grateful for
  • Wrote an article I am proud of
  • Took a long walk with a friend, it was sunny

I kept it up for three weeks.

Then I got sick, everything felt miserable, and practicing gratitude fell way down on my list of priorities.

See, taking a few moments each day to reflect on the things you’re grateful for can have a profound impact on your outlook on life.

Whether you choose to journal, keep a running list of things you’re grateful for on your phone, or express thanks directly, the habit helps you foster a sense of appreciation for life’s blessings.

Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, you focus on what you do.

And that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll update my list ASAP.

2) Quieting your brain

Incorporating meditation into your daily routine helps you feel more grounded and present in your own life.

When you meditate, you don’t ruminate on the past or worry about the future.

You’re in the moment, checking in with your body. You appreciate the simple fact of being alive.

You see how this can boost contentment.

Yet, sticking with a daily meditation practice can feel like a chore, especially if your mind tends to wander.

I never managed to do it, despite trying numerous times. I would either fall asleep or stress over the thoughts crowding my brain.

However, I found other ways of meditation that don’t entail closing my eyes and counting my breaths.

I quiet my brain by putting on a pair of huge headphones and listening to a calming tune.

Or by doing the dishes and focusing on the warmth of the water and the dirt washing away.

I’m sure you can find something that works for you as well.

3) Limiting screen time

Screens have become an integral part of our daily lives, to the point where it’s impossible to completely avoid them.

I stare at my middle screen as I write this article, while an ASMR room runs on my small screen to prevent me from checking notifications.

Excessive screen time, though, comes with downsides.

A more sedentary lifestyle. Eye strain and fatigue. Oh, and potential mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Excessive screen time means constantly subjecting yourself to demoralizing news, which inevitably brings you down.

It also means an overdose of social media, which can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

You may not be able to cut screens out of your life completely, but you can bring down your total screen time, which will result in higher happiness levels.

I try to avoid screens as much as possible during weekends, and I put my phone farther away when I go to bed, so I’m not as tempted to reach for it.

(I still reach for it more often than not, but this article isn’t about my many failings, so let’s focus on you.)

Other things you might try:

  • Establish specific times during the day when screens are off-limit
  • Use apps and device features that help you monitor and control screen time
  • Schedule regular screen-free activities for yourself (reading, board game night, outdoor adventures)

Being alone with your thoughts might be uncomfortable at first, but practice makes perfect.

4) Getting some exercise

Speaking of screen-free activities, exercise would be a great pick.

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that naturally elevate your mood.

They call it a “runner’s high” for a reason.

The problem with exercise is that it’s challenging to stick with it if it doesn’t bring you joy.

Additionally, starting an exercise routine can feel overwhelming, particularly for those of us who aren’t very fond of getting out of bed.

I’ve never enjoyed running or going to the gym, for instance.

Then I discovered that even moving a little can go a long way when it comes to boosting both health and happiness.

Enter walking, an activity I love with all my heart. I now do it every day, usually accompanied by an audiobook or podcast.

You don’t have to force yourself to do a grueling workout to reap the benefits.

Find a type of exercise you like. Dancing, swimming, a team sport, roller skating.

If you enjoy the activity, you have a better chance of sticking with it for good.

5) Engaging in hobbies

My main hobbies are reading and coloring.

Unfortunately, when life gets busy, these are the first activities that fall through the cracks.

If I’m buried in deadlines or admin work, I’m less likely to find the energy to pick up a book or reach for my colorful markers.

When I’m done with all the busyness, I plop down in bed and binge-watch a show I’ve already seen three times to decompress.

The ironic thing is that watching the show doesn’t recharge me as effectively as my hobbies do. It has a numbing effect.   

Immersing yourself in a hobby, meanwhile, can provide a sense of accomplishment.

When I finish a book or a coloring page is all filled in, I feel good about myself.

Hobbies also alleviate tension, reduce cortisol levels, and promote relaxation.

All in all, they boost your mood.

Perhaps you can make them an integral part of your self-care routine moving forward.

6) Connecting with someone

The final daily habit that can be hard to stick to but will make you much happier is to connect with another person.

This is easier if you already live with someone – a partner, relative, or roommate.

I work from home and live alone, and there are days when I don’t even see another human being. Those days are rarely good.

Humans are social creatures, and having healthy relationships greatly contributes to life satisfaction.

When was the last time you hung out with your friends?

Went on a date?

Spent quality time with your family?

Even smiling at a stranger when out and about or exchanging a few words with the cashier at your favorite supermarket are steps in the right direction.

It’s perfectly okay to start small.

Bottom line

There is no universal blueprint for happiness.

That said, the habits above will have a positive effect on your overall well-being.

Maybe you can prioritize them this time around?

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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