Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Be Happy In 30 Days or Less - For Free!

I put this together as a reminder to myself as I tackle my book and business ideas and feel a wee bit of stress creep in. I drove past a funeral yesterday coming back from a meeting and seeing all the black clad attendees standing around the funeral home, with a few kids running about the parking lot and two service people in their dress uniforms was moving. It was a beautiful day and the thought of these people's loss was sad.

Later that day when I went to meet my friend/neighbor to walk our dogs, it occurred to me as I strolled up to the front door that in several hundred years, neither of our houses or gardens would likely still exist. And yes, this writing is going to go from a bit morbid to happy;-).

So where does this get us? As our time here on this beautiful blue planet is brief, surely we are meant to experience and give joy and spread goodness of some sort while we're here. I really believe we are meant to be happy and help others to be so as well. And it's a lot easier to spread happiness when you're happy.

The following program uses different techniques I've picked up in 20 years of self-help reading;-). I've used each of these to good success. I'd say 90 percent of my waking hours I'm happy and as I wrote several months ago, getting to that point was a long journey.

So here are the best of the best tips that you can use to enjoy each day. Each one is free and takes only a few minutes an hour. Maybe print this out and keep it on your fridge for the month of December and see if by the 31st, you're even peppier than usual.

How to be happier in 30 days…or less.

12 hour day.

8 to 9 a.m. Act happy, even if you don’t feel it yet. Imagine if you were just tickled pink, how would you stand or sit, what would your face look like, how would your mouth curve, what would your shoulders feel like? Then pretend you're an actress being paid thousands for a happiness scene. Just OOZE happiness for two minutes.

Research that acting happy makes you happy is well documented. Smiling releases endorphins, which help you feel better and loosen up. Here is one interesting study on the "act happy" system.

In the 1980s, psychologist Fritz Strack asked one group of participants to hold a pencil between their teeth, but to ensure that it did not touch their lips. Another group supported the end of the pencil with just their lips, but not their teeth. Without realising it, those in the ‘teeth only’ condition had forced the lower part of their faces into a smile, whilst those in the ‘lips only’ condition had made themselves frown. Everyone then judged how funny they found Gary Larson’s Far Side cartoons, and rate how happy they felt. Participants tended to experience the emotion associated with their expressions. Those who had their faces forced into a smile felt happier, and found the Far Side cartoons much funnier, than those who were forced to frown. Other work has demonstrated that this increase in happiness does not drain away the moment people cease smiling. It lingers, affecting many aspects of their behavior, including interacting with others in a more positive way, and being more likely to remember happy life events.

Strack, F., Martin, L.L., and Stepper, S. (1988). Inhibiting and facilitating conditions of the human smile: A nonobstrusive test of the facial feedback hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 768-777.
Schnall, S., & Laird, J. D. (2003). Keep smiling: Enduring effects of facial expressions and postures on emotional experience. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 787-797.


9 – 10 a.m. Do something for someone else with no plan to be rewarded. This could be opening a door, helping someone carry something. Maybe it's jotting a quick thank you or congrats note. It could be letting a driver ahead of you, smiling at your kids, or being kind to yourself. Or do something for the earth. Maximum time five minutes.

10-11 a.m. Identify one goal you want to achieve this year and visualize your dream already accomplished. You can do this in two minutes. Create that image in your mind and visit it and feel like it’s already done and feel the feelings of joy. Goals give you energy and direction.

11-12 a.m. Take one tiny step toward your goal. Maximum time five minutes to goal. If it’s writing a book, do this during your lunch hour. You could use your whole hour or just five minutes. If it’s getting in shape, take a five minute walk or use the five minutes to jot down everything you’ve eaten and calories. This journaling has been shown to work wonders. If you’re creating a business, do five minutes worth of your business plan. If your goal is to meet someone, brainstorm 30 ways to do so.

12 – 1. Do one thing differently. This could be tying your left shoe first, eating with your left hand, taking a new route to work, eating or drinking something new, signing up for a class or planning to go to a pet store and petting a snake. The idea is that when we do something new, we are in the moment and life expands, new synopsis are formed in your brain and you get more out of life.

1-2 p.m. Read something happy. You can read one good quote, lots of inspirational quotes are available for daily delivery via email, or if you have time, read a few pages in an inspirational book. Maximum time five minutes, but you could do this in 30 seconds.

2-3 pm. List verbally or in writing five things you are grateful for. Maximum time two minutes.

3-4 p.m. Smile at five people. If you’re alone, smile to yourself five times. Maximum time 30 seconds.

4-5 p.m. Think about one quality you admire about yourself. Maximum time 30 seconds.

5-6 p.m. Think about one quality you admire about your spouse, significant other, children, parents, friends, family, coworkers – focus on the positive. Maximum time 30 seconds.

6-7 pm. Do one thing for your body. Eat something healthy, walk five minutes, do five minutes of stretching, take a vitamin, drink water. Maximum time 5 minutes.

7-8 p.m. Stay connected. Send out one email or voicemail or face book announcement or short letter or phone call or set up one lunch or coffee outing or movie – staying social makes you happier as a person.

8-9 Play some sort of subconscious tapes that feed your subconscious with happy and positive thoughts. I use them all day. The ones by Steve Halpern area especially good.

Go to sleep and know you've done a LOT this day to be a happier person and to help others be happy too.

Day one

8-9 a.m. Act happy. _______ check 2 minutes
9-10 a.m. do one thing for someone else or the earth. _______ check 5 minutes
10-11 a.m. visualize your dream as already accomplished _______ check 2 minutes
11-12 a.m. Take a tiny step toward your goal. _______ check 5 minutes
12-1 p.m. Do one thing differently. _______ check 2 minutes
1- 2 p.m. Read something happy. _______ check 30 seconds
2-3 p.m. Think about or write down 5 things you’re grateful for.
_______ check 1 minute
3-4 p.m. Smile at five people. _______ check 1 minute
4-5 p.m. Think of or write down one quality you admire about yourself.
_______ check 1 minute
5-6 p.m. Think of one quality you admire about someone else.
_______ check 30 seconds
6-7 p.m. Do one good thing for your body. _______ check 5 minutes
7-8 p.m. Stay connected to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, etc.
_______ check 5 minutes
8-9 p.m. Listen to some subconscious tapes. _______ check 5 minutes


  1. On this day before Thanksgiving, I must say that one of the things I am thankful for is this post. Thank you, Eileen, for putting together this very comprehensive list. I'm game and will try to follow them.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Nay, Thanks so much for the comment! Prior to going to the entrepreneurs conference, I didn't realize the extent to which there is a sort of playbook for a successful company that while not guaranteeing success, ups your odds a lot. Similarly, having spent 20 years on the whole personal happiness pursuit, I really, truly believe anyone of us can be happy if we are willing to put in the effort. I recently read a story about a family in the worst of financial situations (in Africa) that still found joy. Going after happiness is not a passive pursuit and doesn't just come by wishing any more than most things in life, but it's worth the effort. Have a LOVELY Thanksgiving!!!! Eileen