For those lucky enough to live in peaceful, plentiful societies, life should be great. But because we’re all human, and everything
—every hardship, annoyance, and problem—is relative, we often go through days beset by feelings of sadness, worry, and stress.
We each have our own ways of bringing joy into life. The daily ritual that can’t be compromised; the tweak that makes a massive difference to how you feel.
(And here’s a promise: none of this advice will require you to move house, spend a lot of money, orwake up really early.)
Wake without an alarm
The dark of a January morning; a piercing wail that shocks you out of too-short sleep; the insistent, tyrannical “snooze” function. Every morning for most of my life
I used an alarm to wake, thinking there was no other option. Training yourself to wake without an alarm isn’t difficult.It requires routine, and not being exhausted.
The pay-off: waking every morning with no sense of panic or shock. Highly recommended.
Start the day with something hot and truly delicious. Personally, I am a green tea kinda gal.
From Australia’s flat white to India’s chai, there are coffee and tea drinking traditions in cultures across the world. Culturally and spiritually,
these drinks are important. A well-made cup of coffee is so far removed from a watery, lukewarm, or otherwise bad one that it makes the
difference between your spirit lifting, or staying right where it is. Don’t compromise.
Also, use the right cup. A mug should be big enough for a satisfying brew, and ideally made of china or porcelain, which keeps the drink hotter.
An espresso is inexpressibly better in an espresso cup.
Put on comfortable shoes
I’ve been talking a lot recently about shoes. They’re political, especially if you’re a woman. And they’re the most important things we wear when it comes to the way we move and feel.
Painful shoes are a misery ( I have bought many over the course of my life), and comfortable ones a joy.
Mitigate your commute
Commuting can make us very unhappy. For many, though, it’s unavoidable. So how can you tweak it? Walking or cycling can make the necessity a pleasure, and for some it’s worth factoring
in extra time to make that possible. We’re also increasingly demanding flexibility from our workplaces, and that can mean shifting work hours so we start from home and then travel in when
the rush hour is over. If you have to take a train or bus, read something that also transports you: A great book comes up as an important happiness factor for me when I would fly all over doing seminars.
Don’t be uncomfortable at your desk
Pain at work should not be a normal state of affairs, though for many of us it is. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to optimize your work station but at the minimum:
Screens, desktops and chairs need to be at the right height and distance for your body. Other tweaks (footrests, the ability to stand, ergonomic equipment) might be necessary.
Experiment until you find what works.
Time for exercise. You wouldn’t be reading this unless you knew how important this is.
This can be a challenge, but for lots of us it’s also the difference between feeling great and feeling terrible. It doesn’t have to be hours at the gym.
A short walk is much, much better than no walk. One trip to the pool a week gives swimming addicts an important fix.
Put your speakers in the right place to listen to music. Arrange books so that you can find them easily. Keep floors clean, so that walking barefoot is a pleasure.
Use good-quality cotton sheets. So, if you don’t have great sheets, buying them an expense. Not a sky-high one, though, and an investment:
good sheets last. A good mattress. That’s expensive, for sure, but for somewhere you spend a third of your life, perhaps worth it.
Any time of day:
Designate a time each day to not worry.
Or, even, a time to worry. Designating time when you can process those thoughts—or escape them—can help manage feelings of being overwhelmed.
Seek out quality food: good olive oil, truly fresh seasonal fruit, tomatoes that haven’t been refrigerated, wonderful avocado and “capers in your tuna salad”.
Having a sense of agency in one’s own life is, unsurprisingly, a key to happiness. So is opportunity:the belief that you can achieve goals. Those are big things,
but maybe that’s why small tweaks make a lot of difference to how we feel. They remind us we have choice: between a good cup of coffee and a poor one;
between a synthetic sheet and one made of cotton.
Who could argue with that?