Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person

11. October, 2014

I have been obsessed with life hacks and working on becoming a better person for a handful of years. I think it started out when I started doing a lot of sports. Feeling better and improving each day motivated me to not only work and the physical side, but also the mind. I guess that’s a pretty big project :-)

I’ve been experimenting with my self as the guinea pig, I have studied a lot of research, I have read books, watched documentaries and I have listened to podcasts. I also talked to a lot of people: CEOs, entrepreneurs, a management consultant, coaches in differents sports and even an expert in traditional chinese medicine and lifestyle.

All of this give me a lot of different insights. Throughout the last couple of years I have been writing it all down in my note books. I thought I wanted to share some of the hacks, ideas and thought. These thoughts and ideas has been me a lot on becoming a happier person and to get more out of life. Hopefully you can use some of the ideas too.

Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person. CLICK TO TWEET

But why work on becoming more happy?

This is quite obvious and simple. What do you prefer, being negative or postive? Sad og happy? Answering these questions should be more than enough to start working on getting more positive and happy.

If that is not enough, here is some other reasons:

  • Research show that positive people are more creative and willing to take chances. Those are pretty good things, if you are an entrepreneur. One study showed that people were more likely to have a creative breakthrough if they had been happy the day before.
  • Positive people attracts other positive people. The same is happening if you are always negative. A simple example: Who would you prefer following on Twitter: the person who spread good vibes, gives kodus to others and in general are postive, og that guy (that we all know), that complains about the weather all the time? It’s simple.
  • Research also show that there is a link between happiness and health. Positive people tend to do more sports and are more careful about bad habits (like fx smoking)
  • When you communicate with someone, it is never neutral. When you communicate with someone you always leave people a little better or worse, a little more positive or a little more negative. This is true no matter who you and how you communicate. How do you wanna affect people?

 

You decide if you want to be happy

The first step to becoming more happy and positive starts with recognizing that it starts and ends with your self. You are the one responsible for your happiness and the one that can make things happen. If you think that happiness is something that just comes randomly, you are wrong.

If you are thinking “When I get a little more money (a better job, car, a partner etc.) then I will be happy, then you are doing it wrong.

Don’t tell your self that happiness is something out in the future. A lot of people are doing this, and it is often about money. The funny thing is, that there has been made a lot of studies and the link between money and research and the results surprise most people.

If you go from having noting to having enough (like a place to stay and food), then – of course – there will be a pretty big increase in your happiness. But if you go from having enough to having more (2 cars instead of one, a bigger house etc), then there is no increase in real happiness.

Most people will have a short spike in happiness if something great happens (if you win the Lotto), but you will get back to the level you had before quickly. We are working so hard and making so much sacrifices for something out there in the future, but when is the future here? When do we have enough to be happy? Most people thinking like this will always be chasing the happiness instead of seeing all the great things that are important and are already there.

Stop waiting for happiness. You’re the one person that can control it, so start working on it.

You decide if you want to be happy. CLICK TO TWEET.

 

A lesson I learned from a chinese doctor

When I lived in Beijing I had a session with a chinese doctor, who was specialized in traditional chinese medicine and lifestyle. It was interesting to see the things they did different. There was one thought in particular, that I took away from the session.

He told me that they have a simple philosophy of focusing more on the positive habbits than the negative. If you wanna lose weight, you should focus on finding some incredible delicious, healthy food instead of focusing on denying yourself a nice, big burger. See the difference?

It is interesting because many people wanting to do some personal change, is focusing on what they can’t do instead of focusing on the positive things.
This is just a small change of how you see things. A change that can make a big difference.

What I learned about happiness from a chinese doctor. CLICK TO TWEET

 

The 21-day challenge that everyone should do

Small challenges that you do for a short amount of time is great. The are realistic, but challenging and they can make a big difference.

My absolute favourite one is the “21 days without complaining”. This made a huge difference for me, and I can only recommend you to do it. I found this at Tim Ferris’s blog, where the post he wrote about this challenge, has been featured as one of his absolute favourite all-time posts. So don’t listen to me, but Tim Ferris :-)

The challenge is actually pretty simple, but quite difficult. You have to find a bracelet or something like it (I used my girlfriends hair elastic) and put it on your arm. Everytime you complain, you have to take the bracelet from the arm to the other and you start from zero again.

The goal is to go 21 consecutive days without changing arm. I can tell you this much: It’s pretty difficult to stay positive when you complain after 17 days and have to start over again.

This took me just around 4 months to complete. It was much harder than I thought, but absolutely worth it. For me, it did a few things. It made me aware that I could actually change me way of seeing things my self. The better I got at it, the less negative I got about small things I couldn’t change. I just let it slipped and focused on the things I could change.

This hole challenge didn’t make me perfect. Nobody will ever be 100% positive and that is good, but me level changed. This small challenge simply made me happier.

The story of the guy who got this idea, is quite good too. Check out more links in the bottom.

The 21-day challenge that everyone should do to become happier. CLICK TO TWEET

Fake a smile

This a really simple hack. Some years ago one of the busiest bus lines of Copenhagen, Denmark, got some really bad ratings and the passenger numbers were falling. Instead of changing prices, route or something like that, they gave all the drivers on that route a special course, where they learned to be proactively happy, “faking a smile”. A survey told the company that the passengers thought the service and attitude of the drivers were super bad.

Being a busdriver at Copenhagen’s busiest bus line is stressful. Being proactive and welcoming the passengers with a big hello and smile, did a lot of things for the bus line. The passenger numbers started rising again, because now it was just more nice to ride the bus. But something else also happened. The drivers dropped in days were they were sick. It turned out, that the drivers themselves were getting happier and enjoying their job more, because they kickstarted something by “faking a smile”.

You can do this too!

Fake a smile to become happier. CLICK TO TWEET

 

Working on the small things

As mentioned earlier happiness is not something out in future with a finish line. It is something that you can get know. Most of us have everything we need right now to be happy.

Often it is the small things that makes us happy. These things are often taken for granted. Being aware of the nice, small situations in everyday life can be enough to change our happiness.

Here are some small and simple ideas to get more out of the small things.

Take a picture each day for 30 days

Take a picture of a situation each day. It can be a moment when you feel happy, relaxed or if you see something interesting. After the 30 days you will be able to look back at the 30 photos and remember the exact atmosphere, feeling and probably also things like how it smelled. This is a great way to be more aware of the small things.

The 365-day note challenge

This challenge is almost the same as the photo idea. Instead of taking a photo this challenge is about writing a note each day. What was the best thing about the day? Doing this for a whole year (a shorter period can also work) will make you reflect on the small things, that are actually making you happy, by yourself.

As we already talked about, these things are there already. You just need to be aware of them and appreciate them more.

Plan a trip

Planning a trip a long time before you are going is also something that can help change our mood. A big part of travelling is just looking forward to it. It will be something that you think about each day with a smile on your face. I know, it’s pretty simple, but in the future book your flight tickets well ahead.

Don’t spend too much time with the news

It is well known that media chose to air things that are pretty negative. They mostly give air time to wars, diseases being spread and nature catastrophes. These things are, sadly, a part of life, but that doesn’t mean we should think about them all the time. Watching the news each day will get you exposed to incredible negative thoughts again and again.

Don’t avoid news totally, but choose carefully what you read, listen to or watch.

The small things can actually make you happier. CLICK TO TWEET 

So, what did we learn?

  • Working with being more positive and happy will bring you other good things (better health and relations to other positive people).
  • Nobody should ever be 100% happy. That is not what we are talking about. But we are talking about improving and just getting better. You change your level. Don’t expect to be perfect, because it will not happen.
  • You decide if you want to be happy or not. You should not expect a future event or something else to make you happy. Take control and make things happen.
  • There is a lot of simple things you can try out really easily, so there is no excuse. There is one or more hacks / ideas that will work for you.

 

Want to read more?

If you are interested in learning more about the things outlined in this posts, check out some of these links:

Nikolaj Astrup Madsen I am the founder of Refuga. I'm danish, but I'm traveling the world while building Refuga and whenever I have time I go for a run in the mountains. I hope you will join me on this journey!

3 Responses to “Positive thoughts: How I became a happier person”

  1. Niklas says:

    Some great resources here. I never thought that this could be something to work on, but I can see why you should!

  2. Maja says:

    Hi! :)

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m wearing a rubber band on my arm for like… 10 minutes now :) ’cause you’ve inspired me to test myself with the 21-day challenge!
    And you know what else I’m doing? My heart is pounding, wants to jump out of my chest, my hopes are high, because I’m applying for my dream job – a content marketing manager at workaway! :)))
    You’ll hear from me soon, until then – all the best to you from a small mediteranian pearl – Croatia!

    Keep up the good work!

    Kind regards,

    Maja

  3. Lan says:

    What an amazing post!

    So many great suggestions. Starting the 21 day challange today.

    Thank you for everything!

    Lan

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