The Importance of Self-Care from a Happiness Expert
The choices made in the morning can have a huge impact all day long. Here, bestselling author Neil Pasricha—who wrote a new guided journal, Two Minute Mornings—shares how he cultivates happiness every day.
Life gets busy . . . fast. Have you ever found yourself with so many browser tabs open you can’t see the titles anymore?
Or discovered your pockets full with little scrap paper notes you wrote to yourself throughout the day?
Or felt anxious about your jammed schedule for tomorrow because you have no time to focus on what matters?
That was a freeze-frame capture of me every day for the past few years. I was running Leadership Development inside the world’s largest company while writing books like The Happiness Equation and The Book of Awesome to teach people how to find mindfulness. Yet I couldn’t find it myself. Well, it turns out the solution was right in front of me the whole time.
Based on positive psychology research, I began developing a simple system for myself called Two Minute Mornings. After I woke up, I spent the first two minutes of my day filling in my answers to three simple sentences:
1) I WILL LET GO OF . . .
2) I AM GRATEFUL FOR . . .
3) I WILL FOCUS ON . . .
The difference in my life was both immediate and incredible.
The two minutes helped me suddenly “win the morning,” which helped start momentum toward me “winning the day.”
Letting go of something stressful helped me avoid mentally revisiting a worry throughout the day. The gratitude helped me be more positive every morning. And by deciding what to focus on, I helped align my goals and made sure I was investing in myself.
These two minutes helped make sure I was going the right direction . . . in the right frame of mind. If you’re not already sold, scientific research supports the positive effect of all these actions, too.
Why It Works
On Letting Go
Research reported in Science magazine titled “Don’t Look Back in Anger!” by Brassen, Gamer, Peters, Gluth, and Büchel (2012) shows that minimizing our regrets as we age creates greater contentment and happiness. The research also shows that holding on to regrets causes us to engage in more aggressive and risky behaviors in the future. The healthiest and happiest people notice mistakes in their lives and then choose to let them go. This written exercise crystallizes that effect and allows those errors in judgment to pass through your mind instead of letting them grate on your mind all day.
Research by Emmons and McCullough (2003) shows if you write down five gratitudes a week, you’re measurably happier over a ten-week period. Research shows the more specific you are, the better. We know if people write down “family, food, job” or something similarly vague over and over, it really doesn’t cause an increase in happiness. Our minds don’t relive any specific experience. Try things like “When Trooper learned to shake a paw,” “The moment I saw Ana bringing me a coffee,” or “How Antonio finally put the toilet seat down,” etc.
On Creating A Daily Focus
The goal of the daily focus is to strip away the endless list of things you could do into a bite-size list of things you will do. Why? Because if you don’t, you will mentally revisit your could-do list all day. And that will cause decision fatigue. See, decision-making energy uses a particularly complex part of the brain, and we’re wasting energy anytime we’re unfocused. As Florida State Professor of Psychology Roy Baumeister and New York Times journalist John Tierney say in Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, “Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket, and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rust-proof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue—you’re not consciously aware of being tired—but you’re low on mental energy.”
I use the daily focus to write down three small goals I want to achieve (and importantly can achieve) that day. It feels great crossing them off and satisfying to close the day on a high. If I missed one, I can just add it to tomorrow. An example? “Call Erin about PR campaign, fix bug on website, and do a happiness exercise.
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If you’re ready to make this morning ritual a habit, check out Two Minute Mornings today.
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