Life Hacks

The ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

In our twenties we often face questions like:

What do you want to be? What are your goals in life? What do you want to achieve?

Our answers may differ - I want to have a great career or marry the love of my life or become the best in my field.

But if we introspect honestly, we are all on the same journey.

What we all want to be is happy. What we want to attain at the end with our possessions and career advancements is happiness.

Each one of us may define happiness differently. But we all understand it is a non-negotiable ingredient for creating the life of our dreams.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

As of 2015, US stands 13th on the World Happiness Report. The Body of Research into distribution of happiness across ages, shows that happiness starts to decline from the 20s and starts to swing upwards only after 50s.

Seems a bit shocking when we have “pursuit of happiness” as our unalienable right only after life and liberty. Then, why are we so unhappy? What are we missing?

Happiness is not rocket science. And you don’t have to wait till you are in your 50s to learn how to be happy. Our cheat sheet will help you get a jumpstart on your pursuit of happiness

1. A different but better perspective on happiness

What is the no.1 factor standing in the way of our happiness?

It is our tendency of putting conditions on happiness.

As long as there is an ‘if’ lurking behind your definition of happiness, you are postponing your happiness into the future.

Thich Nhat Hanh Monk and activist

There is no way to happiness , happiness is the way.

We often find ourselves caught in the trap of:

If I have -money/love/job/success/health,

I will be able to do - travel/relax/build relationship/pursue hobbies

Then I will be - happy/content/peaceful/successful

With this thinking you will end up running behind one goal after the other only to find that the goalpost has moved.

In fact, Harvard Psychologist Shawn Achor explains in his TED Talk that, happiness facilitates success and not the other way around. We do not attract what we want, but we attract into our lives what we are.

For example you may be thinking, “I will be happy when I start earning ‘X’ amount of money.” But research says this logic is faulty. According to the 'From wealth to well-being' survey, people often overestimate the effect of increased income on happiness. And vice versa is also true.

So remember, happiness is not your destination. Happiness is your companion in the journey of life. Concentrate on becoming happy today and now. In time happy days will add up into happy years and a happy life.

2. Often, we can choose to be happy

Ideal conditions do not exist.

Life is riddled with too many variables over which you have very little control. If you let your happiness controlled by them, you will never be happy.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

There will always be a piece of the puzzle out of place ruining the picture. So, there is no guarantee that when you achieve your dreams, your life will be as you have expected it to be.

In the Track your Happiness Study, Harvard University researchers Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that, “about 47% of people's waking hours are spent doing anything except being in the moment and focusing on the current activity.”

Dalai Lama Monk

Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors.

Happiness is not a future goal, it is a present activity. Learn go of the life in your head so that you can participate in the life happening around you.

Past and future only exist in your thoughts. Only reality you have is the present.

Today is your chance at happiness - seize it and make the most of it.

Often our relentless quest to reach happiness blinds us to the charms we pass along the way.

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Be mindful and open. Interact with your life, pursue the opportunities, and aim to be alive every minute. Don’t be afraid to colour outside the box once in awhile. Let happiness come from you.

Start a happiness journal and make note of one thing that cheered you up today. Never let a single happy memory go unacknowledged.

3. What science has to tell us about happiness

Happiness is not an exact science.

Different things, make different people happy at different stages of life. So, it might be a bit difficult to give a blanket answer to the question of happiness. But, science has tried to find links between the variables in our life and how they affect happiness.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

Here are 5 fast facts about the biology of happiness that can help us improve our day-today happiness -

You can teach your brain to be happy.

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Due to evolutionary survival instincts, our brains have developed a 'negativity bias'.

This bias forces our brains to hold on to negative feelings/experiences/criticisms and losses.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

The good news is, our brain can be rewired to focus on happiness.

Psychologist Dr. Rick Hanson suggests that you should savour every positive experience and replay it in your mind a few times.

Shawn Anchor dubs this as retraining our "brain to scan for the good things in life”. It means that you take a much more conscious note of the good things happening to you on a daily basis.

At least 50% of your happiness depends on your genes.

Sonja Lyubomirsky

’s research has found that 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 40% by internal factors like attitude and only 10% by present circumstances.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

You can’t alter your genes. But you can seek more positive interactions and teach yourself to focus on good thoughts and feelings.

So, by cultivating positive thoughts and optimistic attitude you can guide yourself to become happier.

Exercise is an all-round mood booster.

Harvard Medical School has found that exercise helps to curb stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It also releases feel-good endorphins and good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.

And this is not just while you are exercising.

A University of Vermont study has found that as little as 20 minutes of exercise can help to elevate your mood for the next 12 hours.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

Make time for a physical activity/sport that you enjoy at least 5 times in a week. This will make you healthier and happier.

Don’t smile because you are happy! Smile because you want to be happy!

Dr. Zajonc’s Emotional & Facial Efference Theory holds that, ‘the facial changes involved in smiling have direct effects on certain brain activities associated with happiness.’ So, when you put a smile on your face, your brain gets the message that you’re happy.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

But beware of smiling for the sake of smiling. ! A Michigan State University study has found that fake smiles can make you miserable.

Try to back your smile with positive thoughts. Take genuine interest and pleasure in social interactions which have plenty of opportunity for spreading the smiles around.

Having a gratitude shift will help you become happier.

Just keeping a Gratitude Journal can help you become happier. As the 'Counting your Blessings Vs Burdens' experiment found, people who made the list of things they were grateful for have far more positive emotional state.

ultimate cheat sheet for being happy

Literally ‘counting your blessings’ helps you focus on all the good things in your life. It will magnify the present and let you stay invested in the moment.

A regular review of this journal can help you minimise the negativity in everyday life.

4. Social relationships - they have utmost importance

How often have you felt the lingering effects of an argument with a loved one colouring your whole day blue?

Our moods and feelings by are affected by the people around us to a greater extent than we realise.

No man is an island. And if you hope to be happy you better not be!

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Prof. Paula Niedenthal’s embodying emotion study found that, ’Like an acute sounding board, parts of our brain internally echo what others do and feel’.

Surround yourself with happy and positive people and you will catch the happiness bug.

The Harvard Grant Study (75 year old longitudinal study into what makes a happy and purposeful life) found that, people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”

Even having good relationships with co-workers can help with your job satisfaction.

Superficial relationships on social networks do not do the trick. Quality and intimacy, as well as stability and consistency of these relationships also matter.

Duke and Arizona University joint study found that the number of close confidants for Americans had dropped from 03(1984) to just 01(2004).

So, focus on building deep and meaningful personal relationships with your family and friends. Engage with your community and contribute your time and skill wherever you can.

5. Do what you love, love what you do

We spend ⅓ or 30% of our life at work. Put in simple terms - We spend about 25 to 30 years of our life at work.

As work consumes such a large chunk of our life, it's only logical that - our happiness overall is influenced by the level of our happiness at work.

According to Gallup Poll only 33.5% are engaged in their work with passion and deep connection. Further, 18% of employees actively hate their jobs.

No wonder we are so low on the world happiness scale!

There’s a clear cut solution for this.

Find the work perfectly suited for you - plain and simple, otherwise there is no way you could be satisfied.

You will have to invest time and effort into finding the work you absolutely love. But, it is never too early to start and it will not take a lifetime to find it.

What if your present job is making you unhappy?

First recognise the difference between acute (momentary) v/s chronic (ongoing) unhappiness.

Try to pinpoint what exactly it is at your job that is causing you unhappiness.

Is it the working condition?

Is it your job? Is it the pay? Is it the commute? Is it the gap in your skill?

If the cause of your unhappiness can be addressed, take steps to do it.

The inescapable reality is that you can’t gloss over some jobs. Such jobs make you miserable and depressed cause in all probability, the job is that bad/unsuited for you.

If this is your situation, your way out is to actively look for a job that will at least not give you Monday blues.


Happiness is about small everyday things.

The only thing that needs to change, for your happiness to change is YOU.

Your willingness to consciously work on your happiness could potentially decide the quality of life you lead.

A little perspective and a little gratitude shift has the potential to make you content.

Go out of your comfort zone to try new hobbies. Search for the work that excites you. Be open to connections with people around you.

How happy are you right now? Do you have the tools to manufacture your own happiness?

Why not try this Skill Based Happiness Quiz and find out?

Life Hacks Self-Improvement

5 slow but powerful ways to make positive changes in your life

If I had a dollar for all the times I’ve promised to make a positive change in my life,

Start going for a daily run...learn French...paint

but then never followed it through, I’d be a very rich man.

Via Gifrific

Haven’t we all had those bursts of inspirations, with a strong urge to make a change in our life? A sudden bolt of inspiration or motivation to do something more.

You start with a bang, with superb commitment and enthusiasm, only to quit a few days or weeks later.

Most of us are never able to hold ourselves to these goals.

According to survey data, only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions succeed at keeping them. Most resolutions are in fact abandoned by the third week of January.

Only 8 percent of New Year’s resolutions are kept. Most resolutions are abandoned by the third week of January.

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However that does not mean it is impossible.

Achieving your goals is part of a mindset.

Goals could range from personal to career to relationships.

All you need is a basic framework to create a mindset where you make goals, stick to them and achieve them.

1. How to eliminate clutter and focus on the essentials?

If you want to cut out the fat from your life, you need to focus on the essentials.

The book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” talks about the “Importance of Simplicity, Clarity, and Priority.”

The author Greg McKeown, a graduate of the Stanford School of Business, explains

“Instead of attempting to achieve everything, one needs to figure out how to do the right thing the right way at the right time.”

Check out this video of his -

The author did first-hand research among CEOs, executives and other professional ventures of the Silicon Valley. He demonstrates how early success can lead straight to professional and personal failure.

The heart of the problem, is the insidious idea that we can do it all.

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As individuals find success, they're often overwhelmed by expectations and the variety of options, and they end up losing the single-minded focus that made them successful in the first place.

So ask yourself: what in your life affirms the need for simplicity, - to focus on only one thing or very few things at a time?


What priorities in your life require the need to focus on before pursuing other interesting (but less worthy) pursuits?

2. How to live mindfully, fully aware of your reality

Mindfulness is the opposite of “mindless” living- where you simply function on autopilot throughout your day.

Living this way can leave you feeling like you’re stuck in a rut.

On autopilot, you tend to get lost in ‘doing’ so you find yourself constantly striving and struggling on ‘getting the next job done’. Not actually living.


Research shows that the average person functions like this 47% of the time.

This video talks about how it feels to be “Mindful” and live in the moment.

Mindfulness helps you cultivate equanimity. You are aware of your triggers and learn to pause so that you may respond, rather than simply react.

Mindfulness is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that they are just an interpretation of reality.

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It is the art of understanding your thoughts and accepting that your thoughts are not reality. They’re just thoughts: An interpretation of reality.

And you have the power to control your thoughts.

Richard Ryan and K. W. Brown of the University of Rochester explain that

  1. “Mindfulness” allows you to witness the passing of feelings, social pressures, even of being esteemed or criticized without taking these evaluations personally.
  2. This will allow you to stop worrying and ruminating on bleak events in the past.
  3. As you focus on living in the present, your attentional focus narrows.
  4. You feel as if your awareness merges with the actions you're performing.
  5. You feel a sense of mastery over situations, activities become rewarding by themselves. Although the tasks are difficult, you are able to perform effortlessly.

The University of Wisconsin has a Mindfulness Training Program as part of their Department of Psychiatry. After the program, this was the feedback they were given.

As the survey results show both teachers as well as students found an improvement in the students’ mental states.

3. Exercise for the mind, not just for the body 

The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore.

Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and diseases, and improves your mood.

Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that leave you happier and relaxed. It boosts your confidence and improves your self-esteem.

The movie star, Matthew McConaughey, has said this to say -

Mathey McConaugheyActor

It's no fun to sit down and talk about what exercise has to do with life... go drip that sweat, run until we're fatigued, to where the mind can't ponder the past or the future, well, then you've got something... It's fun to feel healthy, and it's fun to feel good.

When you decide to exercise, understand that it is a sustained habit you are trying to build.

Try to keep the following steps in mind

  1. Set a time and stick with it
  2. Use small reminders everyday
  3. Start small, and focus on bringing daily exercise into your routine
  4. Increase intensity as time progresses
  5. Mix up your exercise so you don’t get bored
  6. Set aside rest days


Men’s Health talks about how exercise fights depression and the many positive effects on the brain it has.

4. What positive thinking actually involves

Research is beginning to reveal that positive thinking is much more than just ‘being happy’ or displaying an upbeat attitude. Positive thoughts can actually create real value in your life and help you build real skills.

Negativity closes your brain off from the outside world. You focus on the negative emotions of fear, anger, and stress. These emotions prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology conducted a study at the University of North Carolina. She talks about the “broaden and build” theory. Positive emotions broaden your sense of possibilities and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and gather more resources from your surroundings.

How do you bring about positive thinking?

Meditation- In the same study, an experiment was conducted between two groups of meditating and non-meditating people. The study demonstrated that those who meditate daily display more positive emotions and valuable long–term skills.

Even several months after the experiment was over, the people who meditated daily continued to display increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, and decreased illness symptoms

The spiritual society Art of Living, mentions these benefits of meditation.

A survey about workplace meditation was conducted on 60 people which found that 60 percent of them were better able to handle stress after taking the class.

Meditation is one of the best ways to combat stress in your life. According to a survey by Buddhify, it is the second most common reason people get into meditation.

Writing and Expressing yourself- An experiment was published in the Journal of Research in Personality on 90 undergraduate students. They were split into two groups. One was asked to write about an intensely positive experience each day and the other wrote about a general control topic.

Three months later, the students from the first group showed better mood levels, and experienced fewer illnesses. Although this is far from a definitive study on the topic, it does give us an idea about the benefits of writing.

Maintaining a journal can help you clarify your thoughts as you logically put them down on paper. Writing is a creative activity which can help engage your right brain in problem solving.

5. Developing a sense of compassion for those around

The Dalai Lama has said that the problems of the world “are best understood and viewed through the lens of compassion.”

We, humans have a natural capacity for compassion. However, everyday stress, social pressures, and life experiences can suppress it.

But you can train yourself to be more nurturing towards others and develop your compassionate instinct. This process requires patience, steady care, proper tools, and a supportive environment.

The brain we have inherited from millions of years of evolution is both a gift and a curse, if not understood and used wisely. It is easy for us to get lost in our very basic emotions and motives, or become personally distressed by the problems of others.

If you orient yourself to compassion, be prepared to experience a whole new orientation of your mind.

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Compassion therapy tries to develop this compassion in people,

“we train people to remember, remember, remember, notice, notice, notice kindness and then to build upon those remembrances.”

Meditation, journal writing, focusing on mindfulness all help you live a compassionate life.

Compassion is a way of life.

Jon Kabat-ZinnProfessor of Medicine Emiritus

All life is fascinating and beautiful when the veil of our routinized thinking lifts, even for a moment


We feel stuck in a rut because we’ve trained our brains in a certain way. Our daily habits are deeply ingrained in our brain circuitry. But if we repeat small behaviors frequently enough, our brains begin to carve out new neural pathways. Over time, these neural pathways allow new behaviors to become automatic.

If you understand and apply the simple method for mindfully creating new behaviors and habits you can begin re-creating your life, one positive new change at a time.

What changes can you make today to bring about more Positivity in your life?