I started the 10 Days of Happiness Challenge as an experiment to see if it would boost my mood. When we’re going through a rough time, how can we become happy again? My husband had sent the 10 Day Happiness Challenge to me because he knew things weren’t great for me at the time.
I had been furloughed from work and felt a little lost. Suddenly I went from a full time job to having nothing to do all day. It was funny because it was something I always wanted (I really don’t like my job), but when it happened it was a shock. I was the first one they chose and it dawned on me that I will be first on the chopping block if it comes to that. It made me feel like I wasn’t important to my team. Having all that free time also led me to dwell even more on my feelings, coupled with the anxieties and uncertainties of COVD-19 and, well, it wasn’t a great time!
I wrote about my journey with the challenge and have summarised what I learned below. I hope you find it useful!
10 Day Happiness Challenge
What is the 10 Days Happiness Challenge? If you haven’t been following, 10 Days of Happiness which is “a free 10-day online coaching program that guides you through daily actions for happier living. It is designed for challenging times, based on the latest research from positive psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural science”.
I’ve set out below each action I did for each day and how it contributed to my mood. These are all things you can do in 10 minutes or less and will have an effect on your mood (both short and hopefully long term).
Perform an Act of Kindness
Did you think that being kind can make you happy? Sometimes it’s an easy step to take. If a friend feels sad, you try to talk to them and make them feel better. But sometimes kindness can be hard. When someone you love treats you badly and hurts you, you can show them kindness by forgiving them but it requires you to be generous and put yourself aside.
On Day 1, I decided to ask my husband if he was ok. He didn’t need my help and I felt silly for asking him, but I actually did feel better in the end. I had done something difficult (opened myself up to rejection) and I didn’t get anything in return but I had tried and that was good enough for me. This study found that performing acts of kindness can actually make us happy. We do care about the welfare of others and it makes us happy when we can help.
Strengthen a Relationship
The second day’s tip was to strengthen a relationship. I have a lot of relationships that I need to strengthen, especially after COVID started I haven’t seen friends and family for a long time. I have something which I coined as “WhatsApp anxiety”. I sometimes don’t read people’s messages and I leave them on unread for so long I never check the messages for months. It’s a really bad habit and it is super embarrassing. There was a point (when I was going through a tough time) when I had around 30 unread messages.
When I saw this challenge I got in touch with my cousin, who is like a sister to me. We are close and we grew up together; she is always supportive and kind. I realised the last time I texted her was a month ago. Unacceptable! After I texted her and she responded, I felt so much better. She was really happy to receive a heartfelt message, which in turn made me happy to read. Sometimes we get so caught up in life and so busy, we forget to check in with those we love the most and those that can bring a smile to our faces. Check-in on someone you love, who knew you could get happy again with a simple text?
As I explain in this post, I have a very rocky relationship with exercise. I used to hate it and it always was “work” for me, not something fun to do. I was an overweight kid but finally started losing weight when I was 15-16 years old, got braces and joined my mom at the gym. Since then my weight has fluctuated a lot and after marriage, I put on 20kg (the heaviest I’ve ever been). This happened during a really rough time in my life (newly married and new role at work). I emotionally ate and got to a really bad place. I hated my job and myself. I finally realised what a mess my life was and started getting help.
My mom suggested I go to a nutritionist for my weight. I kind of got mad at her because I didn’t have the money for it and thought it wouldn’t work, but then I tried. The nutritionist put me on a meal plan and the weight dropped off quick. Once I lost a bit I started exercising again, which really changed me. I started enjoying it the more I did it and now it’s become a habit. Especially when I’m in a low mood, I do my best to go out for a walk because it boosts my mood instantly.
You’ve probably heard it a million times, but being active can make a big difference to your mood. Even if it’s a 10-minute walk, just do something to get your blood pumping a little bit and get your mind to focus on something else. When you feel anxious or depressed, try doing a quick yoga sequence or some stretches. The movements will take your mind off things and focus on the present. I’ve recently taken up cycling and every time I ride, I forget everything. I really can’t recommend exercise enough.
How many times have you heard about “mindfulness”? How many times have people told you to “be present”? What does that actually mean? I scoffed when people told me I should “meditate”. How is listening to a calm voice telling me to picture the ocean going to help me? I had listened to guided meditation and enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel like it helped me get happy or calm in the long term.
Then I started going to therapy and my first therapist pushed me to practice mindfulness every day (she suggested the Headspace app). I never quite managed to practice it every day, but I did start doing it. I didn’t want to, but I thought what’s the harm in trying? I quickly learned that I couldn’t sit still with my thoughts for even a minute. I would struggle to get through 10 minutes and wanted to open my eyes every second. Then I realised praying is also practising mindfulness or meditating: you are focusing on the task at hand and “pausing” for a few minutes. Bit by bit, I started getting better at being “in the moment”.
Try the Headspace app if you need some help (it’s free). Once you get used to practicing mindfulness, it will help you clear your head when things are tough. It will also help you become more calm and rational in distressing and emotional situations. I am happiest in the present-when I start worrying about the future it gets me down. Focus on the here and now and stop worrying about the future.
Try Something New
Who new something so simple as trying something new could make you happy? I guess it seems logical, but we rarely do this (well at least I don’t). I always think too big and complicated: finding a new hobby like knitting or learning a new language. But it doesn’t have to be.
It can be as easy as finding a new TV show to watch or a new podcast (which is what I did on this day of the Happiness Challenge). If you enjoy walking or running try a new route to the one you usually take. Trying something new can stimulate your brain and take you out of a “rut” if you feel like you are in one.
Take One Step Towards A Goal
Do you find it hard to set goals and stick to them? I’ve always had this issue. I would have a list of New Year resolutions and within a month or so I would just give up and forget about them. I don’t make New Year resolutions anymore, I just get depressed when I don’t meet them.
What really changed for me over the last year was learning to set small goals. I broke everything down into achievable chunks. For example, if I need to go for a walk today but I’m too tired-I tell myself: just do 5 minutes. I wanted to go for a walk yesterday but felt too down to do it, my husband encouraged me to go and I thought to myself: all I have to do is change and we can go for a short 20-minute walk.
Guess what? We ended up walking for a whole hour! It really made me feel so much better and instantly put me in a better mood. Going for a quick walk made me feel like I was making some progress and achieving my exercise goals. Set achievable goals and take small steps towards them.
Another way to be happy again is to do something to improve your resilience. It is hard to be a resilient person: it takes time and practice. Resilience can help us deal with difficult events in our lives. My therapist described it as being a rubber band: you need to learn to be “elastic” when the pressure is on.
I wasn’t really sure what to do to increase my resilience. I tried to think of what helps me when I feel like I’m “close to the edge”. When I feel hopeless and really sad with nowhere to go, I call my mom. She usually knows what to say and bring me back down to earth when I start spiralling and feeling out of control.
If your family can’t help, call a friend that can take your mind off things. I always say “a problem shared is a problem halved”. You could also do something you love like read a book, write, listen to music. Journalling really helps me deal with difficult situations, once I write them down my burdens lighten slightly.
This one is kind of obvious, but it wasn’t to me. My therapist’s advice when I was at my worst was to write down 5 things I was grateful for or 5 things I had accomplished that day. It could be as simple as “I did the dishes”, “today was a sunny day” or “I sent that email”. I kind of found it annoying when she would say this, but I tried it. It forced me to think positively and remember the good things in my life.
Gratitude lists do work. When you are in a negative space, writing out the good things in your life forces you to let some positivity in. It can also build confidence. When you have to write down your accomplishments you realise you aren’t so useless after all!
Be Kind To Yourself
This is one thing I only recently discovered. I always heard that you have to “love yourself”. Duh, doesn’t everyone love themselves? The truth is that we don’t. I realised I really looked down on myself and my mind was filled with negative self-talk. I didn’t realise how harmful this was.
I’ve been slowly learning to love myself and be kind to myself. It’s been difficult, but the best suggestion was “how would you speak to a friend who was going through your situation?”. Now, when I am angry at myself or when I really dislike the person I am, I imagine what I would tell a friend if they said negative things about themselves. It reframes the whole issue and I realise I am being harsh and unfair on myself. I may believe I deserve it deep down, but just momentarily thinking rationally and lovingly about myself diffuses the negative self-talk. I need to give myself a break and not be so hard on myself. Life is tough and we can’t always get things right and that’s ok.
Starting my blogging journey has been a revelation. I didn’t realise how much I enjoyed writing and being creative. I’ve always had a creative side but my job stifled it and I never had the energy to tap into it. I’ve been trying as hard as I can to learn how to grow my blog and find an audience.
This lead me to join many Facebook groups and Reddit subs. I found a community of very helpful and kind people ready and willing to impart advice and opinions. Whatever hobbies or interests you have, find a group where you can share your passions. The internet can be an amazing resource to find like-minded people. Be part of something bigger. Islam also helped me find community wherever I ended up in my life, in different countries and different jobs.
That wraps up my 10 tips to become happy! All these things are little ways to boost your mood, they won’t solve all your problems but practicing them regularly will help alleviate stress and make you feel better. Will you try one of these tips to boost your mood next time you need to?