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How I Got Happier in 90 Days

Last year, I did some research on basic morning routines of some of the happiest people alive. I wanted to know how to improve my days while going to school and working (both full-time). I was pleased to discover that I regularly practiced several of the recommended rituals. However, it wasn’t until January fifth of this year that I began a quest to develop all of these happy morning habits for my own.

Strangely enough, 15 days after I started this happiness quest, I was terminated from my full-time employment at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after three and a half years of stable, dedicated service. I firmly believe my happy morning routine helped me hold it all together while going through this difficult life transition.

It’s said that habits take about 21 days to form, but from my experience, it took slightly more than 90 days to get many of these actions right and see the improvements for myself. So, without further delay, here are eight things I did to increase my happiness in about 90 days. 

1. Each day is a new day.

In my research, I found that happy people start brand-new each day. Even if the prior day was a total failure, they tend to acknowledge that today is a new chance for success and adventures. Beginning anew is one of the actions I already had put into practice before I did my research on the morning routines of happy people. I have practiced this resilient attitude and mindset most days for the last several years in order to maintain my 125 pound weight loss.

During the 90 days of my experiment, my goal was to make each day a unique masterpiece and not a recycled piece of junk from the day before. Most days, I succeeded. My few unsuccessful days typically started with playing Candy Crush on my iPhone upon waking, which set the tone for the rest of the day.

2. Gratitude kills worry.

I don’t always wake up each morning feeling great about life. Practicing gratitude and being appreciative of life’s small gifts helps to bring back an overall sense of gladness to start my day.

This action was especially important to me after losing my job. Any time worry crept in I greeted it with thankfulness for how good my life still is and how much better it becomes day by day, regardless of a small portion of my identity being absent.

3. Words are fuel for the mind.

I made it a priority to sneak in some extra reading each morning while I lay in bed, while I walked on my treadmill, or right before I ate lunch. From my research, it was clear that happy people start their day off on a positive note by reading new ideas to guide their day’s journey.

By giving myself time to read a little bit of self-improvement literature or scripture each morning, I often uncovered new ways to improve my life or realized new connections I never thought about before.

4. Exercise increases energy for the day.

Morning workouts were one of the activities I already regularly embraced. Exercise almost always makes me feel great with its ability to alleviate stress and depression through a boost in health-promoting neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Through my research, I found that exercise improved how individuals felt about their bodies—even if they didn't gain any noticeable improvements in their physique or lose weight as a result.

As an added benefit, I believe that finding something physically active to do almost every morning during the 90 days contributed to my nice 15-pound weight loss, too.

5. Prayer ignites inner-wisdom.

For the majority of my life, my spiritual practice was almost non-existent. However, I knew that when I prayed aloud, I always felt connected and a sense of peace. So it should be no surprise that many of the happiest people alive are spiritual to some degree. One of the greatest ways of giving thanks to our Creator is through prayer, no matter what religious dogma you follow.

I made time for prayer immediately following my morning exercise. Each prayer consisted of flowing words of gratitude for what I already have, and a lot of self-wisdom or worries that I was not fully aware of having until I prayed aloud. The act of prayer often illuminated tasks to work on during the day.

Affirmations and meditation also work great in place of or in conjunction with prayer. I chose prayer most frequently because it felt best for me.

6. Keeping it simple is success.

We’re all guilty of multitasking, especially with the invention of smartphones. When we multitask, we create unnecessary stress and anxiety for ourselves. This is why it’s crucial to have simple tasks to do in the morning.

In order to increase my success rate of making my mornings more streamlined and simple, I prepared the night before. I made my lunch ahead of time, picked out my clothes, and simply thought about what kind of workout routine I wanted to do the next morning. Because I am far from perfect, I did fail many mornings at keeping it simple. I had to compromise and learn what were acceptable forms of multitasking for me and what were not.

7. Nature is therapeutic—even in small doses.

Spending time in nature has always felt healing for my soul. When I did my research, I found out that being outdoors does promote a sense of vitality, even if it’s only visualized. Being a busy person, I used to make a lot of excuses as to why I was unable to spend time in nature. During the 90-day routine I still found it challenging to make time for the outdoors, and I beat myself up about it. The truth is, most days it was snowy and icy here in the winter of the Pacific Northwest. As the days warmed up, I could jog to the park, walk my dogs, go hiking, and do yard work.  

This part of my routine was more about accepting growth and less about completion. I could still be happy on any given day without stepping one foot outside my door if I didn’t want to. But the days I ventured out, I had a lot more fun.

8. Living in the future creates illness.

I’ve always found it a little too easy getting caught up in future events and the worry that can come with them because I always have so many goals I wish to achieve. According to Psychology Today, we can practice mindful presence by being a witness to what is happening, acknowledging where our thoughts are, what we’re feeling, what our body is doing, and simply letting go of anything that is not happening at that very moment. So, I made a decision to practice centering myself in the present moment as much as possible during my morning routine.

This practice helped me talk through difficulties my health coaching clients were experiencing with reaching their health goals and assisting my husband in overcoming negative feelings he felt about his present situation with school while longing for days in the future with less stress and responsibility.

I’ve found that it’s not something that requires hours of dedication or perfection. You can have children and full-time jobs and still implement these eight principals.  It just requires a touch of discipline and a little less excuse making.

How could you use these daily rituals to improve your life?

Photo Credit:  Kevin O'Mara on Flickr, Getty Images, Mimi McCormick