If you could only read 10 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Today, I took a stab at answering this tough question. I thought it’s a great one because the limitation it places on you really forces you to cut the fat.
Obviously, this list will differ if your goals are different. I tried to answer the question by targeting books that will make you wiser, happier, richer, healthier, and more fulfilled when you die. Therefore, these books are not the best for solving niche goals, like becoming a top athlete, famous musician, or self-actualized individual.
As far as why you should listen to me, I’ve gone through hundreds of books and have a much more thorough knowledge of the self-help book universe than 99% of people alive.
There were plenty of books I wanted to add to this list that unfortunately didn’t make the cut. But if you’re strapped for time, this list will do you good. Click play on the player below to listen to my podcast episode and which books I chose:
Are you sick of people’s opinions on what brings you happiness?
I used to be quite unhappy and confused on how to fix this. I talked to everyone from relatives to religious people and consumed everything I could find online about the topic.
But I just wasn’t sure if it was the truth or false theories. I wanted rigorous, tested research that I could trust. And that’s when I turned to science and books. Fortunately, I found the answer to my questions…
A year ago, I stumbled on an article on how to be mentally strong that got a ton of comments and shares. It confused me. Why do all these people care about this?
I didn’t care about mental toughness. I wanted money and happiness. And I didn’t see how mental toughness would help me with that unless I wanted to change my goals to becoming a Navy SEAL. But everything’s changed since then.
Now, I understand how important mental toughness is to your peak performance.
Today, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know on a critical skill you may be overlooking. I’ll share with you why mental toughness matters and how to improve it. And if you’re wondering why you should trust me, it’s because all my advice comes from people you can trust: the world’s top performers.
If you prefer listening to audio, listen to the podcast version of this article, where I give not-mentioned secret tips:
You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher below to get access to all my podcast episodes. Please leave a review on iTunes if you like it.
What is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness is the strength of mind to keep pushing through when your body and other psychological factors tells you to quit.
The scientific definition is:
“Mental toughness is defined as an unshakeable perseverance and conviction towards some goal despite pressure or adversity.”
Based on a study of ten international performers, classified mental toughness as something that can be measured by the following dimensions:
Pain and Hardships
Desire and Motivation
Dealing with Pressure and Anxiety
Here are some examples of mental toughness in action:
When you are broke and homeless, it feels like there is no hope, especially when you have tried hard for years to improve your situation and failed. This was Sylvester Stallone’s situation before he made it as an actor. There was significant psychological pressure telling him to give up, but he didn’t.
Another example would be when you’re competing at the Olympics. A slight difference of who can push further a bit further can decide who takes the Gold or Silver medal. At a crucial point like this, you have physical factors (your body screaming at you to quit) and mental factors (screaming crowds distracting you and your body screaming at you through your nerves) that are competing against your mental strength.
Or let’s say your parents and siblings all died from illnesses or unexpected accidents. You need to be strong to stay positive and keep moving on.
Sylvester Stallone defines it the best. Here’s a clip from the film “Rocky Balboa:
This video made an impression on my beyond anything else. I almost cried after seeing it for the first time. This was because I was really in a bad place at the time in almost every area of my life, and it was like he was speaking right to me.
It explains mental toughness fairly well and gives a great tip on improving it. It’s not about how great you are, it’s about how many times you can get back up after life beats you down.
Imagine being able to push a little bit farther each time when you’re at the gym and on the last rep. Imagine being able to work harder than your coworkers and get more done. Imagine having that extra push in that make-or-break moment that could define your future and crown you as a champion.
What would that mean to you? How much more money would you make? How much longer would you live? How much better would you look?
Mental toughness lets you down that. It gives you the self-discipline to keep pushing when you want to quit.
As I hinted, it’s incredibly important in the realms of sports and other competition, when you need to push to the next level when your body wants to be lazy or tells you to quit. But don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s what some top athletes have to say about it:
Arnold needs no introduction. But here’s a quick bio anyways: He won Mr. Olympia seven times. He went onto become a real estate millionaire. Then, he became the highest paid actor in the world and governor of California.
Arnold has stated in interviews that there will always be people in competitions who have just as good a body as you. What puts you over the top is your mind.
Michael Jordan: Mental Toughness Matters More Than Genetic Talent
Michael is widely regarded as the best basketball player of all time. According to the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Michael said:
“The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that and I’ve always believed that.”
She is widely regarded as the best female soccer player to play the game. She is often asked, “What the most important thing for a soccer player to have? Mia always responds with no hesitation, “mental toughness.” She went on to say:
“It is one of the most difficult aspects of soccer and the one I struggle with every game and every practice.”
Rich Froning (from his book First: What It Takes To Win )
Who is Rich? He is widely regarded as the best Crossfitter of all time in the decade or so of the sport’s existence. He won back-to-back three years in a row and came in 2nd place the first time he competed, a feat no one has come close to. He’s also won numerous times with his team, Crossfit Mayhem, for the Team division.
According to his book First: What It Takes To Win, mental toughness is a key to success in Crossfit because it helps you push farther. He says roughly 80% of Crossfit success is mental, and only 20% is physical. When you think about it, it makes sense. A large part of any physical activity is about mentally tolerating pain in your brain; it’s internal, not external.
Rich has trained a lot of different people. He found the difference between the people who succeed and those who give upon the sport doesn’t have to do with genetic talent. It’s about their mental strength.
Here’s what science has to say about it:
Being Mentally Strong Improves Physical Endurance
This seems like common sense, but it’s important to verify any assumption with rigorous science. A 2005 study by Lee found a significant correlation between mental strength and endurance.
We will start with what science has to say about improving your mental toughness, and then go to what the world’s best have to give as advice.
What Science Has To Say
According to the books The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and Social by Matthew Lieberman, studies show that having strong friendships increases your resilience to negative events.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you lose your job or have an unexpected illness, your friends are a great support network to catch you, keep you going, and get you back on your feet.
A 2007 study by Jones examined eight athletes who were world champions or Olympic medalists and found that there were four dimensions that made up mental toughness:
attitude and mindset
These could be areas worth looking to improve.
A similar study was done on 33 elite athletes and coaches, including 25 who were Olympic athletes or world champions. They found twelve dimensions: elf-efficacy, potential, mental self concept, task familiarity, value, personal bests, goal commitment, perseverance, task focus, positivity, stress minimization, and positive comparisons.
Dr. Rob Bell is a sports psychologist and has worked with professional athletes, like PGA golfers, to improve their mental toughness. I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical about this guy because he didn’t mention any results of his clients; maybe he’s just a good salesman. Having said that, he does have a scientific background and he does mention some really good stories from top athletes in this video guide on mental toughness:
In the video, he lays out an acronym for improving mental toughness: No Fear. It stands for:
Never Give Up
Obstacles Into Opportunities
rE-focus (refocus when you lose track)
Attitude (e.g. being excited rather than nervous)
Respond, don’t react
According to his book:
If he had to answer the question, he thinks it comes down to your upbringing and practicing pushing your comfort zone. There have been moments during the Crossfit Games where he thought, “I don’t feel like doing this. I want to quit. Why am I doing it?”
And that’s when his upbringing kicked in. His parents made him do a lot of chores, including meaningless tasks like pulling nails off a board, to instill in him a strong work ethic. His work ethic kicked in automatically when he wanted to give up.
As far as practicing pushing your comfort zone, make sure you remember that you can’t rely on your genetic gifts. He has observed many successful athletes rely on their talents to get them through high school. But when they hit college, they fail because they meet people who have the same genetic skill and highlyhoned high mental toughness from practice.
Therefore, always push yourself farther than you can go — even when you can get away with not doing so. Otherwise, it might bite you in the butt later in life.
Rich Froning’s Secrets to Mental Toughness: Practice, Have A Higher Purpose, and Have Fun
According to Rich’s video:
The elite Crossfitter’s ability to dig deep and push through comes from genes and practice. So don’t make the excuse that you just don’t have the genetics. For Rich, he uses a higher purpose (rather than his own selfish reasons) to push through when he wants to give up. His higher purpose is promoting his faith, Christianity.
He also said that not putting too much pressure in yourself and finding a way to have fun also helps push through.
Advice from Navy Seal Commander Mark Divine
Mark Divine is the founder of SealFit and a retired Navy Seal commander. He had trained thousands of Navy SEAL 20x their performance. See the video below for a quick tip:
Too long? Didn’t have time to watch the whole thing? Here’s the summary:
The body is an amazing thing. You can actually get stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally over time.
You can do a lot more than you think you can before you get exhausted.
Mark gives the example of going through the SEAL’s “hell week.” It’s a week of non-stop training with no sleep and considered the hardest military training for any special ops. Half way through the week, half the people had given up. But mark felt better in every way; he felt more alert and he felt like his muscles were growing.
Ramit Sethi, the entrepreneur interviewing him, responds by saying how one time, he was doing a workout and thought he couldn’t finish it because it was too heavy. His trainer put on more weight and he ended up finishing. In that moment, he realized he could do much more than he thought he could.
Now, did Mark actually get more alert and muscular in just half a week of training with no sleep? Probably not. I have studied the science of sleep and muscle recovery, and experiments show the opposite. Your focus drops when you need more sleep. And you don’t gain muscle that fast even if you get enough protein and rest.
But that’s not the point. Even Mark admits it was probably his mind playing tricks on him. The point is that you can push much farther than your body tells you it can.
In the book Willpower Instinct, the author cites a study that discovered that your brain sends signals of exhaustion far before your body actually gets exhausted as a fail-safe. Now, it’s there for a reason: to act as a prevention tool for complete exhaustion and danger.
However, your body doesn’t know it lives in the modern world. It’s still wired for Savannah times where there were real physical threats. Nowadays, there are safe environments to protect you from any downsides if you get exhausted and the benefits of pushing past exhaustion (in competition or to build muscle) are huge.
What I Learned From the Book, “The Ultimate Guide to Mental Toughness”
I read a great book on the subject called Ultimate Guide to Mental Toughness: How to Raise Your Motivation, Focus and Confidence Like Pushing a Button by Daniel Teitelbaum. Daniel used to work as a salesman. He used Napoleon Hill’s visualization techniques to become one of the top salesman for his company. Then, he transitioned to coaching everyone from Olympians to office workers to improve their performance, confidence, motivation, and wealth through live workshops.
He reveals his secrets in this book and expands upon Hill’s techniques with his own improved versions. I was recommended the book by a friend, and at first, I was skeptical. But once I finished it, I was much more convinced because some of the techniques are backed up by experiments.
The main thing I loved about the book were all the techniques around using classical conditioning. This is a classic, psychological discovery. Psychologists found that a dog would drool after a bell sound after sounding the bell before feeding the dog numerous times. Eventually, the dog would drool even if no food was given after the bell sounded. Later on, they found that they could use anything to do this; it didn’t have to be a bell.
Using classical conditioning, Dan’s techniques tied various triggers to ordinary events to get you motivated to accomplish your goals whenever you wanted. These included:
Listing out and identifying the goals that give you the biggest emotions.
Visualizing in detail the day before you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail 15 minutes before you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail the day after you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail the moment you achieved your goals (who was there, what’s happening around you, how you feel, what you’re holding and wearing, etc.).
Screaming a sentence that summarizes you achieving your biggest goal as load as you can fifteen times in a row.
Beating your chest with your hand while doing the visualization exercise. Then, slowly condensing the movement so that you can get the same emotional trigger by just tapping your finger or toe.
Playing a song that really energizes you while you’re visualizing so that you can eventually play the song to trigger the emotions without having to do the visualization exercise.
You don’t have to do all of these techniques. He has so many for different situations and personalities. And a number of these are not science-backed. Having said that, if all else fails, this is something you can test. It couldn’t hurt.
How To Summon Any Emotion or State You Want Instantly
What’s interesting is that I read the book The Art of Learning, and the author, Josh Waitzkin, stumbled across a very similar triggering method on his own. For some context, Josh was a chess prodigy who became a teen world champion and basis for one of the most famous chess movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer. He went on to become the world champion of the competitive martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands, all by his early thirties.
Josh uses a similar “condensing” technique for triggering other emotions, like calmness. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t have to be for energizing emotions, like Dan has done. In his book he gives a great example.
A man always gets too nervous before presentations at works and blows it. He comes to Josh for help. Josh tells him to identify the moment when he is most calm. It was playing ball with his son.
He then asked him to conduct an hour-long routine each time before he played ball with his son. It happened to a number of random things, like stretching, listening to music, and washing the dishes. Gradually and slowly, Josh told him to condense the routine so it got shorter and shorter.
Eventually, the routine was less than five minutes. Then, Josh told him to perform this routine before the presentation, and he felt calm. Was it magic? No. He had simply conditioned a set of random activities to the feeling of calmness, so he could summon it on command.
Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur and host of a self help podcast with over 100 million downloads titled The Tim Ferriss Show. Thanks to his hard work, large blog, and network as a Silicon Valley tech investor, he has been able to interview many of the world’s top athletes and game changers. He’s learned a lot about mental toughness from them:
I have been a super fan of both of these billionaires for a few years now. I have consumed almost everything out there about them. One thing most people don’t know about them is that they’ve been through tough times as well and they keep going.
Charlie saw his own child get ill and pass away. Warren has lost loved ones and has been hurt by people he’s loved.
But Charlie describes it best in the document Becoming Warren Buffett. He said, “Warren soldiers on.” They keep pushing forward, like a soldier.
Now, no need to pity them, as they’ve both generally had incredibly awesome lives for the most part. But if you have want to change your negative attitude and outlook, there’s nowhere better than the book Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
Charlie Munger’s philosophy on dealing with life, which you can find in that book and in free interviews online, is the best I’ve come across in dealing with life. Hundreds of thousands of Tim Ferriss fans love to harp on his teachings of stoicism (If you’re not familiar, I’d describe it as minimalism for happiness). But Charlie’s stuff is better.
He explains in such logical terms why you should avoid all self-pity and jealousy because it only hurts yourself and prevents you from progressing. He talks about how to effectively deal with the dread of aging and dying. And he talks about why and how you should come to accept and move on from unexpected bad events that life hands you — and to even do it in a positive way.
One of Charlie’s biggest inspirations is Ben Franklin, so I suggest reading Ben’s autobiography too if you want to dive even deeper.
Did I miss any valuable advice from a top athlete or scientist? Let me know in the comments below. I’d be eager to learn more.
Why? Because I have discovered some deep, profound insights on happiness that will help me and help you. You may be wondering how I was able to do that in such a short time, but these days are not happening sequentially in the challenge. I do it when I have time.
And therefore, I have had a ton of time in between each day to reflect on my experiences and on life.
Let’s get started.
I need to remove resentment from my life (and maybe you do too)
I realized I hold resentment and frustration when I am not moving towards my goals, feel delayed by others or life, or especially f there is no sign that I will never achieve them. Despite consuming so much content from successful people on the power of persistence, that’s how I was still behaving. It took a while to figure this out.
After a lot of reflecting on my behavior over the years, it was clear. Any type of unexpected family event that I was forced to go to created resentment and frustration because I felt “my biological clock” was ticking and the activity was a waste of time. Because of this, I get into fights and was in a noticeably worse mood. Since my realization, I have corrected and have noticed, slowly but surely, a sense of patience and feeling of ease.
How did I achieve this state of being okay with everything and non-urgency? More on this later, but here’s a hint: a lot of reflecting on my hypocrisy, logic, and meditation.
Talking with people my age and younger can be a bit of shock. You jump out of your bubble and realize that most other people waste a ton of time and are much easier going in life; it’s a reminder to chill. I had gone overboard with the personal development techniques and my life was a calendar of productivity and bigger goals.
Our cultures and society (especially Asian ones) unfortunately reinforce these beliefs. Your parents and relatives go crazy if you do not marry by a certain age or achieve a certain job title. And like with most false beliefs, there is a grain of truth that makes them believable. Especially for women, there is a real biological time limit before your youth and beauty start to fade and dating gets harder.
I have identified the issue and want to eliminate it. It’s not healthy or productive towards my happiness (or other people’s happiness) because it creates negative emotions, deep anger, resentment, and frustration.
Learn To Be Okay With Not Achieving Your Goals. Here’s Why
I have to learn to be okay and happy with the idea of not achieving my goals, knowing that I can be as happy as possible right now even if I do not achieve them. This will:
help me stop taking life so seriously, beating myself up, and spreading frustrated, negative energy to others.
help me enjoy the journey, and not just the end destination. It’s a flawed belief that you have to “suffer in pain for 50 years to enjoy happiness from the money you earned.”
The Dalai Lama is a great example of this in action. He has spent his whole life meditating, laughing, and eating minimal food. Yet you can tell he is so happy and has made such an impact on the world in any of his interviews.
So why exactly should you act like the world is over if you do not get the mansion, girlfriend, or tropical resort you are after? Is it really necessary for your happiness to the point of getting into a tantrum if something delays you from achieving it?
There are people who naturally do not take life too seriously. Maybe it’s genetics or how they were raised. For whatever reason, I am definitely more in the group of people who take their life too seriously at times to the point of causing damage. I have noticed this over the years and ask if you fall into this camp as well. If so, take action on fixing this.
You Don’t Have To Stop Working Towards Your Goals. It Just Means You Can Be Happy Right Now.
Being okay with not achieving your goals is different from not trying your best to achieve them. You can still be ambitious. You can still work as hard as you can. You can still push your limits.
It just means having a healthier perspective so that you do not lash out in anger or frustration if unexpected events or people come up. You can still work just as hard as Michael Jordan or Will Smith, but you do not have to be the whiny baby when events out of your control delay your progress.
If I had to guess, Michael and Will probably have this healthy mindset too.
Successful People Follow This Rule of “Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously”
I recently was watching this video interview of an Indian billionaire and he said, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take the business seriously.” I realized that a lot of successful people are like that: Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, etc.
Why get so uptight and mad when life gets in your way? The fact is that you are often still healthy and your loved ones are still alive. We need to stop fussing over the small obstacles in our life (a rude stranger you meet, a unexpected two week set back, losing a business deal, etc.) and appreciate more the bigger picture (impacting others, enjoying life, appreciating our youth and healthy body).
Richard Branson is always doing fun crazy activities (kite surfing, dancing on tables, jumping in pools in a suit). He has the mindset that will let him laugh it off when he gets sued for millions of dollars unexpectedly. That keeps him resilient.
Have More Fun When You Work
The issue was I had failed a key part of success, which I knew about because other entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk have mentioned this: You need to find work that is truly fun for yourself or you will burn yourself out.
I have been writing a ton of exciting blog posts (and YouTube videos) for you (that you will see in the near future). But it’s gotten a lot less fun as I put more and more scheduled time into it.
I realized that I was not enjoying myself. I felt burned out. And I was reminded that other people my age were relaxing, watching Netflix, going to sports games, drinking, and fooling around. Yes, it’s unproductive. Yes, they are probably unaware of how much time they waste. Yes, I can get ahead in the long run if I work during that time. But they are having tons of fun and I am not.
Working yourself to death isn’t always the right answer. Even if it means making a lot more money than everyone else.
It’s not like I have not tried to have fun. I spent the last couple days watching tons of cool magic tricks on YouTube by David Blaine. I spent some good time outside playing Pokemon Go. But after overhearing another conversation of how others my age live their weekends, I realized something was not right. I wanted more fun in my life.
And it’s not like I do not have fun writing these articles or making these videos. But it seems like it’s not 100% fun and the percentage that is not fun slowly burns me out the more time I spend on it. I am slowly learning what types of articles and videos I enjoy making most.
I was watching an Oprah Winfrey speak at the Stanford Business School on YouTube, and she said that it took time to find her passion. She spent years as a radio reader, moved to be a news reporter, and eventually found her way to talk show host (which felt right when she tried it out). So be patient.
Oprah said she listened to her instinct and kept adjusting. There were parts of her job that she liked, but she kept listening to her gut when it told her that it “wasn’t quite right yet.”
The entrepeneur Gary Vaynerchuk has said this as well. He went so far as to say that he changed his whole business and life around when he found that there was 1% of his life that was not fun enough. Now, that may be an extreme approach, but there is some truth to that small percent of your life you don’t enjoy burning you out over time as you work harder.
A lot of us may feel overwhelmed by that extreme approach. We are still struggling with changing that 45% that’s not fun. But we can slowly and steadily improve.
Ideally, it would be great if there was something that made tons of money that was pure fun for me, but if it was that easy to find, everyone would be millionaires. I will probably do an article solely on the topic of how to have more fun because that is another obstacle. Stay tuned for that because I will need to do some research on it.
Here’s the takeaway: Have more fun today. I did this by getting on a table and dancing for a half second. It was awkward and no one was around. I did kind of have fun but I will have to work on “not caring what others think” more. Find out what you enjoy most and do more of that. What actually makes you have more fun? For me, I realized I like singing to crazy pop songs out loud when no one is around.
For me, I realized that I often care about having fun more than being more happy. I cannot say if that everyone is like this but maybe we are looking for “fun” more than “happiness.”
Everyone Needs Some Voluntary Deprivation. Here’s What It Is And Why You Need It
Have you ever wished for something so badly? But when you got it, within months (sometimes weeks or days), you take it for granted?
You should because it’s a biological phenomenon called hedonic treadmill that makes you take for granted materialistic items you receive (whether it’s an expensive car, mansion, or new video game). Although money is important, science has shown that money alone cannot guarantee happiness.
The last time this happened to me was when I went out for a run in I was parched 100+ degree heat. Within minutes I was so parched but there was not a water fountain in sight. Water felt like the most sacred item out there. Nothing else mattered. And when I finally drank some, it felt like liquid gold pouring down my throat.
Yet what’s funny is a day later, I walked past a fountain with infinite water and I just took it for granted and did not drink much.
I noticed this also happens a lot to me with food. Going out to eat food was a special occasion growing up since I was poor. I would save up and and look forward to meals from Chipotle, Five Guys, or Chic Fil A like a holiday. I would literally fantasize about the taste because I really enjoyed food.
But when I was able to order out often, it got old. There was no excitement. The same meal tasted boring and bland in my mouth.
It’s kind of like a cocaine addict who gets needs increasingly higher doses of the drug to get the same high. He keeps increasing it until he dies or gets no feeling from it but becomes dependent on it.
So here’s the takeaway: Try out voluntary deprivation.
This is when you “deprive” yourself from time to time of a high quality of living that you take for granted so that you appreciate it once again. It can also mean adding variety into your life to increase to experience something new and take a break from what you have been doing.
People are different and you may take different things for granted based on what you value more. Some people do not appreciate food as much as me. For them, it could be the obsessive desire for more money, clothes, or sex.
I have heard the same process of taking things for granted happens when you date more attractive women or buy increasingly flashy and expensive cars. For these more superficial items, try visiting a third world country once in a while to keep everything in perspective. One day, I will probably live in a neighborhood where the average person is a lot poorer than me so I do not fall into the trap of trying to keep up with the neighbors’ expensive toys or feeling less happy from constant social comparison.
Note: volunary deprivation does not necessarily mean to starve yourself. It can be as simple as going on a two week break from eating out so the food tastes special again.
Listening to Stand-up Comedy
As I mentioned in previous days of the challenge, I want to make sure I laugh for at least 10 minutes everyday. I read a story about a man who cured himself of an illness that should have killed him by watching nothing but comedy during his time in the hospital.
I do not know if laughter is truly the best medicine, but I know I feel a lot better, more cheerful, and happier when I do laugh. And some days, I don’t if I don’t make it a point to.
Today, I spent around 20 to 30 minutes listening to stand-up comedy. As mentioned in the previous day of the challenge, it’s tough to get me to laugh. I did get one chuckle in. I used Pandora and have been skipping and down voting comedy tracks I do not like with hopes that their algorithm will find something funny for me. I will keep at it.
A Gratitude Journal and Daily 10 Minute Meditation
Science has shown (see the article I link in the Conclusion) that gratitude and meditation help with happiness. I’ve been semi-consistent with these on a daily basis (2 to 4 times a week). Exercise is a third driver of happiness, and I’ve been even more consistent with that.
You may be able to become more self-aware of your own problems and where you can improve if you do something similar. I recommend something as simple as:
Writing out some things you are grateful for in a journal daily (2 minutes). Try to be detailed.
Fundamental meditation. Just focus on your breath (5 minutes). Once you get really good at it (it could take months), you can switch to mindfulness meditation.
A few moments to reflect on your stumbling blocks and what you can do to get over them (5 minutes or less).
I found an interesting pet volunteer opportunity and it will be one of my first volunteering events ever. Hopefully, I will not procrastinate any longer and will actually follow through. If so, stay tuned for news on what I did and if it improved my happiness.
Let me know in the comments below: Do you have similar issues with getting a good laugh? What do you think about voluntary deprivation? What is the one lesson you learned from this that you can take action on immediately?
It’s day three of my challenge to be happier and not depend on unnecessary, materialistic items. See day two or any of the previous posts to see what this is about. Just make sure to follow along and practice this with me.
I went through a standard workout (about 10 to 15 minutes of slow to moderate exercise on one of those elliptical machines and some moderate weight lifting).
I am writing this a few hours after I exercised and I believe I felt my happiness and mood lifted slightly when I was on the elliptical. When I went back home, it kind of went back to normal and may have even dropped due to the mind-sucking power of all the YouTube I watched.
I exercise almost every day and on a daily basis, I do notice changes to my happiness. However, in the long-term, I do feel better, especially when I remember that I have sweated and worked hard to make my body healthy and more attractive.
Does it automatically make me go from feeling average to the happiest person on earth like a magic pill? No, but I do think it helps. My highest moments of pleasure from exercise came from the end of really tough 30+ minute runs.
Laughter is a great medicine for happiness
I did another happiness-boosting task by chance. I did not consider doing it as part of this challenge, but it was always something I wanted to add into my routine to boost my happiness.
Today, I listened to maybe 20 minutes of stand-up comedy from top comedians on Pandora’s free music player. I stumbled across it. I didn’t even know they had comedy stations.
For me, it’s hard for me to laugh and I did not laugh once the whole time (even though I skipped the comedians I did not like). Certain types of comedy (people being idiots or screwing up badly) make me laugh if it’s well orchestrated. Think Jackie Chan movies, like Rush Hour, or Bill Cosby.
Unfortunately, a lot of the white comedians that came on, like Daniel Tosh and Louie CK, were just insulting other people. I listened to 20 minutes of people doing stuff like that — like complaining about how terrible the neighbors are.
Some people love this whole “exaggerated complaining” humor. The constant laugh of the audience in the background made this clear. But I just kept thinking, “Just because everyone else is laughing isn’t going to trick me into laughing. This is straight up just insulting people.”
I have watched a lot of “Try Not To Laugh” challenges on YouTube afterwards, but it rarely makes me even smile. I guess I’m just a tough cookie.
It has to be something fresh, so even the old Jackie Chan scenes don’t work.
But if you are not like me, I highly suggest putting on something to make you laugh every day. It really does brighten your mood and happiness.
I read in a self-help book that a man cured his incurable illness by doing nothing but watching comedy videos all day for weeks on end. I can’t remember what book it was. I just remember that they never cited the study, which annoyed me because I couldn’t check if it was true. Nonetheless, there may be some truth here.
I read in the book 50 Secrets of the Longest Living People that a half-century-long study was done on nuns and those who stressed and worried less lived longer.
Laughter is the best medicine and it’s crazy how many people do not even consider doing something like this. And because of that, they go weeks or months without laughing once.
Update: I am reporting back and updating this article to let you know that I have been keeping (fairly) consistent with trying to listen to humor in my free time. Good news. I finally had a few laughs. It took a long time, but it’s worth it. Even if I don’t get a hearty laugh out, it elevates my mood. What has really helped is a change of attitude. If I just open my standards up to laugh at stuff easier, it actually makes me more likely to actually enjoy it.
We talked about the good. Now, for the bad…
I will keep this section short because one part of happiness is consciously making sure not to dwell on unhappy emotions. Dr. Rick Hanson, psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, said:
“The brain is like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good.”
This basically means that we can dwell on one negative event for hours, but easily forget about multiple positive event. We are genetically wired to have this bias because it helped our ancestors survive in the dangerous wild. Preparing for one negative event prevented death. In the modern world though, it usually just hurts us. Make sure you celebrate your wins, no matter how small. I write them down in an online document and try to reference them at least once a week.
Now, I did have moments of loneliness and unhappiness today. Looking back, I could have made more of an effort to shift my focus when they occurred. But I have been making a somewhat conscious effort over the last year and I think it’s made a difference.
When I am feeling down, I immediately shift to positive thinking without even thinking about it sometimes. But not always, and I need to work on that.
A source of this unhappiness comes from unconscious comparison of my life to famous people on social media. I have tried using Strict Workflow as a free website blocker but it only acts a timer, which doesn’t work well since I just wait for it to come off the allotted time.
It’s tough because there is a lot of useful content on social media too. It’s tempting. However, I have decided to download a complete website blocker to try it out. This blocker will block social media websites forever no matter what I try and do.
For now, I want to share with you two lessons about happiness I learned from successful people:
You can have fun and enjoy life in a lot of different ways right now.
Don’t buy into the rigid belief that you cannot have fun or enjoy yourself because a certain person or thing isn’t there.
While I think it’s important to have friends since we are wired to be social creatures, I don’t think you need hundreds of friends. Think of the Dalai Lama. This man spends his entire day meditating. Yet he is always laughing and smiling in his interviews.
The takeaway is: Take enjoyment from simplicity. Start having some more fun. Of course, work towards your long-term goals, even if they are a bit superficial. You might achieve them. But you can have a lot of fun and happiness without them too.
Conclusion and Future Plans
It was a standard day of happiness practices. Today, I tried new practices that I rarely did before.
My takeaways for the day were:
Realize you can have more fun right now. Then do it.
Recognize and celebrate the good events more.
Spend less time dwelling on the bad.
Use a site blocker on social media sites.
Enjoy life more.
Work on social engagements and relationships.
Realize there is nothing wrong with still working towards long-term goals, even if they are superficial. Money is important. If you can’t afford to hang out with friends and go to social events, that’s a problem.
But the biggest takeaway is this:
Talk to more strangers and brighten their day.
Here is why:
It has been a while since I had a decent conversation with a stranger and pushed my comfort zone. Many weeks or months have passed. I have lost track. I feel like I am slipping back to my old ways of complete shyness. It might be time for me to get back into it.
My goal is to start small: talk to one new person a day. At least attempt to keep a light-hearted conversation going (beyond just “Hi”).
In Day 4, I hope to maybe try another attempt at watching comedy to make me laugh. I will also talk about the “Jar of Awesome”, which is a cool method to boost your self-love, self-esteem, and happiness based on
I have decided to save one of the days of this challenge for a time where I can volunteer and share my experiences.
Now, I have a question for you:
What are your thoughts on these challenges? I think they are fun (if they are not too long, like a 30-day challenge) but I also do not like the fact that it’s a lot of “opinion giving.” I do like the standard list-type posts I do because it’s more based on facts and studies.
With a challenge, I cannot help but go into an “opinion mode” on my thoughts, which may be less useful to you. But it is counterbalanced by the fact that you get to see my struggles and follow along. Which do you like more?
As you can tell, for this day of the challenge, I talked more about other personal development struggles I am working on beyond just happiness, like my shyness. Did you like this or do you want me to focus on happiness for this challenge and save the rest for another challenge?
If you would like to check out details on Hardwiring Happiness, click here. It really explains our whole happiness bias in detail and how to fight it. If you purchase through my link, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.