Day 3 of the Less Things, More Happiness Challenge

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.

Exercise was the focus

Today, I focused on exercise, which science shown increases your long-term happiness and endorphin levels.

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.

I have also been inspired by people who may never get the superficial high-status levels of achievement, but still enjoy life like the best of them and have a great time at it.

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:

  1. Realize you can have more fun right now. Then do it.
  2. Recognize and celebrate the good events more.
  3. Spend less time dwelling on the bad.
  4. Use a site blocker on social media sites.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Work on social engagements and relationships.
  7. 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.

Thanks for reading and see you on Day 4.

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