The Happiness Experiment – Creating Habits

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These inspiring words of Mahatma Gandhi suggest to me that our habits which are sustained by our actions, do define our values which in turn shape our destiny.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,

Your thoughts become your words,

Your words become your actions,

Your actions become your habits,

Your habits become your values,

Your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi

So, if we work continuously on building great habits, then eventually, once established, those habits will start working for us in creating an amazing destiny.

Combining a habit that is to be established with an old one that has already been established can be very helpful.

For example I had already established the habit of taking a healthy breakfast each morning, and I struggled to remember our baby’s vitamins every morning. So I combined giving baby’s vitamins with my breakfast. I gave him vitamins before I took my breakfast or shortly after my breakfast. It worked great.

After nearly 21 days in a row of doing a task, it becomes less likely to forget it.  This is why we think a new habit has been established. But the most important aspect is to just keep on going and to take it one day at the time. It doesn’t matter if you forget it once.

The Happiness Experiment

I was excited to give the 21 days experiment of Shawn Achor a try.

I came across his TED video from reading a blog post on Publication Coach – great website to improve your writing.

After watching the video, I was highly inspired and I shared it with my friends.

Since true inspiration triggers action, I decided to start the experiment for myself.

The benefits you could have from the experiment

Today is day 18 of the 21 days happiness experiment. So far here is what I have benefited from it:

Benefit 1: A sustained attitude of gratitude

Benefit 2: I have strengthen my habit of meditating daily

Benefit 3: I exercise ten to twenty minutes five days in a week, varying yoga with dance workout

Benefit 4: I am excited to describe a positive thing that happened during the day

Benefit 5: I consciously act kindly at least once during the day

Benefit 6: I happily re-live the positive experience and the act of kindness as I write it down daily

Benefit 7: As I report meditation and exercise duration, I re-feel satisfaction and accomplishment

These benefits can also be yours if you give it a try :). You can alternatively pick a habit you want to establish and work on it for at least 21 days in a row and see what it does for you.

What is the experiment?

 

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The experiment consist of the following points:

Point 1: To write down three new things that you are grateful for.

Point 2: To journal about one positive experience you have had over the last 24 hours

Point 3: To exercise daily and record

Point 4: To meditation daily and record

Point 5: To do one random conscious act of kindness and write it down at the end of the day

My aim when I begun the experiment was to rewire my brain so that the above listed points become automatic for me, as the author suggests.

At the same time  I wanted to strengthen the habit of exercising and meditating daily.

The reasons why it works

According to the author Shawn Achor:

By writing down three new things you are grateful for 21 days in a row, the brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive first.

To journal about one positive experience allows our brain to re-live that experience.

Exercise teaches our brain that our behavior matters.

Meditation increases our focus on the task at hand.

Like I said before, at day 18 and I felt already like the habit has been installed, and my brain rewired.

Generally on weekends I didn’t religiously fill my list because of my other personal priorities. But then I wake up the next morning and I recall the day before in order to complete the list.

I am grateful that I came across the happiness experiment and that I did it. I am also grateful for the people who made this possible.

I am hopeful that it will be helpful for you as well. That’s why I prepared a PDF that you can fill. You can download it at the end of this post.

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Give it a try or implement your own version of the happiness experiment to create a new habit.

Don’t Give Up In The Process

It was an unusual day for me. As I sat down to write, it was late. I just came out of bed where I was resting. My aim was to write – as part of my daily writing practice – before I go back to bed. I usually write early in the morning before our baby wakes up.

That morning, our baby woke up a lot earlier than usual. Of course we expect mornings like these with young children. On one hand that is part of what makes life exciting. But on the other hand my day went out of routine. In the evening I laid earlier in bed to rest because I did not feel very well.

Then I realized that I have not completed my daily writing practice. It consist of writing a minimum of 300 words daily, without editing.

Additionally, I realized that I have not yet completed the written record about the happiness experiment above that I had started – inspired by Shawn Achor.

Habits and routines can be boring at times, right? I am aware of that. But they’ve helped me to keep effective and most importantly balanced so many times, in different situations and projects. So despite the fact that they can be boring, I know how powerful they are.

That is why I woke up and sat in from of my computer.

A little while after I sat down, I have written enough words for my daily writing practice, and I’ve also completed the daily report for the happiness experiment.

That was day 8 of the happiness experiment and I had 21 days in total.

The reason why I tell you this story is that you will probably face situations where it is not easy to stick to your plan of creating a habit. This is when you need to take the right decision. The decision not to give up.

If I did not wake up that night, that might have been an open door for failing to establish the routine. Who knows if I would have continued the experiment after skipping one day? We will never find out. One thing was sure, I didn’t wanted to risk that.

It doesn’t matter if you stand up immediately or if you decide to proceed early the next day. Most importantly, make the decision not to give up and stick to it. Some days will be more difficult than others. Regardless of that, we must keep going.

I hope the story above inspires you when things get though. Remember not to give up.

How Long does it take to build  a new habit?

Creating good habits and routines can be very beneficial for us.

We don’t have to re-think and re-plan everything we do, especially the trivial stuff. Once a routine has been established, we can accomplish it without thinking too much about the task.

We save time and we also save brainpower and energy – thinking energy. As a result, we improve our efficiency. We have more thinking energy to do other things, to address current life challenges.

Now we are willing to put some time in implementing some core routines or habits that will work well for us later. But How long does it take to build a new habit? The answer to this question is not easy.

We want it to be measurable right? I used to think that it takes nearly 21 days to build a new habit. I had witnessed the validity of that 21 day habit to build habit statement many times: to build the habit of meditating daily, for my daily writing practice, or even the habit of having a healthy breakfast each morning or giving vitamins to our baby.

Then I came across an article How long does it take to form a habit  about a study from University College, London – in which the answer was 66 days.

But for me, the truth is that a habit for which we have worked so hard (or may be not so hard) to establish can be broken. I guess it is good news because that is why it is possible to break “bad habits”.

It doesn’t matter how many days we have successfully accomplish the task in the past, if we stop doing the actions that created the habit and replace it with actions that are not aligned with our goal, the habit can be broken again.

The challenge then is to do it everyday and to keep going. We can use 21 days or 30 days or 66 days to start establishing habits in our day to day life.

 

Download The 21 Days Happiness Experiment

I have prepared a template to help you get started with the happiness experiment. I encourage you to download The_21_Days_Happiness_Experiment and use it for your daily report. It is a PDF that you can fill. Have fun with it!

By the way, don’t forget to sign up to get updates sent to your mailbox.

 

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