Andy Cope's 10 hacks for happiness and realistic resolutions in 2019
It's the time of year for taking stock emotionally but you don't have to make huge changes to be happier – small adjustments add up. Happiness doctor Andy Cope offers tips for bringing a smile to your face in 2019
TOO many resolutions are hard work and, let's face it, you're never going to stick to them if there's too much effort involved. So says happiness doctor Andy Cope, who has spent 10 years researching positive psychology.
Minute changes which you can realistically stick to will make the difference, he says: "Small habit changes are like compound interest. They add up."
Cope, whose book Happiness: Your Route Map To Inner Joy, is now out in paperback, offers 10 realistic resolutions to make 2019 your best year to date...
1. Commit to doing some exercise: Don't kill yourself. Thirty minutes a day is fine. It might feel like a chore at first, but it releases all sorts of lovely chemicals which will infuse you with a warm glow. It doesn't have to cost anything. A brisk walk at lunchtime is fine.
2. Make time to sleep: Commit to getting your full eight hours of shut-eye. A University of Warwick study calculates that good sleep is worth £200,000 to your wellbeing. So treat yourself to a lottery win.
3. Develop good eating habits: Live by the Japanese concept of Hara Hachi Bu. It means stop eating just before you're full. It's the smallest change of habit that will have the biggest impact.
And these are Hope's additional dos and don'ts for eating properly:
:: Do sit down and eat as a family (as often as possible).
:: Do appreciate your food. That means savouring it and thanking whoever provided it. That might be God but, more likely, Tesco Extra.
:: Don't eat anything delivered to your door by someone on a motorbike.
:: Don't eat anything passed to you in your car through a hatch.
:: Don't eat fast food more than once a week. And eat it slowly.
:: Don't eat anything your great grandma would not have recognised as food.
4. Celebrate stuff that didn't happen: Sadly, unless you're a black belt happiness ninja, your mind doesn't sit in traffic thinking how lucky you are to have a car. It curses at the long meeting instead of rejoicing that you have a job. It tuts at the crumbs on the worktop instead of being grateful you've got wonderful children.
The opposite of savouring good experiences is to notice the many things that could have gone badly, but didn't. Hence the mind-bending question, what hasn't happened, that you didn't want, that you haven't celebrated?
I woke up and didn't have toothache. I got to work without crashing my car. I haven't got diabetes. My children aren't sick. I haven't just stubbed my toe...
Of course, it's hard to notice something that didn't happen. Have a go, it's fabulous fun. In fact, it's one of those mental muscles that gets stronger the more you exercise it.
5. Savour the F-word: Make 2019 the year of the F-word. Failure. Not failure the result: Losing the business, losing the relationship, failing the interview. But failure the process: Learning, improving, becoming fighting-fit, installing effectiveness, broadening, widening, gaining wisdom, picking yourself up and smiling and trying once again. If we're unwilling to fail, we're unwilling to succeed.
6. Celebrate your plot twists: You are a storyteller. Stories link us to our ancestors and to those who don't yet exist.
It's easy to become the victim. Bad things always happen to you, right? But, of course, you're the author. It's your life and your story. You might not be able to change the events that have happened, but you can recast yourself as the hero. So, when something doesn't go according to plan, it's not a nightmare, crisis, challenge or problem, it's merely a plot twist.
All good stories have a plot twist, an unexpected turn of events that nobody saw coming. Your life is a story. Plot twists are inevitable. They exist because you're alive.
7. Get huggy: The average hug lasts 2.1 seconds. However, for the love to transfer, a hug has to last seven seconds or longer. There will be about 12 people in your life who are emotionally close enough to warrant a seven-second hug.
So hug your 12 and hang on for the full seven seconds. Hugging releases feel-good chemicals and when you feel great, life gets a whole lot easier.
8. Enjoy more moments: Write a list of the top 10 happiest moments of your life. The general rule is that happiness comes from doing stuff, rather than accumulating stuff. You'll realise that most of the things on your list are 'experiences' rather than 'products'. In 2019, set your stall out to have more experiences.
9. Make Monday the new Friday: A seventh of your 2019 is going to consist of Mondays. That's too much time to simply write off. So dare to stand out by celebrating Mondays.
If you think about it, Friday's a nightmare, another week closer to death. Mondays are a chance to get stuck into a new week and make a dent in the universe.
10. Cut down on anti-social media: Cut your tech time by a third. We're not saying you should cease screen time, merely that you will glean more happiness from real people, real relationships, fresh air, views and actual eye contact.
:: Happiness: Your Route Map To Inner Joy by Andy Cope with Andy Whittaker and Shonette Bason-Wood, is published by John Murray Learning, priced £9.99.