Why holding the door open for someone makes you happy

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The aim of my new book is to help you become the architect of your own happiness and health. I can’t change the fact that you’ll encounter problems and stresses in your day-to-day life. But I can change how you feel about them. All you need to do is decide. So, what’s your decision? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to flow through life with ease and calm? If so, read on.

1. Talk to strangers

The trick with talking to strangers is to start small. Especially if you’re insular and introverted, you can begin with a smile and a moment of eye contact and ratchet up from there. Even the briefest of social contacts counts as positive social feedback. It will make you feel good, more confident and empowered to go for more. No matter how often you talk to strangers right now, I’d like you to start doing it more. Push yourself out of your comfort zone just a little bit. You’ll strengthen your core happiness by making yourself feel more in control, more content and more aligned. The father of one of my friends is in his eighties and still thriving. He once told me the secret to a long and happy life is to talk to at least 10 different people every day. I think he’s right.

How to talk to strangers

All of us feel better when we have positively interacted with others. There are usually many opportunities in the day to do this, once we train ourselves to look for them. By all means, start where you feel comfortable, but don’t be afraid to gradually move out of your comfort zone. Remember, the people you interact with probably want to be spoken to as well.

Use the following examples as inspiration to get going:

  1. When you’re on public transport, try saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ If that feels too much, a simple gesture such as nodding your head or a quick smile will do.
  2. When you pick up your coffee, thank the barista for making it or wish them a good day
  3. When you buy a train ticket, smile and say thank you
  4. On a walk or a run, acknowledge someone walking by you with a smile or a change in your facial expression
  5. When you’re in a café or a restaurant, and the server appears, ask them how they are
  6. When you’re in a queue, reframe it. Instead of it being a pain, tell yourself it’s a chance to boost your happiness – and the happiness of someone else – with some positive social feedback.
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2. Treat your phone like a person

Treating your phone like a person will transform your relationship with portable technology. This is a consciousness-raising exercise that’ll help you identify the many ways your device silently damages your relationships and weakens your core happiness. Setting firm boundaries around the ways your digital shadow is allowed to interfere with you, your life and your loved ones is an essential step to making you feel more content, more in control, and much more aligned. The time has come to power off for happiness.

Write your phone rules:

  1. When out and about with others, put your phone in a bag so it’s just a little bit harder to access than it is in your pocket
  2. Designate phone-free times in your house (eg, mealtimes, one hour before bed and one-hour first thing in the morning)
  3. Designate phone-free areas (eg, the bedroom, the living room or the toilet)
  4. If you feel you need your phone in your bedroom, perhaps put it in a drawer on the other side of your room so it’s a little bit harder to mindlessly grab it
  5. Think about times you can go out with your partner, friends or family without your phone. This could be for walks in nature or even a trip to the shops.
  6. Consider not using your phone in front of your children. I am very particular about this and will pretty much always go to a different room when I’m contacted or use it when they’re not around, as I don’t want to give them the signal that my phone is more important than them .
  7. If you like using certain apps for music, podcasts, meditation, etc while at home, consider putting the phone on airplane mode while using them

3. Have maskless conversations

There is a place for social masks. Sometimes disguising who we really are and how we’re really feeling is exactly the right decision. It’s all too easy to spend so long in our masks that we forget who we are. We feel that we have to hide who we really are in order to be accepted by others. This is why I believe regular maskless conversations are a must.

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Taking off our masks is about trust, connection and love. Something powerful happens when we feel properly listened to and valued. Starting from today, I’d like you to become more aware of when you wear your masks. Learn when it’s helpful to wear them and learn when it’s better to go without. Make time for regular catch-ups with the people you feel close to and the people who will hear and see you.

Be somebody else’s miracle by creating a safe space for others to take off their masks with you. Understand that being vulnerable is your superpower. And don’t be afraid. As psychologist and my friend Pippa Grange says, “If you are constantly performing at life, you are not living life.” So, what are you waiting for? Be brave. Take off those masks and start to live.

  1. Rules for listening
  2. Be non-judgmental
  3. be curious
  4. Practice true empathy: not ‘I know how you’re feeling,’ but ‘I don’t know how you’re feeling but I am here for you’
  5. Don’t try to predict where the conversation will go next
  6. Embrace silence
  7. Don’t try to fix them or rush in to tell them what you would do. Instead, try asking ‘How did that feel for you?’ and then actively listen without interruption.
  8. Have no attachment to the outcome of the conversation

4. Go on holiday every day

You don’t need to wait for that one week a year when you jump on an airplane to feel good. You can take a holiday from your life any time you like. And you should. Doing so on a daily basis will give you a new, positive perspective on your life and help you be more in tune with your body. You’ll start to become more aware of yourself and how you interact with the world around you. You’ll feel more in control, calmer and more aligned. Your daily holiday is like a session in the muscle gym for your core happiness. And the best thing about it is it always feels great.

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How to take your daily holiday:

  1. Something you do alone
  2. Something that brings you into the present moment
  3. Something that doesn’t rely on a smartphone
  4. Something that is done in complete silence

Examples of moving daily holidays include:

  1. Walking
  2. Running
  3. Yoga
  4. Swimming
  5. Cycling

5. Give yourself away

No one is an island. Humans survive and thrive in webs of connection. It’s not by chance that the ultimate punishment in prisons is solitary confinement: being removed from social contact is a form of psychological torture. We can choose to experience the opposite of that hell when we give ourselves away. There’s no greater feeling of freedom and lightness than when we sacrifice our own wants in the service of others. It’s as if all our selfish worries and obsessions melt away. This is life’s most perfect irony: when we prioritize the happiness of others, it’s ourselves who end up smiling.

One week of kindness

Perform one act of kindness every day for a week. After you’ve completed each act of kindness, check in with yourself emotionally. How did it make you feel? If you find your core happiness is becoming noticeably stronger, keep performing acts of kindness. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Go shopping for an elderly neighbor
  2. Cook a meal for someone outside your immediate family
  3. Send a text message in the evening, telling someone how much they mean to you
  4. Hold a door open for a stranger
  5. Tell your barista how wonderful the coffee is
  6. Buy a coffee for the person behind you in the queue
  7. Give your partner a foot massage

Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways to Feel Great Every Day by Dr Rangan Chatterjee (Penguin Life, £16.99) is published on March 31. To order from Telegraph Books for £14.99, call 0844 871 1515 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk

Read our interview with Dr Rangan Chatterjee and check out the first extract from his bookin which he gives five more tips for a joyful life

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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