How to Be Happier in 5 Minutes

By on August 21, 2016

By Vanessa Sheets—

Hint: It has nothing to do with affirmations.

You worked hard raising a family and saving for retirement. Now that the kids have launched and you’re finally done paying for college, you’re ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Then why aren’t you happier?

Maybe you’re too stressed about money to spend long days on the golf course like you envisioned. Maybe your grown children can’t afford to live nearby, leaving you longing for time with the grandchildren. Or perhaps your marriage didn’t thrive under the demands of careers and mid-life and now you find you have nothing in common with your spouse.

You’re not alone. Time magazine reports that more people are unhappy in retirement than ever before. Money and relationship satisfaction may be to blame. Reports show that between 1980 and 2008, traditional pensions in the private sector dropped from 38 percent to 20 percent. And the divorce rate among couples over 50 is skyrocketing, earning the term “grey divorce” to describe the trend.

But research shows that once we achieve a level of relative financial stability, cited at around $80,000 a year in the U.S., more wealth doesn’t necessarily lead to greater levels of happiness. Often, those earning millions are simply dealing with a different set of problems. And while relationships strongly correlate to our life satisfaction, intimate connections can be found in family and friends, and isn’t limited to our marital status.

So what is the key to happiness?

Dr. Susan David, a Harvard Medical School scientist who studies the science of emotions, says flexibility is the answer. In her new book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Dr. David says the more honest and agile you can be with your emotions, the more you can overcome challenges and thrive.

Happiness expert Ira Israel- a licensed psychotherapist who helps professionals across America radically shift their perspectives in a matter of hours- agrees. “How you react to the ups and downs of life corresponds with how happy you will be. Authentically experiencing the joys and sorrows, being truly present, instead of allowing your mind to crave more joy and avoid disappointments and frustrations, helps keep people at the higher end of their happiness spectrum,” Israel says.

Israel says that everyone has a happiness range and to stay on the higher end of our spectrum, he recommends the following:

  1. Practice gratitude. More than a billion people in the world live on less than a dollar a day. “If you live in America, there are many things to be grateful for,” says Israel.
  2. Take it outside. While exercise alone creates mood-boosting endorphins, research shows that heading outdoors exposes us to more light, helping us de-stress and feel positive.
  3. Sleep soundly. Americans get too little shut-eye, and according to the American Psychological Association, our sleep deficit causes problems in our mood and relationships, and increases our risk of depression. Getting enough rest is one of the most inexpensive and important lifestyle changes you can make to enhance well-being and quality of life.
  4. Treat kindly. Performing random acts of kindness throughout your day helps you feel connected to others- and makes you happier, says Israel.
  5. “Commit to sitting quietly and listening to a guided meditation for 5 minutes a day and you’ll find it helps you make healthier long-term choices that engender happiness,” Israel says. He recommends trying the free guided meditations on YouTube until you find one you like.
  6. Live with integrity. “As Andre Gide said, ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not,'” Israel says.


To live higher on your personal happiness spectrum, try taking 5 minutes a day to practice these recommendations and notice how your mood is instantly elevated. By shifting your perspective, you can find happiness.

Vanessa Sheets

About Vanessa Sheets

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist who specializes in fitness, health, and nutrition. She has written for True North, Natural Child, Newport Health, and Greenmaple Wellness and worked in public health as a community educator for a non-profit. She lives in Bend, Oregon.

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How to Be Happier in 5 Minutes