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This article was originally published by Body & Soul

By Charlotte Rush

April 21, 2021

Organisational psychologist, Charlotte Rush talks us through three tips to find more balance and improve your wellbeing.

Humans have a funny way of approaching happiness.

Research shows that lottery winners are no happier than non-lottery winners one year after hitting the jackpot. And the same seems to be true when we are hit with a global pandemic. The World Happiness Report 2021 highlights that, across 95 countries, life evaluations showed an insignificant (read: non-existent) increase in 2020.

However, where we have seen significant changes are in our daily experience of negative emotions. Worry, sadness and stress all significantly increased in 2020, while the daily experience of positive emotions was mostly unchanged.

Therefore, if you were to evaluate your life as a whole and compare that to previous years, you are likely to respond with a score that is quite stable, regardless of the pandemic. Psychologists refer to this stability as hedonic adaptation.

However, if you were to be asked about your daily experiences, you’d be more likely to report an increase in negative emotions. The lived-experience of this, day-to-day, is not good. With this in mind, here are three habits to give yourself a boost of daily happiness:

1. Schedule ‘worry time’

If you find worries popping into your head randomly throughout the day, this is a strategy for you. Instead of being struck down by worries at any random time, schedule daily worry time. This means you can deal with worries once a day, rather than carrying them around 24/7. You can use this app to help you.

Anytime you have a worry, add it to the list in the app. Then, forget about it until your daily ‘worry time’ comes around. You can select when and how long you worry for, but the idea is to worry in the same place, at the same time each day. One experiment found that this strategy reduced worrying by 15% over the course of just one week.

2. Shut down your day

While being able to work on our couch when the pandemic hit seemed like a novelty, fast-forward one year and this had led to some bad habits. Many of us don’t ‘leave the office’ each day – checking our emails late into the evening and never officially ‘clocking-off’.

To create better boundaries and allow yourself to recover from your workday each evening, create a ‘shutdown ritual’. This is as simple as completing two sentences at the end of each day:

  • “Today I made progress on…”
  • “If I get X done tomorrow, it will be a great day.”
    Note: Simply replace X with your most important priority.

Research conducted by Inventium, found that completing this shut down ritual (even just 1-2 times per week) led to a 23 per cent increase in wellbeing (that is, people experienced more positive than negative feelings).

4. Turn on ‘do-not-disturb’

It is difficult to feel in control of your daily workload when you are facing a barrage of emails, chat messages and calls. Research by Microsoft has found that since February 2020, time spent in Microsoft Teams meetings has more than doubled globally.

On top of this, 50% of people respond to Teams chats within 5 minutes or less. It is hard to imagine anyone producing high quality output and feeling on top of their workload in the face of these distractions.

To deal with this, schedule ‘do-not-disturb time’ each day. Think of it like a 1-3 hour meeting you have scheduled with yourself. This means no other meetings, no chat and no calls during this period.

Author of The Happiness Equation, Neil Pasricha trialled one ‘untouchable day’ per week for a year and found that his daily productivity increased tenfold. Pasricha’s strategy may be something to aspire to, but daily chunks of ‘do-not-disturb time’ is one way to take control of your workday, while also increasing your output.

Despite the headlines, COVID-19 has not created a happiness pandemic here in Australia. However, it has had a very real impact on our daily emotions. Try out the above habits to help you combat daily feelings of worry, sadness or stress and come out on top.

Charlotte Rush is an organisational psychologist, certified coach and head of new product development at behavioural science consultancy, Inventium.