Words by c.z.robertson

Three ways to make yourself happier

2007-05-30 23:30:44 GMT/BST

Pick just one of these techniques and apply it for 30 days. 30 day trials are great. Enough time to start seeing the benefits of something, not so long that you're chaining yourself to a formidable commitment. And these are all things that I've done for some period of time and have worked for me. I tend to switch around techniques quite a bit, so I'm currently doing 2 and 3, but 1 is where I'd recommend most people start.

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Every day, write down one thing that made you happier that day. Even if all you can find that day is something small, like seeing a rainbow or hearing a nice piece of music, write one thing down each day.

You can write it in any medium you like. You might have a notebook especially for the task or you might write it in a document on your computer. Whatever works for you. But don't agonise about getting the medium right. If all you have is a crumpled scrap of paper, use that. The important thing is to get started writing stuff down.

I actually made a slight variation on this while I was doing it. I have problems with low self-esteem particularly. Every day I wrote down something good that I'd done that day. This could be something like emailing a friend, doing my job well at work or just smiling at the person at the check-out in the supermarket. It was important to remind myself that I was a good person. And I wrote it as a supplement to my daily log on my Treo.

2. Affirmations

Yes, those cheesy phrases that people say to themselves each morning. They work. The one I'm using at the moment, "everything I desire in my life is contained within this day", I stole straight from Zan Perrion.

The challenge of using an affirmation, as with all these tips, is remembering to apply it each day. But I'm a geek, so I cheated. I set up a cron job to send me an email containing it twice every day (5 AM and 1 PM so I see it when I first check my mail in the morning and then again later in the day). Use whatever mechanism you can to remind yourself of your affirmation every day. Set up a recurring appointment with a reminder in your calendar program, put it on a post-it note and stick it to your mirror, whatever works for you. If it makes it more likely that you'll stick to the habit, it's a good thing.

3. For each bad thing, find a good thing

This one comes from Tynan. Every time you notice yourself getting annoyed by something, find a good aspect to it. There almost always will be one.

It's not always easy to do this. As he says, "when you first start this process, it will be cumbersome. It's like having a toddler who does the exact opposite of what you say, and then you have to correct him." If you find yourself struggling to keep this up, and there will be points where it's difficult, don't give up. Just keep trying. On particularly bad days when I'm in the grip of a black mood and don't have any strength to fight it, I'll sometimes give myself the rest of that day off, allow myself to just rest and wallow in misery for a while. But then the next day I start again looking for good things.

I never reproach myself for failing at any of these things. As soon as I notice that I'm going off track I just do what I can to get myself back on track again. My attitude towards failure is that the only way to fail is to stop trying. Until I reach that point it's just something to keep working on.