Life Tree — My Research on Happiness

Life tree was the name I gave to my research on happiness from an entrepreneurial point of view from 2015.

Updates 🔼

2015-01-01 - 2015-04-30

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research recently on happiness and I thought it’s only right to share some of the things I’ve learnt. I have been trying to consolidate what I have found from various source into one model for happiness, a model I am calling the “Life Tree”. Here’s a list of the 17 areas I have identified so far:

  1. Develop a positive mindset
  2. Do what you love
  3. Work on your relationships
  4. Develop your romantic/sexual relationship(s)
  5. Experience new and different things
  6. Manage your relaxation and stress
  7. Respect yourself and others
  8. Become involved in communities
  9. Learn
  10. Do regular exercise
  11. Take care of your health and nutrition
  12. Develop your beliefs and spirituality
  13. Surround and immerse yourself in beauty
  14. Fully embrace your senses
  15. Spend regular time in nature
  16. Make yourself safe and secure
  17. Survive

For each of these 17 areas I am coming up with actions which you can take to improve your overall happiness. I’m trying to simplify it much more though, as 17 areas is a bit too much.

1. Develop a positive mindset

The first area, develop a positive mindset, is by far the most important area and accounts for most of our happiness. Here’s a brief overview of developing a positive mind:

Shawn Achor talks about happiness at work but his ideas travel much further than just for work. Developing a positive mindset accounts for 90% of our happiness. The 7 key ways I have found to do this are:

  • Write down 3 new things you are grateful for every day
  • Relive positive experiences
  • Exercise regularly
  • Meditate every day
  • Perform random acts of kindness everyday
  • Act on the principles you believe in
  • Respect yourself and others
Write down 3 new things you are grateful for every day

A great app for this is the 5 Minute Journal, which encourages you to do this and has some additional things you can log in your life.

Relive positive experiences

The act of writing down the positive things that happen to you, trains your mind over time to look out for the positives in daily life rather than the negatives. An additional plus is the long term, nostalgic benefit of being able to revisit these journal entries. Which can help us relive those positive moments and experience a bit of that positivity again through recollection. I’d suggest the excellent iOS and macOS app Day One, otherwise you can just use any note taking app such as Evernote.

Here’s my quick action point list for reliving positive experiences:

  • Do fun things
  • Every week look at what fun things you could do in the next 2 weeks
  • Every month look at what bigger things you could do in the year
  • Record them
  • Take photos
  • Keep a journal of your positive experiences
  • Post (privately if you wish) memories and the things you do to social media
  • Relive them
  • Get digital photo frames for you home
  • Print out photos and display them
  • Regularly change you phone/computer backup images
Exercise regularly

Not only does exercise release chemicals that can make you enjoy it and makes every day activities easier, the mental benefits of thinking that you are a person who does exercise and subconsciously feeling that you are a better person than other people can work wonders for increasing your positive mindset.

Meditate every day

The Calm app is a great way to get started, with guided meditation. Headspace is another popular app.

Perform random acts of kindness everyday

Such as: Helping a stranger, messaging an old contact or sending a genuine message of thanks to someone you know.

Act on the principles you believe in

We can often feel like we are letting ourselves down when we fail to live up to our own expectations. To develop a positive mindset we need to live up to our expectations and act on the principles we believe in. For this you need to have an idea of what principles you want to live your life by and constantly remind yourself of them so that you can keep doing them. I follow the following action points:

  • Keep a list of the principle you believe in
  • Update that list every month
  • Set up reminders from that list to alert you every day or so, just reminding you of a specific principle
Respect yourself and others

Forcing yourself to look for the positives in yourself and other people will slowly train your mind to subconsciously notice the positives in people more often. And noticing the positives more than the negatives will help develop your positive mind.

2. Do what you love

It’s pretty simple, doing what you enjoy will make you happy. However so many of us don’t do this or aren’t even fully aware of the things we enjoy. Here are my action list of how to do the things you love.

  • Keep a list of the things you enjoy doing
  • Have a specific bulleted list somewhere of all the things you enjoy doing. Keep it somewhere like on your notes app, Google Docs etc.
  • Do them
  • This is probably the hardest part. Getting round to actually doing things you enjoy. I’d recommend checking the list every week and seeing if you can do one or a few things from it every week. Maybe set a reminder on your phone to check it.
  • Review this list and how often you do the things on them every few months
  • Set up a reminder that occurs every few months for you to add/remove things from this list.
  • Make sure your job is something you enjoy doing and review this every few months
  • This is one of the hardest things for many people to do and can be very hard to motivate and convince people to radically change their job. For this reason I’d rather recommend some resources to look at rather than talking about it here:
  • The Four Hour Work Week — Book
3. Work on your relationships

Surrounding yourself with the people who make you happy and who have a positive impact on your life, is a strong factor in your personal happiness. Here are my main thoughts on this aspect:

  • Cut out anyone who doesn’t have a positive impact on your life.
  • A lot of the stress that goes on in our lives is actually caused by other people and the way we feel about their judgement/feelings about us. By removing these people from your life you can dramatically reduce your stress levels, which makes your positive/negative life balance much better.
  • Be very open, honest and prompt about any conflicts you may have with someone you care about.
  • By not resolving conflicts in your relationships as soon as they appear, you are introducing that conflict as a subtle stress in your life until it gets resolved. The same goes for not being honest in order to avoid conflict.
  • Make sure you are regularly spending time with the people you care about.
  • It can be too easy to get immersed in your work life and the stress that surrounds it. So much so that all you end up wanting to do with your spare time is relax, without many people stressing you out. However maintaining your positive relationships and keeping those people in your life will do a lot of good in reducing your stress levels, helping you relax and enjoying life.
  • You can keep a list of all the friends and family who are a positive influence on your life. And regularly (I have a bi-weekly reminder) check that list in order to prompt you if there is someone you haven’t seen or contacted in a while.
4. Develop your romantic/sexual relationship(s)

Many people never think about working to get better at sex with a partner(s). Or fall into the trap of not working on their romantic relationships. Here’s my quick action list of ways to improve your romantic/sexual relationship(s):

  • Read up on sex
  • Experiment
  • Regularly ask for feedback and what your partner(s) likes
  • Make sure your are regularly spending quality time with your partner(s)
  • Set a bi-weekly reminder to make sure you have some quality time planned in with your partner for the next 2 weeks.