Happiness has become a hot topic. In the last several years, dozens of books about how to be happy have hit the market, including The Happiness Project (an Oprah fave) and a re-issue of The Art of Happiness by no less an authority than the Dalai Lama.
Now, Dr. Ian Smith has turned his attention from losing weight to gaining joy in his new book, Happy: Simple Steps to Get the Most Out of Life (St. Martin's Press). The New York Times best-selling author of The 4 Day Diet and The Fat Smash Diet and host of VH1's Celebrity Fit Club, questioned his own happiness a few years ago. Dr. Ian, as he's called, had an epiphany after admitting to himself—while on his honeymoon—that he was a PDA-junkie who was working way too much and too hard.
"If you had asked all my family, friends and coworkers whether I was a happy person, the unanimous answer would be yes," he says. "Some would mention how hard I worked and how busy I always seemed to be, but they would agree that I was a happy person. But now, I was second-guessing what I had taken as an absolute truth for so long."
In his book, Smith points to a number of ways to measure happiness—and none of them, according to research, is about a fat paycheck, a big house, a nice car, good sex, success at work, winning the lottery or a spa vacation.
Instead, Smith has scoured research on topics like positive psychology and happiness studies, and culled lessons in happy living. His own first step was to get less busy. Below, he offers his suggestions for slowing down and getting happier. His advice isn't earth-shatteringly new; maybe you've heard it before. But this time, try it:
1) Create an "importance list." Sit down for at least 15 minutes and list what matters most. This will help you set your priorities and get the most out of each day. A list—and it shouldn't be all about work—might look like this:
—Spend quality time with children
—Eat at least one meal with the family
—Do something nice for someone else
—Get 45 minutes of physical activity
—Write in journal
—Do my best at work
3) Do a digital de-clutter. Of course, your life is crammed with e-mails, texts, pings, beeps and tweets. Force yourself to disconnect. Life isn't going to end if you miss an e-mail, update or tweet. Instead, write a letter, visit a friend, cook a meal or play with your kids
4) Slow down and do one thing at a time. Everybody multi-tasks, but you don't always need to. It can be counterproductive when it comes to getting the most out of life. Instead try focusing on the task at hand and completing it the best you can.
5) Increase the time you spend with you. Have you ever sat down and thought about how much of your life isn't really yours? Seriously. Most of us could and do fill every waking moment with things we need to handle that have very little to do with the things we enjoy. Carving out just one hour a day, a paltry 7 hours in a week of 168 hours seems to be an arduous task for many. But it shouldn't.
Linda Villarosa is a regular contributor to The Root.