Harvard University’s Happiness Challenge

Kindness comes in many forms and just about anyone can choose to be kind. One thing we know for sure is that choosing kindness is much easier when we are happy. And experience has taught us that one of the main sources of happiness is through being kind to ourselves. Luckily, a group of Harvard students “with a mission to get happiness off the back burner” had the same idea, leading them to come up with their very own ‘Happiness Challenge’. 

Rooted in their belief that “happiness is a lifestyle,” the ‘Happiness Challenge’ is based around “a collection of eight habits that research shows make most people happier.” And wouldn’t you know it, kindness is all over their list! The idea is to give each habit a shot for a week and pay attention to how you feel as a result. Chances are, you’ll feel just a little bit happier by the end. Maybe you’ll even adopt some of these lifestyle changes into your life long-term, creating a sort of sustainable kindness bank! Check out the challenge below:

The Happiness Challenge

  1. Socialize. It’s no surprise getting social is on the Happiness Challenge list. Taking the time to reach out, connect, and nurture relationships brings meaning, support, and purpose to life. Not only does spending time with loved ones help us to decompress and let loose, but it also helps improve self-esteem, stress response, and mental health in general!
  2. Do good. Kindness and happiness are cyclical in a way. Kindness directed inward makes us feel good leading to outward kindness. In that same way, practicing kindness towards others fuels our ability to continue being kind to ourselves. Think of an infinity symbol; it’s just like that! Not to mention there’s literal proof that paying it forward creates and sustains happiness. So it makes perfect sense that doing good to others would be on our happiness challenge list!
  3. Get some sleep. According to the Harvard students’ ‘Happiness Challenge’, lack of proper sleep leads to “more fatigue, confusion, tension, mental exhaustion, and stress.” In other words, sleeplessness creates all those symptoms we’re wanting to avoid! You know, the ones that make us easily agitated and difficult to be around. Getting your eight hours each night, on the other hand, does wonders to eliminate these symptoms, leading to better cognitive functioning, improved stress management, decreased anxiety, and an overall sense of wellbeing! What great reasons to be kind to yourself and rest!
  4. Eat well. While it may take some discipline, eating a healthy diet can have all sorts of positive effects on the mind as well as the body. You’d be surprised by just how connected these two aspects really are. Remember that saying, ‘Your body is your temple?’ Treating it with a little kindness goes a long way!
  5. Journal. There’s something therapeutic about putting pen to paper. Whether you’re writing about your day, setting goals and to-do’s, processing emotions, or simply taking note of progress and jobs well done, journaling daily is a great way to stay accountable to your happiness journey. If you’re looking for some inspiration, start out with a gratitude journal!
  6. Get moving. Of course, exercise is great for your physical well-being. But did you know it’s amazing for your mental health as well? Getting active each day releases endorphins that help to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety! What’s not to love about that?
  7. Practice positivity. One of our personal favorites from the Harvard students’ ‘Happiness Challenge’ is the intentional practice of speaking positively. As humans, we tend to gravitate towards negativity. The problem with this is that our words influence our feelings which affect our behaviors, and so on. So pay attention! When you notice yourself about to complain, try reframing your words instead!
  8. Pick your own! Last but not least, the ‘Happiness Challenge’ asks participants to get creative and pick a positive habit of their own to practice for a week. This is where it gets fun because there are so many ways to integrate kindness into your life! Maybe you decide that some mindfulness and meditation is in order to calm and clear your mind. Perhaps you opt toward some daily time set aside to enjoy nature! Whatever you choose, make sure it sparks joy! And when that joy starts to overflow, share it with the world around you!

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