How can you make your life more positive—and happier as a result? Being grateful, acting charitably, staying fit, meditating, and making time for friends and family are a few key examples. But working in a soup kitchen one time or going on a once-a-year date with your spouse will only temporarily boost your mood. The happy habits of gratitude, optimism, savoring, mindfulness and charity need to be practiced daily to make a real difference. Incorporate them into your day as you do with health practices such as tooth-brushing, hand-washing and sunscreen-slathering.
Starting any new routine on your own, though, can be overwhelming. You need motivation, inspiration and regular challenges to help you move forward. These apps can help you stick to the positive path until cultivating lifetime happiness becomes a natural part of everything you do:
A favorite meditation app, Calm offers a free seven-day program to learn the basics of mindfulness meditation. If you enjoy it, sign up for access to 50 guided meditations, meditative music and the 21 Days of Calm, a meditation-deepening program. For each meditation, you can choose the background scene and sounds (relaxing nature sounds can be listened to independently, as well).
$9.99 a month/$49.99 a year; iOS (Apple) compatible
This is similar to Calm but with slightly more robust offerings. Start a meditation practice with a free Take10 program—10 minutes a day for 10 days. Then sign up for hundreds of hours of original meditations, from quickie “SOS” two-minute calm-downs to classic, longer meditations. Choose among meditations designed for performance, creativity, focus, happiness and more.
$12.99 a month/$94.99 a year; iOS-compatible
Create a multimedia gratitude and daily journal. Snap a photo of the beautiful ice-crystal patterns on your car’s windshield, jot down a few things you’re excited about for the day, and pair them both with a song you love. You’ll end up with a sensory scrapbook of everything in your life that brings you joy—being able to carry that world in your pocket and look back whenever the mood strikes only amplifies the wonder.
From the popular Track & Share series, this app focuses on time spent with friends and family, acts of kindness, and expressions of gratitude as indicators of happiness. Log how much of each you’ve done every day, rate your mood and then review to see how they all connect. Simple but effective.
This app offers a digital gratitude journal, guided meditation audios, informational reading, and happiness to-do lists based on positive psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy from Monica Frank, Ph.D., author of e-books such as The Mindful Attitude: Understanding Mindfulness and the Steps to Developing Emotional Tolerance and The Cognitive Diary Method to Changing Your Life. Daily inspirational quotes are a given for most of these apps; Happy Habits lets you personalize them.
This offshoot of the Success Wizard walks you through the basics of positive psychology. It helps you tease out which aspects of your life bring you the most happiness, define your core values, declare a life vision, and create and follow a “be happy” to-do list based on your results. Daily coaching tips remind you to write in the (included) gratitude journal, repeat (offered) self-affirmations and manage your time based on your happiness priorities.
The research of Jeff Luskin, Ph.D., director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects and author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, has shown that forgiveness is integral to personal peace and happiness. The problem, he says, “is that no one has taught us how to forgive.” His app, developed with marriage and family therapist Jeff Cohen, aims to do just that with a step-by-step guide to transforming past hurts. Still seething at your ex 10 years post-divorce? Can’t get past a co-worker’s betrayal? This app’s for you.
Think of this simple app as a positivity pedometer. Instead of measuring steps, you’re encouraged to click (touch a button) whenever you catch yourself thinking something positive/happy…. “The flowers really needed this rain,” for example, right after, “Crap! My new shoes will be ruined.” The idea is that the more you tune in to your positive thoughts, through the clicking, the more positive thoughts you will have. Set your daily, weekly and monthly click goals and earn badges for meeting them.
99 cents; iOS-compatible
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, start a business, raise money or be more mindful, StickK can help motivate you—and hold you accountable—using behavioral economic principles. Users make public commitments (“I want to do yoga once a week,” “I will blog every day,” “Lose 50 pounds,” or “Finish my business proposal”) and then set optional stakes, such as having to pay a certain amount of money if they don’t reach the goal. You can choose a referee, a friend who will monitor your commitment and make sure you don’t cheat on your progress reports. Accomplish your goal? You get your money back. Didn’t make it? You forfeit your money to your friend or a charity. Some users even designate that their money go to something distasteful (such as the National Rifle Association if you are anti-gun or to Hillary Clinton if you’re a Republican) for extra motivation. The developers, economics professors at Yale, say our aversion to loss is stronger than our inclination to win.
This article appears in the September 2015 issue of SUCCESS magazine.