how to be happier

Every morning I get up at 5:45 and go for a brisk three to five mile walk. It’s a habit I started a few years ago, when I got sick of more than two decades of going to the gym and decided to try something else. When the weather is nice my morning walks feel great. Sure, I'm often tired and groggy when I get moving, but by the second mile my breath is fuller, my body is waking up, and I’m into it.

When the weather is not nice -- insanely cold, for example, like it’s been this entire very long Boston winter -- my walks are something I make myself do vs. something I'm eager to do. I’m always glad I've gone when I get home, but getting out there when it’s cold or rainy or windy isn’t my favorite thing to do and requires a lot of willpower.

Earlier this week I was out on my walk and listening to a podcast from Freakonomics radio. This particular episode was about 'temptation bundling.' It’s a fairly simple idea but as I listened, I realized it's a great how to be happier tip. Here’s how it works, using the example they talked about in the episode:

Say you don’t feel like going to the gym to work out. And say you love to watch a particular TV show. 'Temptation bundling' means that you will allow yourself to watch your favorite show only while you’re working out. You’re taking something you don’t want to do and while you do it, allowing yourself to indulge in something you do enjoy.

As I listened I realized that I was actually temptation bundling: I was listening to a podcast I really enjoy while doing something I didn’t feel like doing -- taking a walk on a cold, dark morning.

Even if your willpower is Iron Man-strong, it’s not always enough. We all have things we know we should do but don’t feel like doing. Instead of beating yourself up (I’m a master at this, I promise you) for not wanting to do the thing you don't want to do, try temptation bundling instead. Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to your favorite playlist while you clean up in the kitchen. (Here’s mine.)
  • Drink your favorite tea from your nicest cup while paying bills.
  • Schedule a catch up with a friend after your dentist appointment.
  • Download an audiobook you enjoy and only listen to it while working out. (Another example given on the podcast.)
  • Wear your favorite outfit when you have a stressful meeting at work.