Find Happiness in 5 Minutes

Some people think that to be happy, they have to spend hours meditating on a remote mountain top. It’s actually much easier than that.Β  You can use simple time-tested techniques to find happiness in 5 minutes.

1. Write a gratitude list

“Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy – because we will always want to have something else or or something more.” – Brother David Steindl Rast

The happiest year of my life happened when I started keeping a gratitude journal and writing down 5 things I was grateful for at the end of each day. These could include a day of work done, hugging a child, fine weather, three square meals, receiving a compliment, hearing from an old friend, or just waking up alive.

Experiments at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston suggest that people who kept regular gratitude journals “exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and… were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals.”

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Grab a pen
  • Take out your journal or find a piece of paper
  • Write down five things that you are grateful for in your life

2. Appreciate someone

“To get the full value of joy, you must have someone to divide it with” – Mark Twain

The same research explains that when we experience appreciation for something, “the calming branch of the autonomic nervous system is triggered” and “more positive emotions emerge, leading to beneficial alterations in heart rate variability” resulting in the “capacity to be peaceful and calm.” When we appreciate someone, we feel blessed to have them in our life. And feeling blessed is a hallmark of happy people.

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Think of someone you appreciate
  • Send a short text to them
  • Tell them what you appreciate about them
    (By the way, this creates happiness for that person too!)

3. Stretch your muscles

“Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person’s physical, emotional and mental states.” – Carol Welch

People who practise yoga will attest to the feeling of well-being after even a short session. Yoga may not be your cup of tea, but you can just do simple stretching exercises. I never fail to be invigorated after stretching my major muscle groups. Even a single stretch leaves me feeling better.

According to the Institute for Somatic Study and Development, stretching releases tension in your muscles and sends sensory signals to your brain that stimulate your neural pathways. Also, you tend to breathe more deeply when you stretch so the increased oxygen flow makes you feel better straightaway. Remember to stretch very slowly and gently, relaxing into the stretch rather than forcing it.

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

4. Take deep breaths

“Inhale, and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.” – Krishnamacharya

Are you a shallow or deep breather? Most people take shallow breaths. Put your palm over you lower abdomen and take a deep breath. If your stomach moves inward as you pull in air, you’re a shallow breather. If it pushes outward, you’re breathing deeply.

Deep breathing raises levels of blood oxygen and activates the lymphatic system which drains your body of toxic wastes. Your lymphatic system has no heart-like pump to keep it going; it is maintained by muscular movement, gravity and breathing.

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Breathe in for 10 counts (roughly 10 seconds)
  • Hold your breath for 10 counts
  • Exhale slowly for 10 counts
  • Do this for 10 breaths

5. Recall the achievements of your hands

“I held a moment in my hand, brilliant as a star, fragile as a flower, a tiny sliver of one hour.” –Β Hazel Lee

I found happiness in my hands for the first time after reading Davina’s post Inspiring Hands. I’ve always found my hands big and veiny, like a man’s hands. That day, I just looked at my hands and remembered all they’ve done for me. This exercise is surprisingly easy and effective.

Research has found that our memory is biased toward happiness. When you make an effort to remember events in your life, your memory will work for you and find happiness in those memories.

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Look at your hands
  • Recall one success you achieved with them
  • Give thanks that you have two fully functioning hands

6. Be still in silence

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

A 2005 American Housing Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that more than 100 million Americans are regularly exposed to noise levels above a reasonable level (55 decibels). Chronic background noise activates your stress response and leaves you fatigued and irritable.

Find happiness in 5 minutes:

  • Turn off your phone, TV and any other devices
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes
  • Just sit there listening to the little sounds of silence

Can you find happiness in 5 minutes?

Take 5 minutes everyday to do one of these simple things. They will make all the other minutes in your day so much happier and more productive. Try it and see for yourself!

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55 replies on “Find Happiness in 5 Minutes”

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Hey..M reading your posts for the first time, i read quite a lot of them and shared few with my friends..Thanks unintentionally u ve been answering my questions, doubts which has been bothering me :))

Thanks Daphne! I haven’t really mastered the art of breathing, though. I meditate every day, which helps somewhat. I am much better at controlling my anger, than breathing.

I find that I usually don’t even have to take deep breaths, because I rarely feel angry. After going through a tough time in my life, I know that anger isn’t important, you know?

Josh Lipovetsky.

This is such a great article! My favorite tips are the gratitude list, and the deep breath ones. Whenever I start to feel angry, or stressed. I try to take deep breaths (usually 3) and analyze the situation. As a result, I have become more tranquil in my dealings with the problems of everyday life.

Thank you,
Josh Lipovetsky.


Breathing is under-rated, and it’s great that you’ve mastered the art of breathing to manage your emotions. I wish I were that good. The gratitude list is one of my favourites too, as it altered my perception of life totally. Thanks for commenting!

Hi AJ,

How true. When I’m with happy, uplifting, energetic people, I feel happy. Staying away from energy draining, negative people is also a great way to remain positive!

Hi Chris,

No worries. I know when to stop when I can’t do it! πŸ™‚ Got to respect the old stiff bones. Thanks for the link. I have been meaning to meditate more…

Hi Daphne — I was glad to see yoga making it into this list. Another simple exercise to open the heart, I’ve found, is to clasp your hands behind your back at chest level, and just breathe into your chest. I find that this connects me to my compassion and my desire to serve the world. Best, Chris

@ HIB,

Congrats on running a half marathon! That reminds me that I’m supposed to do a half or at least quarter marathon this year. It’s great that you use gratitude while you’re running. I must remember to do the same, especially when I feel like stopping! Thanks for the tip.

@ Glen,

Ha ha, sometimes I think I should start a blog reviewing wordpress themes, since I’ve tried out so many and will keep trying because I never seem to like what I have for more than a few weeks! Thanks for the Stumble.

@ Marc and Angel,

#1 works best for me too! Thanks for the visit.

@ Jessica,

Welcome! That cartoon was hysterical wasn’t it? Says it better than words could. Thanks for your comment. And I love the name of your blog – Happiness Overhaul. Says it all!

@ Chris,

That’s an interesting exercise. I was tying myself up in knots after reading it trying to clasp my hands behind my back. I’ve done it in yoga before but it comes after 30 minutes of warming up and I couldn’t do it with my stiff morning bones! Ah, time to get back to yoga. Thanks for the reminder!

Everytime I visit here I wonder if I’m on the right website πŸ˜‰

Great list Daphne, I found the ‘pulse’ one interesting as it’s not something I’ve seen recommended before.



I would have to say my favorite is #1. This might be because this is the technique I use. I also use this technique when I’m in competition. For instance, I recently ran a half marathon and kept myself going with the thought that I should 1. Be grateful I am alive 2. Be grateful that I have the ability to run this distance.

I really like this post!

Hi, Daphne! It takes me a while, these days, to make the rounds, but I’m so glad I did—and that I found this post during a quieter time than normal. It’s fabulous! You’ve organized your thoughts to beautifully, so simply and pointedly. Your reminder about our posture is so important. When we’re at desks all day, it’s so easy to slump, but being upright makes all the difference in the world; we can feel our energy flowing, again! I like your advice about a gratitude list; I will begin doing this today. Yes, no matter how busy, I have five minutes for that. πŸ˜‰ Thank you, so much, Daphne!

@ Shanel,

That cartoon was funny, wasn’t it? And it’s funny precisely because it’s true and often we keep ourselves in a state of unhappiness through our posture. Relaxing facial muscles is a great tip, especially after staring at a monitor all day and getting knotted up in the face!

@ Arswino,

3 and 4 are certainly good for getting the blood flowing, and 7 is healing for the mind and soul. Glad you liked the suggestions and found them practical. I’m quite fond of actionable items myself! Thank you for your encouragement as always, Arswino.

@ Tess,

Wow, I’m flattered that you emailed this to your daughter (I’m wondering which one because I’m reading your book and know their names and feel like I’ve been introduced already!) and even think all 40 women would enjoy it. Thank you so much for your faith in me and your support Tess. Hope this week turns out to be better after your past week of ‘pruning’. Take care, Tess.

@ Julie,

I know what you mean about taking a while to do the rounds. My reader has been growing and it can be quite daunting to go through all that every day! So no worries. Sometimes I read but don’t comment too, and I’m sure others do so as well. So thank you for taking the time to comment and I’m so happy you like the suggestions. The gratitude list is my number one most recommended action, and if you can do this everyday you will see your life totally transform within one year. I can promise you this Julie!

This is excellent! I’m sending this to my duahgter who works in an office with 40 women. I think they’ll all enjoy it.

3,4,5,6 resonate with me. That’s my message to practice them! Thanks so much because I’ve had a very challenging week.

Hi Daphne, I truly love it. These are practical tips. I usually do #3, #4 and #7.
Your article has added the list of how to live happily.
Thank you so much Daphne.

I’m new here, but what a delightful post to discover you by! I love all these gentle invitations to just go ahead and DO something. All of them manageable and easy, and who can’t afford to invest 5 minutes in themselves? And then string a bunch of these little gems together in a day and pretty soon you’re wearing a feel-good necklace — and that’s something that looks good on everyone.

I like that these suggestions run the gamut of physical, mental, and emotional strategies, so it’s possible to dip in at every level. If I were to add one of my own, I think I’d suggest spending five minutes reading a poem or looking at a piece of art – another nice way to shift.

@ Robin,

I’m so glad you find the article practical. Thanks for saying so!

@ Giovanna,

Thanks so much for the Stumble. You’re a great blogging buddy! I knew you were a woman of action so I’m not surprised that you actually tried some of the actions. 3 and 4 are physical methods of finding happiness, which matches your penchant for action again! Your personality really shines through in this comment.

@ Ian,

Music and dogs… how could I forget the happiness these bring? And you’re right that these too take less than 5 minutes. Sometimes I just look at my dog being happy (which is all the time) and that makes me smile with deep joy too. Thanks for adding these two great suggestions!

@ Stacey,

When I saw your post series on Authentic Happiness, I smiled too. Great minds think alike eh? πŸ˜‰ You’re right though that the focus of both series is different. I suspect I’m more action-biased whereas you’re more internal and intuitive in your focus. As you say, both are important, and I’m looking forward to our next few posts unfolding and exploring different aspects of happiness at the same time.

@ Deborah,

Welcome, and what a delightful first comment you wrote! I love your analogy of the necklace, stringing together lots of small actions to make a strong chain of happiness. I didn’t see it that way so your comment helped me to learn something from my own post! I also didn’t realize that I covered physical, mental and emotional strategies so again I’m seeing my post in a new light because of your comment. Reading a poem and gazing at art are excellent suggestions – they never fail to lift my spirits too. Thank you so much for your warm encouragement and the insight that you bring to this community. I’m looking forward to seeing more of each other, Deborah.

That’s one of my favorite Peanuts strips! And, it’s so true. Relaxing your face muscles for a minute before smile slowly is also terrific to bring on the happy juices! : )

I love this post and have to smile thinking that we both started happiness series during the same week. I think our series complement each others because you are providing quick and easy actions while my series offers more of a long term self exploration. I think both are important.


I agree with all these ideas and use some of them myself.

Silence works if I need to slow down and get happy and I also have a couple of music tracks that always lift my spirits and take under 5 minutes.

Spending a couple of minutes giving our 2 dogs some attention works too!

This is a great post, I tried them and they did make me feel alive and fresh πŸ™‚
My favorites are # 3 and 4.
I stumble this so more people can find happiness in 5 minutes, who doesn’t need that?!
Thank you,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action


There was so much happiness in this post that I had to copy it and save it so I could try out all the exercises. Some I have done before, but you reminded to practice them again. The one I did immediately after reading the post was feeling my pulse beat and thinking about the life that flows through me with every beat. Thank you for sharing this with us :~)

@ Middle Way,

I’ve believed many things without following through in action too, so no worries. Yes it’s funny how we do that. Glad you decided to start writing it down this time!

@ Brenda,

Good to see you! And your lovely comment started my day on a wonderful note. I am grateful to have you reading my blog and finding that it helps. I know what you mean about allowing someone or something to try to take away our joyfulness. Until we realise, of course, that they can’t take it away unless we let them. You’re right that our reaction makes all the difference, and you sound like you’re reacting very well. I’m happy that reading this post made you happy because I’m certainly happy that you’re reading this happy post and I’m happy that you left such a happy comment! πŸ™‚ Thank you so much Brenda.

@ Sara,

Wow I’m both flattered and impressed that you copied and saved this post. I’m impressed that you made the decision to try out all the exercises – that’s eight steps more than many people would so you’re way ahead of the game already. Feeling your pulse is something so basic that we tend to laugh it off until we try it. Good on you for actually doing it after reading the post. May you find happiness in all the other little things in your life Sara!

Hi Daphne πŸ™‚

Just checking in πŸ™‚ What a great way to start the day with your blog on Happiness.I am really grateful to be reading your blog and am starting out my day much better than it began. It is interesting in just a few short moments how someone or something can try to take away your joyfulness.It doesn’t take much sometimes for this to happen, but it is how you react that makes all the difference πŸ™‚ So thank you for brightening my day up again and refreshing
my energy. There is so much to be happy about and one of them for me is having met you through blogging and having your blogs to read. Your’e the Best!!! Take Care, always wishing you much happiness and success πŸ™‚


@ Jay,

Aw… you are such a sweetheart. Thanks for the lovely comment!

@ Evelyn,

Glad you liked the tips. I wondered if they were too simple to write but at least it shows how easy these steps really are. Slowing down and expressing gratitude bring more happiness than many realize, I agree.

@ Jennifer,

Your comment made me very happy, thank you! I’m so glad you found the experiment quoted useful. It’s nice when methods we recommend are backed up by empirical evidence. I was also happy to read that you shed big tears of gratitude. When the feelings are so strong as to bring on years, they tend to stay with us for a long time. Keeping a gratitude journal is really that simple. Just write down 5 things a day you are grateful for. You will feel the impact after just one week. And after one year of this, something in your spirit changes and you will be a happy person without even trying. That was my experience anyway. I’m very very happy to know you too, Jennifer!

@ Davina,

Silence is a balm for the soul. I never thought about it as a massage before, and that’s interesting. Would you be a tactile person by any chance? I’m more visual and perhaps it’s reflected in our language, though we mean the same thing. Even the hands example, now I think of it, is tactile and so something I wouldn’t think of on my own. I’m thankful to you for that post because I’ve remembered ever since!

Thank you for your post. I am finally going to writing it down vs. keeping the thoughts in my head. It’s funny — even thought I believe it will make all the difference, I have not done it — crazy, but true!

@ Amanda,

Good on you for working out regularly. Few things come close to exercise for making us feel good about ourselves and life. You also make a good point about being content – that brings not only happiness but peace.

@ Nadia,

Thank you for sharing about your mum. I’m sorry to hear that. My dad had liver cancer and the end was very fast too, about 4 months. I completely know what you mean about being able to shower and do things for yourself – we take these for granted until we lose them. Glad to hear that your gratitude journal has helped you and brought happiness.

@ Hilda,

Meditation is something I’ve been trying to get back to. Thanks for the reminder. Glad to hear you like all things happiness related!

@ Vered,

Glad you like it! Do try writing the list down sometime. When I flip back through my journal and see so many lists of things to be grateful for, I am overwhelmed.

@ Jocelyn,

Five minutes does seem quite do-able on most days πŸ™‚

@ JD,

I like the way you said it – getting out of our head and into our body. Our bodily well-being has a huge impact on our heads! Like you, I prefer time-tested methods especially when I’m recommending them to others.

@ Stacey,

Go yoga! I’m not a serious practitioner but I like my little workouts in my room sometimes. Glad you liked the how-tos.

@ Amanda Linehan,

Stretching at work is under-rated. There should be official ‘stretch breaks’ instead of ‘tea breaks’!

Hi there Daphne. These are all terrific suggestions. Being still in silence is my favourite one. I love being the silence. I’m pretty sensitive to noise that my neighbours make and when there are silent moments I appreciate them tenfold.

Silence is like a massage for the soul. Thanks for the link. I was delighted that you came to appreciate your hands after reading that post. Thanks for sharing that.

Hi Daphne. What a great post! What a great way to make five minutes effect the rest of your day, your life, so powerfully. My favorite is gratitude. I’ve heard others talk about gratitude journals, but wasn’t sure exactly what it was. I like how you described it and it is so simple.

I also love how you cited the experiment that was done. Thank you for that. I’m going to use that in a lesson I will be teaching in a few weeks.

What I did to become more grateful was make a big list of all the things that I was grateful for and I read it several times a day. When I was feeling down, I read it again. I really started to see the world in a different way and I have never been the same. Recently I shed some great big tears of gratitude. God has been very good to me.

Thank you for this post and for being so joyful. I’m very grateful I know you Daphne!

It’s great that you included mini exercises at the end of each tip for some practical application. I definitely welcome the ideas of taking the time to slow down, express gratitude and just get in touch with our feelings.

I found happiness in less time than 5 minutes. You know what I did? You should add it to the list. I read this post. πŸ™‚

Daphne, these are wonderful tips! I love the idea of a quick happiness “pick me up.” My favorite one is about stretching – I have been practicing yoga for about a year now and it makes me feel great afterwards! I also spend time stretching at work for a few minutes every now and then. It energizes me and makes me think better. Thanks!

Yay for Yoga! Stretching works well, too. We become so afraid to stretch and move, there is nothing strange about it and it releases tension physically and emotionally.

I love how you included the how-to’s.

Good stuff and I like the fact they’re time tested.

In fact, I think it’s that they’re principle-based. Sometimes it’s about changing your focus (by changing the question, like when you ask yourself what you’re grateful about). Sometimes it’s about changing where you are (your mind, your body or your heart). Sometimes the trick is getting out of your head and into your body.

@ Roger,

Yes I remember your earlier post about your back pain. It is so true that only when we experience acute pain do we appreciate the simple pleasure of being painless!

@ Henie,

You are a burst of sunshine each time you drop by. You make my soul laugh indeed, and my mouth too! Great to hear you’ve been doing all the things that bring little joys. The Grateful rocks are great aids; good on you for passing this habit on to your son. Maybe I need to find a Grateful something to carry around – I guess my journal can play that role. Thanks for the lovely idea Henie!

Hi Daphne,

great post, I love all things happiness related : ) I always recommend #1, and for the last year I also say meditate!

Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Hi Daphne!

What a great post! I agree with you that it does not take much to find happiness and your title is perfect.

I discovered the joys of doing a gratitude journal after my mom passed away. She had terminal cancer and passed away within 6 months of diagnosis. I was her primary caregiver and although I am sad to have lost my mom at such a young age, I am grateful for the lessons learned.

The simple of act of walking and being able to shower on your own, are joys that so many of us take for granted.

Your list was really awesome! πŸ™‚ I look forward to reading your blog now that I finally had a chance to visit! Thank you so much for commenting on my site too! πŸ™‚

These are really great suggestions. I definitely believe in stretching and working out. I work out on a regular basis, and it just makes you feel good all over, inside and outside.

I also believe one very important key to finding lasting happiness is to learn contentment. The constant need for more stuff distracts and makes us lose focus on the only things in life that can truly make us happy.

Hi Daphne!

I always like coming back here! The above post is so informative and helpful as always! Thank you!

Innately, I’ve been doing all the things you enumerated!

Exercising everyday is what keeps me happy and focused! This the one thing that I do not forego and it feels magnificent!

Silence is another very powerful friend for me… just to hear the whisper of my soul propels me to soar!

Lastly, I actually carry a “grateful rock” in my pocket…I carry it all the the time and through a million times a day, whenever I reach into my pocket it reminds me to be grateful for something if not about everything! I gave one to my son as well and my favorite is when we come together and we both pull out our “Grateful rocks” and smile!

Thanks again for an invigorating post, Daphne!:~)

“Gratitude makes a happy soul laugh!” ~Henie~

Great post and I look forward to the series!

I particularly like “Celebrate your sense of sight.” It’s ironic that we’re only appreciate painlessness when we’re in pain. I recently hurt my back and I’d forgotten how much I appreciate a painless back.

Hi Daphne,
I’m 1 week into my gratitude journal and so far so good! It’s helping me realize just how much there is to be grateful for. When you have to write down a new thing every time (no duplicates) it really makes you think and appreciate…everything really.

Number 8 on your is something I will focus on for the next while. I have pretty poor posture especially when sitting at the computer. But this is something that’s pretty easy to work on (when you remember). I’ve put up a sticky note near the computer as a reminder to sit up straight. πŸ™‚

I look forward to the next article in your series!

Hi Daphne,

I love it! The whole post is wonderful – I did several – and I DO feel uplifted!! This is a gift – to anyone wanting to quickly get lifted out of a low point (and we all have them sometimes). Awesome stuff here today Daphne!


It’s 5 minutes of pure practicality that is as useful as it gets. Basically as you pointed out in the post it depends on actually DOING IT. Good post.

I have a 9th tip too. Start a personal development blog and build a network of people like yourself. It will take 5 minutes to read their posts but you will leave feeling inspired. πŸ™‚ (We are doing that already, aren’t we?)And what better way to contribute in our little ways which touch on big useful concepts.

@ Cherry,

Silence is one of the great treasures of life, and not many reach out to grasp the value that’s at their fingertips. Glad you like silence.

@ Sunny,

I like your 9th tip! Sometimes I come away from reading a good blog post with my faith in humanity restored, and that brings happiness right away. Building a blog can be hard work but the kind of work that brings a satisfied rest and happiness together with fatigue. It’s nice to belong to a community of like-minded bloggers, as you point out.

@ Lance,

I’m impressed that you did not one but several of the 5-minute actions. Most people read but don’t do. Glad you found that they worked, else I would have to give you your money back! πŸ˜‰ Thanks for your uplifting comment, Lance. Having you around, it takes me not 5 minutes but just 5 seconds to feel happy.

@ Sherri,

A gratitude journal is one of the best ideas in the world, I think. Good on you to have done it for a week already! If you can do it for a week, you can do it forever. And yes, you start to give thanks for all the little things when you do it everyday, and I think that’s the point. Well done on putting the sticky note up on your computer… taking action always wins over good intentions!

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