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How to Create a Custom Happiness Short List

happy to do listI don’t need to tell you that people find happiness in different ways. What thrills and delights one person might make others cringe.

• Riding a roller coaster
• Fishing
• Taking a warm bath
• Sorting through a stamp collection
• Meditating

From wild base jumpers to quiet coin collectors, everyone has their individual short list of things that make them happy. Do you have your list?

Inspired by a post at Delivering Happiness, I decided to break down a process whereby you can create your own happiness short list. If you take just a few minutes to follow the simple steps below, you’ll end up knowing with certainty the specific activities that have potential to lift your spirits.

Before you begin the process, I suggest the items on your short list have the following characteristics:

Accessibility: you should be able to do them conveniently. If happiness is going on an annual vacation…right? You should be able to engage in your happiness activity at any time.

Within your control: Don’t put “my kids aren’t fighting” on your happiness list. Happiness activities should be 100% within your control.

Process: Make your happiness activities process-oriented, not results-oriented. If you like building model sailboats, for example, don’t make “completing a model” a requirement for happiness. Allow yourself to be happy just for engaging in the process of building.

#1 Accessible. #2 Within your control. #3 Process-oriented.

The Happiness Short List Process

happiness listGrab your notepad, make yourself comfortable, and follow these steps.

1. Focus. Say to yourself, “Happiness.” And open your mind to new ideas.

2. Connect to a feeling of happiness within you. Imagine it. Remember a specific time when you were happy. Feel it, even if subtly.

3. Staying connected to the feeling, ask yourself the best questions from the list below:

• What makes me happy?
• What has always made me happy?
• Which activities do I find most meaningful?
• What is my favorite thing to do?

4. Start writing, brainstorm-style. Don’t edit or question yourself, just write whatever comes to mind.

5. Filter your list according to the criteria above. Which items on your list are accessible, within your control and process-oriented? Now you have your list!

Here are three items from mine:

1. Thinking about the world. Not any specific aspect of the world, but just that it exists. Now that’s a miracle! I pull way back in my mind and just contemplate the Earth.

2. Doing something – anything – for my wife. I love it when she comes home to find the house straightened up, for example.

3. Listening to Les Miserable. I don’t know why, but I never get tired of it!

What Makes Your List Work

There’s nothing magical about activities. Some things make us happy because we simply identify with them that way. So, it’s important to consciously recognize and acknowledge that you are doing something that makes you happy as you do it. Then, purposefully connect with the feeling.

What gives your special activities meaning? You do. So do each of them on purpose.

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How to Create a Custom Happiness Short List

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2017). How to Create a Custom Happiness Short List. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 5, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Dec 2017
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