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Are Your Habits Actually Making You Happy?

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us”

John Dryden

Habits are the patterns of behaviour that we perform subconsciously. Ever notice how you walk home from the Skytrain station and wonder why you’re suddenly in front of your house? Well, the brain tries to be efficient by going on autopilot for repeated behaviours. 

So now the question is: when your brain is on autopilot mode, does it churn out pleasure inducing behaviours or happiness inducing behaviours? For example, do you wake up, see your phone charging on the nightstand, and scroll through Instagram for half an hour? 

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The habit cycle starts with the cue of seeing your phone on the nightstand, the routine of scrolling through it, and the reward of seeing new IG posts

pleasure vs happiness

The difference between pleasure and happiness is that one brings instant gratification and the other delayed gratification. For me, scrolling through YouTube brings me pleasure- or instant gratification- as I see new videos pop up on my feed every time I refresh the home screen. 

On the other hand, taking a walk in a nature park brings me happiness because I feel so calm and present. I can organize my thoughts, analyze my feelings, and just appreciate nature. But sometimes doing happiness inducing activities is harder than doing pleasure inducing ones. 

Both pleasure and happiness produces the feel good chemicals in our brain, but pleasure is short term while happiness is long term.

What Brings You Long Term Happiness?

If you want to create habits that align with your long term happiness, you first have to ask yourself what truly makes you happy. Here’s a little experiment. Think of ten things that make you happy on a weekly basis. I’ll do it too! 

Here are mine:

  1. Exercise
  2. Singing
  3. Walking with mom
  4. Listening to Explore FI Canada and ChooseFI podcast
  5. Cloud watching
  6. Hanging out with close friends
  7. Solo walks in nature
  8. Writing blog articles 
  9. Reading
  10. Going to the library

What are yours? 

Now that you have your list of happy items, ask yourself, “Right now, am I spending time on things that truly make me happy?”  No shame, no blame if you’re not. It’s not easy escaping from our already established habits. If scrolling through your phone for the first 30 minutes upon waking is the default habit, then just seeing the phone charging on the nightstand will cue you to pick it up and check it. 

Now we’ve identified something we want to improve on, let’s take the next step!


Someone, somewhere, sometime in the universe said, “What can be tracked can be improved.” So, instead of jumping head first and adding a new happy item in your schedule, try and track how you’re spending your time in 30 minute intervals over the next week. I’ll do it too for accountability 🙂 

See ya soon!

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