Many of us attempt to measure our happiness based on the duration of certain favorable experiences in our lives. The longer a favorable experience lasts, the happier we think we’ll be. But the truth is, life is simply a string of small, independent moments that are always changing. Thus, a few minutes well spent here and there can make a big difference in what we get out of life in the long-term.
Here are 30 things you can do in 30 minutes or less that will have a positive emotional effect on you and those closest to you. And yes, I realize some of these suggestions may lead to activities and projects that will likely take longer than 30 minutes to complete; but they still take far less than 30 minutes to start. So go ahead and do the hardest part, use the next 30 minutes to START, and then pick up where you left off tomorrow.
- Learn something new by starting a free course at one of the hundreds of online self-education resources bookmarked here: 12 Dozen Places To Educate Yourself Online For Free.
- Watch one of the thousands of educational videos streaming at TED.com, Academic Earth, or Khan Academy.
- Read an online book list and find a new book to grab next time you’re at the library. Here’s another list. And another. And another. And another. Or find a good read on Amazon’s Best Sellers List.
- Start reading a classic book online for free at Project Gutenberg, The Online Books Page, Gizmo’s Free Books Online, or the E-books Directory.
- Take a 30 minute break and work on something that’s meaningful to you. Engage yourself in a meaningful personal project, or pull the trigger on starting something you’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t yet had the resolve to do.
- Research a new Do It Yourself project at DIY Network, Instructables, or DoItYourself.com.
- Add to, delete from, or just generally sort your ongoing to-do list at Remember The Milk, Ta-Da List, or using Google Tasks. With a few minutes of organizing your time and to-do’s, you will be better prepared to take on the day.
- Create a cool graphical mind map of some of your recent ideas at bubbl.us, Mindomo, or Mindmeister.
- Email a close friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in awhile and reconnect with them.
- Spend time with, or talk with, someone who makes you smile. Who nourishes and supports your happiness? Take a few minutes and visit them if they’re nearby, or call them on the phone.
- Share your favorite digital photos, videos, etc. with friends and family, and back-up your important files (you’ll be happy you did someday), using Dropbox.
- In our ever-expanding digital world, everyone enjoys getting some ‘real’ mail. So take a few minutes and send a paper greeting card directly to a friend or relative by using enGreet or American Greetings.
- Challenge your mind and your perspective by answering these thought provoking questions. Here’s another list of questions. And another. Also check out Thought Questions for a daily dose of even more thought provoking questions.
- Start learning a new language online for free at BBC Languages or Livemocha, or one of the other free online language resources outlined here.
- Watch one of the insightful, inspiring five minute presentations at Ignite Show.
- Give out compliments. Give sincere praise every chance you get. Compliment and cheer for those who deserve it. You’ll be hitting two birds with one stone, because when the person you compliment smiles, you’ll smile too.
- Use Memorize Now or iMemorize to memorize a cool joke, inspiring quote, etc.
- Listen to an educational podcast via iTunes on iTunes U.
- Inspire and spark your creative mind by looking at a rolling slideshow of the highest rated photos on Flickr from the past 7 days.
- Take a fun, educational online quiz at Quizlet, or play an educational online game at Lumosity, Sporcle, Games for the Brain, or Math Run.
- Add the gentle sound of rain to your environment using RainyMood.com and then simply meditate and relax for a few minutes.
- Keep track of the things you’re grateful for. You can’t help but feel good when you literally count your blessings. Start a gratitude journal and express your thanks on a daily basis.
- Sell something you no longer need on eBay and make a little extra cash.
- Support a good cause for free at Freerice.com or donate a few bucks to a good cause via GoFundMe.
- Play with a child. Admire their enthusiasm. Watch how they interact, how they dream, how they ask questions, etc. Most kids have short attention spans; a few minutes of quality time from a loving adult can make their day, and it will also help you stay in touch with your inner child.
- Listen to good music, or find a new musical artist to listen to based on music you like at Grooveshark, Pandora, Spotify, last.fm, or Deezer (international).
- Get your body moving and your blood circulating. Jump, shake, twist and spin around. Let yourself feel the joy of moving to your favorite music, or just the sounds in your head. Run, walk, and bike to your heart’s content.
- Watch and re-watch Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement speech and this ten minute recap of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.
- Spend a few minutes watching the sunset with someone you care about. Nothing more is needed. Just sit still and take in the natural beauty of the sky, and appreciate being able to share it with someone special.
- Stop to help someone. In life, you get what you put in. When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life. So the next time you see someone pulled over with a flat tire, or in need of a few minutes of assistance, stop and ask how you can help.
What simple life-enhancing activities do you participate in on a regular basis? Please share your ideas with us in the comments section below.
Photo by: Rachel Sian