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5 Life Hacks for Optimizing Happiness During the Workweek

03/16/2015 12:37 pm ET | Updated May 16, 2015

There's a reason we love Fridays. The weekends provide everything we're lacking during the week -- opportunities for relaxation, fun, activities that aren't prompted by a Calendar Reminder, and most of all, uninterrupted time with friends and loved ones.

Still, weekends are only a small fraction of the week - what about the other 120 hours? Here are 5 hacks that will carry through your weekdays with a renewed sense of vitality, and maybe even some added joy.

1. Wait to check email for at least 30 minutes after you wake up. Mornings set the tone for the entire day, and so much can go wrong in a short time. Slowing down your morning routine can set you up for a more relaxed and productive day. The key first step in creating a "slow morning" is holding off on the immediate rush to the InBox. Allow yourself some time to reflect on your day, enjoy a cup of coffee, and say good morning to your loved ones before leaping into the email fray.

2. Load your commute with activities that excite you. We spend, on average, almost an hour a day traveling to and from work. And for many of us, those hours are some of the most stressful of the workweek. Filling that time with happiness-building activities may sound easier said than done -- after all, when you're stuck on a train or in a traffic jam, there are limits to what you can do. Find a non-work-related interest or passion, and explore ways to work it into your commute time. Maybe it's learning French from an app like Duolingo, or listening to podcasts about Greek mythology. Whatever your interest, there's bound to be a way to integrate it into those in-transit hours. Even a tiny boost in your mood will have an impact over time.

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4. After dinner, write down at least 5 things that went well that day. It's human nature to focus on the negative at the end of the day -- what went wrong, what didn't happen, where you fell short. Break the weeknight stress cycle by pausing for a few minutes to write down a list of the day's events that went exactly as planned or desired. They could be as small as "I made my morning train," or as big as "I got the raise I was hoping for." While this may sound trivial, it isn't -- the act of journaling has been shown to cut stress, and the exercise forces your mind to halt its usual pattern of replaying what's wrong.

5. Before bed, try the Gratitude Exercise. This one comes from influential psychologist Martin Seligman, the author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. He advises the following: "Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep." Then write down three things that you're grateful for, and why. While this exercise might feel awkward at first, Seligman promises that if you stick to it, you'll be "less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now."

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