What Is Your Best One-Minute Life Hack?

I have shared with you before (presuming you’re on the newsletter list, and if not, why not?) how useful Quora can be.

In case you’re not familiar with it, Quora is an ask engine.

Google struggles to answer search queries that are abstract. Ask it what the capital of France is and it loves you because it knows it will deliver you the result you want.

But if you ask it, ‘what’s it like to be shot whilst wearing a bullet proof vest?’ it will look at you like your insane and probably offer you a coupon for $10 off Tommy John vests for men.

Quora on the other hand loves questions like that (and yes that’s an actual question that was asked on Quora I was reading a while ago) because it almost certainly has somebody signed up that can offer an informative reliable answer.

Google now searches Quora for questions it cannot answer and so I have been using it to raise my profile, hopefully appear in the SERP’s (search engine ranking pages) and just because it’s a load of fun.

The title of this post was a question on Quora, or more accurately, ‘What are the best 1-minute life hacks?’

Some were really cool and some less so.

Here’s my answer (slightly edited since):

If you want a life hack toward improved happiness do two things.

Spend 30 seconds every day contemplating a happy memory or achievement you’re proud of. It could be something new or something from a while ago,

Then spend the other 30 seconds (preferably just before bed) listing either to yourself, or preferably in a journal, 3 things you are genuinely grateful for.

Make them different every day. And yes, you absolutely can think of three things even if it’s something like being grateful for having a gratitude journal!

Both these methods are scientifically proven to improve mood, boost self esteem and increase happiness levels and when spending just one-minute they give you more bang for your book than anything else possible.

What would yours be?

Leave me a comment and if I get 5 or 6 good ones I’ll put a post together showcasing them and highlight your undoubted brilliance.

Just make sure it’s on sell development and not how to get red wine out of a shirt using a bottle of vinegar an aardvark and two members of Motley Crue.


  1. Box Breathing – breathe in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4 – so you’re breathing in the pattern of a box. Continue for several rounds.

    It very quickly takes you out of sympathetic nervous system dominance i.e. stress response and into relaxation response.

    Why I like it? You can do it absolutely anywhere without people even noticing that you’re doing it (it’s more subtle than super long inhales and exhales) – while waiting at a traffic light, on hold on a call, on an airplane, when you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep.

    I give it to all my clients – and it has massive impact.

    • Tim Brownson

      Yep good call Jessica, that does indeed work by kicking into play the parasympathetic nervous system,

  2. When I feel lost, or powerless (usually when I think I don’t know what to do or feel at the mercy of my circumstances) I listened to the theme music to the new Wonder Woman film and stand in a superhero pose thinking how powerful I am and that I can always find a solution or find my way.

  3. Kathryn Cole

    O.K. here goes…My Life Hack for getting through difficult moments….BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
    In your minds eye take 5 giant steps forward from the starting line. In front of you is a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and tell yourself in one sentence what you want to say about yourself at the end of your difficult moment. Then walk back to the starting line and begin walking “AS IF”…You already know what you want to say in the end – This knowledge will order your steps aright.

  4. Heidi

    When faced with an annoyance — bad traffic, a long line at the grocery, an email that make you want to boil over or a friend who made a snippy comment — stop and focus on deep breathing for one minute. Really concentrate on taking in a breath all the way down into the pit of your stomach (most of the time we breath shallow only into our chest cavity).

    For a few breaths really think about the air entering your lungs and traveling down to your stomach. You should feel your abs move. Hold it for 5-7 counts and then let the air out through your mouth. Again, concentrate and feel the air exiting your mouth. Do this several times for about one minute — you’ll be amazed at how less annoying the annoyance becomes! This one minute breathing technique will likely keep you from a trigger reaction that would probably only escalate the annoyance. “Let it go Louie” — as my grandma used to say.

  5. Hi Tim,
    Mine comes for 1000 hours of psychodrama and Gestalt training. When I get stuck, (or a client does, but for the sake of ease I will explain it through myself now), I look for a memory when things went well, and I was not stuck. Then I change seats, and I imagine, that there is a separate part of me that was not stuck, and this half looks at the challenge from that seat. In that unstuck role I collect all my thoughts about what I did differently when things went well. And then I go back to my “stuck” seat and see how I react to my unstuck half. This may sound a bit weird I know, but changing perspective physically does help a lot. Embodying our energized, creative and able self and looking at things from another position is able to give solutions to our stuck half.

    Just try it.:)

    • Tim Brownson

      I can definitely see how that would work. I don’t know much about Gestalt, but hearing that description it’s not hard now to realize Bandler and Grinder modeled Fritz Perls because that sounds just like something out of NLP, although I know it was earlier.

  6. Take one-minute at the beginning or at the end of your day and list the 3-5 most important tasks or questions you need completed/answered that day (or next day). Then keep that list with you throughout the day to help keep you focused on those tasks/questions. There are many apps you can use for your list – I use Evernote – or simply use electronic or paper calendars – such as Google Calendars, Outlook, or Day-Timer.

    Creating my list at the end of one day for the next day not only increases my productivity, but often helps me solve a dilemma, think of new ideas or reach a decision simply by writing it down and then sleeping on it.

  7. When I feel myself getting anxious because my T-Rex (lizard brain) is on a rampage because I’m meeting new people, entering a meeting, sitting down to write, or doing anything out of my comfort zone, I picture a T-Rex skipping through a field of flowers and it instantly calms me so I can move forward.

    • Tim Brownson

      We have had some fantastic answers, but that is my favorite simply because I laughed out loud, which is the purpose.

      I absolutely love it and never heard of it.

  8. Great question! My life hacking for getting through
    life when facing a challenge is to repeat the mantra
    (from A Course in Miracles), “I choose love over
    fear”. Often the struggle is a source of fear and
    a perceived threat. When I repeat this saying I am
    reminded of the choice I have in switching my
    perception to a more empowering thought.

    • Tim Brownson

      I’d go even further and say there is ALWAYS some fear in there Carly. All stress is a fear response so I like this.

  9. Lee Pycroft

    Hey Tim,
    This is is called : The add 3 things strategy. When you feel triggered by a situation or person & you need to shift your reactive feeling quickly -you say the issue that is bothering you followed by 3 other things totally unrelated & keep saying it until you break the pattern of thinking. An example:

    I feel upset that my friend got angry with me and I have
    black shoes on, brown hair and the sky is blue. (Repeat)

    What this does is scramble & break the pattern of
    thinking quickly! I’ve used it and so have
    my clients and find it works quickly. 🙂

    • Tim Brownson

      Anybody reading this, Lee has just demonstrated the power of deframing also called using a break state.


  10. Hi Tim
    A good 30 seconds of laughter (faked or real) at various times during the day can really boost our health, well being and mood. You don’t need a reason to laugh just an intention, for example look for humour in difficult situations

    Some of the benefits laughter brings:
    Laughter relaxes your entire body
    Laughter energies you
    Laughter boosts the immune system
    Laughter can block distressing emotions

    Laughter boosts our pain threshold
    Laughter helps us relax and recharge

    • Tim Brownson

      Absolutely right Tony, laughter is the best medicine indeed!

      Unless you have whiplash that is, then you’re better with a neck brace.

  11. Michael Wecke

    I believe in the power of the “Attitude of Gratitude” and in a regular morning prayer contemplation, I remind myself of all the things I can be grateful for: my loving wife, my two bright boys, my health, our country’s quality healthcare, our jobs, our family and friends, a peaceful and economically strong country etc.
    Feeling genuinely grateful for these blessings keeps me from becoming negative or dejected. It also reminds me to count my blessings, not my problems. All in all a good, positive daily morning boost to my mental state at the beginning of the day.

    • Tim Brownson

      Don’t rub it in with the healthcare mate! 😉

      Agreed, gratitude is one of the few positive emotions that can kick the ass of negative ones.

  12. When things are piling up and getting overwhelming I do one of two things; if I am in my car, I roll up the windows and have fun screaming my lungs out!!!! If I am at home and don’t want to alarm the neighbors, I do gibberish out loud – gibberish is actually an old Sufi Meditation technique to get you out of your head – because usually what’s going on in our head is just that – gibberish!!! Once the energy has been released, THEN I can sit down and do a mindfulness meditation or mindful check in.

  13. I have more than one 1 minute life hack. I will share 3 of them. My first 1 minute life hack is to always let my loved ones know they are loved, whether it’s verbally telling them or hugging them or some other small gesture. My second 1 minute life hack is to always smile and say hello to strangers. You never know what kind of day someone is having and something that small could have a major impact on them. I like both of these life hacks because it takes the focus off of myself and any negativity I may be feeling at the time and puts me in s frame of mind of love, giving and thoughtfulness. My 3rd 1 minute life hack is to take one moment before I open my mouth to respond to negativity. This gives me time to think and choose my words carefully, as opposed to just responding based on emotion.

  14. Hi Tim

    If you want a life hack toward ‘Mindful Meals’ please see the below:

    As a practice I also began to leave my phone out of reach during my meals in an attempt to bring attention to, and encourage, mindful eating.
    Being mindful during meals can bring awareness to our own actions, thoughts, feelings and motivations around food. I started to examine the beauty of the food such as the colours and textures. I now notice how my body reacts to different tastes and sensations and how I actually become full before clearing my plate.
    I started to notice health benefits such as weight loss, positive mood increase and built on relationships with family during meaningful conversations.

    Be present and enjoy the beautiful food we are blessed with receiving.

    Have a great day.

    instagram: the_soul_search_
    Blog: https://jessicazoeblog.wordpress.com/

    • Tim Brownson

      Mindful eating is one of the things I’ve failed to crack. I get the value without doubt, yet still I insist on having the TV on 🙁

      Good suggestion.

  15. Stop. Think. Do.

    This is for people who feel overwhelmed and get confused by their emotions. I work a lot with high potential people who are sensitive, intelligent and can be a little neurotic (this isn’t an insult this is a facet of Five Factor personality). Sometimes they can need a red light to get their rational mind involved when their emotions bubble up because they’re likely to get into negative thoughts about themselves in reaction to social stimuli that may have nothing to do with them. So for instance if someone is rude to them they might just A) assume it is because they did/are something bad and B) just stand there and feel awful or react emotionally.

    What I encourage them to do when something happens that starts to take them down the drain hole of feeling like they suck and other people are perhaps attacking them is to stop, switch gears to critical thinking and ask themselves a series of questions about what alternative reasons there could be for what they are perceiving. The person they’re interacting with might have a migraine, might be busy and stressed, might just be a rude person, they might be actually being inappropriate with them, or they might be being hypersensitive because the moment reminds them of something unpleasant from their past. Then once you’ve thought for a short period such as around one minute or so you act in accordance with the most rational explanation i.e. if the other person seems stressed let it go perhaps, if they rationally do seem to be attacking be calm and assertive.

    It stops people stewing on their emotions, it also stops people who overreact quickly, so it’s good for both camps. It’s also good for self esteem as you stop taking ownership for everyone else’s actions and thinking it’s all about you in a negative sense. And over time it brings calm to the mind, stopping you from being so reactive. It takes some time and practice, and often people have to start writing down rational vs irrational thoughts to practice telling the difference before they can start doing it automatically, but I find once you have trained yourself to do it it sticks pretty well.

    • Tim Brownson

      I had a client one time tell me I was neurotic. When I stopped in my tracks and just stared blankly at her wondering what to say, she said, ‘of course you, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing’

      I seem to think it was Kate who helps us here at CTLC and was a psychology major. Anyway I’m neurotic and proud!

      And yes, you’re reframing there which I love. There are 2 questions that flick us into reframe mode, ‘What can I learn from this?’ and the one you’re effectively using, ‘What else can this mean?’

  16. A hack to quick fix anger, which will take 30 seconds and you will be fine. The moment you start feeling angry and red hot and something starts boiling inside, take one sip of water in your mouth. Move towards the washroom and rinse, telling yourself that I have thrown out all the anger. Take a deep breath and move back to the scene. Hey! Now you are reading and smiling! Try this out next time you feel angry. You will be amazed to see that you will automatically follow this process.

    • Michael Wecke

      Hi Jyoti,
      Intriguing suggestion! In German (my mother tongue) there is an idiomatic expression that – roughly translated – says the following:”If a word (angry or sarcastic response, perhaps) let it burn”! The problem with that is that I would start having bite marks on my tongue 🙂
      Your method is probably similar to a NLP technique called “Switch State”, I think – completely changing focus. What do you do however, when this SOB cuts in front of you, nearly causing a collision in peak traffic? 😉

  17. Hi Tim – start each day with a good stretch and whatever conscious breathing exercise works for you – or vary them. Connect with something or someone who makes you smile or laugh and then plug-in to one of your favorite guided affirmations, to direct your thoughts along productive pathways. Repeat as often as you can until this state becomes your default program each day.

    Whatever we do, it’s the consistent repetition that neuroscience has proved achieves sustainable change.

    • Tim Brownson

      I’d forgotten about stretching, but yes you’re right it has numerous positive effects and is probably better at getting us going in the morning than coffee!

  18. Rob Collins

    For me it’s mindful breathing. It’s the “hack” I use most often. It just takes a few moments, no matter whether I’m walking the dogs or driving my car, to tune into my breath and start paying more attention to what’s going on around me. Mindful breathing has rescued me from a panic attack the first time I went on the New York subway. It’s also helped to calm me down numerous times.

    I often find myself trying to avoid certain feelings or situations. In fact, I believe avoidance is a core a core ingredient of lots of mental illness. I try to escape the present moment by numbing myself with candy, ice cream or drugs. But actually the best way to deal with the urge to avoid things, is to breath mindfully, allow whatever I’m feeling without judgement, and feel compassion for myself.

  19. There are several life hacks I can think of that work really well. Several have been mentioned here already. But one I love to use myself and to teach clients is the Circle of excellence.

    When we find ourselves dealing with a project or idea we just can’t seem to get our head around it is a helpful exercise to imagine a Circle of Excellence just one step in front of us. This circle represents where we are are best selves. Where we are able to access information from our higher awareness that all answers already exist and are available to us. When you are ready step in to the center of the circle and allow yourself to see the challenge from this higher awareness. Of course it works great when combined with the breathing exercises mention here and with a grateful heart for the answers already coming your way.

    • Tim Brownson

      The circle of excellence was one of the first patterns in NLP I was taught.

      It takes a while to set up properly presuming you are using anchors, but once you have it, boom! You’re good to go!

  20. When I Quit taking things personally, my whole life changed. I read the 2nd agreement of the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and it changed my thinking in about 1 minute flat. Emotionally intelligent people don’t waste their time assigning meaning about what other people “do, or say.”

    It is up to YOU to decide how YOUR life is going to look. If you are taking what other people do or say personally, you are probably suffering a lot of GRIEF and dealing with a lot of UNNECESSARY stress. I just try and remember that what other people DO and say is about THEM and not me (even if we think it is, it isn’t) it’s about their beliefs, values and perceptions. It has NOTHING to do with you. Ps, we are all human and We don’t get it perfect at it all the time. I work on this thought process sometimes it’s super easy and other times it’s not so smooth. However, it works!

    When you can LEARN to ACCEPT that when you don’t take things personally, you can become IMPERVIOUS to other people’s opinions, their negativity and simply accept reality the way it is and move on.

    Don’t choose to suffer because of what other people do and what you “think” they are doing to you; you are going to ROB yourself of the PRESENT moment and compromise your peace of mind. A bad driver who cut you off or that person who skipped the queue at the grocery story or that snide comment that was made isn’t about you. Don’t obsess about it just say “I’m choosing not to take this personally” and move on.

    • Tim Brownson

      Yes indeed, taking things personally never helps.

      I think you can sum all that up by just reminding yourself that all your emotions are a result of how you interpret external information, not the information itself.

  21. MOIRAR

    I practice a few over the years but I notice my first 5-10 minutes meditation (HUNA) is very enlightening, it sets my day for success. I practice the art of forgiveness and It works very well all the time.