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5% + 5% + 5% Happier:

Small Moves That Add Up

I recently came across a book entitled, “10% Happier”, and thought to myself, Really?? You have to buy and read a book and it’s only promising you’ll be 10% happier?  What kind of big deal is only 10% happier?  

I did not end up purchasing the book, but it did get me thinking… In my clinical work with depression, anxiety, grief, and the like, there’s generally not just ONE thing that the person needs to do that makes ALL of the difference in them feeling better. It’s often the cumulative effect of several things and several healthy habits.  

While there may be SOME things that we can notice make a bigger difference – for some, that includes therapy; for some, that includes medicine; for some, exercise makes a huge difference – many people will find things that make just a little bit of difference.  Let’s say a 5% difference. 5% is NOT a big difference, but what if you did several 5% things on a fairly regular basis?  Might that really add up and improve your life, mood, and functioning?  I sure think so. 

How Are You Doing On Your Building Blocks?:

The basic building blocks upon which well-being can be established in the arena of mental health, to me, start with sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Let’s break that down further by having you ask yourself a few questions: 

1.  Am I sleeping enough hours each night?  If not, What is getting in the way and how can I address those items?

2.  Am I getting good quality of sleep?  If not, What are the things getting in the way of sleep quality and how can I address those items?

3.  Am I eating an overall healthy diet?  

4.  Am I eating enough calories to sustain my energy?  Or, conversely, Am I eating too much or using food to fill emotional needs?

5. Am I an emotional eater?  Do I overeat when I’m feeling sad, bored, or lonely?

6.  Do I engage in cardiovascular exercise at least 3-5 times per week?

7.  Do I have exercises I enjoy? (If so, keep doing those; if not, you may need to find exercises you dislike the least to get the most bang for your buck so to speak)

8.  Do I notice my mood or sleep improves when I’m exercising regularly?

How To Find Your 5% Items:

Including and in addition to the basic building blocks of quality nutrition, sleep, and exercise, I encourage you to find things to do on a regular basis that can improve your mood and morale.  

After you read through the the list of 5% ideas below, I encourage you to highlight the ideas you like, and then make your own list.  You will notice that some of these items on the list seem small and will take a relatively low amount of effort. Other items, however, or when someone is going through a hard time such as in depression, it can feel like a lot of effort for sometimes little reward. I encourage you to be kind and gentle with yourself as you go through this process, and trust that applying the effort in varied areas can have a cumulative effect. 

What items will you start committing to implementing on a daily or weekly basis that, 5% by 5%, can start making a difference in how you feel overall?

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

– time alone / downtime 

– time with friends, significant other, and/or children, etc

– time with your pet(s)

– being in nature 

– getting some sunshine (or using depression lamp regularly in winter months)

– reading a book you like or a book on a subject that may be helpful

– aromatherapy or essential oils

– going to church, praying, or reading spiritual materials

– meditating or using a guided meditation app

-watching a funny TV show or movie 

– keeping your home environment clean and decluttered (this has been shown to decrease overwhelm and overstimulation)

– getting out of the house

– daily hygiene habits and routines like showering and wearing clean clothes 

– making the time for a warm cup of tea or coffee before you leave the house

– forward this blog to a friend so you can have an “accountability buddy” for your new healthy habits!


Having trouble identifying or implementing the building blocks or habits that would help you feel better?  Have you been thinking about trying therapy?  If you are a California resident and might be interested in psychotherapy for yourself or your teen, please contact me, I would love to hear from you. I have an office in midtown Sacramento, an office in El Dorado Hills, and I also can provide tele-health through a secured video conferencing platform.