Austin wade via Unsplash

Our emotions have a powerful effect on our day. When we’re in a good mood, we can take on the world. If we’re sad, frustrated, or disappointed, even the smallest obstacle seems insurmountable.

We may be unable to fully control our emotions, but we can influence them–by focusing on our thoughts. For example, scientific research indicates that a conscious effort to remain optimistic contributes to a feeling of happiness.

But that raises a question: How do you remain optimistic in the face of severe challenges?

Here are three quick tips that can make a big difference. In reality, it will take many of you less than 15 minutes to complete–but be careful not to rush it. And since it influences your outlook on the day, I suggest doing it in the morning.

The 15-minute routine to a happier day:

1. Find someone to thank.

Striving for personal improvement is vital to success, but don’t underestimate the value of contentment. In other words, learning to be thankful can help us cultivate a spirit of appreciation, which leads to happiness. So, each morning, take a few minutes to consider the positives in your life.

But you can take this a step further: As you ponder what you have to be thankful for, think of those responsible–your family, your friends, a great boss or colleague…even that friendly barista who always greets you with a smile. Then, schedule time in your day to reach out to at least one of those people and tell them how much you appreciate them–and why.

Because too often, our favorite people don’t realize just how much they mean to us.

2. Pick a time to stop working.

Happiness is about finding balance: Too much of anything, even something you love, will eventually cause you to burn out.

So, whether you work in an office or from home, whether you love your job or despise it, pick a time you will stop working–before you begin your “official day.” The rest is up to you: Go home to your family, go work out, go do something you love.

Kevin Kruse, author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, has a great tip for making sure you stick to your self-imposed “quitting time”: View it like a non-negotiable doctor’s appointment that you simply can’t miss.

In other words, when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

3. Plan to give.

Science confirms that giving makes you happy.That’s why you should plan to give as part of your morning routine.

It could be volunteering your time to help someone out. Or taking someone to lunch that day. Or surprising your significant other, or friend or family member, with a small gift–just because.

You’ll soon find that in contributing to someone else’s happiness, you make yourself happier, too.

And that’s what I call win-win.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on