Yes, yes, you probably have heard about those well-known routes to increased happiness. Get plenty of sleep. Exercise. Surround yourself with positive people (whenever possible, of course). Then there are the all-too-familiar quick “fixes,” like eating a bag of chips or pouring a glass of wine.
But what about some lesser known yet still simple ways to boost happiness? Yep, they do exist. Next time you’re in a slump, and can’t squeeze in a workout, give your mood a nudge with one of these four tips.
1. Start the day on your own terms
Michelle Wax, founder of The American Happiness Project, journeyed across the United States in 2019 to discover how everyday Americans create happiness and joy regardless of external factors such as wealth. Now she runs workshops on the topic.
In her research, she found that happy people “start the morning on their own terms.” This means setting intentions—either written or mental—before heading out the door.
She suggests asking yourself these questions to set up the day:
-What can I look forward to doing today?
-What has the potential to worry me, and how will I choose to respond?
-How do I want to feel at the end of the day, and what can I do to make this a reality?
This practice helps frame your day on your own terms instead of feeling ambushed by outside emotions or obligations. Remember to check in with yourself at night to see if you met your intentions.
2. Indulge in experiences, not things
Odds are you can relate to the following: You were late to work, missed a meeting, dropped your phone in the sink, got stuck in traffic. So you made an impulse buy—a candy bar, a new shirt, something for your home.
But researchers say that spending money on experiences makes people happier than spending on products. The research, published in the May 2020 issue of the “Journal of Experiential Social Psychology,” divided subjects into those who purchased material items, like clothes, versus those who purchased an experience, such as a sports event or dinner out.
Happiness was higher in the experiential group, regardless of how much they spent. Why? Researchers believe that experiences last longer in people’s memories, while the perceived value of objects fizzles over time.
“If you want to be happier, it might be wise to shift some of your consumption away from material goods and a bit more toward experiences,” says Amit Kumar, one of the authors. “That would likely lead to greater well-being.”
So make plans to dine out with a friend or buy tickets to a concert next time you’re feeling down.
It really is that simple. Recent research published in “Experimental Psychology” found that by smiling, you can trick yourself into feeling more positive. Apparently, the facial muscles involved with smiling stimulate the brain to release neurotransmitters that stimulate positive emotions.
4. Recognize your achievements
There’s a meme floating around that says: “Remember when you wanted what you currently have.” That might sound lofty, but the point is simple: Give yourself a pat on the back for how far you’ve come.
We are hard-wired to scan for the negative: unmet goals, unfinished tasks. Push back against that primal instinct. Set aside 10 minutes and try this perspective-building exercise: Grab a piece of paper and divide it in half. Label one half “Then,” and the other half “Now.” Next, think of one to three achievements. An example might be, “Then: Struggled with remote technology,” and “Now: Have mastered Zoom and Google drive.”
The idea is to give yourself a positive, visual reminder of your growth, evolution, and progress—something we lose sight of when mired in mundane daily tasks.