8 Simple Steps to Improve Happiness

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These science-based tips for happiness come from Dr. Laurie Santos, well-known Professor of Psychology at Yale University. Her podcast, “The Happiness Lab”, is available on Stitcher and on Apple Podcasts for free. Practicing just one of these tips daily can boost your mood and your overall well-being.

1. Reduce Isolation

Connect with other people, even if you don’t know them. Even brief encounters will give you a boost. Text or call someone you haven’t talked to in a while or chat with the cashier or bagger at the grocery store.

2. Share Experiences

Sharing experiences with another person amplifies the intensity of the experience – go to a park, watch a movie, listen to music, play a game, or share a meal together, even virtually. When we focus on taking photos to share, we miss out on the feelings of the moment and this reduces the pleasure of the experience.

3. Feel Those Feelings

Don’t suppress negative thoughts and emotions. When something bad or unpleasant happens, big or small, most people tend to push away the negative response to the event. Research shows that acknowledging emotions and experiences by writing or talking lessens the power of the event and improves well-being, including physical health.

4. Make a Plan – It’s Good for You

Hope can’t replace planning. Be realistic about the obstacles you face to achieving your goals – relying on positive thinking and hope only can undermine success. Being clear about inner and outer obstacles to your goals stimulates your thinking and motivation that helps you tackle the barriers and helps you achieve our goals. Use WOOP – Identify a wish, find the best outcome and imagine it, find the inner central obstacle, develop a plan.

5. Ease Decision-Making

More choices do not equal increased well-being. When faced with too many kinds of cookies in the grocery aisle or too many 401K options, we feel overwhelmed and suffer from decision fatigue. We may choose nothing or pick something we are familiar with even if it isn’t the best choice. Reduce the number of decisions you have to make each day so that you have enough energy for the important decisions – this can be as simple as keeping your wardrobe small so it’s easy to get dressed in the morning to making a grocery list to stay focused while shopping.

6. Practice Empathy

Empathy = less stress and depression. Different opinions on big topics with family members? Build a bridge by exploring the stories behind how each of you came to your beliefs and see what happens. Sharing personal narratives can build empathy and change minds. Have a little extra money to spend? Buy something for someone else rather than yourself. Doing for others feels good.

7. Do More, Buy Less

Beware the tendency to buy more stuff – while the shopping feels good, a crash follows after purchase. Excitement and newness fade quickly and comparing what we have to others results in empty envy. Experiences – traveling, dining out, going to a show – result in longer lasting happiness. Experiences tend to be social activities and create opportunities to share stories and relive the fun later.

8. Protect Yourself from Negativity

Emotions are contagious too! A person in a bad mood or who has a negative view of the world can infect the people around them, impacting how they feel and act. Contagion can happen online or in person. Be aware of how other’s emotions and attitudes can impact you and take steps not catch the negativity or spread it. You can choose to go high when others go low.

Check out this youtube video from Dr. Laurie Santos with specific tips to weathering the storm of COVID-19.

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