Most of us are convinced we’ll be happier once we land a new job, get married, or buy a house. But research shows that we seriously overestimate the amount of joy we’ll get from big life changes. Instead, we can increase our happiness more by adding small mood boosters to our daily life. Here are a few examples:
Write thank-you letters to people you’re grateful for – even if you never send them. According to the book The Myths of Happiness, it’s human nature to dwell on what’s going wrong in our lives or how badly things tuned out. But choosing to focus on what’s going well, or what went right, can help block that negativity. Expressing gratitude redirects your attention and helps you appreciate what you have, instead of dwelling on what you don’t.
Do something new every day. Whether you listen to a new song or try a new dish at your favorite restaurant. Lisa Cypers Kamen wrote Harvesting Happiness, and she says the excitement we get from new things fades over time. For example, the rush you get from buying a new car will wear off within a week because we get used to it. That’s why we need constant new experiences – no matter how small – to keep that happiness buzz going.
Think of the worst-case scenario, in as much detail as possible. The ancient Greek philosophers called that technique “the pre-meditation of evils.” And happiness expert Oliver Burkeman says that it may seem counterintuitive, but when you list everything that could possibly go wrong, along with the potential consequences, you’ll realize your fears are out of proportion to reality. But there’s also comfort in knowing you’ve already considered the most dire circumstances. So, you’ll know you can cope if your worst-case scenario does come true.