“As Americans, we often think that things, especially the getting of things, make us happier whether that’s a new car, shoes, new nail polish, or something else,” says Taylor Martin, Virtual Life Coach.
While those quick happiness boosters might seem materialistic, according to research led by social psychologist Daniel Gilbert, those quick hits of happiness might not be far off from what we need for long term satisfaction.
Having quality, new experiences not only makes us happier but the effects of happiness linger for a longer period of time. Ultimately, this provides a better quality of life when implemented frequently.
Looking to switch up your routine and experiences to increase your level of happiness?
We spoke to a handful of life coaches and medical doctors to get their insights on some of the easiest to implement, out of the box experiences that will make you happier.
Choosing passion over a big paycheck
In a recent study by BetterUp Labs, nine out of ten people surveyed said they’d trade up to 23% of their future earnings in exchange for a more meaningful job—and what’s more, studies have shown that if you’re working on something you find both challenging and satisfying, you’ll not only be happier but more productive as well.
Volunteering and helping to others
“One of the first things that come to mind when talking about happiness is the importance of giving,” says Dr. Lina Velikova, MD, PhD. To some, it may be surprising to learn that serving others can make you happy but volunteering is a perfect example of this.
When oriented at others, it helps with mental and physical health. Multiple studies have confirmed the benefits of volunteering that include improved life satisfaction, self-esteem, and happiness.
“It is also notable for reducing psychological distress, symptoms of depression, and mortality.” Dr. Velikova added.
Indulging your senses
“By just observing a flower and using all of our senses to fully experience the flower we allow ourselves to release the endorphins that trigger our feeling of joy,” says Taylor Martin, Virtual Life Coach, adding that it’s not only the act of savoring but the mindfulness that is required.
“Having to focus on all of our senses, even just for a minute, requires our minds to focus on one specific situation.”
This focusing relieves our mind from thinking about other weights that it may carry throughout the day.
Taking photos of the mundane
“Surprisingly, taking photos does have an impact on happiness,” says David Foley, founder of Unify Cosmos, a meditation center in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“I’m not limiting this to just traveling, I mean taking random photos throughout life’s mundanity.” According to Foley, taking photos forever freezes a particular moment in time and doing it randomly, “let’s say for the first snowfall of the year,” boosts those levels of happiness. How? “Looking back on those will instantly remind you of the memory of that particular moment, and the reason why you captured it in the first place.” That will instantly put a smile on your face.
Fostering a healthy relationship and sex life
According to a recent study from Oregon State University, those who have a healthy, active sex life tend to be happier at their jobs.
The study followed 159 married people over two weeks and found that for at least 24 hours after having sex, participants were more productive, more satisfied in their job, and generally happier.
“A gratitude practice is simple practice where we intentionally focus on the positive things that have occurred or exist in our life and helps us enhance a positive mindset and strengthen neural pathways for positive thinking,” says Shefali Raina, a High Performance Coach based in New York.
Not only does a regular gratitude practice remind us of the positive things in our lives, it elevates our sense of health and well being on a daily basis by “limiting our negative biases, altering our thoughts, emotions and perceptions of the upcoming day and thus allowing us to feel happier.”
Learning to manage stress
Modern life is fast paced, highly competitive and dynamic and relentless deadlines and constant changes create internal stress. “It is important to learn to be self aware and regulate stress at work so that you are resilient and the volatility of the days and weeks does not impact your sense of calm and happiness,” said Raina.
“A daily mindfulness practice which strengthens your focus muscle and reduces your emotional volatility (amygdala reactivity) to external events goes a long way in helping you stay calm, energized and happy throughout your day and not being impacted by stress.”
Fostering sleep discipline
“Sleep serves important functions including in learning, memory retention, creativity and helps set us up for positivity and wellbeing for the next day,” explains Raina. She adds that reframing sleep as productive time, and ensuring you get adequate sleep every day is one of the most important things you can do to elevate your mental and physical energy, and feel happier.
Journaling, or writing about your thoughts, emotions, experiences and goals helps create a space of profound self clarity and safety, builds our internal resilience and well being, and helps enable us to focus our attention on the things important to us.”
Journaling, when used correctly, is a powerful tool for personal development and greater positivity and feeling happier,” adds Raina.