Gretchen Rubin, creator of The Happiness Project website and an upcoming book of the same name, spent a year testing “every principle, tip, and theory” she could find to help people cheer up, especially given the trying times. “When people feel like they’re worse off than they were last year, it’s a happiness challenge,” Rubin notes. Her advice? Try to think ahead five years when, chances are, you’ll have regained your footing (and your house will be worth more too).
Q: What are a few things that give a happiness boost?
A: Sleep. Sounds boring, but a 2004 study showed fatigue is one of the top two reasons people are in a bad mood at work (the other is tight deadlines). Another way to boost happiness is to join or start a group. Philosophers and scientists agree that social bonds are the key to happiness. But it’s hard to connect deeply with people at a party; a purpose and an agenda really help. A third idea is to give something away. One principle of happiness is that you should always act the way you wish you felt. If you act generously, you’ll feel more secure.
Q: You’ve written about how novelty and challenge also bring happiness.
A: It’s amazed me, given my non-adventurous nature, how much I found this to be true. Studies show that people who do new things, like going to new restaurants or a museum, are happier than people who don’t.
Q: So you don’t have to do an extraordinary thing like climb Mount Kilimanjaro?
A: No. If you love scrapbooking, maybe you should learn Photoshop; if you like cycling, maybe bike repair. I forced myself to start my blog—and it’s been a major source of happiness. It should be novel and challenging within the framework of what you like to do—and it should reflect your nature. You can be happier without finding a dramatic solution or radically changing your life.
Q: Is it fair to say that many of your tips require finding a lot of extra time?
A: A lot of the things I talk about are things that don’t actually take much time, but you have to stick with them—like writing a journal or taking a 20-minute walk every day.
Gretchen Rubin’s website is happiness-project.com.
See also: 9 Foods for a Good Mood