7 Surprising Ways You Can Boost Your Happiness


My son flew home recently and told me how he arrived at his seat and promptly put on headphones to avoid talking to anyone. I explained that a recent study found that those who talk to the person beside them on a plane or train arrive happier. He wasn't buying it.

We all know that doing meaningful work, being with people you love, and avoiding all things toxic increase happiness. Then there are unexpected things, like talking to strangers on planes, that increase happiness.

Here are a few other unexpected happiness boosters:

1. Buy experiential products. You may know that experiences (like your last vacation trip) make you happier than things — like your lovely new sofa. What you may not know is that buying things that are related to experiences, like the Garmin for those long runs I love, creates and enhances happiness more than buying non-experiential products. Memo to self: the last pretty watch I bought neither created nor enhanced my experience of anything.

2. Respond enthusiastically to another's good fortune. Being positive and excited about someone else's good news not only makes them happier, it makes you happier too. We really can bask in the glow of a friend or partner's success. This also means that sharing good news makes the receiver happier if they're able to embrace it. So blow your own horn and reap the benefits of feeling good about your accomplishments and about sharing them with someone who will share your enthusiasm.

3. Satisfice, don't maximize. Popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz, satisficers — those able to choose from only a few selections — are happier than maximizers — those who must look under every rock to uncover all possible choices when they make a purchase. And closely related, selecting from only a few items you look at together makes you happier than choosing from that same number if you view them separately. So pick the rug from one store, looking at their small selection, instead of going to five stores or a store with a ginormous selection. You'll be happier with your choice. Added bonus: it takes a lot less time to satisfice.

4. Abandon perfectionism. I know how tempting it is to dot every "i" and cross every "t." It seems like you'll be happy once you do. The truth is, it's impossible to get there and painful to keep trying. As Gilbert points out in Stumbling on Happiness, if you seek perfection in everything, all you'll have left is mathematics and the White Album. Let go of your need for the perfect painting, boyfriend or haircut. You'll notice you can live with what you have and enjoy it without feeling that striving for perfection is killing you.

5. Give up some comfort. I love a warm house, cozy chair and binging on Netflix as much as the next person, but doing it all the time would dull my senses, numb my brain and relax me into a coma. You've got to get out and challenge yourself to achieve new things in order to maintain your happiness.

6. Set a happiness goal. According to happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, happy people, "do not just sit around being contented. They make things happen. They pursue new understandings, seek new achievements, and control their thoughts and feelings." You determine your destiny by deciding to be happy, creating opportunities to enjoy life and addressing problems that get in your way. So schedule dinner with friends, talk to someone about your uncomfortable feelings or set a new goal for yourself.

7. Enjoy the journey. In his book, Happier, Ben-Shahar says, "Life is rarely shaped by some extraordinary life-changing event; rather, it is shaped incrementally, experience by experience, moment by moment." You do not need to win the lottery to be happy. You must savor the positive experiences that occur on a daily basis, whether it's a sunset or a friend throwing her head back and laughing hysterically at your lame joke. Take a moment to be present and relish each positive event.

So the next time you're on a plane, take out those earbuds for a few minutes and bump up your happiness — it's science, son.

Learn more about the recent study that found talking to strangers improves happiness. Remember experiences make you happier more than things and sharing good news brings happiness to everybody. Learn more about psychologist Barry Schwartz's  satisficers or Sonja Lyubomirsky's happy people make things happen philosphy. Get your hands on Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness or Ben-Shahar's Happier and get out and challenge yourself

Judith Tutin, Phd, ACC, is a licensed psychologist and certified life coach. Connect with her at where you can request a free coaching call to bring more passion, fun and happiness to your life.