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9 Proven Ways to Become Happier

Reviewing strategies for increasing happiness.

Key points

  • A recent review of preregistered studies investigates commonly recommended strategies for boosting happiness.
  • The evidence suggests that several techniques, such as practicing gratitude, improve mood.
  • There is no convincing evidence for the proposed mood-enhancing effects of diets or meditation practice.
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A recent paper by D. Folk and E. Dunn reviews preregistered experiments that examine recommended strategies for becoming happier.

Published in the Annual Review of Psychology, the paper finds evidence for the effectiveness of several happiness strategies (discussed below).

It also finds that a few commonly recommended happiness strategies, such as performing random acts of kindness, are not backed up by evidence.

How to become happier

The authors reviewed the evidence for different strategies to increase happiness:

  1. Practice gratefulness: Although its long-term benefits remain to be studied, research shows that expressing gratitude (e.g., writing a gratitude letter or text message) can increase happiness quickly. And the benefits may last up to a day.
  2. Be more sociable: When people think of satisfying their need to belong, they often think of forming intimate relationships (e.g., romantic relationships, close friendships). However, socializing with strangers can be beneficial and boost happiness. This is especially so if, during these interactions, one behaves in an extroverted way (i.e., outgoing, assertive, and talkative).
  3. Behave as if you are feeling happy: A person’s behavior typically matches their inner state, but this can work in the opposite direction, too. Simply put, just as feeling cheerful can positively impact behavior, acting as if you are already happy may put you in a better mood. So smile once in a while.
  4. Add novelty to what has become familiar: Because we get used to things, the same pleasurable stimuli do not make us as happy as they once did. Adding novelty is one way to renew our appreciation for them. For example, eating popcorn with chopsticks, or treating a weekend as if it were a vacation.
  5. Look on the bright side of things: Positive thinkers are more likely to see the glass half full or to find the silver lining in every cloud. Although the mood-enhancing effects of these strategies may not last a long time, they usually make us feel better about whatever stressor we are currently facing.
  6. Help other people: Another potential way to boost happiness involves helping people. Research examining prosocial behaviors (e.g., volunteer work, random acts of kindness) has found the greatest emotional benefits result from giving money. The mood-elevating effects of providing financial assistance are more likely to occur when you experience freedom of choice (e.g., if, when, or how much to give) and you can directly observe how your contribution has benefited the recipient.
  7. Do not think about potentially “better futures”: Why? Because knowing that a product you own will be improved in the near future often reduces present happiness with said product. For instance, learning that a more advanced version of your smartphone is coming out soon can reduce your enjoyment of the version you have.
  8. Devote less time to unpleasant tasks: Do you enjoy housework, especially chores such as cleaning or vacuuming? If not, you are not alone. Devoting less time to these tasks may boost happiness. How? One approach is to let go of the need for perfection and get your chores done quickly. Another is paying for “time-saving services,” such as paying someone to do your grocery shopping. One study found that people experienced greater happiness “after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase.”
  9. Be smarter about phone and social media usage: Limiting smartphone usage is yet another way to improve mood. For instance, during an outing with friends, not constantly checking your phone might reduce distractions and increase your enjoyment. As for social media usage, long-term abstinence has been linked to greater happiness and life satisfaction.

Aside from the above nine strategies, the authors analyzed other frequently recommended techniques, particularly choosing a healthier diet and practicing mindfulness meditation. Despite correlational research supporting the use of these techniques (an example), the preregistered studies reviewed failed to find mood benefits for either.


Some strategies for boosting happiness are practicing gratitude, being more sociable, acting happy, adding novelty to the familiar, looking on the bright side of things, and helping others.

Other mood-enhancing strategies are getting unpleasant tasks done quickly, enjoying the present rather than thinking about potentially better futures (e.g., next year’s iPhone), and limiting smartphone/social media usage.

More research is needed to determine whether other techniques, including practicing meditation and eating healthy (consuming more fruits and vegetables), may also promote happiness.

*Note, the content presented is for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.

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