“When we buy a new dress or a house or a car, it does give us a thrill at first, but it doesn’t last. It’s a vicious cycle of wanting more, “ says Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and the author of "Myths of Happiness." For lasting joy, Lyubomirsky’s research points to anything that involves surprise, novelty, or change. “We don’t get used to people or experiences as quickly as we get used to possessions.”
The best ways to boost happiness have little to do with material things. Making someone else smile, or being grateful for the things you already have make the biggest impact on how happy you feel, Lyubomirsky tells Yahoo Shine. Here, her four top picks for an instant pick-me up:
Buy something for someone else
Researchers at the Harvard Business School, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Liege found that when individuals were given $20 and asked to spend it on themselves or someone else, participants were happier when they bought something for another person. “People are happier making other people happier,” says Lyubomirsky. “It makes you feel good and forges connections.”
Appreciating what you have makes you happy, says Lyubomirsky, who, in her own research, recently asked individuals to imagine that they would be moving far way in just a month's time. Study participants were told to live their real lives over the following 30 days as if those were going to be their last in their community. “People really savored what they have, which made them happier,” she says. Simply spending more time with friends or going to a favorite local restaurant boosted an individual’s joyfulness.
Plan a trip
“Anticipating a trip makes you happier than actually taking the trip,” according to Lyubomirsky. Indeed, research shows that people planning a vacation are happier than those who aren’t. While actual travel can be stressful (think missed flights or trying to find your way around an unfamiliar city), the feelings associated with looking forward to a trip, or recalling a vacation, are generally positive.
“Flow is the experience of doing something and you don’t notice time passing because you are so immersed, “ she says. This is a tough one to replicate on a daily basis, but a flow journal can help. Keeping track of those times where you feel the most in the moment, Lyubomirksy adds, can help you foster more of them in your life.