Want To Be Happier Today? Do These Three Things

» Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Alpha Blog | 0 comments

Life can often feel like there are a lot of reasons to be unhappy. A frustrating job, not enough time, money, love, respect, whatever. Sometimes, there is not a whole lot we can do about these things. And it can also feel like the changes that will lead to happiness are so overwhelming that we can’t imagine making them. In the midst of this, we often forget that we never lose the power to choose.


Here are three choices you can make today to improve your happiness.


Give Up Social Comparisons. In his timely new book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton takes us on a virtual tour of the discontents of society, and in convincing prose, invites us to think twice about looking into our neighbor’s yard. Because when we do, de Botton explains, we succumb to an instinctive and unconscious quest upon which we sacrifice happiness, connection, and even love, all for the promise of one thing: keeping up with the Joneses. The problem is, it’s a race we can never win, and never stop running. Because we are not worried about the finish, we are worried about the race itself — and the odds keep changing. And all of this, de Botton states, makes for some serious anxiety, and serious unhappiness. So what’s the solution? Refuse to run the race. Stop competing with the Joneses, the Smiths, or anyone else. Instead, focus on what you are doing in the moment, who you are, and where you are going. And if you want to do any comparing, compare yourself today to yourself yesterday, last week, or last year.


Choose Action Over Inaction. In a 1995 article published in Psychological Review, authors reviewed evidence that found that what people regret most is not the risks they did take, but the ones they didn’t. Even more telling, was that over time, regret about actions taken loses intensity, while regret over actions not taken, intensifies. What people remember most fondly are life experiences — the great achievements, the spontaneous vacations, the never-ending road trips, the first kiss, the first child, the graduations. And there is a reason for that. Experiences that we find ourselves absorbed in — completely in the moment — are the things we do for the sheer enjoyment of doing them because they are rewarding in and of themselves. Their value is intrinsic, and the rate of return emotional. Experiences like this are like the mutual funds of happiness. So, start stockpiling them.


Take Happiness Into Your Own Hands. There are a lot of things that can make us unhappy. A job that doesn’t pay enough, a relationship that hurts, a body we don’t like, and the fear of making changes. But the truth is, we never lose the opportunity to decide, right here and right now, what we are going to do about our lives. And we can change. We can look for another job, leave a relationship, and start exercising. All of these things are in our power. Sure, we can feel confined, but we never lose the power of choice. And you can choose how much of a change you want to make. Maybe you simply want to start thinking differently about your life and choose to not allow yourself to complain. You can choose to find three things to be grateful for every time a negative thought enters your head. You can choose to give something away every time you feel poor. You can choose to thank someone every time you feel unhappy. Your happiness, after all, is yours to create.


Happiness is not an accident. Instead, it’s a result of choices — small decisions we make every day about how we want to live, and the lives we want to create.




de Botton, A. (2005). Status Anxiety. New York, Vintage Books.

Gilovich, T., Medvec, V. (1995). The Experience Of Regret: What, When, and Why. Psychological Review. 1995, Vol. 102, No. 2, 379-395