Happiness is a big, central goal for many of us and so is can feel like achieving it must involve big actions. But while finally learning to paraglide or making that career change you have long dreamed about may be necessary for your life satisfaction in the long-run, short term we shouldn't miss opportunities to take small steps towards greater well being.
In fact, while you're sitting at your desk longing for that dream trip to Costa Rica or badgering yourself to actually go to the gym after work, you could probably be using that time to make yourself happier instead. And you don't even need to get up from your swivel chair to do it.
That's one takeaway of a recent round-up of happiness research in PsyBlog. The post lists 10 easy activities you can engage in to increase your happiness and, reading it, you're struck by the fact that some of the ideas are so simple you could do them right now while sitting at your desk.
Which isn't to say, of course, you shouldn't make the bigger changes that will bring you greater life satisfaction, it just means that you're not powerless to start working on your happiness right this instant. So what should you do if you're in need of an instant mood lift but can't get out of the office? Here are four suggestions from PsyBlog:
Mentally subtract something good from your life. People spend a lot of time thinking about good things that didn't happen, but might have done. But what about the good things that did happen that might not have? Say you'd never met your partner or friend or got that job? What would life be like without some of those things we take for granted? Thinking about what might not have been can be tremendously powerful if used in the right way.
Send a thankful message. Gratitude is a powerful emotion that helps us enjoy what we have. Evoke it right now by sending an email, text or letter to someone who has helped you in some way. Thank them for what they have done for you, however small. It's easy and quick and one study has found thatpractising gratitude can increase happiness 25%.
Listen to music. Music can influence mood in many ways but most people rate its power to manage our positive moods as the top reason they love music. We particularly like the fact that it can make our good moods even better. Even sad music can bring pleasure.
A happy daydream. In this research on life-savouring strategies, positive mental time travel was found to be one of the most effective. In the study people thought back to times in their lives that gave them pleasure; moments filled with success, love and friendship.