The Psychology Of Happiness: 3 Tips To Find (& Maintain) Lifelong Joy
In a split second, everything can change. Your tiny, everyday decisions (even ones as simple as your coffee order or the route you take to work) can have a ripple effect that expands over time. And the average adult makes around 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day—that's a lot of moments that can potentially alter the course of your life!
As Housel explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, the secret to happiness is to not look toward the future but to turn inward—the world may be fragile to chance, but you can control how you respond to it. Below, find a few of his tips to optimize your decision-making and ultimately live your best, happiest life:
Manage your expectations
Allow Housel to declare: "What really matters for your happiness is not your circumstances; it's the gap between your circumstances and your expectations." Meaning, your mindset may have more power over your abundance than the actual items you own.
Social media is a perfect representation of this concept. "When you open up Instagram, what most people see is a curated highlight reel of the prettiest, wealthiest, seemingly happiest people in the world," Housel explains. "If you scroll through that every day and you anchor your expectations to that, even if your life is objectively pretty good, it's easy to fall into this spiral of despair. Even if you're doing well, if your expectations are rising by even more, it's never going to feel great."
As you gain success, your definition of success increases, so you're never truly satisfied. The key, says Housel, is to accept the fact that improving your circumstances won't result in lasting happiness. Manage your expectations, however, and you'll likely feel content.
Focus on gratitude
And it doesn't have to be too complicated: "At the end of every day, just [write], I'm so thankful for this and that, and this and that," he shares. "When you do that, without even knowing it you're managing your expectations and being grateful for what you already have rather than just dreaming about what you could have in the future."
Here, find some expert-backed tips to starting a gratitude journal, plus sample prompts to consider.
Enjoy the mundane
Pockets of joy exist everywhere—even in seemingly mundane moments. To recognize the happiness in your everyday life, Housel recommends asking yourself this question: What are you going to do today that 20 years from now you're going to have nostalgia for?
Chances are, those moments aren't big and sparkly but actually quite ordinary. For example, let's say you're waiting in line at a rental car company. Pretty mundane, right?
Now, "Imagine you're 90 years old, and you're on your deathbed," Housel explains. "Somebody gives you a time machine and says, 'You can go back and experience a moment in your previous life—the moment you get to experience is standing in the rental car line. If you had that opportunity, you would be so grateful for your ability to stand, to see the sunshine, and to talk to other people."
It's a different form of gratitude, he adds, in appreciating what you're doing in the exact moment. "So, what's the mundane task today that I'm going to be nostalgic for in the future?" Housel poses. Perhaps it's grocery shopping with your partner, driving your kids to school, or walking your dog around the block. Whatever it is, try to cherish it for its simplicity.
Overall, your true happiness lies in, well, you. According to Housel, the world is far too unpredictable to rely on external forces for your long-lasting happiness. But when you manage your own expectations, find gratitude for what you do have, and find simple pleasures, the world really is your oyster.