As Americans, we’ve long held to the misconception that, in order to be successful, we must postpone or even sacrifice our happiness. Not long ago, a student dropped out of the “Psychology of Happiness” course that a colleague and I co-founded at Stanford University, claiming that the syllabus went against everything she had ever learned. The young woman’s parents had taught her that the only way to gage if you are working hard enough is if you are suffering.
America is facing a fun gap. But ironically, this is making us less successful.
In researching my book The Happiness Track, I saw that we have it all wrong. When we value our happiness—and also the happiness of those around us—we become more productive, more focused, more resilient, more charismatic and more influential—not to mention more innovative, too. That’s not all. The ability to have fun improves our relationships, helping us connect with our colleagues, family and friends more easily, and even makes us more attractive to others.
Simply put, being happier is the secret to success, not the other way around.
The best part of this “have more fun” prescription is that it doesn’t take much to change your day, your mood and your perspective on life.
Based on my research of the science of happiness, here are three simple ways to add more fun to your day:
1. Do something nice for someone else
Next time you buy your morning coffee, pick up a treat for a coworker, too. Research suggests that this kind of selflessness makes you feel happier and even boosts your health. It also improves your relationships and gives you a sense of meaning and purpose that further increases your wellbeing.
2. Do something nice for yourself
Affordable pleasures are all around you. They can be as simple as adding extra sprinkles to ice cream.
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3. Savor Your Experiences
Take time to indulge in life’s little pleasures, such as taking a stroll outside, meditating or doing some gentle stretches. You’ll be more energized and productive, not to mention happier.
Dr. Emma Seppälä is a Stanford University psychologist, a happiness expert, a TEDx speaker and the author of The Happiness Track.