This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the little things we can do every day to boost our confidence and increase happiness? Answer by Jonathan Fields, author of How to Live a Good Life, founder of Good Life Project.
It’s funny, but one of the things that tends to boost happiness least is trying to focus on making yourself happy. There’s actually research that says that the dogged pursuit of happiness can make us less happy.
Part of this is because happiness is more like a snapshot than a movie. It’s a moment in time—it’s fleeting. But most of us try to lock it down as a persistent state. That is futile. The only thing it leads to is persistent misery. Our capacity for happiness is also partially determined by genetics; we have some control, but nowhere near full. If we look at someone who is “wired” to be super happy all the time when we’re not, our inability to rise to that person’s level of giddiness can crush us.
I love the words of Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning. Happiness, he says, cannot be “pursued”—it must “ensue.”
What does he mean by that? Simply that happiness tends to happen more as the side-effect of many other pursuits and activities. So, here are some things to explore that’ll help cultivate happiness “on the side”:
We tend to think of giving as a way to help others, and it does. But it also helps us. There is a phenomenon called “the giver’s glow.” We experience the act of giving as something joyful, meaningful, and that connects us with others. That, in turn, makes us feel good; it helps create moments of happiness, even if that wasn’t the intention.
One of the most effective mood elevators on the planet is physical movement. It could be exercise, but it doesn’t even have to rise to that level. Simply taking regular breaks throughout the day to walk around, stand, or do some gentle yoga makes a huge difference. Try doing it in bouts. Work for 75 minutes, then take a gentle 15 minute movement break. As a great side-effect, this helps your brain work more effectively as well, and helps fuel your positive mindset—and that helps makes you happier.
We are innately social beasts. Our brains are literally wired to be with people—the right people, the ones who fill us up. Yet, the faster life goes, the more we tend to take for granted connecting with close friends, intimate partners, family members, and communities that let us feel like we belong. You need to elevate connection. In my book, How to Live a Good Life, I call this “filling your Connection Bucket.” At least once a day, call someone you care about—yes, call, not text or Snapchat or anything else—just to say hi. Stop everything else, so you’re fully present. This will make a real difference in your happiness.
Most importantly, be intentional rather than reactive. Choose where to invest your attention. Don’t allow the world to tell you what matters. That decision is yours.