These tips go beyond scheduling time for yourself and doing good deeds.
They Act Like They Have Only a Month Left in Their Town
Photo: Todor Tsvetkov/istockphoto
Their secret: Spending time with the people they'd miss at the places they'd miss if they were to move.
Why it works: People who were told to imagine that they were moving in a month and to log their daily activities were happier and more appreciative of the people and places around them than those who were just told to keep track of what they did each day, found a not-yet-published study. "They savored their time more when it felt finite," explains study author Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at UC Riverside, in California, and the author of The Myths of Happiness.
They're That Person Smiling at Strangers
Their secret: Interacting with people they come across throughout their day—whether it's the woman in front of them in line at their favorite lunch spot, the barista at the local coffee shop or the stranger standing next to them waiting for the light to change.
Why it works: All three experts we spoke to for this story said that strong relationships are one of the single biggest predictors of happiness. But short, simple encounters—even if they're with someone you may not see again—make you feel connected to the broader community around you, which also increases your joy, says Christine Carter, PhD, sociologist and a senior fellow at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center and the author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. "If you're walking around town and looking at your phone at every stoplight instead of acknowledging the people around you, and everybody else is doing the same thing, you'll feel isolated even though you're surrounded by people," she says. "All you have to do is look up."
When They Plan Ahead for Monday, They Do It Like This
Their secret: Interval planning—alternating the scheduling of intense activities with less-demanding ones, like slotting a meeting where you can just sit back and listen immediately before or after one where you're front and center.
Their secret: Setting strict start-stop times for any work that can't wait until Monday, like 10 am to 12 pm Saturday.
Why it works: "We know from research that we're more focused, motivated and productive when we shorten the amount of time we have to work on something," says Carter. Plus, the more time you spend unplugged over the weekend, the more engaged and enthusiastic you'll be come Monday morning, according to research in Journal of Organizational Behavior.