Some happiness can be bought, but your paycheck stretches only so far.

There is a book called, The How of Happiness, written by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside. Lyubomirsky describes how daily happiness is a result of 10% circumstances, 50% set point (your natural level of happiness), and 40% intentional activity.

The rest of The How of Happiness contains a long list of intentional activities that can increase your happiness. Most of the habits are free, and I want to share my three favorites.

Avoid Overthinking and Social Comparison

A client of mine once described retirement as “the laughing years,” and it is common for people in their 60’s to be as happy as someone in their 20’s. Part of the reason is the older you get, the more you stop worrying about what other people think.

Studies have shown that overthinking sustains sadness and saps motivation. If you want to be a better problem solver, the counterintuitive advice is to stop thinking about your problems. Ruminating biases you towards negative thinking, and grumpy thoughts are the enemy of creativity.

Comparing yourself to others has many of the same effects. Lyubomrisky says, “People who pay too much attention to social comparisons find themselves chronically vulnerable, threatened, and insecure.” You can’t be envious and happy at the same time.

The solution to overthinking and social comparison is to break free, move to higher ground, and avoid future traps. You could break free by binging on Netflix, doing some chores, or working on a hobby. You can “move to higher ground” and motivate yourself by taking a tiny step toward a solution. Finally, you can avoid these negative feelings by avoiding places and situations that cause you to ruminate.

Savor Life’s Joys

Lao Tzu once said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

In the daily stress of life, it can be hard to stop and smell the roses, but savoring life’s joys is a free and easy way to increase your happiness.  In The How of Happiness, Lyubomirsky lists many ways to savor life’s joys, and my favorite is to relish ordinary experiences.

Pick a moment in your day where you feel relaxed or safe and notice how your surroundings sound and feel. Take an extra minute in the shower and listen to every drop of water splash against your skin. Go outside and feel your skin soak up the sun’s rays.

Savoring these ordinary moments takes an extra minute of your day. You can reduce stress, quell anxiety, and increase happiness.


If you haven’t tried meditation before, you are missing out. Although there are many different types of meditation, I learned the Transcendental Meditation technique. It is one of the best activities I have ever learned.

Meditation is a practice of detaching from the world for a short time and practicing your ability to focus. Many people incorrectly believe that meditation is about having a blank mind for twenty minutes.

Meditation is about letting thoughts and emotions happen and then letting them go. When you meditate on a daily basis, it becomes easier to let go of negative emotions and anxious thoughts at any given moment.

If you want to try meditation for free, the Headspace app for iOS and Android phones is fantastic. They have an introductory series called Take10, and each of the ten sessions is only ten minutes. I have tried Take10, and it is fantastic!

Final Thoughts

These are my three favorite ways to increase my happiness for free. Be sure to check out The How of Happiness  by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky for many more suggestions.

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