My book The Happiness Project came out almost ten years ago—wow, that’s hard to believe.

One of the most important things I learned as part of doing that project, and an idea that I put into practice in my own life all the time, is that I can influence my happiness. Yes of course, sometimes terrible circumstances make it impossible for me to be happy, but it’s almost always possible to be happier, and often with just a few small steps, I can give myself a big boost.

I try to recognize the fact that I’m feeling blue (oddly, this is often easier said than done) and take action to lift my spirits.

Here are 30 things I do to make myself happier when I need an immediate boost:

  1. Do ten jumping jacks.
  2. Go outside and look at the sky.
  3. Pet my dog Barnaby. Then…
  4. Text a photo of Barnaby to my family.
  5. Re-read a few chapters of a children’s or YA book in a seriesI love: GracelingHarry PotterNarniaMelendy Quartet, etc.
  6. Enjoy a beautiful smell.
  7. Do a small good deed for someone else.
  8. Clear some clutter (I can always find some).
  9. Look for a beautiful color in my surroundings.
  10. Call my sister Elizabeth.
  11. Take a minute to be grateful for some basic aspect of my life: elevators, space heaters, Wikipedia.
  12. Send a family update (to learn more about “update,” listen to episode 2 of the Happier podcast).
  13. Clean off my desk.
  14. Copy some quotations into my giant trove of quotations.
  15. Look at my TimeHop app.
  16. Make sure I’m not cold, hot, thirsty, hungry, need to go to the bathroom, or experiencing mild discomfort: in other words, treat myself like a toddler.
  17. Re-copy my to-do list, so it’s fresh and clean.
  18. Go to the library.
  19. Watch an episode of The Office (American version).
  20. Make the positive argument.
  21. Randomly read a few pages of Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary.
  22. Make myself a cup of coffee.
  23. Make a plan for some future fun: plan an outing, make a date with a friend, add a book to my library list.
  24. Re-read Winston Churchill’s eulogy for Neville Chamberlain.
  25. Tackle some small, nagging task that’s been weighing on my mind.
  26. Move with more energy, put a smile on my face. When I act happier, I’ll feel happier.
  27. Plan to go to bed early. I always feel better in the morning.
  28. Hug a member of my family (whoever’s available).
  29. Allow myself to do some quick research on a subject that has been fascinating me, but is unrelated to my work.
  30. Listen to Nina Simone sing “Feeling Good.”

In my books—The Happiness ProjectHappier at HomeBetter Than BeforeThe Four TendenciesOuter Order Inner Calm, and My Color PilgrimageI write about why these small actions do make me happier.

It’s great to have a long menu of choices to consult. Of course, everyone’s list is a bit different. My husband’s list would include “Do a crossword puzzle,” for instance.

What’s on your list?

Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home and Better Than Before. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.


Image courtesy of A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ.