3 joyful ways to celebrate the International Day of Happiness

March 20, 2017, 6:36 a.m.
Father and son enjoying a sunset together
Photo: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

Studies have shown that to increase how happy you feel, it helps to do things that make other people happy too. It's the classic "what you give is what you get" scenario.

As US News reported on a 2013 study, "Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, has studied happiness for more than 20 years. She and others know that positive activities boost positive emotions, thoughts and behavior, in turn improving well-being... Her research, presented at the recent annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in New Orleans, found that performing other positive acts once a week led to the most happiness."

So on International Day of Happiness, a perfect way to celebrate and feel a big dose of happiness yourself, is to perform acts of kindness for others.

Here are three simple ideas for putting happiness out into the world, and getting some back in return.

1. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line. Not only is it something that will surprise and brighten that person's day, but it will also make them more likely to pay the kindness forward so you get more bang for your buck (literally!).

"In recent years, social scientists have conducted experiments demonstrating that the effect of a single act of kindness can in fact ripple through a social network, setting off chains of generosity that reach far beyond the original act," reported Milena Tsvetkova and Michael Macy of Cornell University in a New York Times article.

Your one little act of generosity will make you happy, and potentially will make quite a few other people happy throughout the day as well.

2. Give a compliment to a stranger. When you give a compliment, you're making a lasting difference in someone's day. But you're also taking a moment to experience genuine kindness. And that gives you — and the recipient of your compliment — a boost of happiness. It also has other benefits.

Happify notes:

"Compliments don’t just make others feel great. They also enhance our own self-confidence. Giving a genuine compliment requires us to look for the good in others. In doing so, we also start to see the good in ourselves. We realize that we are all on the same journey together and that each of us has value to share with the world. Seeing the good in others has another powerful benefit. By appreciating and respecting others, we become a magnet for their reciprocated love."

3. If you really want to make someone's day special, write them a letter of gratitude. Choose someone (or several people!) in your life who you don't often express how much you appreciate them. Write them a letter telling them what it means to you to have them in your life and how grateful you are for their presence. Expressing gratitude not only makes that person feel really special, but gives you a boost of joy as well. It's a win-win action with lasting positive effects.