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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Happiness

In Forge. More on Medium.

🐦 Today’s tip: Set an “unusual bird interruption” alarm.

Sometimes—even when we’re shuffling through the late (we hope!) stages of a pandemic, and feeling burnt-out and spark-less—connecting with life’s joy is as easy as looking at a bird.

This doesn’t even have to mean actual bird-watching — a video works. As the teacher Sophie Lucido Johnson writes in Human Parts:

I have a weekly scheduled “unusual bird interruption” alarm that goes off on my phone every week in my classes. We watch a bird video for something like two minutes. Afterward, I always say, “If you’re stuck or having a…


A psychology-based approach to conflict

Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

About five years ago my significant other and I were in a dumb argument. I wasn’t backing down. She wasn’t backing down.

During the stalemate, I vented to a friend. I explained to him in agonizing detail why I was right, why my significant other was wrong, how the world would be better off if I could just get her to understand this — and did this guy have any advice for convincing her that I was right? His response: “Do you want to be right or happy?”

This question has since saved me a lot of headaches and led…


Today’s tip: Splurge on the nicest version of something you use every day.

Okay, of course you can’t really buy happiness. But if you have some extra dollars, you can use them to elevate the everyday.

Research on happiness (and lived experience) has shown that we quickly get used to things, and this makes them less happiness-sparking. As Laura Vanderkam writes in Forge, “because we get used to things, it’s hard to buy happiness by purchasing big-ticket items.”

But we can, Vanderkam points out, give ourselves lots of jolts of happiness from small, lovely things sprinkled throughout our days…


The struggle to attain a deeply meaningful life may be an issue of language

Illustration: Dora Godfrey/Medium

Over the past two years, I have conducted more than 100 podcast interviews with best-selling authors, prominent academics, and other high achievers about the connection of money, happiness, work, and meaning. In each of these conversations, I make a point to ask these thinkers how each of us can lead a happier life. Again and again, the same answer keeps coming up: “Lower your expectations.”

The first few times I heard this advice, I refused to accept it. “Low expectations” sounds defeatist. It sounds like giving up on happiness altogether. But over time, I’ve realized that the gap between their…


😀 Today’s tip: Set aside time to practice experiencing happiness.

There are lots of reasons to feel terrible right now, and just as many to feel just very deeply blah. These doldrum-moments can build on each other, as Ashley Abramson writes in Forge: “Lapses in pleasure-seeking and feeling can actually impair the brain’s reward systems, like a muscle deteriorating in strength when you don’t use it. On the flip side, experiences of joy — even small, rehearsed ones — can keep those pathways strong.”

So think of something that makes you happy — talking to your funniest friend on the…


Why it’s best to invest in frequent doses of small, nice things

Illustration: Dora Godfrey/Medium

We’ve all heard the maxim that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it sort of can? Or at least a little smidge of happiness? Or think of it this way: Let’s say you’ve found yourself with a bit of extra money. What could you do with it to have the biggest impact on your daily life?

The good news is that money really can make life better. The bad news is that we tend not to take human psychology into account as we make our money decisions. …


Photo: happy8790/Getty Images

Medium writer Darius Foroux has a slightly spicy take in his recent Stoic Letter: One way to ease the unhappiness we’ve all been feeling for the past year is to reconsider what happiness even means.

Foroux quotes the Stoic philosopher Seneca: “No one can live happily, or even bearably, without the pursuit of wisdom.”

The Stoics believed that we shouldn’t hitch our sense of well-being to anything that can be taken away: wealth, health, tipsy karaoke nights. Those things are great, and of course, we all want them. But our true, life-level happiness must come from what can never be…


🤔 Today’s tip: Ask yourself, “What if nothing ever changed?”

If you’re feeling unsettled, try asking yourself this question: What if nothing ever changed?

Sure, it might sound a little grim, but as Catherine Andrews writes in Forge, the thought experiment can be powerful. What if nothing ever changed? What if you always had this job? What if you always made this amount of money? What if you could never move? What if your body remained this exact shape forever? How then would you be happy?

The goal of the prompt isn’t to discourage you from reaching for more, but…


It’s time to revisit all the dumb things we found hilarious as kids

Credit: MoMo Productions/Getty Images

Over the past year, when I couldn’t do the things that normally brought me joy — travel, go to concerts, chat over tea with my best friend — I tried to cope in all the expected ways. I read, exercised, and learned some new skills. I forced myself to see the pandemic as an opportunity for gentle self-growth. But as the weeks stretched into months of being trapped at home, none of it was enough. I felt dull, like a robot on autopilot.


Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

Many of us (and I count myself in this number) have ridden out the pandemic with a slightly deranged “smoke ’em if you got ’em,” YOLO-at-home mentality. I’m going to eat whatever I want, we’ve told ourselves, it’s a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, I can have a loaf of bread for a snack! Instagram ad offers just the right muumuu? Click! Carpe Diem! I deserve indulgence, it’s a GLOBAL PANDEMIC! Cocktail hour? Break out the good stuff, because who knows what tomorrow will bring, after all. (You get the idea.)

Still, there is a kind of exquisite indulgence in saving treats, even…

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