To Become Happier, Ask Yourself These Two Questions Every Night

The one-minute exercise can make a profound difference

Photo: skaman306/Getty Images

We often think the key to a happier life is to make big, sweeping changes to the one we’re currently living. But focusing only on grand moves — changing our careers or overhauling our personalities, for example — often just leaves us feeling overwhelmed. A better strategy is to make incremental improvements. Over time, small tweaks can lead to a profound difference.

Through solution-based therapy, I learned about a pair of questions that can help you identify exactly what you need to do to move forward each day. I’ve been asking myself these questions every night, right before bed — research shows that our brains can make creative connections while we sleep — and I’ve noticed an incredible difference in my mood and outlook. Try them yourself:

On a scale of 1–10, how happy are you with your life today?

Don’t dwell on the question too much. You don’t need to provide a list of reasons why — just give a number based on your gut feeling.

If your answer is 10, congratulations. There’s no need for you to be here.

If it’s anything less than 10, here comes the next part: Take whatever number you came up with and add one.

Now ask yourself another question:

If your first answer was [your answer plus one], what would be different?

Here’s an example of what it might sound like in your mind:

On a scale of 1–10, how happy are you with your life today?

Your answer: 6

If that answer was 7, what would be different?

The wording is important. The question “What would be different?” sends your brain on a mission to search for small, achievable changes you can implement to make your life just a little bit better the next day. Maybe you’ll decide to get outdoors for 20 minutes, or call an old friend for a quick catch-up session. Do this consistently over the weeks and months and those changes will start to add up.

Why just add one? Because it’s achievable. If you add more than that — if you try to go from a 3 to a 9, for example — you’ll probably feel anxious about the huge undertaking and decide to put it off for later.

The great thing about these two questions is that they help you improve your life in a way that doesn’t feel like work. Asking them is a one-minute habit that you can start tonight — and eventually, you may find that your happiness number has gone up. If you once had a long streak of 7s, you may now find your days mostly 8s and 9s (you might even have a handful of 10s sprinkled in there). Without doing anything drastic, you’re now a happier version of you.

Breakthrough therapy advocate/mental health progressive. Psychology fanatic. Actor/screenwriter. Forge, Better Humans, PS I Love You, The Ascent, Mind Cafe

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