A woman smiling outside in a field.

To find long-lasting happiness, what should you actually do? What changes should you make in your life?

Psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky asserts that positive thoughts and behaviors are the happiness factors you can control. She says that you can encourage this positivity by practicing happiness activities across three life areas: mental and physical health, relationships, and purpose.

Read more to learn nine of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s happiness activities from her book The How of Happiness.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s Happiness Activities

Genetics determine your happiness baseline, circumstances influence it temporarily, and positive thoughts and behaviors can offset genetic constraints while also prolonging happiness that stems from circumstances. Since you can’t alter your genetic code and have only a certain degree of influence over your circumstances (and even then, perfect circumstances bring only fleeting happiness), it follows that the most effective way to boost long-term happiness is to cultivate positive thoughts and behaviors.

According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, happiness activities are the way to do this. Let’s look at nine of her activities, organized into three areas of life.

Mental and Physical Health

Lyubomirsky argues that good mental and physical health enhances long-term happiness by providing a solid foundation for a fulfilling and balanced life. She recommends three health-enhancing strategies:

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly, follow a balanced diet, and ensure you get adequate sleep.
  2. Abstain from overthinking and social comparison: Designate specific times to challenge and reframe worries, journal to clarify and release troubling thoughts, manage triggers that induce overthinking or comparisons, practice meditation, or seek therapy.
  3. Foster a positive outlook: Maintain an aspirational diary that captures your hopes for the future; keep a gratitude journal; and prolong appreciation for what’s going well in your life by discussing what you’re thankful for with friends, expressing thanks to others, or reminiscing about pleasant events.

Lyubomirsky suggests that these three strategies enhance long-term happiness by helping you strengthen your mental and physical resilience, deepen your appreciation for life, and live authentically.


According to Lyubomirsky, relationships play an important role in your happiness—strong relationships provide you with happy moments to share and a support system for when things get tough. She suggests three relationship-strengthening strategies:

  1. Be kind: Allocate specific times in your week for altruistic acts or deepening your compassion through understanding and empathizing with others.
  2. Nurture your relationships: Set aside quality time with loved ones, express affection openly, manage conflicts constructively, and show genuine interest in others.
  3. Forgive and move forward: Reflect on personal growth from past hurts, understand the perspectives of those who’ve wronged you, and engage in rituals that symbolize letting go.

Lyubomirsky says that these three strategies enhance long-term happiness by helping you cultivate deep, authentic bonds, make space for positive emotions in your life, and resist hedonic adaptation.


Lyubomirsky suggests that having a sense of purpose is key to feeling happy because it gives your life direction, creating opportunities for satisfaction and fulfillment. She suggests three strategies for honing your purpose:

  1. Pursue meaningful goals: Create clear action plans, regularly review and adjust your objectives, and seek mentorship for guidance and support.
  2. Engage deeply: Focus your attention during tasks, transform mundane activities into stimulating challenges, and strive for moments of complete immersion in whatever you’re doing.
  3. Embrace spirituality: Consider joining a religious community or dedicating daily time to prayer.

According to Lyubomirsky, these three strategies enhance long-term happiness by helping you to experience genuine satisfaction, overcome challenges, and feel connected.

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s Happiness Activities: 9 Paths to Joy

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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