The 5 Easiest Ways to Give Others (and Yourself) a Happiness BoostLittle things matter: even the smallest gestures add up to big happiness gains. By Jessica Cassity
Studies have found that actively helping people does good things for the psyches of all involved. By going out of your way to bring dinner to an overworked friend, pay for someone else's highway toll, or otherwise lend a hand, you get a positive brain boost and so does the person you helped.
But Paul Zak, PhD, a neuroeconomist and a professor at Claremont Graduate University, says even less tangible acts of kindness can make the giver—and especially the recipient—feel good. These small deeds require minimal effort on your part but are often experienced just as deeply—or even more so—than many of the run-of-the-mill things people do to be good to one another.
Here are five of Dr. Zak's favorite ways to give the people in his life a little happiness boost (while reaping some of those same feel-good benefits for himself!). See which ones work best for you.
1. Ask “How can I be of service to you?”
Zak repeats this phrase in just about every meeting he attends. Doing so makes your collaborators feel supported and heard, which is especially important around the workplace. This also gives your colleagues a chance to air concerns and ask for any additional help they might need. Of course, this phrase can be used with anyone at any time. If a friend or family member is going through a transition or a busier than usual period—such as welcoming a new baby—a check-in like this will be much appreciated.
2. Maintain eye contact (and stop checking your phone!)
This one sounds easy, until you try it. Chances are that a few moments into conversation you'll become distracted and check the time, glance at the television, or otherwise look away from the person you're speaking with. This isn't just rude—it's also a subconscious indication that you aren't fully engaged. “When someone gives you all of their attention it's a gift,” says Zak. “By showing that you're not chained to your device, it's a real show of interest and respect.” This one comes up a lot at home for Zak, but it's easy to practice with anyone, from the person bagging your groceries to the receptionist at your office.
3. Stop pretending you're the only person in the box
Always one to test out new ideas on happiness and connection, Zak recently became an elevator talk