5 Happiness Boosters That Do More Harm Than Good

By Gretchen Rubin, DivineCaroline

Everyone has a few tricks for beating the blues–things you do when you’re feeling down to try to boost your mood. It turns out, however, that several of the most popular strategies don’t actually work very well in the long-term. Beware if you are tempted to try any of the following.

1. Comforting yourself with a “treat.” Often, the things we choose as “treats” aren’t good for us. The pleasure lasts a minute, but then feelings of guilt, loss of control, and other negative consequences just deepen the lousiness of the day. So when you find yourself thinking, “I’ll feel better after I have a few beers…a pint of ice cream…a cigarette…a new pair of jeans,” ask yourself: Will it really make you feel better? It might make you feel worse.

Related: 5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

2. Letting yourself off the hook. I’ve found that I sometimes get a real happiness boost from giving something up, quitting something, or breaking a bad habit. For example, I feel very happy about having given up fake food. When you’re feeling down, you might be tempted to let yourself off the hook, to think, “I’ll allow myself to skip my run today, I need a break.” In fact, sticking to a resolution will boost your sense of self-esteem and self-control. So NOT letting yourself off the hook might do more to boost your happiness.

3. Expressing your negative emotions. Many people believe in the “catharsis hypothesis” and think that expressing anger is healthy-minded and relieves their feelings. Not so. Studies show that expressing anger only aggravates it; as Plutarch observed, “Anger, while in its beginning, often can be ended by silence, or neglect.” I’ve certainly found this to be true; once I get going, I can whip myself into a fury. It’s better to stay calm.

4. Turning off your phone. Studies show that extroverts and introverts alike get a mood boost from connecting with other people. Although it can be tempting to isolate yourself when you’re feeling unhappy, you’re better off making plans with friends or family.

5. Staying in your pajamas all day. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in my happiness research is that although we think that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act. As improbable as this sounds, it really works. Sometimes it can be fun to hang out in your sweats all day, but if you’re feeling lethargic, powerless, or directionless, not getting dressed is going to make you feel worse. Put on your clothes–including your shoes–so you feel prepared for whatever the day might offer. While you’re at it, make your bed.

Have you ever tried to cheer yourself up using a strategy that just made you feel worse in the end? What are some more effective ways to beat the blues?

Originally published on The Happiness Project

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Marija M
Marija M3 months ago


Emma Z
Past Member 3 months ago


Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Been kind to yourself.

Elisa F.
Elisa F3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Amy Ingalls
Amy Ingalls3 years ago

I guess I do feel better when I get dressed

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin3 years ago

darn i love pajamas

Mary Donnelly
Mary Donnelly3 years ago


Carol S.
Carol S4 years ago

No more pajama days??????

Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen4 years ago

Thank you :)