A wealth of psychology research informs us how to increase our well-being and happiness. It’s not doing any single big thing that will increase your happiness, but rather a whole host of small things.
I believe that this remains a key, overlooked point. With all due respect to Bobby McFerrin, you cannot just “be happy” through sheer willpower alone (no more than you can will away depression, ADHD or anxiety). It takes small changes and small efforts — every day — to enable change.
And here’s the kicker for the most effective behavior change march toward happiness — those small, positive behaviors should be incompatible with the unhealthy behaviors you want to change. Psychologists have known for some time that if you have a few bad habits you want to get rid of, you need to replace them with good habits that make continuing with the bad habits virtually impossible.
For lasting behavior change, replace bad habits with good habits that are incompatible with the bad ones.
Let’s look at a few examples to see how this might work in real life.