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Need a Happiness Boost? This 3-Minute Daily Ritual Gets Real Results

It really is that simple to make yourself a little happier.

Smiley face and a phone with a timer set for 3 minutes on a yellow background
Yes, you can get happier in just a few minutes each day.
James Martin/CNET

This story is part of Try This, CNET's collection of simple tips to improve your life, fast.

Here's a sad statistic: 45% of people say they haven't felt true happiness for more than two years, according to a June Oracle report that surveyed more than 12,000 people. Perhaps worse, 25% say they don't know, or have forgotten, what it means to feel truly happy.

While money can't buy happiness (though it does help), spending just a few minutes of your day on one thing actually can make you happier right now, and into the future. And no, it doesn't involve a meditation app or buying anything. 

CNET Try This

A common misconception about happiness is that it's fixed and we can't change it. In reality, at least part of it is within your control. Sure, your circumstances (your job and your material possessions) matter, but not as much as you may think. Several science-backed methods can help you boost your own feelings of contentment. (If you have clinical anxiety or depression, these aren't a replacement for professional help, though research suggests they can be a beneficial supplement.) 

Here's one of the easiest ways to make yourself happier in just a few minutes a day. 

Write down 3 things you're grateful for 

It's that easy. 

Writing down three good things that happened to you -- and why those things happened -- at the end of each day leads to long-term increases in happiness and decreases in depressive symptoms, according to a 2005 study from Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The things you write down can be major, simple or somewhere in the middle -- whether you got a job promotion or just saw a cute dog on your walk. You can write them on a piece of paper, in a note-taking app, in a journal or wherever you like. 

Your list might look something like this: "Finished a project at work, because I worked hard on it. Had a nice conversation on the phone with a friend, because she called me. Went for a walk and saw some beautiful flowers, because it was a nice day." 

In the 2005 study, participants who were assigned to write down three good things and their causes each night started to see beneficial effects quickly. After one month, they reported feeling happier and less depressed than when they started, and they stayed that way through follow-ups at three months and six months, when the study concluded. 

The point is to train your mind to think about the parts of your life that are good, instead of focusing on the parts that are stressful or annoying, Emiliana Simon-Thomas told me back in 2020. Simon-Thomas co-teaches the course The Science of Happiness at the University of California, Berkeley, and is also the science director of Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center

So take time to count those blessings, large and small. Science says it could have a real impact on your well-being. 

For more tips, here's how to make a mug cake in 5 minutes if you find joy through chocolate cake. And here's how to fall asleep and stay asleep with a quick nightly activity.

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.