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How to Create a Happiness Advantage

Okdork Readers: This is a guest post by my close friend Adam Gilbert. Adam is the Founder of MyBodyTutor, a service he created 7 years ago to help people eat better, lose weight and get in amazing shape. I’m a client and I can’t recommend his service enough.

Adam has helped me to change the way I think about food and exercise along with many other things.

I love the way he thinks. He mentioned a few Happiness Triggers he has set up, and I invited him to write about them here.

Happiness Triggers

The idea of a happiness trigger is to set something up now that will trigger happiness in the future. Similar to Positive Triggers, Happiness Triggers are created specifically to recall happy memories and to make life a little bit better now and in the future.

3 Main Categories:

1) Memory/Positive Association
2) Anticipation (for it’s own sake)
3) Where we spend the most time

Recently I traveled to Italy. The trip was amazing, but I wanted to find a way to let the good times (keep) rolling. During the trip I found ways to create happiness triggers to remind me of the trip long after I was back in NYC.

I asked for an extra bar of soap and took it home with me. Now every time I shower I think about the vacation. I also took the pen from our favorite hotel. Every time I write, I think about my trip to Italy.

One of the hotels we loved had an email newsletter so I signed up for it. Now, every time I get it, I’m reminded of the hotel, my experience, and the joys of room service. 🙂

I took the room keys as well. (Hotels don’t mind if you do this.) And now, I use them as bookmarks. We took tons of pictures. We also wrote detailed descriptions of the prior day during breakfast every morning.

This was a fun activity in and of itself but it’s helpful because after a few days or so everything starts to blend together. After we returned home, I created an Italy album that I leave on my coffee table. Every time I pick it up, it creates happiness.

* * * * *

Here are some more ideas for you.

1) Candles can be very soothing. Keep your favorite candle nearby to trigger happiness.

2) Make the background on your phone and/or computer a picture of something or someone you love.

3) Does anyone use ringtones anymore? Well, they can be an instant happiness trigger if you have your favorite song as your ringer.

4) Leave your iPod/iPhone on your favorite song and the radio on your favorite station.

6) Anticipation is a very powerful way to create instant happiness. Set up things to look forward to such as trying a new restaurant at the end of the week.

7) On that note, use everyday occurrences as a source of anticipation aka happiness. Andy Warhol said, “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.” (Click to Tweet)


A) When a close friend texts or emails you and you know it’s going to be funny, don’t read it immediately.

B) When you get a new magazine or something fun in the mail wait a few days before opening it.

C) Don’t watch all your favorite DVR’d TV shows all in one night. Space them out. Or binge on them but plan it in advance so you can look forward to it.

D) Save a blog post you want to read until later on in the day.

The idea is to enjoy the anticipation. Having things to look forward to makes us happier now.

8) You know how you can smell something and it can bring you right back to a certain time of your life? We can use that to our happiness advantage.

A) I mentioned above that I like candles. Why not get a candle that smells like something you love?

B) I love the beach, summer and sun. What encompasses all three of those things? Suntan lotion! They actually make spray that smells like it. I spray it every now and then.

C) If you loved how you felt during a certain time in your life and wore a certain cologne/perfume why not use it now? It’ll bring you right back.

Bonus: Listen to the music you listened to during that time.

9) Invest in really comfortable socks and underwear. Usually, the first things we put on are our socks and underwear. Why not invest in socks and underwear that feel amazing when you put them on. Instant happiness.

10) We spend about ⅓ of our lives in bed. There’s nothing like getting into bed and loving the way the sheets and blankets feel. Why not invest in getting high quality sheets and blankets. Instant happiness once you get into bed.

11) Phones have favorite people lists so you can easily contact your VIPs. Why not have a wall or table of pictures with your favorite people? (Noah does this on his wall, and it’s very cool). Every time you walk by, it’s hard not to smile.

12) Calendar invites are powerful. Every Wednesday, I get an email that sends me a link to a funny YouTube video. Once that really gets old, I’ll do something else.

13) If you have a memorable experience jot it down in a journal. The more specific, the better. We underestimate how quickly we’ll forget things. It’s always fun to look back on it.

14) Use IFTTT to send yourself a weekly (or daily) text message with a positive note or quote that you love. Or use it to send a note at sunrise every morning. (For example, you can have have a scheduled text message that asks, “What are you grateful for?” This will remind you to focus on gratitude.

Gratitude changes your attitude. (Click to Tweet)

15) Write a long list of things you’re thankful for and then use Boomerang for Gmail or to bring the email back every couple weeks. And then boomerang it again.

These are some ideas to get you started. We might not all agree on what happiness is but if you’re looking for more of it, these are fairly simple and fun ways to get more!

Leave a comment below and share your own favorite happiness trigger. One person will get got a 30 minute call with Adam to customize a diet and exercise plan. Check out more about Adam (@MyBodyTutor) and his program at

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25 responses to “How to Create a Happiness Advantage”

Patricia Kim Cabatuando Rivera
August 26, 2014 at 10:00 am

The thing that makes me grateful is my beautiful cat Olive she is my pride and joy she is my baby I love her has my own ….

November 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I actually do the thing where smells remind me of certain periods of my life! I still have perfumes and lotions lying around & just one sniff reminds me of the time I was sharing wine with my friend on the banks of the Thames in London, or watching the sunrise with my boyfriend in Cuba, or they simply remind me of being around my sister.

November 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I have lots of happiness triggers around me, I just don’t think I’ve seen them that way. Now I’ll see how I can surround myself with more!

One simple favourite is having a nice shower gel. It’s a great way to start the day and feels like a reward after working out.

November 16, 2013 at 4:46 am

What makes me happy is getting my nice nespresso coffe out of the machine in the morning.

November 13, 2013 at 8:29 am

Thanks for these great suggestions. The lack of sunlight due to shorter days impact our outlook. They’ll also help those who experience those “Holiday Blues.” Perfect timing and easy to implement – great ideas to share!

AJ Mihrzad
November 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Noah you’re the man, thanks for always bringing phenomenal content!

This is one of my favorite blogs btw. Here is my Happiness Trigger:

It’s made a profound difference in my life!

Chanelle Henry
November 11, 2013 at 3:59 pm

There is something awesome about cilantro.. The smell, the taste, the feel (better than cotton… Lol). I tend to get that in every dish I can when I can because it produces a state of happiness quickly.

Also, pine candles. Since I’m allergic to pine now (it gives me hives… Lol) a candle gives me the feeling of childhood Christmas!

November 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Basil? That rings a bell. I used to keep a mint plant on my back porch. Every morning on my way out to work I’d pick a leaf or two and chew.

Not sure it picked my mood up *every* day, but I did have nice breath.

November 11, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Basils just keep growing abundantly in tropical weather I live here. I use it almost everyday on my toast, salad, snacks, pasta. Each time I take a leaf off, I’m super thankful for the luscious and savory treat 🙂 basils are my triggers

James Ledoux
November 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I love the idea of actively engineering little doses of happiness into each day.

I’m guilty of not doing any of this. Will give it a try and report back.

November 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I’m loving some of these ideas and will start incorporating them into my daily routine!!

At work, I take a fifteen minute stair flight walk everyday and know that when I come back to my desk I feel awesome and have better mental
clarity. (even though I may feel a little bit sweaty lol)

To remind myself to go everyday, I have an outlook meeting reminder saying “Surprise!!”

It’s like my gift to energy and life back into the day especially when I start feeling like my day isn’t as productive as I want it to be. 🙂

David Heasman
November 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Aw, haha this is effing amazing.

Something I started doing as a teenager when I had to study for exams, was play soundtracks to my favourite/nostalgic video games while studying.

Hearing the music always makes (I still do it today from time to time) makes me smile, and used to also remind me to look forward to when I was free from exams.

November 10, 2013 at 1:44 am

I find the best happiness triggers to be music.

Wherever I go on vacation, I buy and listen to some local music, then when I’m home whenever I listen to it, my brain recreates that feeling of vacation – I recall smells, feelings, events, people, moments, associations…. It’s pretty awesome.

I still have albums I bought when I was 15, and whenever they come up on iTunes, I immediately go back to those vacations from 15 years ago…

November 8, 2013 at 8:57 am

One of my happiness triggers is the smell of pine needles. Also-because i love singing-which unfortunately if forget to do more often because i get caught up in other things-it instantly brings a feeling of joy to me. I LOVE it and will put it on my list of daily dos for happiness triggers!

Thank you for this awesome post!

November 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Here’s another one as “thank you” for these triggers 🙂

Andrew McMichael
November 7, 2013 at 2:33 pm

So true – my home screen on my iPod and phone are my daughter pulling either a killer smile or a funny face. She loves taking silly pictures and now she acts the monkey in 1080p video! Cool…

November 7, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I use visual triggers commonly seen everywhere you turn. If I can’t see it, I’ll forget it. The whole point is to not to have to remember anything.

Example … BP gas stations. Every time I see a BP gas station I think “Be Present”. This funnels me back to where I need to be.

Trying to make an online biz go and I very easily get disconnected with “everything on my mind.” I’m sure I’m making things a lot more complicated than they need to be (thanks Noah for helping me see some of that), but that’s what I’m improving upon Boo yah.

Scott Britton
November 7, 2013 at 11:05 am

Good stuff Adam!

Two of my favorite happiness triggers:

1. looking at pictures of my family’s dog or puppies in general

2. Watching this Keith Apicary dance video…sometimes I even watch this before I go out when I’m already feeling happy vibes : )

Nick Kizirnis
November 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

Great article, I love the hotel door key idea. Excellent ideas here to trigger happiness and make us more aware of our surroundings. I’m looking at the pictures of my family on my desk and a few other items, and realize that I haven’t “seen” them in a while.

I don’t know about holding off on watching our favorite DVR’d show, or especially waiting to read a favorite blog. 🙂

Beth L
November 7, 2013 at 10:27 am

Your post reminds me of the technique my mom used when studying for her oral exam (for her master’s degree to become a therapist, ironically!). Her teacher recommended this to her:

When preparing for something stressful that makes you anxious, place post-it notes (blank) around your house in strategic places like on the refrigerator, doors, table, walls you pass by often, objects you use, etc. Pick a color you like (my mom chose purple). Every time you see these notes, do some small action that helps you de-stress. Hers was to “breathe”. And she always said it in a silly voice “breeeeaaaathe”.

Now every time I see a purple post-it note anywhere I STILL am reminded to “breeeaaathe” and it wasn’t even MY exam.

(and yes, she passed!)

November 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

GREAT post & thanks Noah for such good content! Love the happiness triggers & how you incorporate these into overall wellness.
Gratitude and service are 2 happiness triggers for me.
If I feel funky, I try to snap into gratitude and think of both big and small things I’m thankful for.
Reaching out and helping someone- be it a friend, family member or total stranger…that connection/ kindness extended always makes me feel better & it has been scientifically proven to increase your serotonin levels. Even people who WITNESS a good deed- their body’s “feel good” chemicals increase as well. Pretty cool 🙂

November 7, 2013 at 8:14 am

gets me every time:

November 7, 2013 at 6:50 am

Best trigger…set your laptop screen saver to cycle through all the pictures you’ve taken. And then leave your laptop where you’ll see it all the time.

I’m shocked at how much this has changed my outlook and behavior. It makes me take more pictures because I know I’ll see them again and feel good about the time I was having. It seems to even be smart enough to show pictures from the same time of year previous years…right now it’s showing Thanksgiving pictures from a year ago (among others).

A close second best trigger, is a little app I wrote that *randomly* sends me short happiness messages. Any time someone pays me a compliment, it goes in the list of messages, and multiple random times in the future I get to be reminded of the compliment, and get another zing of good feelings.

November 7, 2013 at 6:44 am

High quality sheets are worth every stinkin’ penny. Your life gets better the moment you put them on the bed.

Also worth money spending on: the best shower head money can buy. You greet every day with a good mood. Small drawback: you demand fewer back rubs from your significant other. So if you’re single, not a drawback.

Definitely could use more material on gratitude. Not exactly the same thing as happiness. Single most useful feeling to me.

If only I could pound (drum, beat, strike, hit, clobber, thump, or pummel) that into my 11-year old son.

Jack Reamer
November 7, 2013 at 6:06 am

Write down 3 new things you are grateful for every day. If forces you to start noticing more of the gifts we already have.

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