New ways to count your blessings: Science-backed strategies for increasing your joy

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Jessica DuLong

Published February 23, 2024

The charmer who once sent shivers down your spine morphs into the familiar face over the breakfast table. The fancy French-door fridge you ogled on the showroom floor now blends in with your other appliances. The fire-engine-red convertible that gave you goose bumps on the test-drive has turned into your regular ride.

This same phenomenon occurs with things that once bothered you: At first you choke on the chlorine cloud at your local pool but soon you hardly notice the smell. Your boss is a yeller, but by now his barking is just background noise.

Responding less and less to stimuli that repeat is a human phenomenon that social scientists call habituation. Over time, what once amazed you becomes ordinary. What once seemed awful does, too.

In their new book, “Look Again: The Power of Noticing What Was Always There,” researchers Tali Sharot and Cass R. Sunstein explore how seeing with fresh eyes what you once found exhilarating can improve happiness, relationships, work and community. They also address how no longer ignoring or glossing over the “bad things” can serve as an important motivator — critical, they write, for “fighting foolishness, cruelty, suffering, waste, corruption, discrimination, misinformation and tyranny.”

Here Sharot and Sunstein offer practical strategies for how to harness this reality of human nature to make our lives better.