Happiness, like the emotions of sadness, anger, or grief, are extremes of emotion. No one is happy all the time! A good goal is to achieve general contentment with spikes of happiness, and this list will help you achieve that.
Science backs up what our mothers have said for generations (no matter how irritating it is!) The physical act of smiling increases the level of serotonin in our brain, briefly boosting our mood. So the next time you need a pick me up, give a real smile to a friend, loved one, or a total stranger. You’ll be surprised how good you feel!
2. Be more social
Improving your relationship with friends and family is the best way to increase your happiness! These are enduring relationships that pay off in times of stress, when you really need them (even for introverts!)
3. Go outside
Open the windows, go out on your porch or balcony, or even venture to a park for a walk! Sunshine and fresh air boost your mood, improve your cognitive skills and creative spirit. You can do this during your lunch break or commute; studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes a day can have a positive effect on your mood.
4. Shorten your commute
Speaking of commutes, research shows your happiness is directly correlated with the length and difficulty of your commute. There has not been a mitigating factor found; so even if that commute gets you a bigger house or larger income, it doesn’t make up for it.
5. Sleep more
We already know that everyone needs different amounts of sleep (and very few of us get it). It aids our cognitive skills, memory, learning, and focus. Sleep also affects our mood (surprise!) Research shows a sleep-deprived brain remembers more negative emotions and words rather than positive or value-neutral ones.
You’ve probably heard of a “runners high.” There are several studies showing regular exercise is actually more effective at fighting depression than psychotherapy or psycho-medication (shhh!) Regular exercise improves your physical health, sense of productivity, self-image, and sense of confidence.
7. Practice gratitude
This is a great habit to introduce into your daily schedule. Take a few minutes either at the start of your day or at the finish, and begin a gratitude journal. Think of both large and small things that had an impact on you in a positive way. Be sure to also express gratitude verbally when others help you!
We all know meditation lessens stress and anxiety and improves focus and attention, but did you know it also relieves depression? Neuroimaging studies have shown that post-mindfulness meditation, the parts associated with compassion and self-awareness actually grew in size, and the ones associated with stress shrank. You can actually alter your brain structure using meditation!
9. Plan a trip
You don’t even have to leave, just the planning of a trip alone can have a profound effect on our mood. This is known as the “anticipation effect.” Even if your vacation is months down the road (or completely unscheduled), thinking about where you’d go and what you’d do will make you happy!
10. Get older
Luckily, this is something none of us have to actively do! Research shows that getting past middle age tends to increase happiness levels. There are several hypotheses as to why this is, from retirement to fewer stressors to improved relationships with family. No matter the cause, it’s something to look forward to!