Want to feel happier in your daily life? Even the happiest folks would answer “yes” to this question – happiness is a feeling that we all crave. When we are happy, we thrive in life. Recent science on happiness research has identified 11 tools that we can all use to boost our moods. Take a look at the list below for ways to build up your happiness reserve.
1. Smile more often – You may not realize it, but smiling is a powerful tool to boosting happiness and dealing with difficult situations. This is especially true when you pair your smile with positive thoughts. Researchers have found that people who smile genuinely (like when your eyes narrow and crinkle) and cultivate positive thoughts boost their mood and decrease withdrawal from tough situations.
2. Exercise for seven minutes a day – Seven minutes, you say? Yep. According to science, even this duration of activity is enough to kick start happiness. Any exercise can help us relax, increase brainpower, and even improve body images, even if we don’t lose any weight. And exercise fires up endorphins, which are linked with decreased depression – meaning increased overall happiness.
3. Get more sleep – We all know that sleep is our body’s time to rejuvenate from the day and ready us for the day to come. In addition to resetting our rest levels, science has shown that a good night’s sleep can boost happiness. Specifically, lack of sleep can heighten our response to negative experiences in our day. The buffer to this is getting enough quality rest to carry you through the day well rested.
4. Spend more quality time with friends and family – Research has found that relationships are important factors in living long, happy lives. Social time is extremely valuable, whether you identify as an introvert or extrovert. The reasoning is simple – we are happiest when we have friends and family, and most of our life pursuits can be seen as a way to acquire and maintain our social network. Folks who report having strong connections to others not only experience increased happiness, but also live longer.
5. Go outside more often – If you find your mood dipping during the day, take twenty minutes and get outside for some fresh air. Tapping into nature on a nice day has been proven not only to stimulate a positive mood, but also to contribute to broadened thinking and improved working memory.
6. Help other people – Giving to others makes us feel good. Think about helping someone in need, or giving an unexpected gift to a loved one. Actions of service to others, both small and large, are sure-fire ways to increase our overall happiness. In fact, scientists have found that doing a kind act produces the single most reliable momentary increase in of any exercise tested.
7. Plan a trip (even if you don’t ever take it) – Have you ever had the feeling that the anticipation for a vacation is sometimes better than the trip itself? You’re not alone. Science has indicated that planning a getaway or big scale trip is an effective tool in producing a happiness spike. When you feel your mood start to dip, head to the Internet and start planning your next big adventure. Whether you book it or not, the act itself will make you feel good.
8. Meditate – You don’t have to be a Zen master to take advantage of this powerful tool for mood boosting. The benefits of meditation are plenty – it improves focus, clarity, attention span, and calmness – and recent science shows it also makes us happier over the long term. In fact, there are actual changes to our brains associated with meditation. In a recent study, participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank during a two-month meditation workshop.
9. Move closer to work – Say the word “commute” and some of us shudder. These days it seems like we are spending more and more time in our cars wending our way to work. The solution – move closer to the office. Researchers actually used the term “misery” to describe participants’ feelings of long commutes that happen twice a day, five days a week. Although the solution may seem extreme, the results of cutting your time in the car could be equally extreme for your overall happiness.
10. Practice gratitude – We all have things to groan about. Equally true is that we all have things to be deeply grateful for. When you find yourself in a loop of focusing on the negative, turn your attention to the things in your life that inspire gratitude. Try writing gratitude letters or keeping a gratitude journal. Just this simple step has been shown to increase happiness and overall life satisfaction.
11. Get older – Good news! Happiness naturally increases as we make our way through middle age. Why? The answer seems to lie in the fact that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods. This could include pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances that might bring them down, or the increased ability to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and focus their goals on greater well-being.
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