15 Instant Ways to Make Yourself Happier
You know all the usual ways to boost your mood: Soak up sunlight. Exercise daily. Laugh, sleep, and meditate. But if you’re feeling melancholy in the middle of the afternoon and you can’t get outside, to the gym, or to your bed, you need a plan B. Here are 15 scientific ways to instantly lift your spirits, and end your day on a high note.
1. Snack on mixed nuts.
A handful per day boosts levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, according to researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain. Not only does serotonin raise your mood, but it also lowers feelings of hunger and improves heart health. Reach for 30 grams (about a handful) of raw walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts every day.
2. Make plans for this weekend.
Thanks to a phenomenon called anticipatory savouring, taking a few minutes to plan something you’ll look forward to can make you happier all week long. “You get excited about a future experience, but draw on that in the present moment,” says Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research.
3. Hang out around the water cooler.
Even mild dehydration can take a toll on your mood. French researchers found that people who increased their H20 intake to 2.5 litres per day (about 8 to 10 glasses) reported decreased fatigue, less confusion, greater satisfaction, and an improved outlook. When parched, neurons in your brain may detect an electrolyte imbalance, which could affect the parts involved in regulating your mood.
4. Make a smarter purchase.
You’ve probably heard that spending your money on experiences, not stuff, will yield greater happiness. But new research from the University of Michigan suggests a caveat: People who forked over dough for goods that allowed them to have those experiences—such as electronics, musical instruments, sports, and outdoor gear—reported increased happiness, too.
5. Think about your favourite tune.
You don’t even need to hear your favourite song to get those feel-good chills, McGill University researchers report. Simply thinking about a beloved track causes your brain to churn out dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that’s released during other pleasurable activities like eating and sex. If you do push play, dopamine levels rise about 9 percent higher when listening to music you love.
It sounds silly, but the result is pretty genius. “When stressed, your brain is stuck in fight-or-flight mode and you’re running on instinct,” says Eva Selhub, M.D., Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “You’re not able to figure out how to do your taxes when your brain thinks you’re being chased by a lion.” To break free, take out a piece of paper and a marker and draw. “Doodling requires you to use both sides of your brain, which stops the stress cycle, brings you into the present moment, and helps you feel better instantly,” Dr. Selhub says.
7. Grin and bear it.
In a University of Kansas study, people who faked a smile experienced a decreased heart rate and lower levels of perceived stress after completing a stressful task compared to those who didn’t grin. Credit something called the Facial Feedback Hypothesis: Muscular activity in your face may trick your brain into believing you’re happy because you’re smiling, even when you’re not.
8. Send an email to a friend.
“A robust social support network is the greatest predictor of happiness that we have,” Gielan says. Tapping out a message to a buddy to say thanks, or to let him know you’re thinking of him reinforces the relationship and communicates to your brain that you have his support. “As a bonus, you’ll likely get a nice email back, which always feels good, but it isn’t the goal,” Gielan says.
9. Clean up your Facebook feed.
Need a pick-me-up? Follow perky people. You can “catch” positivity from friends on Facebook and Twitter, finds recent research from the University of California, San Diego. According to the study, the more upbeat statuses you see in your feed, the better you’ll feel. Spend a few minutes unfriending folks who tend to post downer content or hide them from your feed. As a result, scrolling will become a happier endeavour.
10. Strike a powerful pose.
Scoot your chair back, place your feet up on your desk, clasp your hands behind your head, and lean back. Now stay there for 2 minutes. Harvard University researchers found that when people assumed this open, powerful pose, it decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 25 percent.
11. Sniff some citrus.
Researchers in Brazil found that men who smelled 2.5 to 10 drops of sweet orange essential oil before an anxiety-inducing task experienced less stress, tension, and greater tranquillity than those who didn’t take a whiff of the oil. Peel and eat an orange, or squeeze some lemon in your water.
12. Flip through your old photos.
Researchers in the U.K. found that when people viewed their photos, their moods rose by 11 percent. Participants also felt 22 percent more relaxed when flipping through their favourite images.
13. Cuddle more.
Take a few extra minutes in the morning to hold your lover closer. A Kinsey Institute study found that men who reported frequent kissing or cuddling with their partners were three times happier with their relationship as men who reported less snuggling. The act releases the hormone oxytocin, which triggers the dopamine system in your brain and makes you feel happier and more at ease.
14. Play Candy Crush.
Researchers from Kansas State University found that employees who took short breaks to play on their smartphones throughout the day were happier at the end of the workday. Similar to chatting with co-workers or getting a cup of coffee, the breaks help you cope with the demands of the workplace and refresh your mind so you feel more focused when you return to your tasks.
15. Blend up a smoothie.
The more fruits and vegetables people eat, the happier they feel, according to a study of 80,000 people by British researchers. The effects peak at seven daily servings. Whether it’s the inflammation-fighting antioxidants, fibre, or vitamins, researchers aren’t sure why healthy grub yields more joy, but packing your blender with as much produce as you can could help send you to your happy place—stat.