Happiness is something you know when you feel it and, man, is it ever great. Many have described it as joy, pride, contentment, or gratitude, but it may be different from person to person. One thing scientists know for sure is that being happy is good for you. It is linked to longevity, has the power to boost your immune system, creates a full social life, and can actually help you cope with stress and trauma.
With such great health benefits, it’s no wonder everyone’s searching for more happiness in their lives. While genetics or particular life circumstances may be out of your control, there are science-backed ways you can amp up your happy factor to discover a life where you smile wider, feel better, and get more satisfaction. Here’s how.
1. Go outside
Ever notice how, on a particularly grim day, a change of scenery helps put things in perspective? When you’re feeling blue, the secret may be right outside your front door. Literally. Research shows green spaces are associated with better mental health to the extent that just looking at image of nature can stimulate the parts of your brain connected to happiness, positivity, and emotional stability. By escaping your home, office, or classroom each day you’re not only taking steps to improve your mental state, but you’re getting sunlight, which helps your body produce vitamin D, which Greatist reports may help prevent depression.
2. Get your sweat on
Once again, exercise pulls through as the magic solution to practically everything. Regular exercise helps control your weight, combat disease, and boost energy. It’s also shown to boost your mood. Physical activity helps release endorphins in the brain, often known as feel-good chemicals. Feeling down? Hit the gym.
3. Play some tunes
National Geographic explains listening to your favorite song floods your brain with dopamine, a chemical that affects your emotions, and sensations of pleasure and pain. A study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found people who listened to positive music reported feeling happier than people who listened to music that wasn’t positive. Make a playlist of your favorite, upbeat songs, and drown out any negativity when you’re feeling down.
4. Sleep in
Not getting enough sleep is linked to problems with mood and your relationships. A report published by the American Psychological Association recognized that many people have built up a mass of “sleep debt” from long periods of inadequate shut-eye. Catch up on your valuable sleep by adding an extra 60 to 90 minutes of sleep each night. Your happiness levels and relationship satisfaction will thank you.
5. Focus on people
Instead of texting or messaging a friend, call them. Spending time with those you love is a great way to cheer yourself up. One survey found that friendship is the single most important factor in determining a person’s happiness. Close relationships provide you with a space to vent, express yourself, and feel supported. On top of that, being with close friends and family helps you remember the good times you’ve had together, which can help improve your current perspective.
6. Do something nice
It may feel counter-intuitive, but when you’re feeling down you may be able to boost your mood by helping someone else. U.S. News & World Report says performing small acts of kindness can make both you and the other person feel more positive. When you’re feeling sad or depressed, try complimenting a stranger, giving up your seat on the subway, or cleaning the house for your partner. Get creative. Pick your own way to make someone else’s day easier and enjoy the unexpected boost.
7. Write it down
When you’re feeling angry or sad, you may spend days or even weeks dwelling on whatever is leading to these negative emotions. Make a point to relieve your mind by expressing these feelings in a written form. Start a journal where you can express yourself without any judgments or restrictions. If you’re not the journaling type, write out your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then throw it away. By physically tossing your worries away, you can lessen their impact.