Science Says These 10 Methods Will Increase Happiness
Written By: Matt Mignona
What is there to life but to be happy? Happiness improves every aspect of your life - productivity, health, relationships, and more. Everyone wants to be happy, but not everyone knows what to do.
Achieving happiness is much easier than it looks. You don't need to buy expensive cars or TVs. In fact, you can practice small actions every day to improve your mood. Some of these exercises may provide temporary boosts while others will reshape your brain. Best of all, they are easy to do and may only take a few minutes each day. Do these every day and you'll notice a significant difference.
- Smile. Think of happy thoughts that make you smile. It could be a funny joke you heard or a great movie you watched. A smile tells your brain to release hormones like dopamine and endorphins. These chemicals increase your mood and fight pain and stress. Plus, smiles are contagious. Seeing someone else smile makes you happier and vice-versa. Just remember that fake smiles don't work.
- Sleep. Getting rest helps memory, learning, mood, and productivity. In fact, a study found that sleeping an extra hour each night makes people happier than receiving an extra $60,000 each year. Plus, being well-rested will improve your work performance anyway. Make sure to get six to eight hours of quality, uninterrupted rest each night.
- Be nostalgic. What if all those clickbait articles about the '90s are good for you? Reminiscing about the past makes you hopeful for the future, according to University of Southampton. Listening to childhood favorite songs can boost self-esteem and optimism.
- Surround yourself with happy people. Good moods are infectious. Being around other positive people will influence your mood. A study conducted over twenty years found that spending time with a happy person can boost your happiness level by 15.3%. What's more is that happiness spreads up to three degrees of separation. That means your friends of your friends can also impact your mood.
- Mindful meditation. Take a few minutes out of your day to meditate. Just sit, relax, focus on your breath even when your thoughts wander. Think of it as mental fitness - consistent practice keeps your mind sharp. Meditation can even change your brain, according to research from Harvard. One study discovered that it increases the brain's gray matter, which influences memory and decision-making. A follow-up study concluded that an eight-week mindfulness course improved emotional regulation, learning, focus, and empathy.
- Expressive writing. Psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker found that journaling can significantly improve someone's mental health. All you must do is write about an emotional experience for 15-20 minutes a day for four consecutive days. Don't worry about spelling or grammar - this is for your eyes only. Subjects reported less depression, stress, and anxiety weeks or months after practicing expressive writing.
- Show gratitude. Here's another writing exercise with long-lasting benefits. One study had participants write one gratitude letter towards another person each week for three weeks. They showed signs of improvement one month after the exercise. However, there were even greater results three months after writing. The benefits are slow to appear, but last for a long time.
- Volunteer. Giving back to others benefits you as well. A paper examining 40 studies found that volunteering leads to less depression, better health, and a longer life. It helps you develop connections and feel good about yourself. Plus, any sort of physical activity is beneficial.
- Buy experiences, not items. Experiences make you happier than merchandise, according to Cornell University. Happiness from buying goods starts high and weakens over time. However, happiness from an experience only increases. Part of the reason is that people who buy goods often compare their items with others. They worry about getting a better model or cheaper price. You don't need expensive trips to the Bahamas to feel happy. Treat yourself to a spa day, hike, or even quality time with family.
- Work out.Countless research proves the benefits of exercise. One study found that those who exercise before work or during lunch had better moods for the rest of the day. Subjects also reported better time management, concentration, and productivity. Even ten minutes of exercise can boost focus and problem-solving.
Unfortunately, you can't magically wish yourself into bliss. You can, however, take these actionable steps each day. Work towards your well-being a little bit at a time and you'll eventually notice dramatic changes. These exercises can change your outlook for the rest of your life.