The 7 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Your Happiness Right NowNone By Jessica Cassity
Need an instant mood makeover? Research shows it can take just seconds to go from feeling glum to feeling good, if you pick the right approach. Here are seven of the simplest, most effective ways to fast-track your happiness.
Hug Someone You Care About
A shoulder rub or a pat on the hand will stimulate your touch receptors, automatically releasing the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin and at the same time decreasing the stress hormones in your body. Hugging will give you these physical benefits plus the added emotional support that comes from connecting with someone you care about. For best results, try sharing a squeeze for around six seconds, the amount of time some research suggests is necessary to really harness the power of a hug.
Look for the Nearest Walking Trail
Your home or office may feel like a breeding ground for dark thoughts. But you can actually walk your way to a happy place, say Canadian researchers. In a recent study, people were asked to think about a painful experience before heading out on an hour-long walk. By the time they returned their spirits had lifted. The idea is that nature is so distracting (and in many cases, beautiful and peaceful) that once you step out in it, it's actually pretty hard to hold onto negative thoughts. So, while you may start off in a bad mood, you'll forget about it as soon as you see a beautiful flower, or hear a bird chirping, or smell the cooking coming from your neighbor's kitchen. The best part about trying this on your own: You'll get the same boost in mood whether you head out for a hike in the woods or a walk around your neighborhood.
Dress to Impress
Casual wear may equal comfort, but it's also the dress-code of the depressed, say British scientists. To feel good fast, reach for the opposite type of apparel. According to one poll, a majority of women reach for a favorite dress on days they're feeling happy, so for an instant perk-up, put on a special occasion outfit. A quick glance in the mirror will help your mood improve.
Smiling—even if it's a “fake” smile—can help improve your mood. That's because our brains are hardwired to associate the activation of the face's “smile muscles” with actual happiness. When you turn up the corners of your mouth your brain physiology will change and you'll automatically feel better, say researchers at DePauw University. Unhappy? Grin (even if you have to hold a pen between your teeth) and feel your bad mood slide away.
Listen to Some Pharrell (You Know Which Song...)
Skip past that angsty Alanis Morissette track—you can get happy in under a minute by listening to positive, uplifting tunes. It can be either the music or the lyrics—studies found a mood-boosting effect with both classical music and upbeat music that had “happy” lyrics. But don't just crank up the volume and wait for the good feelings to waft in. In order to use music to change your mood you actually have to focus on becoming happy, say researchers at Penn State Shenango. Tell yourself that a certain song will do the trick, then let the tunes take over.
Do a Good Deed for Someone Else
Help others to help yourself. That's the message behind heaps of research showing that people who regularly volunteer tend to report higher levels of happiness. But even smaller acts of selflessness can have a positive effect on how you feel. Get started by performing little acts of kindness—random or not—when you feel your good mood start to slip, whether it's buying the office assistant a coffee or holding open a door for a neighbor. To get the biggest happiness boost, aim to cluster several acts of kindness in one day.
Pause at the Water Cooler
Socializing can add a little something special to your day, so be sure to spend at least an hour catching up with friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family. A recent Gallup poll found that the more time people spent interacting with others, the better they felt. If you're spending a lot of time solo, break out of a bad mood by striking up a conversation, even if it's with the postman.
Jessica Cassity writes about health, fitness, and happiness for publications including Self, Shape, Health, Women's Health, and Family Circle magazines. Her first book, Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You was published in 2011.
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