11 Things Scientists Say Will Boost Your Happiness Today

By Sarah Winfrey on 14 November 2014 0 comments

Don't worry, be happy.

Bobby McFerrin was onto something when he wrote those words. There are so many benefits to happiness, and worrying causes so many problems, that his lyrics make a lot of sense.

If only we could say, "I want to be happy," and have that wish granted. Unfortunately, life doesn't work like that. Most of us need to have goals that are more solid and less abstract than a simple "Be happy." (See also: These 7 Exercises Are Scientifically Proven to Increase Happiness)

Good thing for us that science has taken to studying happiness. Now, we know more of the specific things that make us happy. We can practice cultivating them in our lives, and then we will find ourselves at our goal of happiness.

1. Exercise

Exercise is not only good for improving our cardiovascular health and overall strength, but it also releases endorphins that make us happier. You can reap these benefits even if you only exercise for 20 minutes a day. If regular exercise is hard for you, work to find something that you love. Try crazy things, like Zumba and CrossFit, because one of them just might work for you.

2. A Good Nap

The longer you're awake, the more sensitive you are to negative emotions. If you take a nap, though, you mitigate these problems. Similarly, people who nap are happier, at the end of the day, than those who don't. Try starting with a short nap. Even just a few minutes can help you change your outlook.

3. Trying to Be Happy

While thinking about being happy won't automatically make you happier, intending happiness, or trying to be happy, can help, especially if you're in an overall happy, upbeat context. Try being intentional about spending time with happy people. While you're with them, focus on trying to be happier, yourself.

4. Practicing Gratitude… However it Works for You

People who are given techniques for being grateful feel happier than those who are not. You can write letters to people who meant a lot to you, thanking them for what they've done. Or you can make gratitude lists, talk with your spouse or someone important to you about what you're grateful for at the end of each day, or send thank you notes. Each of these will give you a happiness boost.

5. Spending More Time With People You Love

Having strong, warm connections to other people makes you happier. In many areas, like money, we get used to a boost in income and then we no longer are happier because of it. Relationships aren't this way, though. In fact, our happiness may continue to stay high as long as we have these close connections with other people. If you are feeling disconnected, try reconnecting with some old friends, or figure out where you can make some new ones.

6. Doing Your Chores

Odd as it may sound, doing housework makes everyone — including men — happier. Researchers aren't yet sure why this is. It may be because cleaning makes us feel like we have accomplished something, or because we are happier living in a clean, tidy environment. Whatever the reason, it's worthwhile to get out that mop and clean, clean, clean!

7. Going Outside

People are happier when they are outside. While a sunny day near the ocean seems to make people the happiest of all, almost everyone is happier when they are outside, and especially when they are out of an urban environment. If getting outside for any length of time is hard for you, consider taking a day off. Find a place where you can be outside for the better part of that day, preferably away from the sounds and bustle of the city.

8. Focusing on Other People

Participants in a study who chose to spend a financial windfall on someone other than themselves felt happier, not only when they made that choice but, again, when they remembered it later. In addition, people who were happier were more likely to give money to others. Even if you don't have very much to give, it's the act of giving that makes you happier, not the amount.

9. Smiling… and Thinking Positively

Smile a real smile — one that comes from positive thoughts — and you will feel happier. The positive thoughts are important, because just pasting a smile on your face can be exhausting and can actually make your mood worse. Fortunately, you don't have to have positive thoughts about whatever it is you're looking at. So think about your last vacation, smile at that difficult person, and you will be happier.

10. Watching Sad Movies

It's strange, but it's also true: People who watch sad movies are often happier after they do so. Apparently, watching a sad movie makes us think more about our own lives and relationships, and helps us see exactly how much we have. Since relationships are so important to our happiness, it makes sense that thinking about how good they are would make us feel better. So, go ahead, watch something sad this weekend.

11. Meditating

The thought of meditating is intimidating for a lot of people, but the truth remains: meditation makes us happier. There's no way around it. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to meditate. You can try repeating a good, old fashioned mantra, or you can learn to practice mindfulness. To do this, simply start focusing on your positive experiences, whether current or past, to help your brain lay down long-term, positive pathways. Then, when you are tired or stressed, you can return to that positive place because you've taught your brain how to get there.

Are you happy? What do you do when you want to become happier? Please share in comments!

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