Science-Backed Ways To Feel Happier Right NOW

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If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! Even as children, we’re taught to recognize and celebrate feelings of happiness — and it’s no wonder. Not only is happiness one of the most positive emotions we can experience, but being happy is also the key to a fulfilled, healthy life. Plus, cheeriness is linked to living longer, how hard we work, physical function as we age, and an improved immune system, among other health benefits.
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While it’s hard to define (especially since it varies from person to person), some experts describe happiness as “a combination of life satisfaction and having more positive emotions than negative emotions,” while others view it as consisting of three parts: feeling good, living a “good life,” and feeling part of a larger purpose. There’s also a distinct difference between short- and long-term happiness: The former is a fleeting feeling, while the latter applies to how we describe our own lives.
While some factors that affect happiness might be outside of our control (such as genetics or certain life circumstances), there are always actions we can take to amp up our own good feelings. To smile wider, be more satisfied with life, and feel altogether better — both in the present and the future — try introducing any (or all!) of these practices into your life.
Spend Time Outside
Enjoying time al fresco is a great way to put some pep back in your step. Living near green spaces is associated with better mental health, and even just looking at images of nature scenes can stimulate the parts of your brain associated with happiness, positivity, and emotional stability. Plus, spending time in the great outdoors exposes us to sunlight, which can help our bodies produce vitamin D. Since low levels of the nutrient have been linked to depression, soaking up a little bit of sun (we’re talking just 15 minutes per day) may lift your spirits both in the present and over the long term. Just make sure to slather on some sunscreen!
Sleep More
Catnaps, power naps, a full night’s sleep… no matter the method, a quality snooze session is vital for overall well-being and happiness. In fact, research shows that not sleeping enough (four hours per night) may lead to lower levels of optimism. And, skimping on sleep can cause us to choose larger portion sizes and hurt on-the-job performance. Your best bet: Load up on your vitamin Zzz’s for a healthier, happier life.
Meditate
Though meditating can sometimes be daunting (quieting your mental chit-chat is tough work!), there are tons of health benefits associated with the practice. Research shows that eight weeks of daily meditation can lead to greater happiness. Looking to get started? Try incorporating any of these 10 meditation strategies into your day.
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Get A New Hobby
Not only is it mentally stimulating (not to mention fun), but challenging yourself to learn a new skill can lead to greater happiness. That’s thanks to the feelings of accomplishment and self-confidence that often come along with gaining new expertise. Consider this your cue to sign up for those French lessons you’ve always wanted to take, or pick up the ukulele — choose something that genuinely interests you, and run with it!
Turn Up The Tunes
Just try to frown while listening to upbeat songs (like any of the ones on our Ultimate Happy Playlist) — we dare you! Jamming out can help reduce stress — which leads to greater happiness in general. Plus, listening to music with the goal and desire to become happier may actually lead to greater happiness than simply listening for the sake of listening. So, the next time you pump up the volume, keep that positive intention in mind — you may just find yourself smiling a little wider.
Write It Down
Negative thoughts are nasty, powerful, and all too easy to dwell upon — and it goes without saying that doing so can make us feel pretty bummed. One way to relieve your mind: Jot it all down. Try writing down your negative thoughts on a piece of paper, and then throwing the piece of paper away. Research suggests that physically tossing your worries can lessen their hold over you. On the flipside, if you document positive experiences that you feel grateful for, you’re likely to feel happier and more satisfied with life. And, if you really want to boost your mood, phone a friend and share some of your happy journal entries — doing so may triple your positive feelings.
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Twist The Sheets
It’s no secret that stress can get you down. Luckily, there’s a pretty sweet solution: some between-the-sheets action — and that totally includes solo sessions. Those mind-blowing romps can not only boost your mood, but also slash stress and beat anxiety. Can’t argue with that, right? And, in case you need an excuse to get it on more often, consider this: Research suggests that the more sex people have, the happier they tend to be. One study even suggests that having sex once a week may make you feel as stoked as scoring an additional 50k in income. Getting lucky even more frequently — four or more times per week — has been linked to making more money — and while extra dough certainly can’t buy happiness, it definitely plays a part in it.
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Be A Friend
A few wise men once sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends” — and they couldn’t be more spot-on. Except we don’t just get by thanks to our friendships — positive friendships help us feel more confident, less stressed, and happier. To make new friends — and keep the ones you have — use these 16 tips.
Spread Joy
Much like yawning and a case of the giggles, happiness really is contagious. One study found that happiness has a waterfall effect among pals (and their pals… and their pals’ pals). When one person’s happy, it spreads to his or her friends and entire social network over the long term. Pretty much the most awesome way to influence other people, right?
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Learn To Let Go
Adopting a hakuna matata outlook can boost overall happiness. Easier said than done, to be sure, but making a point to detach yourself from mistakes, worries, and regrets may lead to more lighthearted times. In fact, holding onto resentment and hurt feelings can tie you to the past and also marks a decision to continue suffering. Make the choice to be happy by forgiving people who hurt you and moving away from situations from your past that brought you down.
Practice Self-Care On A Daily Basis. Given the manic pace of day-to-day life, it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself — and that’s a surefire way to end up unhappy, burnt out, and even ill. Try treating yourself to regular actions that improve your overall, long-term health and happiness (this list is a pretty great place to start).
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Just Say Yellow
The next time you’re feeling down, try harnessing the power of a yellow hue. Happy people tend to associate their mood with the cheerful color, and folks also tend to think of yellow as the color of optimism (possibly because we associate it with the sun). To incorporate the power of yellow into your life, try adding a bit of yellow to your outfit or painting your walls the cheerful hue.
Feel The Flower Power
Apart from brightening up a room, flowers can also brighten up your mood. A floral fixture may reduce feelings of pain and anxiety while boosting positive emotions. One study also shows that looking at flowers first thing in the morning leads to increased happiness and energy and decreased anxiety. Not only that, but being surrounded by blooms can also positively affect your 9-to-5 — it’s been shown to boost creativity and make workspaces feel more pleasant.
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Get Stuff Done
Fact: Since it prevents us from accomplishing goals, procrastination diminishes happiness. Avoid putting off tasks and continue working towards your goals in order to give yourself a mental boost. Though conquering something challenging may stress us out while we’re doing it, it also makes us happier in the long run (hey, who doesn’t love an accomplishment?). Plus, when we set goals (and meet or surpass our hopes and expectations), it can help us feel more purpose and control and boosts our self-esteem.
Save Money...But Also Spend Money (Wisely)
Building up a nest egg is an important part of a happy life — and a financially sound future. One survey found that the more people saved, the happier they tended to be. Putting money aside is also associated with feelings of security, wellbeing, and control. Save some cash here, there, and everywhere with these 94 (!) money-saving tips. While it’s crucial to stash some cash away for a rainy day, indulging in the occasional shopping trip can actually reduce sadness by making us feel more in-control. While retail therapy seems to be a legit thing, science shows that spending money on others is especially beneficial to happiness. And, if you really want to boost your mood, experts suggest combining an actual gift with the gift of your time — so both you and your giftee enjoy both the purchase and the time spent together. To reap the mood-boosting benefits, enjoy the gift with your loved one — whether you’re giving an experience, like cooking classes, or something more material, like new golf clubs.
For more amazing tips on staying happy, check out the entire list on Greatist.