1. Fake a Smile
Latest research shows that our emotions like happiness aren’t just happening all in the brain. Parts of your body like your mouth can influence and reinforce your feelings. A study in Psychological Science with 169 participants, tested stress effects on people who were smiling and those who were not. Those who forced themselves to smile (with a chopstick!) reported a smaller reduction in happiness due to stress. Smiling will make you happier, so don’t limit your smiles to only when you are feeling happy. Simply put, just smile, it’s good for ya!
2. Crank those Shades Open
In the last decade, Vitamin D levels in people were drastically lower than the years before. Is the sun shining less? Nope, we’re just cooped up inside more. Due to advances in technology and changing roles in society, we spend less time outdoors. There are more of us calling ourselves “entrepreneurs” than there are farmers. Imagine telling your king in 500 AD that you no longer wanted to farm because you had ambitions of your own. Anyway, exposure to bright light is associated with good mood and positive social interactions.
Fun fact: A museum in London has set up a “light cafe” to help counter the effect of dark winter days, which often is responsible for low spirits or even depression. Bright light has been effective in treating of 90% of cases.
3. Believe More
According to psychology today, overall, religious people tend to report higher levels of happiness than those who are non-religious. Another study surveyed 15,000 people, 28 percent of those who reported never going to church said they are ‘very happy’, compared to 45 percent of those who attended services weekly. It’s important to note that, Okulicz-Kozaryn found that in non-religious countries, religion has very little effect on people’s happiness. Which suggests that religion itself may not make people happier, but the social connections and support do. Regardless, whether you choose to believe in a religion, believe in yourself and grow as a human being.
4. Choose Where You Live
Why do certain states always rank on top in reported levels of happiness, while others stay on the bottom? Here’s the Gallup-Healthways index which ranks states by their levels of physical and emotional health, and variety of other key factors in happiness.
While often our homes are determined by our families and our jobs, they shouldn’t be. There are varieties of factors such as climate, culture, job opportunities that go hand in hand with where we choose to live. So for example, a fast paced, high-stress life in Manhattan may not be for everyone. What if there’s a place for you where are surrounded by like-minded people, the climate is to your likes and living expenses are half as much? People are unbelievably great in adapting, but to reach your highest level of happiness, you should do what you love and love where you live.
5. Hug it Out
Who doesn’t love a good hug? Did you know that besides the cozy warmth hugging has a ton of other benefits? Hugging can combat infections and fight heart disease, a study reports. Just seconds after a good hug, your “feel good” hormones skyrocket, while your blood pressure and stress levels are reduced. Hugging can also convey feelings and emotions that cannot be expressed through words. And more often than not, they are more effective. So don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to hug someone!
Fun Fact: National hug day is January 21st.
6. Catch Some Z’s
There are a ton of reasons to get quality sleep, besides the fact we can’t survive without it. However, when it comes to napping, most of us don’t do it (enough). Napping doesn’t mean you’re lazy; as a matter of fact, it can make you more efficient. Napping can improve your performance, healthy weight management, cardiovascular health, memory and overall mood. Naps are most effective at 30-40 minutes, between 1-3PM. Napping longer may make you groggy.
Fun Fact: Japan offers napping cafes and most of the businesses encourage their employees to nap in the middle of the work day.
7. Gossip More
For your next visit to the doctor’s office, they may prescribe you a dose of gossip. According to a 160 female study in which women were asked to get chatty with each other, their progesterone levels increased. This hormone is vital in long term health and stress relief in women. Gossip is a complicated tool used by us for bonding, social acceptance and keeping us in the loop. All of which may lead to more (or less) happiness, depending on how it’s used.
8. Swear Like a Sailor
According to a study in NeuroReport, we use swearing as pain relief. Participants held their hands in very cold water, and those allowed to swear endured the pain for 40 seconds longer on average and reported less pain. Swearing also allows us to express our joy, anger, surprise and happiness. We all know that life brings all kinds of pain and stress, and bundling it up inside is not a great way to deal with it in the long run. So swear away! Just keep in mind that these words don’t have to be hateful to be affective. As a matter of fact, Richard Stephens from the study says that the more we swear the less effective the words become. So throw out the hateful words, keep it light and humorous. It will reduce your stress, pain and reduce tension in the situation. Shut the f-ront door!
9. Adopt a Pet
Are you one the few people in U.S. that doesn’t have a pet? Shame on you! No wonder, there are those few people who always hit “dislike” on those cute cat videos. All kidding aside, you may be missing out. According to this study, “pets can serve as important sources of social support, providing many positive psychological and physical benefits for their owners”. In the study, the groups that wrote about their pet had the same level of happiness at the end of the experiment as those who wrote about their best friend. Pets provide the social support we may lack otherwise and enrich our lives in a number of other ways.
Oh, and you can cross off saving a life from your bucket list.
Fun Fact: In a study, it was reported that bringing your dog to work helps reduce work related stress, boost office morale and make the job satisfying, even for those who did not own a dog. Many companies including Google allow pets at work for these very same reasons.
10. Say YES!
Finally, say “yes” more. This one doesn’t seem crazy, but making yourself do things that you don’t want to and stepping out of your comfort zone may be. You will only regret the opportunities you missed, not the opportunities you took. Life is good at forcing us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do but more often than not, it’s up to us to get out of our comfort zone. Travel more often, try new foods, do new activities and talk to new people. The only way to improve yourself as a person is to experience and see more. Be adventurous, explore and do things that make you uncomfortable at least once a day. Inevitably, you will be more open-minded and happier.
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. ~ G. K. Chesterton