Happiness is such a fascinating topic because we all have different ideas about what happiness is and how to get it. What it looks and feels like to me (uncontrollable smiles, sharing a bottle of wine with friends, running along the water, traveling to a new place, or watching a movie with my boyfriend), might be completely different than what happiness is for you. And that’s totally cool.
But despite the varied opinions about happiness, there are a few proven ways to create that joyful feeling in your life. Here are a few ideas supported by research, as well as my own personal experimentation. (I mean, who doesn’t love experimenting with new ways to be happy?)
11 Simple Ways To Be Happy
1. Move your body
I know, it’s super cliche, but it’s also true. Exercising for as little as 7 minutes a day can have monumental effects on your mood, your energy levels and your overall well-being. It can help you relax, increase your brain power, and improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight. So, go for a walk, do a few crunches, or put on that Jillian Michaels DVD gathering dust in your closet.
2. Challenge yourself
Allowing yourself the opportunity to successfully work through an unexpected or challenging situation will give you a sense of pride and satisfaction. In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin, reminds us to “Enjoy the fun of failure” and tackle a daunting goal. When you do new things―learn a game, try a new craft, travel to unfamiliar places―you become happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well.
3. Get (chilly) outside
In his book, The Happiness Advantage
, Shawn Achor says, “Making time to go outside on a nice day delivers a huge advantage; 20 minutes outside not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory.” Twenty minutes is the perfect amount of time to take a quick walk on your lunch break or go for a bike ride before you settle down for another episode of Homeland.
It has also been found that we feel the happiness at 57°F, so watch the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.
4. Sleep more
Super smart researchers have found that sleep-deprived people have a difficult time remembering pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine. Sleep affects how sensitive we are to negative emotions like fear and anger as well. Try to get at least 8 hours of peaceful sleep each night to feel well-rested and boost your happiness.
5. Plan a vacation
When we take the time to plan a trip, it improves our happiness. In fact, studies show that the highest spike in happiness happens during the planning stage of a vacation, when you feel a strong sense of anticipation. In the study, this effect boosted happiness for eight weeks, while after the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to normal levels. So, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road.
6. Practice smiling
Your feelings follow your actions, so this is a time when we can practice a new take on that old saying “fake it till you feel it”. If you’re feeling sad, intentionally act more upbeat, and you’re likely to find yourself actually feeling happier. Of course, smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts.
7. Buy something
In order to feel happy, most of us want to have a sense of control. While money doesn’t automatically fill that need, it can definitely help, especially when we spend money in ways that are aligned with our values. For me, this looks like buying plane tickets to travel, going to concerts, and splurging on a nice meal out with friends.
Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, and it’s been proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. Plus, meditating regularly can permanently rewire your brain and raise your levels of happiness. If you’re just starting out, try sitting quietly for a two minutes a day, letting your thoughts pass through the moment without any attachment.
9. Help others
Whether you chose to spend your time or your money, helping others is one of the most proven methods for increasing our happiness. Research shows that 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal amount of time we should dedicate to helping others in order to feel happiest. You could take a friend out to dinner, volunteer at a homeless shelter, or donate money to a local charity.
10. Practice gratitude
When you take note of what you’re grateful for each day, your mood improves. To practice this, you can keep a journal of things you’re grateful for, share three good things that happen each day
with a friend, or write a thank you note to those who help you.
11. Take action
Although some people assume we’re either born happy or not, that’s not completely accurate. It’s true that genetics play a big role, but Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project says that about 40 percent of your happiness level is within your control. Taking time to reflect, and making conscious steps to make your life happier, really does work.
What are your favorite ways to be happy?
[photo credit: brandoncwarren]
P.S. If you want to feel happy now and begin living on your own terms, try Cake for Breakfast.