What is happiness? It remains one of the most cherished yet elusive of all human desires. There is no one definition of happiness because we all view it as something different. In a general sense, it usually means having more position emotions than negative ones – but why are some people more happier than others?
Maybe it’s because they practice some of the 10 best (and scientifically proven) ways to improve your happiness and turn those frowns upside down! Which ones do you practice, or are you going to start practicing today? Let me know in the comments below!
People who meditate regularly can focus better and deal with stress more effectively than individuals who don’t meditate. Being able to assess situations under a new light, and viewing them as non-stressful can help improve the level of happiness in your life. Practicing meditation has been shown to help us get in touch with our feelings and over time it can increase how happy and optimistic we feel as well as our sense of spirituality. It can help us accept who we are and increase our sense of fulfilment. It can also help us build empathy and compassion and so help improve our relationships with other people.
When you meditate, you are literally re-wiring your brain for happiness. You become more compassionate toward others (studies have found that even newly-trained meditators use less harsh language than individuals with no meditation experience). Why not try it out yourself? Try meditating each day for 10 minutes, letting go of all forms of judgement and criticism that may enter your mind, and see whether the relationships in your life (whether that be with family, friends, lovers, or even strangers) improve!
2. Smile More
We usually smile when we are happy, and frown when we are sad – but can you trick your brain into thinking it is happy simply by smiling when you are feeling blue? Our faces have been scientifically proven to communicate with our mind even if we aren’t conscious of it – tricking our brain into thinking it is happy by smiling is one way to improve your mood.
But not being able to express your feelings fully isn’t always the best – repressing your feelings may leak this suppressed negativity into other aspects of your life. Try to smile about something positive – think about a tropical vacation or a wonderful childhood memory. This will help improve your mood and reduce any chance of repressing negative emotions.
3. Get More Sleep
Getting your beauty sleep isn’t just a saying – sleeping longer will not only make you prettier on the outside, but it will also make you prettier on the inside. When you don’t get enough sleep, your cortisol levels in the morning are much higher than average, which means more stress and a grumpier mood. Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and notice an improvement in how you feel during the day!
4. Practice Gratitude
Want to be happier? Be grateful! Gratitude is incredibly important to the state of our emotional well-being. It has been deemed by scientists as one of the most important contributing factors to our happiness. Psychological research suggests that being happy is related to how grateful we are for what we already have. Seems simple enough!
Many studies have investigated the importance of gratitude, and one of the best ways you can start practicing being grateful is by starting a gratitude journal and start writing down what you are grateful for on a weekly basis. If you feel particularly inspired, think of someone close like a friend or other loved one, and write everything about them that you are grateful for. Once you are finished writing, give them a call and read your letter to them. I challenge you not to cry!
5. Help Others (100 Hours/Year)
Individuals who offer support to those in need actually notice dramatic improvements in their quality of life! This was found in a study conducted by a research professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School – in fact, individuals who lent a supportive ear experienced higher life quality by up to seven times higher than those they were helping!
This phenomenon is not limited to one study – it has been documented many times, with the end result being that those who help others are significantly happy and less depressed than those who don’t help. It has been found that the same parts of our brain that become activated when we receive monetary rewards, sex, or other positive stimuli, also become activated when we lend a helping hand!
6. Spend Time With Family and Friends
Do those who are nearest & dearest to us really matter? Research shows that when we have close relationships to other people, whether friends, family, or lovers, they live longer, healthier, happier lives. Of course, this only applies if you take conscious effort at maintaining these relationships – if you don’t take the time to see your loved ones, you may not receive as many benefits. When we connect with people, our sense of belonging and self esteem increase and this makes us feel happier.
7. Plan A Trip
Planning a trip without even taking one has been found to help improve happiness. A study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life found that anticipating a vacation and being able to plan it out showed the highest spike in happiness, by up to 8 weeks preceding the vacation itself. After the vacation, happiness dropped back to baseline levels for most individuals.
Not only planning vacations, but putting special events in your calendar, whether it is a night out with friends or a quick retreat to the spa, can help increase your happiness. Whenever you might be feeling down, reminding yourself about these little events soon to come can help boost your happiness!
8. Move Closer To Work
Sitting in traffic can be incredibly stressful to some. So much so that it can have a dramatic impact on our happiness. Not only do we have to sit in traffic on the way TO work, but we also need to sit in it on the way back home FROM work. We need to wake up earlier (which means less sleep, and less sleep means higher cortisol – see number 3 above!), and by the time we get home from work we are usually famished and low blood sugar, another contributing factor to stress and lowered happiness. Moving closer to work is a sure fire way to save a good two hours out of your day from sitting in traffic.
9. Go Outside In Nature
Nature is a wonderful place to go and re-connect with your true being. The fresh air, stillness and reduction in noise pollution is a quick and easy way to escape from the stress of city living. Spending 20 minutes outside in good weather helps boost a positive mood and helps power our brains and improve memory. Many studies have found that happiness levels, in general, are much higher when individuals are outside in natural environments than in urban environments.
Exercising releases endorphins, and endorphins make us happy! Exercising, even just walking, for only 7 minutes a day, is enough to increase our mood. Even if you don’t lose any weight, exercising will help improve your body image, maximize your brain power and help you relax!
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The How of Happiness. London: Penguin Books