Jan 042014

Is there a way to be happier, right now?

Many times we hear how people would want to manifest from a happier place, but they just can’t seem to get over the negative emotions. Well, here are 7 things that you can do to be happier – and they’re backed by science too!

These are mostly simple things that you can start implementing right now (or tonight)!

1. Spend More Time with Friends and Family

We are very successful at inventing reasons not to spend time socializing – too much work to do, too tired, have to finish this or that… And yet this is one of the top 5 regrets of the dying.

Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains why the time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

Another interesting study has shown that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra $131,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction – these guys have found a way to put a number to almost everything in our life, showing that we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

2. Exercise More

Look at the image above – it shows the changes to your brain after only 20 minutes of walking.

What actually happens is that when we start to exercise, our brain recognizes this as a moment of stress, and starts releasing a protein called BDNF to protect your body. This protein has a protective and also reparative element to our memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. At the same time our brain releases endorphin (happiness hormone) – together these elements make us feel really good after exercise.

Is 20 minutes too much for you? Then perhaps 7 minutes is enough, if you do it right.

3. Sleep More

When we have enough sleep, we are less sensitive to negative emotions. Sleep helps our body to recover and to repair itself, which in turn makes us more focused and more productive.

A study published by BPS Research Digest proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions:

Here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

4. Go Out!

Being outdoors can actually make you happier! A UK study found that “being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.”

According to the American Meteorological Society, happiness is maximized at 13.9°C. So the recipe for happiness is to keep an eye on the weather forecast and when it’s near 14°C go out for at least 20 minutes 🙂

5. Practice Real Smiles

Smiling is always good, and even a fake smile can sometimes help, but it’s always better to back it up with the positive thoughts. A study among workers showed that those who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

6. Meditate and Rewire Your Brain for Happiness

Meditation isn’t only for improving focus, clarity and attention span, and to hep us feel calm – it’s also very useful for improving our happiness level.

In his book Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading expert on the connection between happiness and success, says that meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

7. Plan a Trip

You can really do this one right now! The trick is just to plan for a vacation, even if you don’t really mean to take one. One study showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Which one can you apply right now to feel happier?

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