BY: QUENTIN STUCKEY
We can all understand what happiness is, or at least what it is supposed to feel like. It’s that joyful feeling when you land your dream job, when you take that first photo of a place you’ve been pining to visit or when your favorite song happens to come on in a restaurant as you are eating. Those moments when you can’t avoid smiling. Far too often, we tend to think of this feeling as something that should constantly be with us, even at our most unideal times. While it’s impossible to avoid the odd bad day or negative feelings completely, there are certain things we can all do to improve and create our own happiness. These six things are all scientifically proven to provide long term well-being and happiness.
- Get a decent amount of sleep:
I’m sure we’re all familiar with that agonizing, testy mood we can get into when we haven’t gotten enough sleep. Adequate sleep is becoming rarer with all of the bright screens, caffeine and stress keeping us up at night. According to Psychology Today, a popular study has found that even one extra hour of sleep each night can do more for your happiness than receiving a $60,000 raise at one’s job. Giving the body and brain the rest it needs is a major contributor to being a happy individual. Limiting screen time, limiting caffeine and meditating before catching some shut eye is an effective way to improve both the quality and quantity of your rest time. And you will notice the difference it makes!
2. Have a high quality of relationships:
We’re all defined by our relationships with other people to an extent. In fact, many people gauge their happiness based on their quality (not quantity) of interpersonal relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Researchers at LiveScience discovered that those people who had high quality relationships achieved a lifespan that was twice as long as someone who spent the majority of their time alone. This was attributed to the fact that friendships are effective in reducing stress by offering support and enjoyable companionship, leading to overall better physical and mental health. Having people you can count on or even just someone you can grab a coffee with is a simple yet powerful way to increase happiness.
3. Go to the gym:
You’ve heard it once and you can bet that you’re going to hear it again. Exercise is extremely beneficial to our overall well being. Studies published in How Stuff Works reveal that there is a direct link between happiness and exercise. When we run, lift weights or play our favorite sport, our brains release endorphins which causes a surge in pleasurable feelings. Happiness also causes a release of endorphins, and both mimic the effects of one another. This doesn’t mean that you need to go out and run a marathon; just a little bit of exercise every day can lead to unexpected levels of happiness.
4. Engage in new experiences:
A new experience can certainly go a long way, there’s no debate about that. In an article published in Time Magazine, a psychologist at Winston-Salem State University examined over 30,000 event memories and 500 selections of personal journals. It was discovered that people who actively participated in new and unfamiliar experiences were more likely to retain positive emotions, including happiness. New experiences can include travelling, taking up a new hobby or even something as simple as trying a new restaurant. These kind of activities can make you a lot happier.
5. Spend some time outside:
Spending time indoors may be a cozy spot to collect your thoughts and chill out, but stepping outside to do this is even better. In an interview with The Huffington Post, environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon discusses the ongoing theory that humans react positively to things that are designed to benefit us, this is why we enjoy being outside and in touch with natural elements. She states in the article: “trees offer shade, protection and often have fruits and nuts, so they are a source of food as well as protection and comfort.” So even going outdoors and enjoying the shade of a tree is enough to make you feel happier, especially if you make a habit of it.
It may seem overly obvious but often we forget to smile, even when we feel happy. According to studies published in Psychology Today, the physical act of smiling automatically releases pleasurable brain chemicals including dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. One doesn’t even have to be genuinely happy in order to smile, a fake smile works just the same and can even lift your bad mood. Smiling every day is the simplest and quickest way to increase happiness.