1. Keep a “Gratitude Journal”.
The other day, I happened upon a great activity for couples. However, it can also be modified slightly to fit anyone (no matter what your relationship status is or what walk of life you are from). It is called a “Gratitude Journal”. It is basically a log that you keep, of the little things that you are grateful for each day. In the couples version, you are to write down reasons why you are grateful for your significant other.
The items that you write down can be anything from small, everyday occurrences to big gestures. The important thing to remember is to write down at least one thing each day.
How does this help with your happiness level? There have been many studies that show that there is a correlation between happiness and showing gratitude. There was a wonderful video entitled, “An Experiment in Gratitude” from Soul Pancake (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg) which went viral a few years ago. The video itself is a great tool to boost your mood. Check out the video but just make sure that you have a box of tissues handy because you’ll need them.
2. Be mindful.
There was a study done at Harvard where 2250 participants let psychologists contact them at random times during the day to record their:
- Feelings at the moment
- Thoughts at the moment
- Activity in which they were currently engaged in
This study came to the conclusion that the participants who were being mindful and present at their current activity were reported to be happier more often than those who were daydreaming, zoning out, or otherwise not being mindful at all.
There are times and places for daydreaming. It can be helpful for different situations, specifically being creative, brainstorming, and as a way to relax. However, letting your mind wander for too long and too often may cause your mood to drop significantly, if this particular study is correct.
Even if the study is incorrect about daydreaming causing a gloomy or sad mood, the other half of their conclusion has been proven many other times in the past. Being mindful, present, and living in the moment have been proven to lead to a happier life.
So how do you become more mindful? It doesn’t happen overnight. Mindful living comes from being more conscious more often. Being aware and paying attention to your surroundings (on purpose) comes with practice. One way to strengthen this skill is by practicing mindful meditation. Mindfulness meditation sessions are when you sit with your eyes closed and concentrate on observing your surroundings using your other senses. Your thoughts, emotions, and any other sensations (or itches) should also be noted during these exercises. Practice this for 20 minutes each day to help boost this skill.
3. Go out and get active.
When you exercise, your confidence level and self-esteem go through the roof? Why? There are a number of reasons to explain this including chemical reactions in your brain that release the happiness hormone and the simple fact that doing things that are good for you can make you feel good about yourself. No matter the reason, exercise and staying active is a great way to lift up your happiness level when you’re feeling a little down.
While you’re at it, go out and enjoy the great outdoors. Spending time in nature has proven (in studies such as this one done in the UK: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/mackerro/happy_natural_envs.pdf) to help boost your mood, especially if you normally live in an urban environment. Combine the two activities by taking a walk in a park, going on a hike, taking a short camping trip, kayaking, mountain climbing, or going snowshoeing. There are a ton of other outdoor activities that can get your heart rate up. Test them out and find a favorite.
4. Volunteer your time to a cause you feel passionate about.
Helping others is another great way to boost your mood. Not only will it make you happy, it will also ease the symptoms of depression, and can even make you live longer. If you don’t have the time to volunteer to a great cause, try performing a random act of kindness – or maybe one that isn’t so random.
One of my favorite random act of kindness activities is to start a “pay it forward” at my go-to coffee stand. I pay for my coffee as well as the person behind me. The barista then offers the option to the next patron (“That person has already paid for your coffee. Would you like to pay for the person behind you in line?”). Normally, that chain will last through most of the morning. If there isn’t anyone in line behind me, I offer to buy coffee for the next veteran, officer, or teacher that comes through the door.
5. Go on a vacation.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to book plane tickets to another country. Going on vacation is simply taking the time away from work to destress for a significant amount of time. You can even choose to have a stay-cation (staying at home for your vacation). To make the most of your staycation, make sure that your weekend – or however long you have taken off of work – will be stress free by preplanning meals; prepping your clothes, home, and entertainment for the duration of your “trip”; and by choosing to do things that make you feel happy and relaxed.
6. Dress up!
There is a professional philosophy that says, “Dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have.” On an emotional level, the theories behind this philosophy still hold true if you apply it to other parts of your life. If you are feeling down in the dumps, try dressing up so you can stir up the emotions that you normally have during the times that you normally “gussy yourself up”.
Your mind may associate certain clothes with going out to the club with friends. This may bring forth the feeling of confidence and support. If you dress for a promotion during a time when you would normally just run errands, you can feel powerful, confident, and professional.
Not only that, dressing for success just feels great. Other people treat you well. You feel more confident knowing that you look good. Dressing well requires that you take care of yourself hygienically and that always feels wonderful.
7. Play with a pet.
Pets are a great way to boost your mood. Just sitting on the couch, petting a dog can cause your brain to release the happiness hormone. Why? It works for the same reason that “showing affection toward your loved ones” makes you happy. The physical contact is a mood elevator, as is the act of showing kindness/gratitude.
8. Listen to music that makes you want to dance.
When we think about things that make us happy, we often focus on two specific senses: sight and touch. We watch videos or look at pictures that make us smile and laugh. We see people that we love. We hug loved ones. We pet our dogs. We watch a good movie. The other senses are just as important however.
There is something special that happens in our hearts and minds when we hear a song that reminds us of a happy moment in our lives. Not only that, certain songs just evoke that emotion from us, even if there is no memory involved. That being said, different types of songs, tempos, and melodies will make us smile. Find a song, band, or genre that brings joy into your heart and turn it into a playlist that you can play each day.
9. Chat up some friends.
Socializing can do a lot for your mood. If you’re feeling a little down, take a moment to assess the past twenty four hours. How many people have you talked to – face to face? Have you been sitting in front of the computer for a long time? People who have desk jobs and those who work from home often run the risk of being lonely without realizing it. Spend at least an hour with some good company each day: friends, neighbors, family, loved ones, coworkers, etc. The more you interact with others, the better you will feel. Even if you chat with a complete stranger about the weather or ask for their suggestion for a coffee or movie order, that is a few extra minutes that will boost your mood.
10. Smile and laugh.
We take life too seriously at times. As we get older, the weight of adult responsibilities begins to push us down. It steals the laughter from our lips. On average, kids laugh around 200 times each day while adults only laugh at an average of 15 times each day. Laughing can elevate your mood as well as help you live longer.
If you don’t know where to start, try some of these tips:
- Watch a funny movie
- Watch a funny YouTube video (ask your social media friends for suggestions)
- Play a board game with friends
- Read a book by a writer you think is funny
- Play with your pet
- Meet some new people or hang out with some old friends
- Enjoy a hobby
- Read a comic that you’ve always enjoyed
11. Take a nap.
Getting the right amount of sleep for your body and mind will do wonders for your mood. Most people know just how important a good night’s sleep is. Maslow does classify it as a fundamental need. Unfortunately, not all of us take that to heart. People often put off sleep in order to be more productive (myself included). That being said, if you find that you’re not that happy in your current situation or in general, it might behoove you to get a better night’s sleep each night.
To make matters a little more complicated, I know that not everyone is able to get their desired amount of sleep each night for one reason or another (a new baby, for example). It’s not necessarily that we need more sleep – though usually that is the case – it is that we need a better quality of sleep. Make the act of sleeping, less of a chore and a reward and more of an essential thing that you can make pleasant. There are a number of things that you can do to get a better night’s sleep. Check out our other article [LINK TO THE 30 HABITS TO CHANGE FOR A HEALTHIER LIFE ARTICLE] for more details on how to get a better night’s sleep.
12. Have a cup of your favorite tea.
In this case, a cup of tea is both literal and metaphorical at the same time. Actually having tea can help calm your nerves and put you in a state of relaxation. But it’s more than just enjoying the flavor and sensation of the tea, in order to get the most out of this you have to focus on it as well. Take this time to slow down and enjoy some quiet time to think or reflect.
From when you start brewing the tea, to when you put the empty cup and teapot into the sink, don’t think about work, stress, or anything negative. Focus on the positive and try to keep your mind thinking optimistically.
13. Show affection toward someone you care about.
Even a small gesture of affection (a pat on the hand or the back, for example) will help stimulate the receptors in your hands which release oxytocin (the happy hormone). These sensations will also help to decrease the amount of stress hormones that are in your body. If you take it a step further and hug someone that you care about, you’ll add another layer: emotional support. In order to achieve the most out of these moments of affection, hug or touch for at least six seconds. Research shows that this is the amount of time that you’ll need in order to release a decent amount of oxytocin.