In the past scientists have focused on preventing human emotions like depression, fear and anger – because those feelings were the reasons why we aren’t feeling happier. However, in the last few years the focus has been on how to shape and reprogram our brains towards happiness despite genetics, our surroundings or negative outlooks.
It looks like there are indeed quick ways that humans can increase their happiness right now.
Start by practicing the following ways to increase your happiness now on a regular basis and witness the amazing internal and external physiological benefits that being happy provides.
Exercise or Walk for at Least 7 Minutes
Exercise has long been professed to be a cure-all for everything from depression to memory loss, unhealthy heart conditions to Alzheimer’s disease. The endorphins released are responsible for a wonderful burst of self-confidence and good feelings. But check this out – did you know that as soon as you begin to strenuously test your body physically, your brain notices this as a moment of stress?
Your heart pressure increases and your brain instantly responds with a “fight or flight” awakening. An amazing protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is released to protect your brain from what it perceives as stress, endorphins are sent out inside your brain to minimize discomfort and feelings of pain, and you experience a sense of euphoria. And all this happens when you walk or exercise for as little as 7 minutes, making you feel happier pretty much instantly.
Take a Nap
Without enough sleep, there’s not a brain out there that can think happy thoughts because it’s too tired! In laymans terms – we are so grouchy without enough sleep!!! I for one know that the only positive thought I’m thinking about without enough sleep, is the thought of how more sleep would feel! The last thing I’m thinking about is how a loud chirping bird is supposed to inspire thoughts of happiness or even exercise for that matter!
In one study, college students were intentionally sleep deprived, and then they were instructed to memorize a list of words. Incredibly, 81% of the words with negative connotations were easily recalled. But only 31% of the words on the list with positive or neutral connotations could be remembered.
So let’s get some sleep and watch how much happier we feel.
Reduce Your Commute
Yep, as it turns out, the closer you live to your job, the happier you are. And when you think about it, not too much research is needed to be done in this area. There is a reason why the term “road rage” was coined to describe that special kind of anger that driving to and from work in frustrating traffic can provoke in some people. This is probably why so many people who work at home profess fewer health problems.
Two Swiss economists looking into this well-known phenomenon actually found that some people subconsciously compensate for a long commute by purchasing larger and more expensive possessions. But as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has stated, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day,” and owning an expensive car or a larger house does nothing to compensate. Move closer to your job will not make you feel happier, but you may just come to enjoy your work more as well.
Spend More Time With Friends and Family
Research shows the benefits of interacting frequently and regularly with those people you care the most about. Spend some quality time with your friends and family members today, and you will smile immediately in the short term, and live longer and healthier over time.
Grab a Thermometer and Head Outdoors
Spending time outside, preferably in the sun or a well lit area, for just 20 minutes can instantly boost your positive mood. One study on the effects of being outside as opposed to indoors even showed that a broader range of thinking and a better working memory are other benefits of hanging out in mother nature.
Volunteer 1.92 Hours This Week
1.92 – that is the magic number purported by The Journal of Happiness Studies to create the perfect level of happiness and self-peace in the average human being. And purchases for activities and experiences created greater feelings of success, happiness and well being than when money was used to buy physical objects.
Volunteer your time and personal efforts for two hours a week, and not only will you feel happier for it now, but you can also significantly and positively impact the lives of those less fortunate than yourself.
If you don’t have that many opportunities to smile during the day, it turns out that simply spending time practicing a genuine smile can boost your mood considerably.
But no faking! Michigan State University researchers found that employees involved in customer service jobs who regularly employed fake smiles were actually less productive and saw their mood worsen throughout the day.
But your mind knows when you are actually practicing a “real” smile. Get your eyes, mouth and entire face involved when you practice smiling, and you can actually reduce stress caused by upsetting situations.
Practice and Profess Gratitude
Everyone has something to be thankful for. Yes – we do! And most people have tons more going on in their life which provide them happiness and satisfaction, than sadness and stress. Try journaling about things you are thankful for, with a goal to record at least three positive people, places or experiences you encounter every day. Also, be sure you share positive events and occurrences each day with your spouse or a friend.
Some people prefer to go out of their way to express gratitude when others help them, and all of these recognitions and professions of gratitude have been shown to heighten well-being and happiness in both individuals and groups. A conscious focus on the blessings in your life can provide emotional and interpersonal benefits which lead to better health and a longer life as well.
Just Keep Breathing
Startling new research shows that older people remember happier faces and situations better than unpleasant ones. It seems that simply growing older causes you to look at life with a healthier and happier attitude. You can impact your happiness positively by practicing healthy habits that will lead to a longer existence.
The Bell Curve seems to be middle-age, so once you are in your 40’s, begin thinking about pleasant memories, experiences and loved ones more frequently, and your hardwired nature to recall positive feelings and forget negative ones will empower a cycle of longer life and happier health.