You know those moods where you’re feeling down and it doesn’t seem like anything is going to pick you back up again? We’ve all been there. But the next time you’re in need of a boost, there are plenty of easy tricks you can use to make yourself happy again.
Whether it’s spending time with your dog, volunteering, or even filling your home with plants, these science-backed ways of improving your mood will have you feeling like yourself again in no time. (Also, there’s chocolate involved… and if science says you should eat chocolate to feel better, you listen.) And for more great life hacks, here are 13 Tricks for an Instant Energy Boost.
Spend Time With Your Pet
Just being in your pet’s presence makes them so excited they’re (literally) jumping for joy—and they make you just as happy. A 2009 study from the journal Hormones and Behavior found being around dogs in particular can up your levels of oxytocin, which makes you feel joy. Plus, it’s probably impossible not be happy when a cute pup is licking your face. Inspired to buy a new dog? Here’s how to get the perfect one, according to dog whisperer Cesar Millan.
Eat Some Clementines
If you’re not a fan of citrus, it might be time to change that. A 2005 study in the journal Chemical Senses found the smell of clementines made participants feel ridiculously happy and stimulated, so having one for a snack will give you a cheerful buzz. Plus, eating the fruit can also give you a major dose of vitamin C. It’s a win-win. For more great healthy eating advice, here are the 10 Essential Power Foods for Men.
Spend Time With Positive People
Do you ever notice how much happier you feel after hanging out with your happy-go-lucky friends over your Debbie Downer pals? There’s a scientific reason for that. A 2008 study published in the British Medical Journal found happiness is actually contagious. The authors said your happiness greatly depends on those around you, so spend time with the people who make you feel good. The same goes for your partner, as well, so check out these 50 Amazing Bonding Activities for Married Couples.
Wear Red Lipstick
Don’t wait for the holidays to bust out your favorite shade of red lipstick—put some on right now. A 2011 study published in PLOS One found that women who wore a little lip color were more confident than those who didn’t, giving them an instant mood boost. Sure, it’s superficial—but if you’re feeling down and need a quick pick-me-up, why not get it from your favorite gloss? And for more ways to look confident, check out the 40 Things No Woman Should Ever Wear to Work.
Grab an Adult Coloring Book
Not only does coloring make you feel like a kid again, but it’s also been shown to help relieve stress and boost happiness levels. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found doing something creative can make you feel more joyful overall, and you can easily color your way to a good mood.
Yes, Eat a Healthier Diet
As good as ice cream is, fruit and veggies will do more for your happiness levels in the end. In a 2012 study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, researchers found there’s a link between eating healthy foods and well-being. Basically, the more daily portions of produce a participant ate, the happier they were—and it makes sense. Considering fruit and vegetables are full of energizing vitamins and nutrients, they’ll make you feel much better than a dessert that’s packed with fat and sugar. For more great healthy eating advice, here are the 50 Best Foods for Your Brain.
Do Some Yoga
People have been saying yoga is the ultimate exercise for happiness for centuries, and there’s some scientific proof to back that up. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, for instance, found it has a positive effect on mood and anxiety, making people feel less anxious and happier overall—especially over those who tried to get the same results by walking. And if you need any more reasons to say “namaste,” here are the Yoga Moves That Will Improve Your Sex Life.
Be More Generous
In fact, even being a little giving is enough to make you feel joy. A 2017 study from the University of Zurich found those who were more generous were much happier than those who were more selfish, even if they just verbally committed to being more generous. Doing something for someone other than yourself lights up an area of your brain that’s associated with happiness, so take advantage—it’s good for all parties involved.
There are plenty of studies that show just how many benefits there are to meditating—whether it’s lowering your stress levels or helping you relax—but it can also make you really happy. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found meditating at least five time a week for only 15 to 20 minutes a session resulted in a lot of positive emotions, happiness included.
Take a Nap
A short nap in the afternoon can revitalize you if you’re feeling sleepy, but it can also make you super happy: A 2007 study from researchers at the University of Nottingham found crawling into a cozy bed for a bit can make you feel all sorts of warm and cozy, improving your overall well-being. If you have trouble dozing off, we’re here to help: Try these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
Boot the Stress Out of Your Life
Stress is part of life, but when you have too much, it can really affect your happiness. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, numerous studies have shown sustained stress can cause wear and tear, eventually leading to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But when you focus on ridding as much stress from your life as possible, you’ll not only be happier but much healthier too.
Drink Some Coffee
Coffee isn’t just a great way to start your day with a little energy—it’s also a mild antidepressant. According to a 2011 study published in JAMA, the caffeine releases dopamine and serotonin that gives you that amazing high-on-life feeling, making you feel happier overall. And if you’re looking for more great reasons to drink coffee, here are 75 Amazing Benefits of Coffee.
Stay Off Social Media
Sure, scrolling through social media can be fun—but it can also really mess with your head. A 2016 study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior found those who use social media often have a 2.7 times more likely chance of being depressed than those who don’t use it as frequently. Limit your time double-tapping people’s pictures and you’re bound to feel much happier.
Say “Thank you.”
Whether you write down things you’re thankful for or say them out loud to your partner as you’re lying in bed, expressing gratitude instantly gives you that warm-and-cozy feeling. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found the participants who counted their blessings over their burdens were 25 percent happier and more optimistic, simply because they looked at the positives in their lives instead of the negatives.
Make Someone Smile
Sure, your own happiness is important—but making someone else’s day can give you both a boost. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found those who were given the task of making someone smile through an act of kindness felt a lot of personal happiness in the process. And if those smiles lead to romance, here are 30 ways to really heat up your relationship.
Laugh as Often as Possible
It turns out laugher really is the best medicine. Getting your laugh on has many benefits—including stress relief, says the Mayo Clinic—but a 1993 study published in the journal Psychological Reports also found those who used humor as a way to cope tended to be more positive and happy overall.
Watch Some Funny Videos
Speaking of laughing, one way you can get yourself giggling is by watching some funny videos. That’s exactly what researchers had participants do in a 2014 study published in the journal of Advances in Mind-Body Medicine and it worked, making them less stressed and happier overall.
Declutter Your Life
Simplicity can definitely be a good thing—especially when it comes to happiness. If your apartment has turned into a mess, take some time to get rid of what you don’t need and organize the rest. Having a freshly cleaned space will get your head in a much better space—and you’ll feel so good after seeing the finished product.
Actually Use Your Vacation Days
It’s easier said than done, right? With tight deadlines and an endless to-do list, a vacation might feel like it’s nearly impossible, but take your well-deserved time off: A 2010 study published in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found even though it seems stressful, vacationers felt super happy before their trips. There’s nothing better than getting excited about an adventure ahead you.
Wear Something You Feel Confident In
Those days when you take your time getting ready in the morning and slip on an outfit you feel your absolute best in are the days you feel the happiest, right? Ditch the clothes that don’t make you feel confident from your wardrobe and leave the ones that do: When you feel like you look good, your happiness levels shoot through the roof, too.
Read a New Book
Instead of spending your extra time on the couch watching Netflix, sit down with a new book you’ve been wanting to get your hands on. Being totally immersed in those pages will make you feel relaxed and refreshed—and make you a lot happier in the process.
Wear More Yellow
If you don’t have much yellow in your wardrobe, it’s time to stock up: A 2001 study published in the Journal of General Psychology found the color yellow makes adults feel all sorts of happy—hello, sunshine color!—so spending your day in a bright shirt or toting around a pretty bag will instantly lift your spirits.
Volunteer for a Cause Close to Your Heart
No matter how busy your schedule is, always make time to volunteer for a cause that’s important to you. Your kindness will make an impact on others, and your work will give you a happiness boost too: A 2013 study published in BMC Public Health found volunteering not only improved participants’ well-being and life satisfaction, but was also linked to decreased depression. Good vibes all around.
Put On Your Favorite Feel-Good Movie
You know that movie that makes you feel all the feels every time you watch it? If you’re in need of a happiness boost, put it on—and grab some popcorn. Watching your favorite scenes again will make you smile and you’ll feel joyful pretty much the instant it starts playing.
Unleash Your Inner Bob Ross
Something as easy as grabbing a paint brush could make you feel incredibly happy. A 2011 study published in the journal Arts & Health found participants who did some painting—either by themselves or in a group—were much happier than those who worked on a puzzle. Sometimes all you need to raise your spirits is to let your brain wander. Fun fact: Did you know that Bob Ross was one of these 30 Celebs Who Served in the Military?
Take a Break from Technology
Throughout the day, you’re probably on your computer, phone, and Apple Watch—maybe even all at once. A 2012 study published in the journal Developmental Psychology found those who spend a lot of time using multiple different types of technology are less happy than those who don’t spend as much time in front of the screen, so don’t be afraid to shut off.
Cut Your TV-viewing by 50 Percent
Watching your favorite show might feel good in the moment, but all that time staring at the screen can start to affect your happiness. A 2008 study published in the journal Social Indicators Research looked at 30 years of national data and found those who spend the most time watching TV are actually the unhappiest. It might be time to finally lose the remote for good.
Keep Challenging Yourself
It’s easy to get bored in a routine that’s the same every day, and that boredom can lead to unhappiness. But when you need an instant mood boost, simply give yourself a do-able challenge: By giving your brain something new to do, you’ll feel ridiculously satisfied once you finish, making you feel happy.
Take a “Sick” Day
Everyone has done it, and sometimes that day off is so necessary. When you’re feeling stressed and could use a break, call in sick or take a personal day for a little me-time. Having some time to yourself away from your desk will make you incredibly happy—just don’t do it too often or you might not have a desk to go to.
Show More Gratitude on a Daily Basis
Your mom was right when she always made you say your “pleases” and “thank yous.” A 2014 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found even something as simple as thanking a cashier at the grocery store or writing a thank-you note can make you feel happy.
Try Something New
And, do so as often as you can. In a 2003 study published in the Review of General Psychology, researchers found people who have lots of different experiences are more positive and happy than those who don’t have as many. And that doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of money, either: Look for free events in your area to boost your mood.
Spend Time With Friends
Whether you like being social or not, it’s a great way to boost your happiness levels. A 2008 study published in the journal Social Indicators Research found those who are more socially active—whether that’s going to dinner with friends or even to the gym—are happier people than those who stay home and watch TV in their spare time.
Go on a Hike
Putting on your hiking boots and taking a stroll out in nature does a lot for your happiness levels. A 2014 study published in the journal Ecopsychology found those who took walks outside were significantly less depressed. And even better, that time spent outdoors also helped them handle any stress that popped up in their lives.
Bust Out Your Dancing Skills
It’s time to get your groove on whether you’re a great dancer or only prefer moving your booty in the privacy of your own home. A 2012 study published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found dancing often—even just once a week!—can significantly improve your mood, and the results last for months.
Burn a Vanilla Candle
Sure, clementines smell great—but a vanilla bean scent is also a great way to make you instantly happy. A 2005 study in the journal Chemical Senses found it made participants super happy and also nice and relaxed—AKA an unbeatable combo.
Loving yourself isn’t always easy, but once you realize just how great you are, you’ll feel much happier. A 2014 study from the University of Hertfordshire found although people practice it the least, self-acceptance—whether that’s just being as kind to yourself as you are to others or spending some time alone to really get to know and accept yourself—is a proven way to boost happiness levels. Obviously it’s not as easy as playing with your dog, but it’s so important.
Take Yourself Out to Lunch
Instead of eating at your desk again, take the time to treat yourself to a lunch at a nearby restaurant. Getting away from the office, getting a little sunshine, and eating some good food will instantly boost your mood and make you feel happier for the rest of the day. (Plus, everyone can use a little time away from their boss.)
Make an Effort to Meet New People
Meeting people isn’t always easy—especially as an adult. But according to a 2013 study published in PLOS One, going out on a limb and making some new friends in person rather than online will make you much happier.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep can lead to depression, says the National Sleep Foundation, but getting the recommended amount each night—which is 7 to 9 hours—can do the opposite. When you wake up after getting some serious shut-eye, you’ll feel refreshed, energized, and incredibly happy.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Whether you want to write down parts of your day you really enjoyed or jot down a list of things you’re thankful for each night, 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found people are much happier when they focus on the positives in their lives. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, either—even mentioning you loved going on a walk with your dog counts.
Keep Yourself Busy
Staying busy can be stressful, but not when you fill your calendar with things you love doing. According to 2008 study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, spending less time in front of the TV and more time doing things you love will make you much happier overall. In fact, unhappy people were 51 percent more likely to feel like they have too much extra time on their hands. So get out there and do something fun.
Get Yourself Some Flowers
Not only will a fresh bouquet of flowers brighten up your home, but they’ll also give you an instant boost of happiness. A 2005 study published in Evolutionary Psychology found the effect of flowers can actually last for days, making you feel happy far beyond the moment you bring them into your space.
Becoming happier just by changing the way you walk might sound crazy, but stay with us: A 2015 study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry found standing up tall instead walking with your head down can instantly make you feel a little happier. The shift in posture will also make you feel more confident—also a plus.
Indulge in Your Favorite Treat
No one’s going to argue with an excuse to eat chocolate. According to the Cleveland Clinic, having one to two ounces of dark chocolate a day that’s 70 percent cocoa or higher can majorly boost your mood, making you happy. Think of it as medicine, but for your brain.
Spend Money on Others
Maybe you feel like donating to a great cause, or maybe you want to buy a family member or friend something they’ve been wanting. Either way, a 2009 study published in the journal Science found spending money on other people can make you much happier than spending money on yourself. So do as Oprah does—just don’t hide everything under everyone’s chairs.
Eat More Omega-3s
Omega-3s—AKA healthy fats like avocados, salmon, and nuts—don’t just help your brain function normally. According to the Cleveland Clinic, they also boost your mood, making you feel happier. So eat up!
Paint a Wall in Your House Green
Sure, it might not be a typical color you’d paint—but even creating a green accent wall in your home can have some mood-boosting benefits. A 2001 study published in the Journal of General Psychology found the color made adults super happy, so looking at it every day can increase those positive vibes.
Use Blue Light Therapy
If you can’t get enough sunshine, there’s another option available—especially in the winter: blue lights. A 2011 study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry found depressed adults who used an hour of pale blue light every day were much happier than those who didn’t. Another bonus? The light also helped reduce some stress. (You can even grab one for yourself on Amazon.)
Too much complaining can probably make you feel a little down in the dumps—but don’t avoid it altogether. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Social Psychology found those who expressed their complaints to someone who could fix them made them feel relieved—and also much happier after getting the weight off their shoulders.
Hug Someone You Care About
Whether it’s your doorman or best friend, getting a hug can make you feel instantly happy. Multiple studies have shown physical touch releases oxytocin in the body, which can improve your mood. So find someone to wrap their arms around you—even if you have to put up one of those “Free Hugs!” signs to do it—and you’ll be feeling better in no time.
Draw a Soothing Bath
One of the best ways to beat stress is to get cozy in a warm bath—and it boosts your happiness levels too. A 2007 study from researchers at the University of Nottingham found even though it’s a simple pleasure, it’s one thing you can do to positively impact your well-being.
Listen to Music You Love
Load up your go-to playlist and press play: Music is super powerful when it comes to your emotions, and a 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found those who boosted their mood via their favorite songs made them feel happier, and that was only for 12 minutes. Just imagine what double that can do for your well-being.
Go to the Nearest Animal Shelter
Don’t have a dog at home you can play with? Visit the nearest animal shelter. By getting some time with your new furry friends (and doing some volunteering in the process), you’ll be feeling on top of the world by the time you leave. And if you’re serious about a shelter dog, don’t miss our in-depth guide to adoption.
Spend Some Time in the Kitchen
Whenever you want to feel happier, head to the kitchen. A 2016 study from the Journal of Positive Psychology found those who did everyday things like cooking and baking when they were stressed ended up feeling more joyful overall. Plus, eating decadent brownies or your favorite meal probably helps a little too…
Take a Trip Down Memory Lane
According to a 2013 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a little nostalgia can make you feel joyful because of how comforting it is. Whether it’s thinking back to a pleasant childhood memory or listening to a song you loved in high school, you’ll get an instant jolt of happiness.
Go Get a Massage
There’s nothing wrong with spoiling yourself occasionally—especially if it can better your mental health in the process. By getting a massage, you’ll get into deep relaxation-mode—and come out feeling refreshed, happy, and totally zenned out.
Fake It Until You Make It
You smile when you’re happy and frown when you’re sad, but forcing yourself to slap a grin on your face when you’re feeling down can actually boost your mood. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Pain found expressing an emotion can make you feel that emotion, even if you’re faking it at first.
Become an Optimist
Becoming an optimist is easier said than done, but there are some major benefits to living that glass-half-full life—one being that you’re much happier, says a 2013 study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. No matter what’s going on in your life, looking on the bright side will help improve your mood.
Spend Time at a Park
Being out in nature is a huge mood-booster—even if you just lay out a blanket and read at the park. A 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found the more green space you’re around, the happier you feel. (And yes, your backyard totally counts.)
Don’t Work So Much
Once you get home at night, don’t you even dare think about firing up your laptop to do more work. Research from the Better Life Index has shown those who live in Denmark are some of the happiest people in the world, and guess what? Only 2 percent of employees work long hours. So get rid of your work-all-day mindset and take a breather to relax and spend time with the people you love once you’re done for the day.
Talk to Your Family — Especially Your Mom
It’s hard to find time to call home, but it’s crucial for your happiness: A 2016 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found talking to family—especially your mom!—is basically like getting one of her hugs. You know, the ones that made you feel better instantly as a kid. Evidently nothing can’t beat the power of a mother’s voice.
Buy Experiences, Not Things
While it might be tempting to spend your hard-earned money on the latest tech gadgets or new clothes, a 2009 study published in the the Journal of Positive Psychology found material objects don’t bring as much happiness as a life experience, like a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to visit.
Get Some Sunshine
While being trapped in a gloomy, dark room can make you feel down, getting outside into the sun can perk you right back up again. A 2011 study published in the journal Dermato Endocrinology found increasing levels of vitamin D helped improve the participants’ moods.
Take a Selfie
Just ignore anyone who gives you a weird look when you’re doing it. A 2016 study published in the journal Psychology of Well-Being found those who snap photos of themselves on the regular were actually happier overall—particularly because they’re more confident and comfortable in their own skin.
Head to the Gym
While yoga is great, any type of exercise is going to instantly make you happier. Because it releases feel-good endorphins and the happy chemical dopamine as you start to get your sweat on, you’ll finish your workout in a much better mood than when you started, says the Mayo Clinic.
Work On Your Spirituality
Whether you’re religious or just spiritual, either one is linked to being happier overall, says a 2011 review published in the Handbook of Religion and Health. You don’t even have to go to church. As long as you find something you you’re passionate about, you’ll feel a sense of joy.
Cuddle With Your Significant Other
If you’re feeling down, snuggle up with your partner. Just like hugs make you feel instantly happier because of the release of oxytocin in the body, the same goes for cuddling. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to cuddle more often?
Sing a Song at the Top of Your Lungs
You don’t need to be an amazing, don’t worry. But whether you could score your own record deal or generally stick to belting out songs in the shower, singing has been shown to boost happiness on many occasions, even lowering stress in the process, says a 2004 study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.
Buy Some Foliage
House plants don’t just brighten up your space—according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, they also boost your overall happiness by enhancing your mood, and creating a soothing environment, and even increasing your productivity levels.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
AKA stop getting on Instagram so much. When you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people, it’s easy to feel down. Instead, focus on you and what you love about yourself for a much-needed dose of happiness.
Ditch a Bad Habit
While it might seem as though quitting a bad habit would put you in a worse mood, the opposite is actually true. In a Brown University study of 236 smokers who also drank heavily, researchers found that ditching their nicotine habit actually relieved depressive symptoms among participants.
Plan a Trip
Want to improve your mood in seconds? Start planning a vacation. According to a study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life, the very act of anticipating a vacation can make you happier, even if you won’t actually be hitting the road for some time. It’s just one more reason why This Is Why You Should Take All Of Your Vacation Days.
Spend Some Time Alone
A little bit of time to yourself can make a major difference when it comes to your overall well-being. Not only does spending time alone give you a chance to decompress and step back from some of the stresses of daily life, it may actually be the key to happiness for certain individuals. Research published in the British Journal of Psychology reveals that among highly intelligent people, spending time solo instead of in groups tends to beget greater happiness. Even better, research conducted at the University of Buffalo suggests that a little alone time can significantly boost your creativity, too.
Buy Yourself Some Time
Spending a little money to save yourself a lot of time will make you a more joyful person in the long run. According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, delegating tasks you’re not particularly keen to do yourself—for instance picking up takeout when you’re too tired to cook or hiring a housekeeper—leads to greater satisfaction and overall well-being than spending the same amount of money on a material item.
A little affection can go a long way toward making you happier in no time. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder reveals that holding hands with a romantic partner can not only synchronize your heart rate and breathing patterns, it can even alleviate pain. Better yet, physical contact can give you a boost of endorphins, boosting your mood along the way.
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