It’s something that is often easier said than done for a lot of us out here running the rat race that is life.
But believe it or not, there is science to back over 100 theories of things that make us happy or happier.
Mindful assembled a list of over 100 things that we can do to be happier people. In this post, I excerpt 14 of the tips that have worked for me below and I try to implement in my life.
Have at Least 10 Good Friends
A survey of more than 1,700 individuals found that people who have 10 good friends or more were happier than those who had less.
Conducted by Nottingham University, data collected suggest that having less than 6 friends made you more likely to be unhappy than happy. Meanwhile, those who had between 6 and 10 friends could swing either way.
The findings show that friendship is a key predictor of happiness. Whether the friends you have come from childhood, work or just recently acquired, it didn’t matter.
The study also suggests that the more friends, the more likely you are to be happy.
It did mention however, the potential danger of having too many friends. Doing so may result in not having enough time to nurture all the relationships. In which case, you’d end with many friends you weren’t close with.
These less meaningful relationships didn’t really provide as much value as good friendships.
Engage in Meaningful Conversations
There’s nothing wrong with small talk. In fact, it’s often fun.
But if you’re looking to get to know someone, build a more meaningful relationship and make yourself happier, skip the chit chat.
Instead, spend more time having meaningful conversations.
A study by the University of Arizona reveals that more substantive conversations led to feelings of satisfaction. Following 80 individuals and their conversations over a 4 day period, researchers found that spending less time with small talk and engaging in more meaningful conversations resulted in higher levels of well-being.
It findings also show that those who spend more time talking to other people rather than being by themselves were also happier.
The observations bring us back to the point that human beings are social creatures. And a happy life is intrinsically linked to spending time with others instead of solitude.
Talk About the Things that are Bothering You
Talking about something that’s bothering you lets it off your chest. This helps relieve the tension from within.
In a review of 11 studies covering more than 1,500 patients, talk therapy was found to be just as effective as antidepressants in treating depression.
Apparently, it isn’t just the things that are troubling you that you can talk to others about.
Research also suggests that talking about positive things like achievements and memorable moments likewise boost our mood.
The study did 5 small experiments to see how sharing positive news in various ways affected happiness.
In all the trials, sharing good experiences boosted satisfaction and happiness levels. However, the effects hit their highest point when the listener provided an active-constructive response.
This tells us that the person you share to is just as important as the sharing itself.
In addition, it’s not always easy to open up to someone, much less to someone who you aren’t close to or who won’t be able to give you the response you need.
Try New Things
While getting over your fear or anxiety of trying something you’re not sure of can be frightening, science offers evidence that new experiences and adventures make us become happier.
In analyzing over 500 diaries and 30,000 event memories, Winston-Salem University psychologist Rich Walker discovered that people who engaged in different types of experiences were more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones compared to those who had less experience variation.
Plus, trying out new things and experiences opens us up to learning and growing as a person. Who knows, you may turn out to really like whatever it is you decide to try.
But what if you aren’t the curious or adventurous type?
Carnegie Mellon scientists observed that there are a few characteristics that influence the willingness to explore. These include:
- Availability (removing obstacles, being responsive and open),
- non-interference (not doing anything to jeopardize the curiosity or activity) and
- encouragement (accept and take on the challenge)
These are some characteristics you can try to work on to make yourself experience different things.
Ditch Warm Showers for Cold Ones
If you’re a fan of warm showers, you may want to switch to cold ones for its health benefits.
A study conducted by the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine discovered that taking cold showers help reduce depression. Exposure to cold promotes the increase of neurotransmitters in our brains that helps improve mood.
In addition to boosting happiness levels, cold showers have also been scientifically shown to improve circulation and respiration. It likewise reduces muscle inflammation, fatigue and helps you lose weight.
Learn Something New
For some reason, the older we get, the less inclined we are to try and learn something new.
I’m not sure why it is, but I’ve noticed that in myself, my parents and many other people.
While staying in our comfort zone may feel good, going out and learning something new lets us become happier in the long run.
In addition to the possibility of attaining a promotion, getting a raise or just being more independent, research shows that this sense of accomplishment and achievement lead to increased happiness and well-being.
The study, performed by psychologists at San Francisco State University, found that participants who learned something felt happier and more satisfied when they looked back at the experience, even if during the time they were learning it caused them added stress.
In addition to the new skill you get, increased competency brings with it self-confidence and resilience.
Get Rid of Clutter
We’re all probably guilty of having clutter at some degree or another. It’s easy to leave stuff lying around.
But science tells us that doing so actually increases stress levels and leads to irritability.
A 2012 UCLA study found that many homes suffer from too many things, to the point that their garages and driveways were stuffed with extra belongings.
Also, cleaning up or putting the items in place led to elevated stress hormones for mothers.
According to Princeton University researchers, having a lot of clutter in the office or your desk not only makes you more irritable, but less able to focus. Cluttered workspaces, ultimately makes you less productive, not to mention dampens your mood.
Make Sure to Have Good Lighting
Just as color can affect how we feel, the presence or lack of light can likewise affect our moods.
Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands found that using certain types of lighting, it is possible to change and improve one’s mood.
The study was participated by elderly individuals who were subjected to 2 different types of movies, one that evoked anxiety, and another sadness.
Both movies successfully produced negative moods among the subjects, though with different levels of arousal. The anxious movie produced a high arousal negative mood state, whereas the sad movie a low arousal negative mood state.
After the movies, groups were divided into rooms with different types of lighting.
Results revealed that compared to a neutral lighting,
- A cozy lit ambience (low arousing, pleasant) was better at reducing the effects of the anxious movie.
- A high arousing, pleasantly lit ambience meanwhile, was likewise better than a neutrally lit environment in enhancing the psychological arousal from the sad movie.
Choose Cheerful Colors for Your Rooms
Colors have a profound effect on our emotions.
The right color surroundings can help lift your mood or put a smile into your face. The wrong ones on the other hand, can quickly make you sad.
In a color experiment performed by French researchers, backgrounds of green and pink colors each promoted happy faces and positive emotions among the trial’s participants.
Conversely, a gray colored background evoked sad facial expressions.
The effects also work the other way around as one’s mood also affects which colors you select.
According to a research piece published in the journal BMC Medical Research Methodology, happy people are more likely to go with positive colors when describing their mood. Meanwhile, unhappy individuals go for the gloomier shades.
The study recruited 105 healthy individuals, 110 anxious people and 108 depressed adults to see which colors they chose to represent their moods.
When the results were tallied, the data found that 20% of the healthy individuals selected a particular shade of bright yellow, whereas 30% and 50% of the anxiety and depression groups, respectively, selected some shade of gray.
To see which colors enhance what emotions, check out this guide.
Surround yourself with Flowers
Flowers liven up any room.
They’re bright, colorful and quickly lighten up your mood. Research performed by a Rutgers University psychology team found that:
- Upon receiving flowers, participants expressed excited and genuine smiles, with feelings of gratitude and delight.
- The effects were also long lasting as their positive mood allowed them to reduce feelings of anxiety, depression and agitation.
- Those who received flowers also showed better life satisfaction.
- The presence of flowers likewise improved social interaction and promoted closer connections with friends and family members.
This confirms the positive emotional effects of having flowers around one’s surroundings observed by an earlier study by Dr. Nancy Etcoff from Massachusetts General Hospital. Titled “Home Ecology of Flowers Study”, the team learned that:
- Flowers around the home made people kinder and more compassionate.
- Adding flowers in the room you spent your mornings also helped ward away the blues.
- There was more happiness and enthusiasm exhibited in surroundings where flowers were present.
Their effects also extend to the workplace.
Adding indoor plants has been shown to improve productivity as well as lift employee mood levels.
Research printed in the journal Environment Behavior notes that the number of plants in the workplace increased its perceived attractiveness, the workers’ level of comfort, mood and productivity levels.
Make Your Bed Right After You Get Up
Strange but true. Those who make their beds after they get up in the morning are happier.
Surveying 68,000 individuals on whether they made their beds or not, Hunch.com discovered that majority of people (59%) did not while only 27% did. The rest had someone else do it.
Where it becomes interesting is that:
- 71% of those who make their own beds were happy, while
- 62% of those who didn’t make their beds considered themselves unhappy.
The benefits didn’t end there.
- Bed-makers were also more likely to own a home, worked out regularly, liked their jobs and felt well rested.
- Non bed-makers meanwhile, rented an apartment, hated their jobs, didn’t go to the gym and woke up tired.
The conclusion was bed makers were happier and more successful than their non-bed-making counterparts.
Mindfulness, which is the practice of focusing on the present moment without placing any judgement, has been proven to help relieve stress and enhance our awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.
Additionally, being mindful also helps make you a happier person.
The practice of mindfulness helps regulate our emotions and lets us focus our attention in the current moment. This takes away thoughts that involve negative self-evaluation that can trigger our emotions and moods.
In contrast, letting your mind wander produces the opposite effect.
Wandering minds have been associated with unhappiness.
A 2010 study presented by Harvard researchers reveals that on average, 47% of the time we’re awake, our minds are thinking of something else other than what we’re doing at that very moment. The only exception was during sex.
Their findings also reported that those who weren’t paying attention to what they were doing, be it daydreaming or letting their minds wander, were also less happy.
Take Time Out to Pamper Yourself
When working or doing something stressful, take some time out every so often to pamper yourself.
This can be anything you like, including watching a short video, playing video games, or relaxing on your favorite chair.
A study by the U.K.’s University of Warwick found that employees who took 10 minutes to relax and eat snacks or watch a funny video were happier than those who continued working during that time. The group that took a break also exhibited improved mood which resulted in better productivity.
Being grateful has been scientifically shown to promote happiness and well-being.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that counting our blessings compared to thinking about our burdens, results in more positive feelings and improved sense of well-being.
Using 3 experiments where participants adopted attitudes of gratitude or one where they focused on life’s hassles, researchers observed that those who consciously focused on their blessing benefited emotionally.
In addition, other research show that gratitude also offers the extra benefits. It protects us from negative thoughts, depression, stress and anxiety.
One’s attitude not only affects how people perceive and react to you in terms of social support, it also changes our minds’ perception of how others treat us. As a result, we experience lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
The good news about being grateful is that its effects aren’t just temporary. They’re there for the long term.
A 4 week experiment involving 67 participants noticed that incorporating gratitude and visualizing our best possible selves (BPS) allowed the subjects not only to increase their positive mood states but also maintain these positive levels.
So how do you start being more grateful?
Try a gratitude journal. Write something you’re grateful for each day.
It takes around 21 days to form a new habit. So if you start now, by this time next month you’ll be on your way.