Have you ever wanted to know how to be happier right now? And really emphasized the “right now” part? As in doing something that can affect your happiness levels in-the-moment, rather than waiting for long-term benefits. (And don’t get us wrong, those are important too. We’re just not focusing on them here.)
If you’ve been reading for awhile, you probably already know that we think happiness matters. More than how much you make. Or the car you drive. Or the house you live in.
And the good news is you don’t have to sit around and wait for happiness to hit you. You can work on it yourself. You can do things that are scientifically proven to make you happy. And there’s no better time like the present, especially because today is the International Day of Happiness. Here at Positive Routines, we’re celebrating happiness all week long. So, let’s get into gear.
How to Be Happier Today Using 7 Science-Backed Strategies
Here’s how to be happier with your life right now. These activities will give you a quick boost of joy when you need it most.
1. Go for a walk
This might seem basic. But that’s the beauty of going for a walk. It’s quick, simple, and you can do it right now. Even better? It has some research behind it.
The University of Cambridge in England did a study on movement and happiness. Over 10,000 people participated in the study via an app. The app detected their movements and sent notifications asking them about how they felt during the day.
And sure enough, the people who checked-in after (or even during) physical activity felt happier. And guess what physical activity they were doing the most? You got it—walking. The more frequently people moved, the more life satisfaction they reported. Before we get too excited, let’s remember the chicken or the egg question. In other words, happiness is related to physical activity. BUT we don’t know if that’s because physically active people are happier or because happier people are more physically active.
Either way, it can’t hurt to get going. Even if you have just five minutes to spare, go on that walk. And then go on another one. In fact, make it a habit. It might just be the perfect pick-me-up.
2. Find time for creativity
Expressing yourself creatively is another science-backed way to get happy.
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology tracked the creativity of 658 participants. They were each asked to keep a diary that recorded how creative they had been that day and how they felt. Over the course of the 13-day study, the researchers noticed a clear trend. The more creative participants were, the more enthusiastic and energized they felt.
The volunteers of the study reported doing creative activities such as playing a musical instrument, songwriting, writing poetry or short stories, trying out a new recipe, painting, drawing, sketching, and graphic design.
Borrow a creative activity from the list above or find your own. Like crocheting famous memes and selling them on Etsy. Get weird. Just get creative. Now you have the science to back it up.
3. Hug it out
Here’s how to be happier than ever without taking up too much time: Think about a hug from your mom or your best friend. Something about it just feels so good, right? Like exhaling after holding your breath. It turns out there are real, research-backed reasons to hug it out—and they have big implications for your happiness.
Some studies associate hugs with preventing illness caused by stress; others take hugs and happiness head-on. In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s happiness-guide The How of Happiness, she explains how researchers at Pennsylvania State University studied the effects of hugging over a four-week period. They split participants into two groups: The first group was instructed to participate in a minimum of five hugs a day. The control group was simply asked to record how many hours of reading they did each day. Results? The five-a-day hugging group became much happier, while the control group showed no changes in happiness levels.
Go out and hug someone, and then repeat it. Science says so. Just make sure you get permission first.
4. Talk up the barista
Okay, so maybe you’re not a hugger. That doesn’t mean you lose out on opportunities to up your happiness.
How about a little human connection that doesn’t involve human contact? This one doesn’t even have to interrupt your day. Do you stop and grab a coffee every morning or run to the store? These are perfect opportunities to boost your joy.
In The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing Less, author Christine Carter describes a study where researchers asked participants to do a five dollar Starbucks run. They told the first group to grab their coffees and go—no messing around. The second group was instructed to take their time and “have a genuine interaction with the cashier” —to smile and chat briefly. (Let’s take a moment to recognize how many East-Coasters just cringed at this idea.)
No surprise, the second group felt happier after their genuine interaction. The takeaway from this study is that connection is important—but it’s not necessarily complicated. Slow down, smile, and chat with those around you. Try it the next time you grab a coffee and see what happens. You might just find yourself in a better mood.
5. Put the phone away
If you ask teenagers how to be happier, they probably won’t tell you to put your phone down. But they should. All that screen time is hindering their happiness in big ways, according to science.
Recent research on over one million teenagers found that less phone time means more happiness. The findings showed that adolescents who logged more hours paying attention to what’s on their screens and less hours paying attention to what’s happening in real life had lower psychological well-being than teens who were less tech-obsessed. (Psychological well-being, according to the study, is “measured by self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness.”) The teenagers who logged more off-screen time experienced the opposite—they had higher psychological well-being.
It wouldn’t be too bold to say that the impact of excessive screen time probably has detrimental effects on adults’ happiness levels too. So put the phone down, shut the laptop, and hide the tablet. Need some help? There are apps and browser extensions that limit the time you spend browsing, texting, snapping, or cat-video watching. Check out Off the Grid for a complete digital detox.
6. Meditate for a few minutes
When you think of meditation, you might imagine a room full of calm people sitting cross-legged in silence. You probably don’t think about Marines. Until now. Researchers put US Marines on a 12.5-minute daily regimen of Mindfulness-Based Mind Fitness Training for an eight-week period. Ultimately, the study found that the more the Marines practiced, the more mindful they were, which decreased how stressed they felt.
7. Visualize your best self
Sometimes the struggle is real. Maybe that’s exactly why you’re here trying to figure out how to be happier. If you focus on it too much, that negativity can follow you around for days, weeks, or even longer.
A great way to step out of that funk is to visualize yourself in a better place in life. A four-week study in the Journal of Positive Psychology examined the impact of visualizing your best self. The study found that imagining yourself living the best possible life helped participants raise and maintain a positive mood.
The study also noted that “imagining success at one’s life goals can improve performance, boost psychological adjustment, and bring to bear a variety of benefits associated with positive thinking.”
Try it yourself. Pull out your phone’s stopwatch and set a timer for three minutes and imagine—in vivid detail—your life as your best possible self. What does it look like?
Create happiness whenever you want to
Asking yourself how to be happier and less stressed means taking a moment to reflect on your habits, thoughts, actions, and behaviors, and then making changes that swing the pendulum in a more positive direction. These scientifically-proven, happiness-generating strategies are a good place to start. And they can transform your life in surprising ways.
But remember, not all activities will work for everyone, all of the time. Try some of these tips to see what works for you. And keep at it until happiness is a habit.
Your turn: Ever tried to figure out how to be happier? What worked for you? Share your story in the comments.
For more ways to celebrate International Day of Happiness, check out our insights from the 2018 World Happiness Report.
Author: Nadia Chaudhry
Nadia Chaudhry is an SEO copywriter and content marketer. She’s all about growth in business and life. No surprise, she loves to write about personal development, productivity, e-commerce, and marketing. But first, pilates. Follow her on Twitter @NadiaChaudhry.