10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier

We all want to be happier, but how? Lucky for us, scientists and personal development gurus have been tackling this question for ages. So if the winter blues have got you down, we have 10 scientifically proven tips to bring you back way up.

1. Practice gratitude.

Remember when we told you how to practice gratitude every day? It’s not just a nice thing to do. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a gratitude expert, people who practice being thankful are 25% happier than those who don’t. Find out how to incorporate gratitude into your life here.

2. Give back.

While you’re thankful for all you have, don’t forget to give back to those who are less fortunate. Positive psychology expert and professor Martin Seligman divided his students into two groups. One group performed traditionally ‘fun’ activities like going to the movies, while others performed altruistic acts like volunteering. Seligman found that the altruistic group stayed happier for much longer than the ‘fun’ group. Other studies support the theory that altruistic acts ultimately make you happier than selfish ones. Try volunteering at your favorite organization, or just help out a friend in need.

3. Go outside.

When it’s freezing outside, it’s tempting to curl up in a blanket all day. But that won’t make you any happier. According to a study from Zayed University, exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D level, which in turn boosts mood. You have to look up, though – the benefits were most pronounced with retinal exposure to sunlight, as opposed to skin exposure to UV rays. Can’t get outside? Make sure to set your thermostat to 57° F or 13.9° C. That’s the temperature that maximizes happiness, according to Osaka University researchers.

4. Exercise.

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”

Elle Woods’ reasoning might not have stood up in court, but she certainly had a point. A Duke University study found that people suffering from depression maintained wellness best when they followed an exercise-only program, instead of a drugs-only or a drugs-and-exercise one. But don’t worry – we’re not forcing you out to the gym in the cold. The 7-minute workout can be done in the comfort of your own home with just a wall and a chair.

5. Shorten your commute.

Do you have a long commute? Even if you have extra space, you might want to reconsider your living situation. As shown in this Slate article, a plethora of studies show that a long commute has adverse effects on your health and happiness. One Swedish study found that married couples where one partner commuted for 90 minutes or more were 40% likely to divorce. Another found that for every extra hour of commuting time, you’d need to earn 40% more to make it worthwhile. If you’re in the market for a new place, remember to give your commute time to work adequate consideration. Travel over 90 minutes one way? See if you can work a day from home on occasion.

6. Watch a sad movie.

It sounds counterproductive, but next time you get into a fight with your significant other, try watching a tragic movie like Titanic. This study asked participants to fill out a questionnaire about their lives before and after watching the tragic film Atonement. It found that the sadder a participant became, the more he/she reflected on his/her own relationships, eventually reporting greater life satisfaction and enjoyment than he/she had prior to the movie. Watching a sad movie causes you to appreciate your own relationships more. But people who focused on themselves didn’t feel any better – so if you’re looking for a wallowing self-pity session, skip the DVR.

7. Touch.

During cold season, it’s often recommended that you keep your hands to yourself. But touching others floods your body with oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that reduces stress, improves bonding and makes you happier. Hold hands with your significant other, hug a friend or even get a massage, which has the double benefit of boosting your immune system. It also helps to cuddle with your pet if you have one.

8. Watch the way you walk.

Did you know that the way you walk affects the way you feel? According to a study by psychologist Sara Snodgrass, long-strided walkers felt happier than those who shuffled and stared at their feet. So if you’re having a bad day, try lengthening your strides and swinging your arms. Don’t forget to keep your head up! (We mean literally.)

9. Add some photos.

You’d think that a glass of beer and a good TV show at the end of a lousy day would do wonders for your happiness, but apparently not. A study by Dr. Peter Naish found that alcohol and TV boosted people’s moods by just 1% – but looking at old photographs made people feel 11% better. So next time you go on Facebook at work, click through your old photos instead of stalking former high school classmates. Better yet, get a digital photo frame for a daily dose of happiness.

10. Train yourself to be an optimist.

It’s great to have tricks to boost your mood, but the best thing you can do for your happiness is to become an optimist. Convinced you’re doomed to a pessimistic outlook? We have good news. According to Elaine Fox, author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, your outlook on life is quite malleable, and it’s entirely possible to train yourself to become an optimist. In fact, a BBC presenter did it in just 7 weeks! Learn how you can do so here.

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? How do you beat the winter blues? Do you have a happiness trick we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: snaps via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

We all want to be happier, but how? Lucky for us, scientists and personal development gurus have been tackling this question for ages. So if the winter blues have got you down, we have 10 scientifically proven tips to bring you back way up.

1. Practice gratitude.

Remember when we told you how to practice gratitude every day? It’s not just a nice thing to do. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a gratitude expert, people who practice being thankful are 25% happier than those who don’t. Find out how to incorporate gratitude into your life here.

2. Give back.

While you’re thankful for all you have, don’t forget to give back to those who are less fortunate. Positive psychology expert and professor Martin Seligman divided his students into two groups. One group performed traditionally ‘fun’ activities like going to the movies, while others performed altruistic acts like volunteering. Seligman found that the altruistic group stayed happier for much longer than the ‘fun’ group. Other studies support the theory that altruistic acts ultimately make you happier than selfish ones. Try volunteering at your favorite organization, or just help out a friend in need.

3. Go outside.

When it’s freezing outside, it’s tempting to curl up in a blanket all day. But that won’t make you any happier. According to a study from Zayed University, exposure to sunlight boosts vitamin D level, which in turn boosts mood. You have to look up, though – the benefits were most pronounced with retinal exposure to sunlight, as opposed to skin exposure to UV rays. Can’t get outside? Make sure to set your thermostat to 57° F or 13.9° C. That’s the temperature that maximizes happiness, according to Osaka University researchers.

4. Exercise.

“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy! Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”

Elle Woods’ reasoning might not have stood up in court, but she certainly had a point. A Duke University study found that people suffering from depression maintained wellness best when they followed an exercise-only program, instead of a drugs-only or a drugs-and-exercise one. But don’t worry – we’re not forcing you out to the gym in the cold. The 7-minute workout can be done in the comfort of your own home with just a wall and a chair.

5. Shorten your commute.

Do you have a long commute? Even if you have extra space, you might want to reconsider your living situation. As shown in this Slate article, a plethora of studies show that a long commute has adverse effects on your health and happiness. One Swedish study found that married couples where one partner commuted for 90 minutes or more were 40% likely to divorce. Another found that for every extra hour of commuting time, you’d need to earn 40% more to make it worthwhile. If you’re in the market for a new place, remember to give your commute time to work adequate consideration. Travel over 90 minutes one way? See if you can work a day from home on occasion.

6. Watch a sad movie.

It sounds counterproductive, but next time you get into a fight with your significant other, try watching a tragic movie like Titanic. This study asked participants to fill out a questionnaire about their lives before and after watching the tragic film Atonement. It found that the sadder a participant became, the more he/she reflected on his/her own relationships, eventually reporting greater life satisfaction and enjoyment than he/she had prior to the movie. Watching a sad movie causes you to appreciate your own relationships more. But people who focused on themselves didn’t feel any better – so if you’re looking for a wallowing self-pity session, skip the DVR.

7. Touch.

During cold season, it’s often recommended that you keep your hands to yourself. But touching others floods your body with oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that reduces stress, improves bonding and makes you happier. Hold hands with your significant other, hug a friend or even get a massage, which has the double benefit of boosting your immune system. It also helps to cuddle with your pet if you have one.

8. Watch the way you walk.

Did you know that the way you walk affects the way you feel? According to a study by psychologist Sara Snodgrass, long-strided walkers felt happier than those who shuffled and stared at their feet. So if you’re having a bad day, try lengthening your strides and swinging your arms. Don’t forget to keep your head up! (We mean literally.)

9. Add some photos.

You’d think that a glass of beer and a good TV show at the end of a lousy day would do wonders for your happiness, but apparently not. A study by Dr. Peter Naish found that alcohol and TV boosted people’s moods by just 1% – but looking at old photographs made people feel 11% better. So next time you go on Facebook at work, click through your old photos instead of stalking former high school classmates. Better yet, get a digital photo frame for a daily dose of happiness.

10. Train yourself to be an optimist.

It’s great to have tricks to boost your mood, but the best thing you can do for your happiness is to become an optimist. Convinced you’re doomed to a pessimistic outlook? We have good news. According to Elaine Fox, author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, your outlook on life is quite malleable, and it’s entirely possible to train yourself to become an optimist. In fact, a BBC presenter did it in just 7 weeks! Learn how you can do so here.

Are you a pessimist or an optimist? How do you beat the winter blues? Do you have a happiness trick we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Photo Credit: snaps via Compfight cc

Written by Sasha Graffagna

  • Comments

Comments

  1. I’m hoping that the temperature setting in tip 3 is a typo. I definitely would not be happy at 57 degrees!

    I’m surprised that you didn’t mention nutrients. When you have the right nutrition, you will feel happier. Nutrient deficiencies are often overlooked when dealing with depression.