6 little things you can do to become happier, according to science
It's possible to be happier. HBO
While it's obvious that many want to achieve happiness, it's less obvious how to actually attain it.
Thankfully, science shows that even the simplest solutions can make you feel less stressed, ease anxiety, and fuel feelings of happiness. We rounded up some science-backed ways to be happier.
Nature is a proven mood booster.
Take time to go outside. Adam Bautz/Flickr
An experiment in Japan asked participants to fill out a questionnaire about their moods and stressors and then walk in a forest or urban center; results showed that people who took the forest route (the same level of difficulty and length) had lower heart rates and reported less anxiety, along with happier moods. In the study, researchers concluded that the natural aspect had a measurable impact on stress reduction.
Reaping the benefits of the great outdoors doesn't require much effort. Be intentional about getting fresh air and immersing yourself in greenery, even if it's bringing your laptop outside or taking a quick walk around a local park.
Journaling about your emotions can ease a burden.
It can also improve your memory. Flickr / Vancouver Film School
Ever feel like you can't free yourself from the thoughts that bring you down? Sitting with them might make you feel stressed, anxious, or downright depressed, but writing them down has actually been proven to help. Research from the University of Texas at Austin showed that journaling about emotions and stress actually boost our immune system and in turn reducing the impact of the stress physical health.
Gretchen Rubin, the author of "The Happiness Project," advocates for writing down just a sentence each day; she said it makes her memories more vivid and helps her become a happier person. Studies reported on by the New York Timesreinforce Rubin's belief; writing about personal experiences have proven to boost memory and improve mood disorders.
Just a little movement can give you a big mood boost.
A little exercise can go a long way. Andrew Harnik/AP
In a 2018 review analyzing multiple past studies, Dr. Weiyun Chen, an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, affirmed to the New York Times that it might take less movement than it was once thought to get a mood boost.
In the review in the Journal of Happiness Studies, it was found that people who worked out only once or twice a week said they felt much happier than those who never exercised.
Exercising, for any amount of time, with friends or in a community might come with an added benefit as well. "There are indications that social factors could mediate the effects of exercise on happiness for some people," Dr. Chen explained to the Times.
You can use gratitude to flip the script.
Be thankful for what you do have. oneinchpunch / Shutterstock
As Oprah Winfrey famously advised, "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." Science agrees: When you focus on what you have and what's going well — rather than what's missing or hasn't turned out as you hoped — you're more likely to feel happy.
Two psychologists from the University of Miami aimed to prove the power of simply giving thanks. They had participants in three groups write a few sentences about particular topics each week. The first group wrote about things they were grateful for, the second group wrote about what annoyed them, and the third wrote simply about what happened during the week without a positive or negative focus. After 10 weeks, the first group said they felt more optimistic. Even more, they visited doctors less than people in the second group did.
Helping others does double duty for happiness.
Volunteer with a local charity. Pool/ Getty Images
If you're feeling down, brightening someone else's day might help lift you up. Altruism, or practicing selfless concern for the well-being of others, does double duty. According to TIME, "experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain — and it's pleasurable."
Unhappy because you're stressed out and already spread too thin? Remember that being altruistic can be as simple as listening to a friend during a phone call, giving your time or money, or offering your skills, talents, or abilities to a cause you care about.
Science says getting enough sleep will help you feel happier.
Sleep is imperative to happiness. Paramount Pictures
Not happy even though things are going great? The solution may be simple: sleep. According to Happier.com, experts agree that most adults need an average of about seven to nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health.
Furthermore, the site shares that a study conducted by the University of Binghamton revealed twofold results that showed participants who got less sleep were more likely to experience "repetitive negative thoughts" while completing set tasks.
For optimal sleep, set and stick to a schedule, power down your devices an hour before bed, and invest in quality sheets and pillows. You'll feel well-rested and happier before you know it.