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Some habits just seem to have the power to lift your spirits.
Here are a few simple practices that seem to have the ability to boost your mood and keep it high.
#10. Make time for friends.
Spending time with friends may promote greater happiness than spending time with family, at least according to a recent study.
For the study, researchers used an app called the Mappiness app to determine how much happier people were when they were with their friends, parents, and children.
The app sent alerts asking people how happy they felt — on an 11-point scale from “not at all” to “extremely” — throughout the day. By analyzing over 3 million submissions from more than 50,000 volunteers, the researchers discovered that people experienced, on average, an 8% increase in happiness when they were with friends, compared with a 1.4% increase with parents, and just a 0.7% increase when they were with their children.
It might come as no surprise that smiling can make you feel happier. But the important thing here is that the smile must be sincere, it can’t be faked. If you fake it, you might even make yourself more unhappy, according to a 2011 study.
The study examined a group of city bus drivers over a period of two weeks. They found that employees who put on a fake smile for the job were in a worse mood by the end of the day compared to when their shift began. But drivers who genuinely smiles as a result of positive thoughts actually had a better mood by the end of the day. So when you smile, make sure to smile like you mean it!
It’s one thing to get upset over an injustice you suffered at the hands of someone else, but it’s another thing entirely to hold on to that emotion long-term. That’s called holding a grudge and it can easily consume you if you’re not careful.
The reason this is so bad for your happiness is because the negative emotions associated with grudges eventually give way to resentment and thoughts of revenge. In turn, this leaves little room in your emotional repertoire for anything else, like happiness, according to the Mayo Clinic. What’s more, decades of research have linked this simple act to better overall heart health, less psychological stress, improved physical ability, and longer life.
That’s why it’s always better to forgive and move on than hold on to a grudge.
#7. Get intimate.
If you have a good memory, you might recall a certain study in 2004 that said increasing the amount of intercourse you have from once a month to once a week would give you the same amount of happiness as receiving an extra $50,000 in the bank!
But beware: more sex doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness, according to a report published this year. The researchers of the latest study found that couples who had more sex because they were asked to for the study reported that the sex was not enjoyable and did not make them happier.
Therefore, sex will only lead to happiness when the couple is having it for a meaningful reason, the researchers conclude. So, whether it’s once a week or once a month, the frequency is less important than the purpose behind the act.
#6. Be a realistic optimist.
People who have the positive attitude of optimists paired with the rational outlook of realists tend to be more successful and happy, according to psychologist Sophia Chou.
That's because so-called “realistic optimists” have the perfect blend of personality types to succeed. Unlike idealists, they are willing to face challenging situations with a clear view of reality, but will use creativity and a positive outlook to try to work their way out of the problem.
#5. Get your hands dirty.
Breathing in the smell of dirt may lift your spirits, according to a study that found that a bacteria commonly found in soil produces effects similar to antidepressant drugs.
The harmless bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, stimulated the release of serotonin in the brain after it was injected into mice. Low levels of serotonin is what causes depression in people.
In a human test, cancer patients reported increases in their quality of life when they were treated with the bacteria.
The findings “leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt,” lead author Chris Lowry of the University of Bristol in England said in a statement.
#4. Eat lunch on the beach.
Eating lunch at your desk can be a real downer, report scientists from the University of Sussex who measured the happiness of employees after they ate lunch in different locations.
The results showed that workers were happiest about their work when they ate lunch on the beach and least happy about work when they ate at their desk.
Getting outside in the sun was key to staving off misery — people who ate in parks had a more positive attitude about their jobs than those who chowed down at a restaurant or at home.
#3. Work it out.
Exercise is proven to increase feel-good chemicals in the brain, reduce stress hormones, and relieve depression and anxiety according to Happify, a website and app that offers psychology-based games to increase your happiness.
And you can achieve these positive changes in just a few short minutes. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that even just 20 minutes of exercise can give you those mood-boosting benefits for up to 12 hours afterward! Moreover, people who are active are happier and more satisfied with their lives.
The duration and location of your workout also affects how happy you feel afterward. So, check out how to achieve your maximum happiness sweet spot.
#2. Home-in on your favorite skill.
Working hard to improve a skill or ability, such as learning how to drive or solving a math problem, may increase stress in the short-term, but makes people feel happy and more content with their lives in the long run, a 2009 study reported.
“People often give up their goals because they are stressful, but we found that there is benefit at the end of the day from learning to do something well. And what's striking is that you don't have to reach your goal to see the benefits to your happiness and well-being,” co-author Ryan Howell said in a statement.
#1. Be patient: Happiness tends to grow with age.
When it comes to happiness, older people seem to know something that the rest of us don't because a number of studies have found that older people tend to be some of the happiest people around.
Why this is, however, is still a mystery to scientists because they have yet to find what exactly is causing this happiness. Chances are, it's a number of things: One study in 2013 suggested the reason is because older people are more experienced, and therefore, better at dealing with negative emotions like anger and anxiety. But another, more recent study, reported that the cause is that older people are more trusting, which comes with a number of healthy psychological benefits that lead to happiness.
Whatever the reason, if you're not happy right now, you can rest assured that your chances of happiness in the future are good.
2016.12.13 / 16:24