Raise your hand if you enjoy having a bad day. Anybody? No? Me neither. It looks like everyone wants to be happy. With the busy, hectic lives we live in this modern age, it sometimes feels like there just isn’t enough time in the day for the things that bring us joy. Fortunately, we don’t have to reach far to find plenty of scientifically proven, simple methods of bringing a little more happiness to our lives. Here’s a short list of fourteen methods to practice self-care.
1. Get Enough Sleep
We’ve all had those days: bleary-eyed, sluggish, practically dragging ourselves through the workday because our energy levels are so low. The effects of not sleeping enough can be obvious, but the truth is that very few Americans actually get enough sleep. Most people can benefit from another 60-90 minutes of rest. In addition to affecting our overall happiness levels, a little more sleep can improve your concentration, immune system, and even lower the risk of dying in an accident.
2. Grab a Cup of Joe
It’s pretty common to drink coffee to combat our tiredness, but did you know the stuff actually stimulates the release of dopamine? Yes, your favorite morning brew literally makes your brain release the chemical responsible for feeling good! The boost it gives to our cognition also makes us a little more efficient, helping you feel good about getting things done.
3. Get That Blood Pumping
Getting a little bit of exercise, about 30-50 minutes a few times a week, has incredible effects not only on our physical health, but on our mental health as well. It raises endorphins, lowers stress levels, and has been proven to fight both depression and anxiety. Reaching toward your weight loss goal(s) is another a happy thing, and exercise is one of the best ways to get there.
Did you know your body mostly consists of water? Maybe that’s why drinking it can help improve your mood. I know, this one sounds almost too good to be true. Water is basically FREE! Still, a 2015 study of college-age women showed that drinking more water was correlated with higher levels of happiness, as well as lower levels of tension, depression, and confusion.
5. Cook Yourself a Delicious Meal
Some would argue that the finished product of cooking is its own reward. Hey, I’m not going to argue that a fresh batch of cupcakes isn’t a delight, but there’s more to it than that. A study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that creative pursuits, like cooking, can have a big impact on our emotional health.
6. Have a Drink
Okay, before you blow up the comments section, I’m not encouraging anyone to go out and get rip-roaring drunk every night. As with most things, the key is moderation. That said, there’s a lot of good evidence that having an occasional drink is good for the soul. Don’t feel bad about sharing that bottle of wine with a few friends. In fact, feel great about it!
7. Hang Out with Friends
Did somebody say wine? Whether you’re drinking or not, the immediate benefits of being around your friends are obvious. There are some surprising hidden bonuses, too: their happiness is contagious, they improve our health, they make us feel more optimistic, and literally help us live longer. Yes, that’s all proven!
8. Save Some Money
We’ve all felt buyers remorse, that sinking sensation that our big, new purchase isn’t going to make us as happy as we thought. I’ve got good news, though: the opposite is also true. There have been boatloads of studies showing that saving our money improves our happiness. It’s not that tough, either. Check out this list of Ten Thing I Stopped Buying to Save Money. (self-link)
9. Get a Cat. Pet a Cat. Love a Cat.
Ah, the joy of stroking a soft, purring bundle of fur and love is known to many. Studies have shown the feline kind also help fill our need for companionship, help us sleep better, and make us happy in a surprising number of ways. Dog people, please chime in the comments, because dogs rule, too.
10. Listen to Music
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth. I admit, I’m a compulsive singer-a-longer. There’s something inherently joyful about belting out a tune, whether I’m the right key or not. Even if you’re not singing with the radio, the very act of listening to music has been proven to reduce stress and improve happiness. Music therapy is used to lower levels of stress and anxiety, and even boost the immune system and lower blood pressure.
11. Visit the Great Outdoors
Hiking enthusiasts can tell you all about the feelings of euphoria they get when they’re deep in the wilderness. Sure, some of that is from the exercise involved, but you don’t need to go on a twelve-hour backpacking trek through the unknown to cash in on those feelings of goodness. A Finnish study showed that even 15 minutes of sitting in a park or forest can help us feel psychology restored.
There’s an increasing body of research indicating meditation can not only make us smarter, but increase our baseline level of happiness. Not bad for something that’s completely free and you can do literally anywhere! Check out my ‘How to Meditate for the First Time’ post if you want to give it a go!
13. Get Off the Internet
Sure, I want you to keep reading my blog 🙂 Like I said about alcohol, though, the key is moderation. There’s more and more research telling us that spending too much time playing with our phones, browsing social media, is just not great for our overall happiness.
14. Eat Right
We all know that skipping the junk food and choosing healthier options will improve our physical health. It’s important, however, to remember how closely body and mind are linked. Researchers have even found that eating more fruits and vegetables can greatly improve your life satisfaction.
Happiness is a key component to having a rich and fulfilling life. Whether you’re going through a little funk or you’re already feeling pretty good, giving yourself a little boost of joy is always a good thing. Hey, don’t take my word for it — science agrees!
I’d love to hear what my readers do to feel happier. Even if your particular method doesn’t have much (or any) research behind it, join the conversation below and help spread a little more goodness.