Happiness doesn’t just feel good – it’s good for your health.
Multiple studies have shown that depression and anxiety are often comorbid with physical illness(1). But being happy isn’t as simple as just making a choice – or is it?
Some experts claim that only about 10 percent of our overall happiness comes from external sources, while 50 percent is dependent on our brain chemistry – whether or not we’re prone to depression or anxiety. That leaves a remaining 40 percent that’s completely within our control(2).
While happiness can seem like a tenuous thing sometimes, there are concrete steps you can take towards becoming happier in your day to day life. That means not only a better overall mood, but better health and increased productivity.
1. Commit In Your Relationships
If you’ve been “hanging out” with someone you’d like to date more seriously, take the plunge – experts say that people in long-term, committed relationships are happier than those who are single(3).
2. Move Your Body
Dancing and other forms of exercise release endorphins – especially when done to an upbeat tune, according to one study(4). “Music, an abstract stimulus, can arouse feelings of euphoria,” the study explained, by prompting dopamine release in the brain.
3. Give Back Financially
Social spending isn’t just for governments. Studies show that money can buy happiness – when you spend it to help other people. Giving back to individuals or to your community financially can improve your mood significantly, and help make the world a little friendlier in the process(5).
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4. Be Thankful
According to Harvard Medical School, practicing daily thankfulness can improve your overall happiness(6).
5. Get – And Give – Plenty Of Hugs
Touch plays a huge role in our overall mood, and friendly or loving touch, like a hug, can be beneficial. Interestingly, Psychology Today reports that “a person giving a hug gets just as much benefit as a person being hugged”(7), so don’t be afraid to express your affection!
6. Get In Some Meditation
This should come as no surprise: mindfullness-based meditation practices can make you calmer and happier(8).
7. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep can greatly improve your happiness – if you’re getting enough good quality sleep, that is. Obviously too little sleep makes people irritable and more easily stressed out, but did you know it can also impact your marital happiness as well?(9) Better start heading to bed earlier!
8. Learn A New Skill
Becoming adept at something – that is to say, mastering a new skill – can improve your overall happiness, according to research from San Francisco State University(10).
9. Spend Winter Somewhere Warm
Harsh weather can exacerbate existing mental health problems, and even cause depression – it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short. If you can’t afford a Hawaiian vacation during the winter months, invest in a sun lamp to help keep the winter blues at bay.
10. Invest Your Money Wisely
Studies have shown that people who spend their money on experiences, like travel, are more satisfied with their spending than people who blow their cash on materialistic things(11).
Happiness isn’t just about flipping a switch in your brain – it can be a lifelong journey. Finding the things that make you happy can mean an endless font of self-discovery if you let it. Try some of these steps and see how they make you feel.