6 Science-Backed Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier
Happiness is such an interesting thing because we all have different opinions and ideas on what happiness is and how do we get to it.
Most people would love to be happier and what’s interesting is that there are ways you can become happier, ways proven by science.
Here are the 6 things you can do today that will make you happier:
1. Sleep more
Sleep helps our body recover and helps us be more productive and focused. Sleep is also important for our happiness.
Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories get processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala.
The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.”
But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket,” Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity.
2. Exercise more
Exercise really has a great effect on our happiness and it’s proven to be effective for overcoming depression. Exercising can help you increase your brain power, relax and improve your body image.
One study shows that people who exercise feel great about themselves,event though they haven’t lost a pound.
“Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.”
3. Spend more time with family and friends
Many studies have shown that time spent with family and friends can improve our happiness.
“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends,” explains Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert.
One study published in the Journal of Socio-Econimics explains that relationships are worth more than 100.000 dollars.
“Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.”
The Turman study found that relationship and how we help other people are important factors in living happy lives.
“We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier.
Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.
Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age”.
4. Help others
Helping other people will make you feel happier. We should at least dedicate 100 hours per year to help others.
The Journal of happiness study published an article about this subject:
“Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else.
Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.”
5. Smile – It will alleviate pain
Smiling can really make us feel better and happier, especially if it’s backed up with positive thoughts.
A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity.
But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.
Smiling can help us perform better at cognitive tasks and improve our attention.
It can also help us alleviate pain in troubling situations.
Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.
Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis.
Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).
Meditation can help you improve focus, attention, clarity and make you feel calm. It can also help you feel happier.
In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation.
The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.
Shawn Achor explains that meditation can make you happier long-term.
Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy.
And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.