10 Simple Science Backed Ways to Be Happier

Did you know the perfect temperature for happiness is 13.9°C? Adjust your thermostat, then check out these quick tips for maximizing mirth.

I would love to be happier, as I’m sure most people would, so I thought it would be interesting to find some ways to become a happier person that are actually backed up by science. Here are ten of the best ones I found.

1.EXERCISE MORE–7 MINUTES MIGHT BE ENOUGH

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

2. SLEEP MORE–YOU’LL BE LESS SENSITIVE TO NEGATIVE EMOTIONS

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets 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.

3. MOVE CLOSER TO WORK–A SHORT COMMUTE IS WORTH MORE THAN A BIG HOUSE

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

4. SPEND TIME WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY–

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

5. GO OUTSIDE –HAPPINESS IS MAXIMIZED AT 13.9°C

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

6. HELP OTHERS–100 HOURS A YEAR IS THE MAGICAL NUMBER

To make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

7. PRACTICE SMILING–IT CAN ALLEVIATE PAIN

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

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 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.

8. PLAN A TRIP–BUT DON’T TAKE ONE

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar–even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. MEDITATE–REWIRE YOUR BRAIN FOR HAPPINESS

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier live.

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.

10. PRACTICE GRATITUDE–INCREASE BOTH HAPPINESS AND LIFE SATISFACTION

There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

QUICK LAST FACT: GETTING OLDER WILL MAKE YOURSELF HAPPIER

 

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to grow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Beth Belle Cooper is a content crafter at Buffer, a smarter way to share on Twitter and Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @BelleBethCooper

Published in Fast Company