Of course I'm not speaking from experience (cough), but it is possible to get all cynical about happiness. When you start to feel this way, it seems like the day is just something to get through rather than something to enjoy. And Internet lists about ways to feel happier kinda come off as silly or impossible.
And yet here I am, the author of such an article. Why have I had a change of heart? Because I've found that it is actually possible to turn your mood around. In fact, there's a ton of scientific evidence that little things like smiling, or thinking positive thoughts, can totally make you feel happier.
It makes sense, especially since being happy really is a choice. It's about looking at your day differently, and choosing to not sulk or be pessimistic. For example, if you're stuck in traffic, you can look at the situation with doom and gloom and think "this would only happen to me." Or, you can look at it for what it is — traffic, which happens to everyone, and maybe a nice time to be alone with your thoughts. See? Perspective.
So if you're like me and need a little boost to your mood, then check out these easy ways to feel happier throughout the day.
1. Try To Smile
It can be easy to grimace when your alarm goes off and then just kinda leave your face that way for the rest of the day. After all, are you really going to smile as you commute and then cheese it up all day at work? Probably not. But if you're looking to feel happier, then you should at least try the whole "fake it 'til you make it" thing — especially since it's backed by science.
As Catherine Pearson noted on HuffingtonPost.com, when we smile, the muscles in our face send signals to our brain that create a biologically better mood than when we frown. "It might sound silly, but ... sit for a minute and just grin. Or better yet, smile at someone. This helps establish immediate connection — another key to feeling upbeat," Pearson suggested.
2. Have Yourself A Nap
There's probably nothing better than crawling into bed, sinking into those soft sheets, and knowing you have nowhere else to be (if only just for a little while). But even better than that is knowing the benefits of some quality sleep. Because, as it turns out, sleep deprivation is a sure fire way to ruin your happiness.
As Alexandra Duron noted on Greatist.com, "... a quality snooze session is vital for overall well-being and happiness. In fact, research shows that not sleeping enough (four hours per night) may lead to lower levels of optimism." So sleep in, take a nap, go to bed early — do whatever you can to spend more time in bed. You'll be much happier as a result.
3. Go For A Walk Outside
If you're currently frowning it up at your desk, do yourself a favor and go for a walk. You'll be giving yourself a well-earned break, as well as a little mood boost. According to Pearson, "When you exercise, chemicals are released in the brain that cause happiness ... For a double-whammy, take your walk in nature (or at least, in relatively fresh air and sunlight if you're a city person). Studies show that putting one foot in front of the other outdoors...even for just a few minutes...can help boost mood."
4. Reach Out To A Friend IRL
Social media is obviously the easiest way to stay connected to friends and family (and it saves you the oft-dreaded ordeal of leaving the house). But nothing beats actually calling someone up, or meeting them in person — at least when it comes to your happiness levels.
In fact, it's not necessarily possible to get genuine happiness from our online lives. As Lindsey Murray noted on Real Simple, "More likes don’t necessarily add up to more happiness, according to research from the University of Michigan. The more the study participants (82 young adults) used Facebook over a two-week period, the more their life satisfaction levels declined. In contrast, the researchers found that direct interactions with others — whether it be over the phone or face-to-face — actually helped people to feel better over time." So instead of just clicking "like" buttons all night long, go get a cup of coffee with a friend, or give your mom a call. You'll feel much better for it, I promise.
5. Plan An Amazing Weekend Getaway
If life's looking particularly grim, take a second and plan a vacation. Go on a travel website, look up flight deals, and start daydreaming about your next vacation. "Even if you can’t actually step foot on a beach for months. Just searching for hotels, ranking the pool bars, and booking the trip will give you a little gratification and something to look forward to," suggested Casey Gueren on Buzzfeed.com.
6. Do Something Nice For Yourself
When you're feeling down, it's easy to forget you're a person who has likes and hobbies and favorite foods. So take a second out of your day and go out for a cupcake, do a little yoga, or meet up with a best friend. You'll feel much better once you make yourself a priority again.
7. Throw Out Your Negative Thoughts... Literally
Remember what I was saying about feeling all cynical and perpetually pessimistic? Well, how about a nice little ritual to get rid of those thoughts once and for all? As Robert Locke noted on Lifehack.org, "Some people are overwhelmed by their negative thoughts and they have real problems in getting rid of them. A University of Madrid study found that by actually writing these thoughts down on a piece of paper and then destroying them was effective ... The fact of discarding them physically does help in reducing their toxic effects."
Whether you burn your bad thoughts, treat yourself to something nice, or just sit at your desk smiling like a loon, it is pretty easy to boost your mood throughout the day. Go ahead and give it a try.