“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck
We all want to be happy.
But sometimes, happiness seems out of reach. We’re stressed about deadlines or angry at people who’ve hurt us. We’re sick, lonely, or grieving a painful loss.
I don’t have a magic pill to make you happy all the time, but here are some simple things you can do to bring more happiness into your life.
We all know smiling is a result of happiness, but have you heard that a simple smile can also cause happiness?
Science shows that smiling prompts our brains to release hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin.
And, according to Dr. Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine, “Dopamine increases our feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress.”
Now you’re probably wondering, “Why would I smile if I don’t feel happy? Am I supposed to fake it?”
Surprisingly, research says the answer might be “yes.”
A study conducted in Wales found that people who could not frown as a result of a botox injection were happier on average than people who’d had similar cosmetic procedures that didn’t keep them from frowning.
This implies that your motives aren’t as important as simply choosing to smile. So, get creative as you make smiling a habit. For example, you could smile every time you hear the word “robot” or you could smile and take a selfie every time you pass a vending machine.
Yes, people will probably laugh at you, but then, they’ll be happier, too.
Don’t buy stuff. Buy free time.
It’s supposedly a fundamental law of the universe: Money can’t buy happiness.
But research says there might be a loophole.
It’s true that spending money on material goods doesn’t make you happy. But a recent study suggests that “When people spend money on time-saving services, such as a house cleaner, lawn care or grocery delivery, it can make them feel a little happier.”
It makes sense when you think about it. If you have more free time to do the things that make you happy and you spend less time doing chores you don’t enjoy, you’ll be happier, right?
So instead of cooking and washing dirty dishes, consider dinner delivery tonight. You can use the extra time to take your dog for a walk, enjoy a hot bath, or do something else that makes you happy.
If you have some free time and you’re looking for ways to spend it, volunteering is a smart option. Not only will you be doing good for others, but research also shows that people who volunteer have more happiness and higher self-esteem levels, plus a lower mortality rate.
Is there a school, church, retirement home, or soup kitchen in your neighborhood that could use some extra hands? Consider giving them a call.
Or, if you don’t know about any volunteer opportunities, the Volunteer Match organization might be able to help. As the name implies, they’ll help you find community service opportunities that match your strengths and interests.
Sharon Reasonover is a Volunteer Match veteran who has been helping at the Ronald McDonald House since she was 16.
Her advice to people thinking about volunteering is, “Do it! Just try it once, I promise, and I won’t even have to tell you to do it again. Volunteering is one of those things you can go into with super high expectations and your experience there will still surpass that.”
Work Out (even for just 10 minutes)
Does the thought of dusting off your sneakers and going for a jog make you groan inside?
If you actually went through with that jog, you’d probably feel differently.
Research shows that exercise causes our brains to release endorphins, the chemicals that make us feel happy.
And, according to a new review conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, you don’t have to spend hours at the gym to enjoy these mood-boosting benefits.
The reviewers discovered that, “In several studies, people who worked out only once or twice a week said they felt much happier than those who never exercised. In other studies, 10 minutes a day of physical activity was linked with buoyant moods.”
10 minutes of exercise per day — that’s doable, right?
No one is happy all the time, and that’s okay. Every emotion has its purpose. But there are many little things you can do to set yourself up for a happier future.
Try one of them today!