How To Be Happier, According To Science

Here are 12 healthy habits to incorporate into your daily routine to be your happiest self.

Be happy – it’s simpler said than done, right? Turns out there are some scientifically proven ways to perk yourself up…and pretty quickly too!

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What exactly is ‘happiness’?

Good question. Happiness is hard to define because it’s all relative. What makes you happy might be totally different for your neighbour. Self-help books, motivational conferences, inspiring podcasts – there’s definitely no shortage of ‘experts’ exploring the notion of happiness and how to get there. However, the fact is, true happiness looks different to everyone.

The habit of happiness

Our ability to be ‘happy’ is underpinned by habits. Habits are deeply engrained in our life – anyone who has ever tried breaking a bad habit will know this all too well. Likewise, the same goes for good habits, you have the ability to engrain some healthy habits into your everyday life too!

How To Be Happier Science Tips
Daily reminder: you are in control of your own happiness / Freepik

How to be happier

With the above in mind, we’ve rounded up scientifically proven habits to incorporate into your daily routine to enjoy more satisfaction and a happier life. Like we said, it’s all very personal so if any of these habits don’t add value to your life, ditch them. With a little time and practice, you’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work for you.

1. Smile!

We smile when we’re happy but did you know it can work in reverse too? According to research, smiling can actually turn that frown upside down. The act of a simple smile tricks your brain into feeling happy, spurring a powerful chemical reaction that can make you feel better – even forcing a fake smile works! Smiling can have many positive effects, to name a few: improving your mood, lowered stress levels and boosted immune system. Try it now 😀

2. Exercise

One of the main reasons people partake in exercise is to stay fit and healthy, although that’s just one of the myriad of benefits. Regular exercise can improve your mental health by lowering stress, feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression, as well as boosting energy and self-esteem. It doesn’t need to be too arduous either, even as little as 20 minutes of physical activity can make a difference.

3. Sleep

Waking up on the wrong side of the bed is legit a thing. This will come as no surprise: sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to our wellbeing. Experts recommend getting at least eight hours of quality sleep each night. Sleep deprivation and deficiency can significantly affect our ability to see and think rationally, as well as make us hypersensitive to things that we usually wouldn’t be. But worth noting, you can get too much of a good thing – too much sleep is also not great for your mental health.

4. Get intimate

A healthy sex life, whether solo or with a partner, is the ultimate antidepressant. We all know exercise releases endorphins AKA the happy hormone and the same goes for sexercise! To add to the perks, the body releases serotonin and DHEA at climax. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood and makes you feel elated, while DHEA has antidepressant effects. 

Sex makes you happy
There are more positive benefits to getting on aside from the obvious / Freepik

5. Spend more time with loved ones

We like this one. Not investing enough in friends and family is one of the top regrets of the dying. Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilberts puts it well:

“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.”

So, there you go, money doesn’t buy happiness.

6. Get outside

Increasingly, medical professionals are prescribing the ‘nature pill’. A study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, measured participant’s stress response to nature revealing that just 20 minutes of contact with nature will lower stress hormone levels. Nature is good for the soul!

7. Help others

It’s nothing new – the act of giving is inherently more rewarding than receiving. Scientific research attests to this too. There is compelling data to support the evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. According to TIME, helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only more enriched and happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive and meaningful.

Take some cues from the Japanese who famously say:

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

8. Plan a holiday

The happiest part of a holiday isn’t what you think – the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a getaway as people enjoy the sense of anticipation. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.

9. Mood food

Apparently what you eat and your overall gut health will impact your mood. There are even mood-boosting foods, which can alter your disposition. For instance, complex carbohydrates like vegetables, beans and whole grains (not beige, fried foods!) release serotonin, the “feel good” hormone. While lean meat and poultry release dopamine, which boosts energy and enhances mental clarity. So be mindful and eat intuitively! Fuel your body with foods that will make you feel outwardly happy.

10. Meditate

Meditation is often touted as an important healthy habit for improving focus, restoring balance and promoting a sense of calm. It doesn’t have to be full-blown meditation either, just taking regular, mini-mindful breaks throughout the day can really help energise you, improve concentration and productivity as well as make you feel more calm. Try some of our favourite mindfulness apps for anxiety.

Mini Mindfulness
Take a breather each day to check in with yourself and stay grounded / Freepik

11. Move central to work and play

We spend 80 percent of our lives commuting to and from work so it makes sense that it will impact how we feel. If your daily slog is particularly long or stressful (traffic jams, road rage…) then it’s worth considering moving closer even if it means a smaller house or trading in your ‘dream’ car because these trade-offs won’t make us happy in the long run.

12. Practice gratitude

We’re not talking about giving thanks for receiving a present or promotion – it’s about practicing gratitude for all the small things that make you happy each day. Try keeping a journal and noting down the little things that spark joy, like a text from a friend wanting to catch-up or a loving embrace from your partner when you get home from work.

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