I found an article circulating on Facebook that lists “easy” things to make you happier. Normally I’d skip it, thinking it’s a bunch of hooey, but it claimed this list was backed by science (plus I have no better post ideas). Being an uninspired scientist, I liked the sound of this. So here is a summary, if you want more details on the studies in the article, the original can be found here.
- Exercise. I know, I know, you’ve heard it before and hate having people tell you, I do too. What I didn’t know is that you could do it in 7 minutes. It’s a tough workout, but it’s over in only 7 minutes. Check it out here.
- Sleep. Apparently not sleeping enough makes you more prone to negative emotions and memories. Positive and negative memories are processed by different parts of the brain. The amygdala processes negative memories while the hippocampus processes the positive ones. Lack of sleep affects the hippocampus more than the amygdala making it more difficult for you to recall positive memories than negative ones.
- Live close to work. I don’t know about you but it can take me up to two hours to come home from work depending on the traffic. It’s pretty miserable, so I was glad to see someone actually did a study on it. Unlike other unpleasant tasks, one doesn’t acclimate to the commute. The commute is always different; volume of traffic, idiots on the road, accidents, etc.
- Stay in touch. Not staying in touch with friends or family is one of the top five regrets people have on their death bed. The longevity project found that those who have generous relationships live longer and happier.
- Go outside. Did you know happiness is maximized at 13.9 degrees centigrade? Really? I think I’d be happier at 20 degrees.
- Help others. Studies recommend spending 100 hours every year (or 2 hours per week) helping people. If you want more information, read my post on giving.
- Smile. Make yourself smile by remembering funny moments or thinking positive thoughts. Smiling can alleviate pain, improve attention and help us perform cognitive tasks. Don’t bother faking it. One study showed that those faking their smile through their work day had worse moods as the day progressed while those whose smiles were reinforced with positive thoughts had a better day.
- Plan a trip and don’t take it. Studies have show that people are happiest during the planning stage of a trip rather than during or after. I’m assuming the anticipation of vacation helps them feel happier. This actually works! I planned my 30th birthday trip to a snorkeling resort in Jamaica. I had a lot of fun and was generally in better mood while planning, despite knowing that we wont be able to do a 30th birthday trip. 😦
- Meditate. I had a feeling this would be on the list. I’m rubbish at it. Neuroimaging studies have shown that brain activity is actually calmed after meditation. Regular meditation can even alter brain structure.
- Practice gratitude. Being thankful, even for just three little things a day can improve happiness and life satisfaction.
The article ended by saying that people get happier as they get older. Apparently, past middle age we grow happier naturally. I’m skeptical, but at least it takes the edge off getting older.
Since today was a bit of a fluffy post, here’s a fluffy drawing to go with 🙂