Do you ever find yourself in a rut, feeling down, with no ideas on how to get out of that mood? Have you ever watched a child filled with wonder, discovering something new, completely light up and smile ear to ear? Sometimes I wish the little things fascinated me as much as they fascinate my three year old. Today he discovered the awesomeness of a pen with four colors, the kind with tabs on the side that you push down to change the ink color. As I was showing him how to use it, he got so excited he started drooling a little as he grinned. Then he spent several minutes switching from color to color, scribbling on a piece of paper. What a simple, happy moment for both of us.
There have been numerous studies about what happy people do to stay happy. Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but when you really think about it, do you take the time to do them? Try some of these mood lifters today and see how you feel.
10 Ways to Find Happiness and Joy:
1. Think happy thoughts. Research shows that if you can go two minutes focusing on ONE thing, you can change your emotions. Why not focus on one good, happy thing and feel your mood lift? Interestingly enough though, you should not force a smile. The happy thoughts need to come first, and then let your smile shine through. If you fake smile without cultivating happy thoughts, it could actually worsen your mood.
2. Listen to happy, uplifting music. I can’t clean my house without putting on some happy, lively, get me movin’ tunes. It instantly brightens my mood and helps me work faster. “Music is so powerful, in fact, that it could match up to the anxiety-reducing effects of massage therapy. Over a three month period, researchers from the Group Health Research Institute found that patients who simply listened to music had the same decreased anxiety symptoms as those who got 10 hour-long massages.”
3. Get enough sleep. Make sleep a bigger priority. As adults, we often have a hard time going to bed “on time”. There’s always one more thing that needs to get done. I heard a story about a family in Alaska that sets an alarm to go to bed in the summer because the lights never go out. The sun is always up. They said it was too easy to stay up hours past a decent bed time and then find themselves with morning coming only four hours later, which caused them to be sleep deprived. Our bodies need to recharge and getting enough sleep is critical. Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to be at our best.
4. Take time to enjoy nature. Do you find yourself going from your home to your car in the garage, to the garage at work, inside a building, then back home again without stepping outside all day? Just 20 min. per day consistently can help brighten your mood. “Nature is fuel for the soul, ” according to Richard Ryan, the lead author of a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. “Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.”
5. Unplug. Too much digital overload can cause depression and higher stress levels. Step away from your screen and take a few deep breaths, meditate, read a book, talk to your spouse, whatever you like to do to relax.
6. Laugh! And don’t be afraid to do so loudly. Did you know that babies laugh up to 300 times per day, while most adults only laugh 15-20 times per day? And the amount of laughter peaks at 5 years old. Also, we are far more likely to laugh when we are with someone than when we are alone. Just being around happy, laughing children makes me laugh.
7. Spend money on other people. They say money can’t buy happiness, but spending money on others can! There’s just something about the pleasure we get in giving someone a gift. Whether it be a big gift or a gift of our time, it doesn’t really matter.
8. Have in-person conversations. Of course we all know this one. But do we actually take time to pick up the phone, stop by a friend’s house, or have a conversation with a co-worker? How about when our spouse or children come home? Do we stop what we are doing and talk to them?
9. Be Optimistic & Grateful. How can we learn to accentuate the positive? I went to a lecture given by Hank Smith, a professor at BYU, and he suggested we try writing down 3 positive things that happened that day that we are grateful for at the end of each day. After 2-3 weeks you should find yourself thinking more positively naturally. Another idea: try having everyone in your family share one positive thing that happened that day with everyone at the dinner table.
10. Be Spiritual. Finding personal meaning and purpose in life helps you have perspective and feel hope and gratitude. Prayer can be a form of meditation, which is shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. And the friend-shipping and support found in most religious organizations contributes to happiness too.
Disclaimer: These tips are in no way meant to replace a Dr.’s advice if you find yourself depressed for lengthy periods of time. Clinical Depression is a real disease and often needs medical treatment.