25 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person
How to be a happier person
Getting your blood pumping releases endorphins throughout your whole body, creating feelings of happiness that combat a bad mood. Studies have even shown that exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Any physical activity counts—running, indoor cycling, yoga, dancing—as long as you break a sweat. Even a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk will help.
Flow through some yoga
Load up on leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale are rich in folate, providing 33% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). This nutrient is linked to a decrease in negative moods and depression because it helps produce dopamine in the brain. One 2012 study found that middle-aged people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression symptoms than those who ate the least.
Try cognitive behavioral therapy
Buy flowers for yourself
A team of Harvard researchers found that keeping fresh flowers at home does wonders in keeping away anxiety and negative moods. People in the study also felt more compassionate toward others and they felt a boost of energy and enthusiasm at work.
Turn on a light box
Light therapy is an effective treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but experts agree that it works to treat symptoms of major depressive disorder as well. Feeling blue? You can turn on a light box for 30 minutes to an hour when you're down, but to feel its full effects, use it as part of a daily therapy routine.
Open the shades
Starting to feel down? Head outside to soak up some sunshine. The human body produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun's rays, and research suggests that people who are deficient in the vitamin are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and tired. Step into the sunshine for 20 to 25 minutes of sunlight to lighten your mood naturally.
Eat some 'shrooms
Good news: Meditation is a proven stress-buster with no harmful side effects. Studies have shown that its benefits range from pain reduction and lower blood pressure to a boost in libido. Best part? It releases "happy" chemicals in the brain—serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins—all of which work together to put you in a better mood. If you don't know where to start, try a guided meditation to de-stress or start your morning.
Smell the oranges
Eat carbs as an afternoon snack
You know that afternoon mood slump that hits at just the worst time? Well, it turns out that you can eat your way to a happier, more energized afternoon—carbs. For years we've been hearing that we should avoid carbs, but in reality, a low-carb diet can make us feel sad and stressed. Carbohydrates actually boost mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. But let's get something straight here—we want to focus on healthy, whole-grain sources instead of refined carbohydrates to reap the benefits. When you begin to feel down, go for an afternoon snack of 25 to 30 grams of carbs, such as a three-quarter-cup serving of Cheerios.
Play with your pet
Research shows that people who take quick breaks during their workday to watch funny videos online get a high emotional payoff and report feeling more energetic and happy with fewer negative emotions. Not only will this improve your mental health overall; this is an easy way to turn around a bad mood in less than a minute—plus, you can get a metabolism boost, too!
Add turmeric to your meal
Listen to music…
…And sing along
You can also get happy by making your own music—by singing. University of Manchester researchers discovered that a tiny organ in the inner ear (called the sacculus) is connected to a part of your brain that registers pleasure. The sacculus registers frequency notes that are associated with singing almost instantly, giving you a warm and fuzzy feeling. So go ahead and sing in the shower, belt it out in your car, or get up on that karaoke stage.
Eat chocolate (yes!)
This morning energy boost doubles as a mood pick-me-up. A Harvard University study found that women who drank at least two cups of coffee regularly were at a 15% lower risk of depression than women who did not. Just keep in mind that those fancy coffee drinks can have tons of hidden sugar and calories, so it's best to stick with black coffee (and some skim milk).
Sip on some green tea
Make a human connection
Put down your smartphone and take a step back from your computer screen. If you want to feel better—and fast—go to a friend or family member for some relief. A study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that human touch releases those feel-good chemicals like serotonin, as well as reduces blood pressure and heart rate making you feel more relaxed.
Consume healthy fats
Eat more salmon
Fatty fish like salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help stave off depression (omega-3s are also present in avocados and nuts, as well as grass-fed beef and chicken). This is because they help to maintain brain function in the areas that regulate mood and emotion—a study found that women who hate fish two times per week had a 25% lower risk of depression than women who ate it less often. If you don't like to eat fish, try taking omega-3 fish oil supplements instead.
Try St. John's wort
This herbal supplement is one of the most-studied herbal supplements for depression, and research shows that it may be as beneficial as antidepressants when treating mild depression. While it may seem like a no-brainer, St. John's wort has known serious drug interactions, including reducing the effectiveness of birth control. Additionally, when taken in conjunction with antidepressants, the supplement can create too-high levels of serotonin, which can lead to heart problems. So before you try this one, be sure to check in with your doctor.