Don't Worry, Be Happy!
10 power moves to improve your mood
It's tempting to think that happiness is circumstantial – and because we can't control life, we can't manage our mood. But there is actually a great deal you can do to reinforce happiness, no matter what's happening at home, work or in the world. The following are 10 surprisingly simple tips from leading happiness experts that can put a smile on your face and keep it there.
- Keep a happiness jar
Noticing our happiest moments and writing them down can amplify happiness. That's why
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, recommends creating a happiness jar. This simple daily practice involves writing down the happiest moment at the end of the day on a scrap of paper, dating it, folding it and putting the paper in the jar. Though this practice takes seconds, Gilbert says it brings her enormous gifts – by keeping her attention on what pleases her from day to day and also in reviewing her historic happiness record. You can do the same.
- Make order
The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin reports that for most people, outer order creates inner calm much more than we might expect. A huge champion of the value of clutter-clearing, she credits making order with the rewards of increased energy, cheer and creativity. You could invest five minutes right now to try it. Start small, with a junk drawer, a kitchen cabinet or the pile of shoes by the front door. Get rid of what you're not using or don't love, make a simple system for the items that remain and leave enough room to easily use them. Notice how increasing usability of just one small space can give you a significant lift.
- Hug a tree (or a houseplant)
We intuitively know that nature makes us happy. Now science can prove it. The U.K. Mappiness project tracks how people feel in different locations and reveals they are happiest outside. Research suggests this is because being in nature measurably improves our well-being – from lowering the murder rate to increasing our immune cells that fight cancer. A walk in the woods, or even near the woods, is a quick way to boost your mood. Not the outdoorsy type? Experts say even a house plant can make you feel good.
- Try something new
We can't count on the same pleasing activities to give us the same good feeling time after time. Daniel M. Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, advises, "Among life's cruelest truths is this one: wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition." When a groove becomes a rut – when something that's reliably made you happy loses its flow, glow, or mojo – simply try something else until you find a new groove. And then another and another. When you don't expect happiness to be static, you can have a great time finding new ways to be delighted.
- Stay in present time
We are most likely to experience happy emotions right now, in the present moment. The coffee cup is warming our hands. The chair is supporting our back. Most likely, no one is hurting us. Things get much trickier when we think about the past because at any moment we can dredge up a lifetime of experiences that challenged us. Likewise, imagining the future can be fraught with fears about projected experiences that may or may not happen. Because the present moment is often our best bet for happiness, experts recommend that we stay there. The practice of mindfulness is a simple method of giving our full attention to what is happening on a moment-to-moment basis. Use it to call yourself back to a baseline of happiness when you wander out of present time.
- Help someone
The Chinese have a saying that goes, "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." Time Magazine agrees, reporting that giving activates the same parts of the brain stimulated by food and sex – And that altruism is hardwired in the brain. Because giving can also deplete us, it's important to give service that expresses your passion. If you hate to cook but love animals, for example, don't volunteer at a soup kitchen; try a pet shelter instead. Think you don't have time or energy to help? Even smiling at a stranger in passing could make a meaningful difference.
- Face your fear
"What you suffer when you stay in fear is almost always more damaging than facing your fear." – Mo Gawdat, author of Solve for Happy
Fear is very valuable when it makes us aware of imminent harm. And it's less useful when it prevents us from taking the kinds of risks that help us grow, learn and thrive. In many cases, doing the (non-life-threatening) things we fear, such as telling an uncomfortable truth, singing or speaking in public, or risking putting forth our creative work or ideas, can give us a significant lift in mood. The greater your fear, the greater your happiness is likely to be when you face it.
- Sleep more
Sleep may be the most important investment you can make in your happiness, according to recent research. Without sleep, our risk of depression, stress and anxiety disorders spike. The well-rested brain supports our most positive social, family and work dynamics, our ability to think and work effectively, drive safely, and navigate our life resourcefully and with good cheer. Many experts recommend a bedtime of 10 p.m. or earlier to get the best quality of sleep – and therefore the greatest happiness rewards upon waking.
- Say thank you
Gratitude is widely celebrated as a simple and powerful resilience practice. Proven by research to improve our mood and health, simply focusing on what we are grateful for in any circumstance can help us appreciate what we have, feel more satisfied with our experiences and relate better to others. Say thank you (and mean it) to boost good will and a good mood in an instant. For a happiness turbo blast, you could even keep a daily gratitude journal that keeps you focused on what's best in your life.
- Get mood-boosting support from myStrength
Any time you need support for mood management, you can turn to myStrength, the Health Net online program that gives you a wide range of personalized learning tools, programs, and valuable support to relieve stress and improve your emotional well-being. Visit www.myStrength.com/HNWell to sign up and get started.