5 Things You Can Do to Feel Happier Now
Happiness is free. And so are you. Free to choose tools that boost your happiness and ease your stress—bringing more joy, contentment and peace into your life. Want tips on how? These are among the tons I’ve sought out over the years in my quest to become less stressed and more happy.
1. Shake your booty. Any kind of physical exercise helps to clear the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from your bloodstream. Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in stress research at Harvard Medical School’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, reports that stress hormones can remain in our bloodstream once released as a result of our stress response. How to clear those stress hormones? Get your heart pumping through some old fashioned exercise.
A Mayo Clinic study cites that exercise has many benefits:
- Releases feel-good brain chemicals—in the form of neurotransmitters such as GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms the mind and relaxes muscles, and endorphins
- Increases body temperature, which often has a calming effect;
- Serves as a distraction, helping you to take your mind off your worries
- Potentially encourages more social interaction
We pretty much always dance in my yoga classes. Recommended songs:
- Daft Punk, One More Time
- Kenny Loggins, Footloose
- LMFAO, Party Rock
2. Laugh. Watch a YouTube video that cracks you up. When we laugh, blood flow increases, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to our organs and tissues, and the stress hormones decrease.
3. Sing along. New York City neuropsychiatrist Galina Mindlin reports in her book Your Playlist Can Change Your Life that by repeatedly listening to a song that makes you feel a certain way, you can begin to feel that way as soon as the song comes on. What’s the science behind this? When you listen to a song that makes you feel happy, you’re actually activating areas of the brain associated with happiness. Plus: when you pair visualization, movement or scents that also make you happy with listening to the song, you’re activating even more happiness-boosting brain areas.
Step 1. Choose a song that makes you happy.
Step 2. Listen and move and do anything else that helps you feel happy.
Step 3. Repeat as needed.
4. Make like the Buddha. Feeling down? As far as I understand it, Buddhism teaches that the key to not feeling a certain way is to let yourself feel that way. Yup, it’s true! Buddha apparently had that in common with Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who coined the phrase “What you resist, persists.” To free myself from the debilitating anxiety I felt for a good chunk of my life, I finally stopped resisting it, and started getting curious about it. Once I stopped trying to from it—impossible, since it was inside me—it lost its power over me.
Plus the Sanskrit term Santosha refers to contentment: ending the endless chase after the illusion of permanent pleasure. It’s listed as stage two in the four stages of happiness, including:
Mudita—spiritual happiness that comes from within;
and Ananda—the bliss of connecting to universal or cosmic joy.
The bottom line of all these teachings? We’re not always gonna feel intense joy or pleasure, but we’ll feel a whole lot happier if we can accept this.
5. Blast your stress. Mindfulness is my favorite way to get out of the monkey mind stressed out thinking, imagining, and worrying. Here’s five ways to do it, and be here now—where things are usually pretty good, actually.
- Sight. What do you see? If you’re supposed to be concentrating on talking to your son, daughter, or even a group of work colleagues but you feel unable to focus, try lasering in on one visual aspect: a forehead, pen, or friendly face.
- Sound. This works the same way. Try lasering in on the sound of someone’s voice, or a sound outside the room.
- Touch. What do you feel? Bring your intention and attention to one sensation you can physically feel—your toes moving in your shoes, or your fingertip on the table or presentation stand.
- Smell. What can you smell? Try narrowing in on a scent that’s pleasing or even soothing to your aural palette. Lavender is a good one—you could even have some in your pocket.
- Taste. Pop a mint and keep on keepin’ on with whatever you’re doing, but noticing the tastes that arise on your tongue.