Commit an act of kindness
Kindness makes you happy. That's a fact. According to a 2009 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology, participants who performed random acts of kindness experienced a significant increase in life satisfaction, compared with those who performed no such acts. So go ahead and pay the bill for the person behind you in the drive-through. Bake treats and leave them on a friend's doorstep. Give the parking spot to the other car. Compliment a stranger. Need more ideas? Check out the inspiring list of kindness acts from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
Flash those pearly whites
The simple act of smiling is more powerful than you might think. Research shows smiling not only makes you feel better, but that simple act of lifting the corners of your mouth can be a predictor of marriage success and may even result in a longer, healthier, happier life. Studies say one smile stimulates our brain as much as 2,000 bars of chocolate. Need we say more? Learn more about the power of smiling in this TED video.
Grab some girlfriend time
Need an instant pick-me-up? Pick up the phone and call a friend. Better yet, invite the girls to meet you for coffee or lunch. Gabbing with your girlfriends is one of the most enjoyable ways to banish the blues. A 2011 Stanford Graduate School of Business study found that spending time wisely (particularly with friends) had an even greater impact on happiness than spending money. Cassie Mogilner, one of the business school doctoral students who conducted the study, said “The more time that individuals spend with their partners, best friends and close friends, the happier they are. When they spend time with people they dislike or when they spend time alone, their happiness levels drop. Loneliness is a relatively good predictor of unhappiness.”
Lend a helping hand
Do a double dose of good by helping someone else through volunteering — and getting a rewarding dose of happiness in the process. According to Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota, "People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being and happiness... It also improves their health and even their longevity." These benefits hold true for both adults and children, so spread the happiness by seeking out volunteer opportunities that the whole family can enjoy.
Need some ideas on how to help others in your community? Find local volunteer opportunities at dosomething.org
Do a Downward Dog
A 2010 study confirmed what yogis and yoginis have known for years. Yoga makes you happy. Brain researchers from the School of Medicine at Boston University measured the amount of the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric) in the brains of people who practiced yoga for one hour three times a week with those who did different types of exercise for the same amount of time. Those practicing yoga experienced higher amounts of GABA, and thus, less depression, anxiety and unhappiness. Not sure where to start? Try these beginner yoga poses.