Would you rather eat a burger or a handful of nuts?
Can you believe this mundane decision can make you happy or unhappy?
We often presume the pursuit of happiness to be this grand quest. In reality, happiness stems from small everyday actions.
Happiness is not an absence of negative emotions or being euphoric all the time. Adversity that breeds feelings of anger, frustration, or sadness is a necessary part of the human condition.
You are not happy because of the circumstances, you are happy in spite of them.
Happiness is about staying mindful during good times, but also keeping an optimistic attitude through inevitable negative emotions and circumstances.
Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing, not a mere pleasurable feeling or fleeting emotion but an optimal state of being.
What is the happiness advantage?
Happiness not only feels good, but it also has far-reaching consequences on health and longevity.
Happy people earn more than their peers, have a lower risk of getting cardiovascular diseases, and are more likely to make positive contributions to society.
Moreover, don’t we all love being around positive people who brighten up the mood as soon as they walk into a room?
What determines your happiness?
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research has found that 50% of our happiness is determined by genetics, 40% by internal factors like attitude and only 10% by present circumstances.
Obviously we can’t change our genes.
But you can consciously teach yourself to look for positive interactions. You can learn to focus on positive thoughts and feelings.
This attitude change will definitely be instrumental in creating long term happiness.
But what can you do to be happy right now?
Here we have 16 ideas backed by solid science, that will help you get an instant mood lift.
1. Step outside
We are a part of nature - staying close it helps us connect with ourselves.
Living near green spaces has been linked to better mental health. It even has positive implications on our emotions.
A slice of nature makes us happy, even in the middle of an urban jungle.
Even just looking at images of nature stimulates happiness, positivity and emotional stability.
Why not get out for a ‘jog in the park’ or take up an outdoor activity like hiking for instant positivity?
2. Make plans to enjoy the pleasure of anticipation
I know I know, a vacation or a weekend off would make you very happy, but you can’t do it right now.
Guess what? You don't have to!
You can become instantly happy by just planning an exciting weekend or exotic vacation.
According to the ‘Vacations happier’ study, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.The effect of vacation anticipation can boost happiness for as long as eight weeks.
Why not take this shot at immediate happiness by planning your dream vacation?
3. Get moving for an instant mood lift
When you are dealing with a crappy mood, physical movement might not be at the top of your agenda.
But, if you want to get out of the funk asap, exercise might be the key.
Moderate physical activity for as little as 30 minutes can boost your overall mood.
The Harvard Medical School has found that exercise releases feel-good endorphins and good-mood brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine.
Why not go for a brisk walk or dance around the room to the beat of fun music?Get moving right now for instant happiness.
4. Reconnect with a loved one
Relationships are the key to happiness - it's not just common sense, 75 years of longitudinal study by Harvard researchers has proven it.
Even in the short term, having affectionate and deep relationships can help you navigate the negativity laden world.
The Social vocalisation experiment has thrown light on the fact that just talking to a loved one has the same emotional impact as hugging them in person.
If you are feeling down in the dumps, even hugging your pet could be an instant mood booster.
5. Smile to cheat your brain into becoming instantly happy
You don't smile because you are happy, you are happy because you smile!
When you put a smile on your face, your brain gets the message that you’re happy.
One easy way to do this is by smiling while recalling pleasant memories.According to a Michigan state University study, people who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts can significantly and immediately improve their mood.
A Clark University study has also found that smiling triggers positive memories.
6. Manipulate your senses with the sight and scent of happiness
Life is a sensory experience!
Science has even found ways of creating happiness by manipulation of these senses.
The Chemical Senses study published in Oxford Journals has revealed that the scent of a clementine or vanilla are positive, uplifting and relaxing.
Why not light a scented candle to instantly lift your mood?
The green colour is associated with happiness, comfort, peace, hope, and excitement.
So, why not bring some indoor plants or use green fabrics around the room for an instant cheering up?
7. Channel the flower power
Flowers not only brighten up the room, they can even light up your mood!
The emotional impact of flowers study by Rutger University researchers has revealed that flowers have an immediate impact on happiness.
The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, increases feelings of life satisfaction and affects future behaviour in a positive manner far beyond what is normally true.
Nancy Etcoff, a Harvard psychologist, found in her research that people reported being happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the morning.
Why not add a vase of colourful flowers on your work desk to get some cheer in the midst of a hectic workday?
8. Get a gratitude shift
Gratitude has been long known to promote feelings of happiness and life satisfaction and reduce stress and negativity.
Sonja Lyubomirsky’s study on ‘How to increase and sustain positive emotion’ has found that gratitude is an important factor in manifesting long term happiness.
So, take a moment to express your gratitude.
Write a quick thank you note, jot down the one thing you are grateful for right now, even better - why not thank someone in person?
9. Buy an experience
Money can buy you happiness if you know what to buy!
Contrary to what advertisers say, buying stuff isn't going to make you happy.
According to researchers at Cornell and Berkeley University, experiential purchases tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases.
So, spend your money on an experience like a book, vacation, meal or theater for instant happiness.
10. Pay it forward
It is not just enough to feel gratitude for your blessings, it is equally important to share it with others.
In a University of Exeter study, volunteering was found to boost happiness, ease depression and even help you live longer.
Elizabeth Dunn’s research has revealed that spending money on others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves.
Why not help a friend in need or donate to your favourite cause to create happiness for yourself while getting some karma points?
11. Get some between the sheets action
Connecting with you partner on an emotional and physical level can be a swift mood enhancer.
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the trend of sex equaling happiness is true for both men and women.
Research by Dartmouth economists has found that increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by getting an additional $50,000 in income for the average American.
However be careful not to overdo it - a steep increase in the frequency of sex is actually associated with decreased happiness!
12. Complain the right way
Complaining is an instant mood drowner when done just for blowing steam off.
But if you do it selectively and to the right audience, complaining could be the key to happiness.
The ‘How do happy people complain’ study has revealed that, strategic complaining can be an intentional activity that leads to greater happiness.
Pick your #1 pet peeve and take it up with the person who can work with you to resolve it.
13. Get away from that toxic friend/colleague, spend time with a positive person
We all have negative people in our life and we have all felt the despair their company brings. Turns out negative people create a ripple effect with their emotions and make us unhappy too.
Emotions are contagious. We are biologically programmed to mimic and synchronize our emotions with others. And we are particularly susceptible to negative emotions.
On the other hand, positive people infect us with their happiness bug.
If you want to feel upbeat right now, get away from the toxic company and spend some time in the presence of a positive person.
14. Switch off social media
On the surface, social media provides an instant resource that meets the basic human need for connection.
However, rather than enhancing happiness and wellbeing, your social media usage may be actually undermining your happiness.
The study into Facebook use and Depression found that Facebook use triggers social comparison resulting in depression.
One in three people feel worse ("lonely, frustrated or angry") after spending time on Facebook.
Why not ditch the virtual reality for a real life interaction right now and see if it helps you feel relaxed and happy?
15. Eat fresh and nutrient dense food
Food can affect not only your body but also your mood.
Higher consumption of fruits and vegetables has been linked to a calm and greater sense of happiness.
The processed foods with empty calories that induce a sugar rush may not be the best option for you if you are down in the dumps.
Instead snack on serotonin promoting magnesium rich food like nuts. It is a major contributor to happiness as it helps to regulate your mood.
Even prepping and cooking food could be a therapeutic release at the end of a hectic workday.
16. Tune into your happy playlist
Music not only feeds our soul, but it also has the power to make us happy.
Tuning into your favourite music for as little as 15 minutes can give a natural boost to your happiness levels by releasing dopamine.
Listening to music with the express purpose and the desire to become happier may actually lead to greater happiness.
University of Missouri’s research suggests listening to happy and upbeat music for awakening positive feelings.
Why not listen to ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams right now and turn that frown upside down?
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy.
Happiness is not a gift that comes from outside. It is the emotion you consciously manifest within yourself.
We are living in a world filled with disproportionately negative stimuli, so ideal conditions are a myth.
Don’t wait for something or someone to be happy.
Start being happy from where you are and with what you have.
Happiness is a function of our attitude and willingness rather than our circumstance.
Create your own little happy moments.
Strive to carve out time for things that bring you joy and upliftment. You can start right now without even moving an inch!
Are you ready to take one small step today and become instantly cheerful?