Instantly cheerful: 16 ways to put yourself in a good mood

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.

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Happiness is about staying mindful during good times, but also keeping an optimistic attitude through inevitable negative emotions and circumstances.

Matthieu Ricard 

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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!

Instant happiness

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!

Instant happiness

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!

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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!

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant happiness

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.

Instant 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?


Albert Camus 

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.

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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?


5 swanky ways to adapt the un-materialistic lifestyle

If your house were on fire, what is the one thing you would save and why?

I don't care whether you chose the family album or the iPad.

I want to know why you picked it? What does it represent to you?

This is the crux of the materialistic life that we are increasingly trying to break free of. Not what you own, but the nature of your attachment.

Many times we falsely believe that just having stuff makes us materialistic. Not true!

Materialism is a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project.

It refers to the symbolism of products and how we see them as the bedrock of our identity, happiness and social status.

Materialism is an ugly word. It represents all that is wrong with the culture of constant consumption. It is the bane of the living in the land of plenty.

Why must you escape the materialistic lifestyle?

Materialism makes you live a shallow life distracted by shiny objects.

John Lennon 

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace. 

The cycle of materialism is never ending. It begins with the false belief that possessing something will change how you feel. When you don't feel ‘good’ or ‘happy’ upon possessing it, you are sucked into buying more and better possessions. All in vain.

Tufts University research into the 'High price of materialism' found that, people who are highly focused on materialistic values have lower personal well-being and psychological health.In fact, people’s well-being improves as they place relatively less importance on materialistic goals and values.

Materialist values are associated with low life satisfaction, depression and anxiety. They could even manifest in the form of personality disorders like narcissistic and antisocial behaviors.

Does a non-materialistic lifestyle imply that you should become a monk?

Possessions by themselves mean nothing. What matters is the role they play in your life.

Having money makes you materialistic as much as having a piano makes you a pianist.

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Being non-materialistic essentially means an internal shifting of your focus from possessions as the source of identity and yardstick of happiness.

It means recognising when an object is serving a need that goes beyond what it is actually meant to do. For eg. A car is supposed to take you from A to B, it does not represent your success and happiness to your peers.

Do you want to free yourself from the chains of materialistic lifestyle and want to reach for a deeper and fulfilled life?

Here are 5  strategies to get you started on the un-materialistic lifestyle.

1. Change your media consumption to escape the manipulation of consumerism

Today we are living in a society that worships at the altar of consumerism.

Have you taken a conscious look at the advertising on the media?

They are no longer focused on the factual information about a product. It is all about creating associations between our subconscious needs and the product in question.

un materialistic lifestyle

We are constantly hit with messages that tell us how to fix our life with stuff.

Susan Opree’s research has revealed a strong correlation between the amount of time one is exposed to television and materialism.

Material values portrayed in advertising teach children that material possessions are a way to cope with decreased life satisfaction.

Advertising acts as a demand stimulator that encourages consumption.

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Even psychological advertising conditions us to the pleasure of anticipation even before actual consumption of the objects.

The 'neural predictors of purchase' study by Brian Knurson and colleagues found through MRI scanning that when it comes to your neurons, just thinking about buying something is pretty much the same as actually buying it.

Living in this advertisement populated world also means that our idea of happiness and success is constantly shifting. We are urged to reach up to it by upgrading our possessions on a daily basis.

J. B. Priestley

Living in an age of advertisement, we are perpetually disillusioned. The perfect life is spread before us every day, but it changes and withers at a touch

How to escape the unrelenting bombardment of material values on the media?

You should educate yourself about the unrealistic needs and standards portrayed in the media. This will help you take the media message with a grain of salt.

Even more crucial is to limit your exposure to advertising by minimising the time spent on TV and social media.

Would a $3000 watch be equally appealing to you if it was not endorsed by your favourite celebrity?

Develop a critical thinking mode that helps you see how the media is manipulating you psychologically.

2. Learn to postpone gratification and learn conscious consumption

Consumerism places a significant emphasis on instant gratification.

‘Faster is better’ is the reigning mantra for today’s generation.

un materialistic lifestyle

We can't tolerate even the merest hint of delay involved in waiting for fulfillment of our desires. We want quick fixes that help us medicate whatever emotional issues we are facing.

Why should you get out of the YOLO mentality?

Instant gratification is not an attitude that fosters success or happiness. Overcoming it is essential not only for escaping materialism but also for your overall life.

The Stanford Marshmallow experiment revealed that, individuals who are better at delaying gratification are more likely to make better choices and exercise self-discipline in various areas of life.

Use the gap between desire and purchase to realise the difference between purposeful action and subconscious manipulation.

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If you are already in grips of the ‘right here right now’ mentality, don't despair.

The follow-up studies to the marshmallow experiment have found that the ability to delay gratification can be practiced and learned like any other life skill.

How to overcome the lure of instant gratification?

Stop multitasking!

When you are multitasking, your brain is distracted. So, it is most likely to make subconscious choices that do not reflect your best intentions.

Watch out for the stimuli that urge you to reach for instant fixes. Replace impulsive purchases with deliberate and conscious actions.

Develop future focus

A Washington University study on ‘Impulsivity and self control’ has revealed that, the patient individuals devoted more energy to imagining receiving their reward later.

Why not try enforcing the 30 day wait-period on purchases?

This extra time will help you get clarity about the actual need and the relative urgency of your desired object. This period will also help you analyse your subconscious motives and you can make a decision from the intentional mental space.

 Judith Wright 

As we get past our superficial material wants and instant gratification we connect to a deeper part of ourselves, as well as to others, and the universe.

Leading the un-materialistic life does not mean you stop buying stuff and live a threadbare existence.

It just means you put thought and time into possessions that enter your life.

3. Build intangible assets that help to meet your deeper emotional needs

Materialism is all about amassing things and depending on them to bring significant happiness and contentment into your life.

Instead of trying to give the appearance of success, develop qualities that foster success

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But does this actually work? What makes us truly happy?

Author Dan Gilbert says we are bad at predicting what makes us happy.As a matter of fact, people overestimate the influence of wealth on happiness by a whopping 100%!

In reality, life satisfaction is correlated with having less materialistic values.

Invest in relationships

The 75 year longitudinal study on happiness has found that, ‘love’ or ‘good relationships’ are the most important factor in determining our happiness.

Materialism is not focused on the intangible rewards of relationships like companionship, support, love and comfort.

Materialism fosters social isolation, isolation fosters materialism. Materialism is also correlated with unhappiness in marriages. It actually ruins personal and social relationships by sparking constant comparison and resulting in discontent.

Spend your time with family and friends instead of browsing online shops. Pick activities that you can enjoy with your friends over the ones that foster individual consumption.

un materialistic lifestyle

Invest in experiences over possessions

The pleasure from an object is lost over time as we are habituated to it or it becomes outdated.

But, the value of experiential purchases increases over time and acts as a source of consistent pleasure.

A scientific paper by Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovich titled ‘To do or to have’ has revealed that while pleasure from objects depreciates, experiences become even more valuable, as we return again and again to the pleasurable memory.

Thomas DeLeire's research into categories of happiness has revealed that the only category to be positively related to happiness is leisure like vacations, entertainment, sports.

Elizabeth W. Dunn. 

If Money Doesn't Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren't Spending It. Right. 

We often confuse possessions with success, status and even confidence. In reality materialism is often a sign of insecurity.

Un-materialistic life does not mean a life without spending money. It means spending money on experiences that expand your horizons and nurture your relationships.

4. Declutter to remove peripheral possessions and focus on high value stuff

Have a look around your room.

Can you name a couple of things which you have not used in the last three months?

Chances are, you can name more than a couple.

un materialistic lifestyle

We are fast becoming champions of clutter who accumulate possessions to meet our materialistic needs.

There are 300,000 items in the average American home. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rents offsite storage.

Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on items they do not need.

Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.

93% of teenage girls rank shopping as their favorite pastime.

Fight Club 

The things you own end up owning you.

Decluttering does not mean a blanket removal of your possessions. It is more on the line of streamlining them to meet your specific needs.

Being un-materialistic means making the ‘replace’ rather than ‘add on’ purchases.

Aim for buying high value products that enrich your life rather than stuff that meets partial or momentary needs.

Get rid of the aspirational clutter.

Aspirational clutter represents a life that you might lead someday. This often induces feelings of guilt because of the money spent or the disappointment of not using it.

Are you willing to break the shackles of comparison?

We are doomed to live in a culture of social comparison that pushes us towards materialism. This is an influencing factor when you consider the clutter we are collecting just to keep up.

Decluttering for a non-materialistic lifestyle means removing the wrong things to make space for the right things.

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The National Poll of Millennials by AICPA revealed that, 66% of millennials want to keep pace with their peers on where they live; 64% say the same thing about what they wear. Nearly two-thirds experience pressure to keep up with the types of places they eat and the gadgets they carry.

Break this pattern of accumulation by stopping use of possessions as a yardstick of success and status.

Decluttering does not necessarily mean owning less. It means owning more of the right things and minimising the accumulation of low value stuff.

5. Manage your money for value addition over emotional gratification

Managing your money is a crucial skill if you want to stand any chance of escaping materialism.

On the surface this monetary focus seems a bit at cross purposes with our aspirations of un-materialistic lifestyle.

un materialistic lifestyle

Money is important. Anyone who says otherwise is labouring under a delusion.

But why is it important?

Money gives you the freedom to invest in things that can bring you true happiness. Whereas lack of it curtails your options and keeps you forever in the aspirational and materialistic mode.

The LinkedIn survey of recent graduates has found that rising tuition student debt is causing Millennials to delay the markers of adulthood such as getting married, buying a home and starting a family.

The value of money is not about the number on your bank balance or what you can buy with it. It is about the number of options it can create for you.

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41% Millennials are “chronically stressed” about money. The top areas of financial stress include not putting enough money into savings and spending more than they should.

According to AICPA study, 7 out of 10 young people define financial stability as being able to pay all of their bills each month.

In contrast, people who manage their money are secure, happier and more satisfied with their lives.

According to professor Elizabeth Dunn, savings are good for happiness; debt is bad for happiness.But debt is potently worse than savings are good.

Before blowing money on the dream vacation that might land you in debt, create a safety net.

Dave Ramsey 

We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. 

Being un-materialistic actually means investing greater thought and consciousness into money management. Your spending habits should be driven by financial wisdom and informed choices.

The un-materialistic lifestyle is not a prescription for cashless existence. It is rather a focus on conscious spending and saving to ensure your most important needs are met in an effective way.


Why you buy has infinitely more implications than what you buy.

Your intent determines whether you are materialistic or not, rather than what you actually own.

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The first and perhaps the most important shift from materialism to non-materialism should happen at a deeper emotional level.

Operate with the understanding that material possessions are artificial symbols of happiness. Focus on the utility and the need of your stuff. Invest in building meaningful relationships with your family and yourself.

Shifting to a un-materialistic lifestyle will take time and there are bound to be slip-ups. Give yourself time, compassion and support to get back on track.

Are you ready to let go of your materialistic attitude and live a richer life?