When we’re in the thick of life’s stressors, sometimes we just want to experience happiness now. Not only does research show that happy people experience many advantages in life due to their happiness, but happiness just feels good. While it may seem that happiness is always waiting around the corner with a better job, better relationship, or better house, the happiness that comes with those acquisitions can be fleeting. More importantly, you don’t have to make big changes to feel happier; you can find feelings of happiness right now. Here are some quick strategies for instant feelings of happiness.
Use MusicMusic is known to have the ability to change one’s mood, which makes it an excellent stress reliever. In fact, music has been used therapeutically in hospitals for pain management and emotional well-being. (See this for more on music therapy.) Research has also linked music with happiness, especially certain types of music. Researchers at Japan's Osaks University studied salivary cortisol levels and other physiological responses and found that music, especially music with a major (rather than minor) tone, is correlated with lowered stress as well as feelings of happiness. So, for a quick burst of happiness, why not throw on your favorite upbeat music? (Here are some ideas for using music in daily life.)
Incorporate LaughterThe phrase, "Laughter is the best medicine," has become a cliché because it’s so true. We know that laughter has benefits far beyond mood. Laughter can actually enhance immunity and prolong life. (See this article for more on the benefits of laughter.) However, to elevate your mood, laughter can’t be beat -- in fact, the mere expectation of laughter has been known to bring benefits.) There are several quick ways to have more fun and get more laughter in your life (jokes are some of my favorites), but the long-term strategy of maintaining a sense of humor about life can bring continual happiness, as well as less stress.
Change Your PerspectiveOften, your satisfaction with life is tied to your frame of reference and the comparisons you make. If you’re trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ and the Joneses are millionaires, it’s much more difficult to stay happy and satisfied with your place in life than if you’re volunteering your time to help those in need, and are constantly reminded of how much you have in comparison. One quick and simple way to turn your mood around is to change your expectations and comparison. Instead of looking at what you don’t have, look at all that you do have. There will always be people who have more than you in one area of life or another, but many have less. Revel in the benefits of gratitude, and change the way you view what you have (and don’t have), and you can feel more happiness right away.
Do A Good DeedMany people find that helping others brings feelings of happiness. In fact, research shows that those who volunteer tend to report greater levels of health and happiness. This is thought to be true for a few reasons. One is that altruism itself brings many benefits, including greater levels of emotional wellbeing. When you do something nice for someone else, your focus turns away from yourself and your own problems, and toward others and helping them feel good. A smile that you bring to someone else’s face is a contagious smile, bringing contagious happiness. Also, when faced with others in need, people tend to focus more on what they already have than on what they don't. (More on that later.)
A quick, happiness-toting good deed can be anything from a kind word to a clerk stressed store clerk to a large gift for a loved one or a charity, and can make you feel happiness right away -- happiness that’s shared. (For more ideas for good deeds, see this piece on random acts of kindness.)
Try MeditationWhile a technique like meditation seems more of a stress management tool than a happiness-increaser, meditation has been known to be an excellent tool for both. The stress management benefits of meditation are well-known (see this article for more on the benefits of meditation), but research also shows that regular meditation can lead to greater levels of happiness. There are many different meditation techniques to try, and you can feel greater levels of happiness in just minutes a day.
Choose JoyHappiness expert Robert Holden, Ph.D., who has a very successful 8-week course on the development of happiness, you don't need need to work toward happiness, you can just be happy. Think about it: you likely already know what activities make you feel good, and what brings you joy. Just do those things. (And why not start today? As Holden recommends, "Live NOW--procrastinate later!")
Another thing you can do is decide in the morning that you're going to be a little happier. Think about 3 things that can make you a little happier that day, and try to do them. While building a life that fosters happiness is a good idea, you don't need to wait until that happiness-lifestyle is in place; you can be happier now by simply choosing happiness.
What are your best happiness strategies? Scroll down to share your ideas with other readers, and see what works for them!
Additional Happiness Resources:
- How Happy Are You? Take the Happiness Quiz!
- How To Be Happy—A Step-By-Step Approach
- Email The Page To A Friend
Borgonovi F. Doing well by doing good. The relationship between formal volunteering and self-reported health and happiness. Social Science Medicine. June 2008.
Brown DP. Mastery of the Mind East and West: Excellence in Being and Doing and Everyday Happiness. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, September, 2007.
Lyubomirsky S, King L, Diener E. The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin. November, 2005.
Suda M, Morimoto K, Obata A, Koizumi H, Maki A. Emotional responses to music: towards scientific perspectives on music therapy. Neuroreport. January, 2008.