In this growing age of technology and consumption, many people have forgotten the simple, ancient secrets of being happy. People have forgotten the simple ways to become happier. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses.
In order to solve this massive problem, more often we are reminded of the long-known principles of a happy life, like spending enough time outdoors and having a good night sleep. Perhaps they aren’t enough to make a modern human happy since scientists keep on searching more extraordinary ways to boost happiness.
Today, let’s look at the weirdest scientifically proven things that can make us happier.
10. Watch sad movies
Haven’t you ever thought what is it that makes people watch tragic movies in moments when they already feel down? Aren’t these movies supposed to make us even more miserable?
Thanks to researchers from Ohio State University, our weird affection to movies that make us sad finally has a scientific explanation! Actually, they can boost our happiness levels.
How does watching sad movies makes us happy
- Leads people to think about their own relationships
- Makes them grateful about their relationships, in that way, boosting their happiness
The study involved 361 college students, who watched the movie “Atonement”, a tragic love story during the war.The students were asked several questions before and after the movie. In that way, it measured the level of their life happiness.
The most interesting finding was that viewers who just thought about themselves during the movie and have insights such as “My life isn’t as bad as the character’s life” didn’t have an increase in their happiness level.
What’s the key?
When we watch tragic love stories, we think of our loved ones so we can appreciate them more.
Since relationships are one of the major sources of happiness, there is no surprise that thinking about and appreciating relationships with our loved ones makes a noticeable bounce in our happiness level.
9. Live closer to work – commute less
Our everyday commute to work can have a surprisingly big effect on our happiness. There have been several studies on how the daily commute affects happiness
- Daniel’s Kahnenman’s study on female happiness reveals that women showed the lowest ratio of positive to negative emotions during the day while commuting.
- Researchers from London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield have found out that women also tend to have more stress from their daily commute than men. Possible reasons for it could be the greater responsibility for daily household tasks (like childcare and housework), which makes women more sensitive to the time spent on commuting.
- A study carried out by two Swiss economists, Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer, has shown that a bigger house in the suburbs isn’t worth it if it adds notable time to get to the workplace. It appears that we tend to underestimate the suffering created by the time spent commuting. That often leads us to mistakenly believe that we would be happier living in a dream house in the suburbs even if that adds some additional hours just to get to work. Though, as we all know, traffic can be a real pain in the ass, and long commuting makes us anxious and unhappy according to the study.
What’s the reasonable time to spend for the commute? 22 minutes.
Another study reveals commuting shouldn’t exceed 22 minutes each way if we don’t want to experience a remarkable decline in well-being.
What you should do to have a happier life?
All that leads us to two options for a happier life – move closer to work even if it leads to living in a less fancy house or there is always a second option – find a job closer to the dream house.
8. Draw pictures of high calorie food
Isn’t that a mouthful of paradise every time when you get a bite of your favorite chocolate bar or a slice of pizza with extra cheese? Feels like happiness, right?
Actually, it’s not. Studies show that eating fast-food and commercially baked goods like muffins and doughnuts is linked to an increased risk of depression.
Processed sugary carbohydrates can boost our brain chemical serotonin, alright.
That makes us feel happy and relaxed. But the downside is that it’s not for long. After a short period of time, we find ourselves with low energy, hungry, and irritable. In long term, this kind of food also makes us fat, not to mention the negative effects on the health.
Where does that leave us?
Luckily for us, science has a solution that can boost our happiness levels without damaging our health. According to a study published in Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, by simply drawing pictures of high fat food like pizza and cupcakes and low fat-high sugar food like strawberries can increase our mood.
So let’s be creative and increase our life happiness by drawing one delicious looking chocolate chip cupcake right now.
7. Become a florist or a gardener
Are you content with your job? Florists and gardeners definitely are. They are the ones who are going to work with a big smile on their faces every day.
Exactly these two professions appeared to be the happiest ones according to a survey of 2,200 workers in UK. There were 87% of the surveyed florists and gardeners who said that they were happy.
It appears that the most important aspect of a job is to feel that our work is appreciated and recognized (62% of all workers claim it to be very important to them).
Do you appreciate your job? Do you find it useful? Do you want to do the work that requires you to use your skills every day? Those are some of the qualities that make gardeners and florists cheerful at work.
So what is it that makes gardeners and florists so content?
Blame it on the bacteria
As always, science has the answer – according to a research, the contact with a harmless soil bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae evokes the release of serotonin, a mood regulating brain chemical. M. vaccae basically works as an antidepressant. That is why gardening that includes working the soil, planting and so forth can boost our happiness.
Harvesting fruits and vegetables
If that isn’t enough to prove the positive effects of gardening – there is another study claiming that harvesting fruits and vegetables causes the release of dopamine in the reward center of brain, resulting in a state of bliss or mild euphoria.This response evolved over 200,000 years of humans getting food by hunting and gathering.
If you want to boost your life happiness but don’t want to completely change your career, maybe, it’s time to have gardening or floristic as a side job or a hobby!
6. Sleep on the left side of the bed
It appears that the common saying about waking up in the wrong side of the bed actually makes sense since sides do matter when it comes to our happiness.
According to a survey commissioned by hotel group Premier Inn in UK, people who sleep on the left side of the bed are generally more cheerful and positive. Those who choose to sleep on the right side of the bed tend to wake up grumpy more often.
Left side vs. right side
- The left side sleepers are also better at dealing with heavy workload and stress.
- People who prefer the left side of the bed tend to have more confidence.
- People who are left-side sleepers are also more likely to be found in the permanent employment than the right-side sleepers.
- The ones who choose the left side are usually the happiest workers.
- The ones who sleep on the right side tend to earn more money.
What about you? Maybe it is time to make the switch with your partner if you haven’t already occupied this uplifting spot. It can be a real challenge to talk our beloved ones in doing it since they feel quite content with sleeping in the lucky side.
If your don’t succeed in the sides discussion, stay calm – aim for having seven to eight hours of sleep to evolve your state of happiness. The ones who sleep seven to eight hours a night seem to be 10% happier than people who have less than seven hours a night sleep according to a survey of Happily Healthy Project in Australia.
5. Eat lunch at the beach
Or you can also choose the park or other preferable place if the beach is not quite at your fingertips. The main rule is, if you want to stay favorable on your job, eat outside the office.
Advantages of eating outside the office
- To get more health benefits like vitamin D, fresh air and sunlight.
- Eating outside the office increases the general well-being.
- It makes workers to look more positive on their job according to the research commissioned by bread brand Kingsmill
The study shows that the greatest increase in association between happiness and work shown by people who eat lunch outside the office is as follows in descending order:
- At the beach
- At the park
- At the restaurant
- At home
- At public transport
Employees who eat lunch at the work cafe have no significant changes in their level of happiness after lunch. The most important message gained from this research was that eating lunch at a work desk actually makes us less happy.
Maybe it’s time to change our habits and eat lunch outside to gather enough sunlight and fresh air to refocus our mind for a productive afternoon.
4. Eat 7 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
As we already found the best place for a lunch break, another point that we need to remember is that not just where we eat but also what we eat is essential for finding the key to happiness.
The magic number 7
That’s the amount of portions of fruit and vegetables we should get daily to lift the level of our happiness and mental health to the maximum. At least, that’s what the researchers from the University of Warwick found out after studying eating habits of 80,000 people.
What the research shows:
- Mental well-being raises when the amount of daily portions of vegetables and fruits are increased and it peaks at the number of 7.
- It doesn’t matter what kind of vegetables and fruits we choose as long as we consume 7 portions a day of fruits and vegetables, about 80 g each portion.
While there is no surprise healthy food makes us happy, it is mysterious why exactly 7 is the best number. Maybe there’s really some kind of magic involved.
3. Focus on the present and don’t wander around too much
Do you really want to become happier? Just focus on what you are doing at the moment and stop worrying too much about tomorrow or constantly think about past. How simple is that?
Well, unfortunately, it appears to be a hassle since people spend 46.9 % of their time thinking about something other than what they are doing. Many philosophies and religions teach us that happiness is to be found by living in the moment and that the wandering mind is an unhappy mind. So is this true?
Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert surveyed 2,250 adults using a web application for iPhone to answer this question.
Here’s what they found out:
- People were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not.
- Respondents were considerably unhappier when thinking about unpleasant or even neutral topics.
- The surprising part is that people weren’t happier even when thinking about pleasant topics than about their current activity.
Apparently we have developed our ability to think about things that are not happening so well that we have forgotten to evaluate and enjoy the moment we’re living in right now. It’s time to start thinking about this moment again and stop wandering around so much.
2. Express gratitude
This may be one of the easiest and yet the hardest ways to increase our life happiness. Saying “Thank you!” and expressing how much we appreciate things that our friends and family and sometimes, and even a stranger, have done for us may acquire some courage if we aren’t used to saying it out loud.
Effects of gratitude
- Gratitude visit causes great positive increase in the happiness level and decrease in depressive symptoms for one month
- Gratitude journal increases happiness by 25%
- By practicing gratitude, you can have a better quality sleep
Martin E. P. Seligman suggests gratitude visit – an exercise that requires writing and delivering a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had been especially kind to you but had never been properly thanked.
Dr. Robert Emmons found out in his research that the practice of gratitude can increase happiness by 25% and it doesn’t require a hard work – just a few hours of writing a gratitude journal (where you write something you feel grateful for) for over 3 weeks can make an effect that lasts 6 months or even more.
Apart from the scientific proof that expressing gratitude can boost our happiness, wouldn’t it be simply amazing if we would show appreciation and say proper thanks to people that have brought good things in our lives and helped us in the difficult times?
1. Getting older makes you happier
There is some great aspect about getting older – we tend to become happier naturally by aging. While today, there’s no doubt that older people are happier, researchers still have different opinions about the reasons for it.
- According to a research older people tend to focus on and remember the happier moments more and the negative ones less after seeing pictures of different faces or situations .
- Older people have the better ability to deal with negative emotions like anger and anxiety as well as the better acceptance of these emotions according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Since there is nothing we can do to slow down or speed up the aging, we all might just relax and enjoy the ride.
We need to realize that happiness is a choice. That means it is not something we are born with, but it can be achieved. So if we don’t feel fully satisfied with our lives, we need to take action and change it. How? Well, why not start by trying out some of these weird things that make us happier?
What about you? Are you happy and content with your life? And if the answer is not a big, confident YES, are you doing something to get there? I would like to hear your insights about the ways of boosting the happiness.
Anna is a freelance travel writer and photographer who loves to explore lesser known places and capture beautiful moments from a different angle. She is currently keen on finding all the right keys to happy and exciting life. You can read more about her travel adventures on her blog www.balticmuse.com.