You’ve heard countless times that getting rich won’t actually make you happy, but what will? Scientists have spent thousands upon thousands of hours studying this question from many different angles and they’ve actually discovered a number of things you can do to actively increase your happiness. Most will only give you a temporary boost unless you make them regular habits but developing even one of these habits can significantly improve your mental health.
Check out these 10 ways to improve your happiness:
1. Get into a green space
Connecting with nature even briefly can help reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and living near a park has been shown to increase happiness. If you can find a few minutes a day to walk through a small park or another green space you’ll gradually notice yourself growing more content with the world.
2. Get a new hobby
Learning new skills is one of the best ways to boost your self confidence and happiness. Choose something that plays to your strengths but still provides a challenge to get the biggest benefit. Bonus points if you bring your partner or a friend—learning something together is one of the best ways to bond.
3. Add exercise to your routine
Exercise releases endorphins, brain chemicals that fill you with euphoria. It also helps your body produce antibodies which keep you happy by keeping you healthy. Getting half an hour or more of exercise during the day also helps you sleep better at night, which brings us to the next point:
4. Improve your sleep habits
Sleep deprivation has a negative impact on every aspect of our lives. It causes us to overeat in an attempt to make up for the energy we’re missing, lowers our levels of optimism and can damage our performance at work. Sleep deprivation also lowers the amount of will power we have available during the day. All of these things can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves and the world in general.
There is some variation in how much sleep each individual needs but if you’re not getting at least 7 hours you are not getting enough!
5. Spend more time with your friends
If there’s one thing that will really provide long term happiness it is strong friendships. When seniors are asked about their biggest regrets most will say the thing they regret most is failing to spend more time with their family and friends. You are a social being and spending time with your friends will help you become happier.
6. Eat healthy
Most people have no idea how much the food they eat impacts their mental health. Essential nutrients aren’t only essential for your muscles—they’re essential for everything, including happiness. Eat more fruits and vegetables, skip dessert and drink more water. Your body and brain will thank you.
7. Stop the self criticism
Berating yourself when you make a mistake is the absolute worst thing you can do. You might believe all the nasty things you say to yourself are inspiration to do better next time but all they’re doing is bringing you down. Approach your mistakes as learning opportunities and remember that everyone, even the smartest people on the planet, makes mistakes sometimes. Counter every negative thought about yourself with a positive one. Slowly you will start to believe in yourself, becoming more confident and happy.
8. Write out your woes
For many people the simple act of writing about what is weighing them down is a wonderfully cathartic act, helping them understand the issues and work through them. You can take it one step further and throw out or burn the written memories—research has shown that physically releasing your memories can improve your mental health.
9. Get some flowers
Looking at flowers in the morning may actually lead to increased happiness, according to one Harvard research study. Flowers and even green leafy office plants can also boost your mood throughout your day at work.
10. Learn forgiveness
This one is probably the hardest on the entire life and might even take your entire life but it is well worth it. Forgiving those who hurt you helps you let go of unpleasant memories, one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your happiness.
Happiness isn’t something that comes magically with a winning lottery ticket. It’s something you work towards every day, starting with the steps on this list.