5 Ways To Be Happier – Backed By Science

Practice Gratitude

This is a seemingly simple strategy but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the three studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period. Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Shorten your commute

Do you have a long commute? Even if you have extra space, you might want to reconsider your living situation. As shown in this Slate article, a plethora of studies show that a long commute has adverse effects on your health and happiness. One Swedish study found that married couples where one partner commuted for 90 minutes or more were 40% likely to divorce. Another found that for every extra hour of commuting time, you’d need to earn 40% more to make it worthwhile. If you’re in the market for a new place, remember to give your commute time to work adequate consideration. Travel over 90 minutes one way? See if you can work a day from home on occasion.


In today’s technology-filled world, people spend more time than ever on their gadgets. Research presented by academics from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden showed that people who are fiddling with electronic devices all the time are more likely to suffer from physical and mental problems such as stress, depression, and sleeping issues. It wasn’t just looking at the screens which caused the problems—stress was often the product of being constantly available. People reported feeling guilty because they felt like it was their responsibility to reply to texts and answer calls right away. The solution? Switch off every day. It’s important to find a way to deliberately disconnect from a life constantly connected via technology, whether it’s taking a ten minutes to stand up and stretch or choosing times where you don’t look at a screen. Cooking and eating a meal is often a good time to unplug. Taking time away from social media, responding immediately to texts, and answering emails can bring about big changes for your health. Some of the positive things that come from unplugging include improved sleep patterns, better productivity, and higher self-esteem.


Smiling can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. (You’ve seen fake smiles that don’t reach the person’s eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There’s a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.)

According to PsyBlog, smiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attention flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attention tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).


Although meditation has been around for eons, it’s not well-established in Western cultures. Early Western scientific studies on meditation showed how it could be a treatment for physical issues like migraine headaches and even diabetes. These studies started to see another positive outcome to meditation—focused meditation was reducing negative emotions. Everyone has a “set point” for their emotions, from which we move up or down to experience positive or negative feelings. This starting line can be changed with long-term meditative practice, starting after only two months of meditation. Meditation also makes people kinder and improves immune system responses.


Exercise has long been linked to a happier disposition and medical experts extoll the health benefits of regular workouts. That heaping dose of endorphins gives you an immediate boost following a good workout, but what about long-term happiness? Can regular exercise make you happy beyond the initial rush?

In early 2013, Canadian scientists found that people who were less physically active were twice as unlikely to be happy compared to those who were continuously active. Similarly, Penn State University researchers found that people who were more physically active felt higher levels of enjoyment than those who were more sedentary. There is even a growing body of scientific evidence that exercise may be more effective than antidepressants in treating depressed patients. It can even give us a marijuana-like high, thanks to chemicals called endocannabinoids that our brains produce when we work up a sweat. These chemicals reduce pain, stress, and anxiety. Next time you need to feel really good, reach for your running shoes and breathe in a runner’s high.


5 Ways To Be Happier – Backed By Science Reviewed by Rid on 8:54:00 PM Rating: 5

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