Happiness can often feel like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – you think you know what will make you happy, but once you get there it’s replaced by something else you need to buy, or do, or achieve. So how can we start to feel happier and gain more pleasure and enjoyment from our day-to-day lives? Here are 12 things you can do to boost your mood and feel more content.
1) Stop comparing yourself to others
Ever been quite happy with your life but then seen someone’s social media post and suddenly felt inadequate? Comparing yourself to others can create feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction, and a sense of not being good enough. Limit the amount of time you spend scrolling through social media posts and remind yourself that for every “perfect” image there’s hundreds of unfiltered ones that people haven’t made public.
2) Keep a gratitude journal
Write down three things you are grateful for each day. By focusing on the things you’re lucky to have in your life, instead of the things you don’t have, you can boost mood, optimism and overall satisfaction with your life.
3) Focus on the present
Focusing on the present improves mood by decreasing the amount of time you spend ruminating on the past or feeling anxious about the future. Apps such as Calm and HeadSpace can help you with mindfulness practice, where you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and the world around you in the present moment.
4) Spend time outdoors
Studies have found that being in nature can help to boost your mood by lowering cortisol (the stress hormone), and reducing hypertension (high blood pressure) and levels of anxiety. Those with a stronger connection to nature experience higher life satisfaction and levels of happiness.[i]
5) Set realistic goals
Setting unachievable goals creates a sense of dissatisfaction and feelings of failure. By setting realistic goals, you increase positivity. And the reward and satisfaction that comes from achieving these goals results in greater personal happiness.
6) Care for others
Volunteering, and spending time and/or money on others has been shown to boost happiness. And acts of kindness have the added bonus of bringing joy to both you and the recipient.
7) Spend time with family and friends
Strong social connections can have an influential impact on your mood. Spending time with people you care about, and who care about you, creates a sense of security and acceptance, and boosts levels of happiness.
Focusing on grudges and resentments generates negative emotions and leaves less time and space for happiness. By forgiving, you can free yourself and concentrate on more positive emotions.
Unsurprisingly, smiling and laughing boosts your mood. So put on a funny film, watch some comedy YouTube clips, or get someone to tell you silly jokes.
10) Do some exercise
Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and improve feelings of depression and anxiety. In fact, a study by the University of Vermont[ii] has shown that twenty minutes of exercise can boost your mood for up to 12 hours. It gives you a ‘feel good’ buzz and improves self-esteem and happiness levels.
11) Allow yourself to feel unhappy
It’s not possible to be happy all the time. But feeling sad isn’t necessarily negative[iii] - and it’s certainly not a sign of weakness or failure. After all, we wouldn’t know what happiness was unless we had an opposite emotion to compare it to. Instead of ignoring or avoiding negative emotions, try writing down how you’re feeling. This can help you to understand and accept them, and work out how to move forward in a way that will make you happy.
12) Ask for help
Sometimes, no matter what you do, life is overwhelming and it can feel difficult to cope. If you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or stress, the thought of feeling happy can seem too distant to ever be a reality. If this sounds familiar, the first step to improving this is to talk to someone and get support. This could be a friend or family member, a work colleague, your GP, a therapist or a support group. Talking about how you’re feeling and asking for help can give a sense of relief and is an important step towards improving your mental and emotional wellbeing.
[i] PLOS One (2016), 30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being, Available: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0149777
[ii] University of Vermont Scholar Works (2013), The Effects of Mindful Movement and Exercise on Depression, Available: http://scholarworks.uvm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=studentgen
[iii] BBC News (2017), Anger and hatred can make us feel happy, Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40900811