Real talk: You want to be happier, but you don’t want to do anything dramatic, like working out twice a day or making five new friends. Instead, we culled 30 realistic life hacks that’ll have you smiling in no time.
Stop checking Facebook
According to a study from the University of Michigan, the more time millennials spent on Facebook, the more their mood worsened. Sorry, Snapchat super-users, but talking to friends in real life really does make you happier.
Get a massage
Massage therapy dates back to ancient cultures, and it turns out, just being touched makes you happier. If your significant other isn’t the cuddling type, book a massage. Not only can you reap those soothing benefits, but you’ll come out feeling less tense.
Spritz vanilla scents
According to Rachel Herz, a psychologist at Brown University and the author of The Scent of Desire, almost all scent preference is personal—except for vanilla. It’s the most universally liked scent. Why? “There are traces of vanilla in breast milk, so it’s associated with comfort and nourishment,” says Herz.
Write down the things you’re grateful for when you need a reminder. The action of writing it down with pen on paper takes extra thought and makes it more literal.
Eat fruits and veggies
“There is mounting evidence that happiness is influenced by the numbers of fruits and vegetables you eat, so I’m eating more than I used to,” says Andrew Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick in England. “We’re doing more and more research on the connection, and I’ve been struck by how deep the link is. Six, seven, or eight portions a day is good.”
Make time for yourself
If you find yourself saying you’re “too busy” too often, you’re likely prioritizing activities and people—not yourself. It’s good to work hard and nurture relationships, but if it takes scheduling blocks of time in your calendar for alone time, do it. It’s a must.
Tweet in the morning
According to a three-year analysis by the University of Vermont of 4.6 billion tweets, between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. is the happiest time on Twitter. By the end of the day, however, the most negative tweets (and curse words) start popping up.
Be aware of your surroundings
Elizabeth Gilbert, happiness theorist and author of Eat, Pray, Love, stresses the importance of putting yourself in an environment that’s best for you. “I’m a big fan of running away. People say you shouldn’t change deck chairs on the Titanic. But I say take your deck chair and find a safer part of the ship. Ultimately, we’re all going to go down. But try to put yourself in the best place you can be. It might make a difference to leave that shitty job or move to a city where people think the same way you think.”
Manage your “friends”
The more strangers you follow, the more likely you are to compare yourself with others and feel negative about your own life, according to a Pace University survey of millennials. We know there are a bunch (OK, more than a bunch) of celebrities you want to keep up with, but try to balance out the bunch with people you actually know.
Color influences how we feel, so tailor your wardrobe and decor accordingly. According to Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Health and Happiness Boosters by M.J. Ryan, many color therapists say black, violet, and blue can increase depression, while orange is one of the happiest colors as it promotes optimism.
Exercise (even just a little)
Even if you’re not an exercise buff, it’ll make you feel good. In a study, Madhukar Trivedi, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, found that after 12 weeks of regular exercise, 30 percent of those taking medication for depression were no longer depressed. An additional 20 percent showed improvement.
“Buying a cappuccino for a friend makes you happier than buying one for yourself,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. “It changes the way you think about yourself and the way other people interact with you. All these things have longer-lasting happiness effects.”
Elizabeth Gilbert has some pretty epic ideas about life: “You would have to be a real psychopath not to have a shitty day. Or maybe delusional. Gloria Naylor [the author of The Women of Brewster Place] said, ‘I don’t believe that life is supposed to make you feel good, or to make you feel miserable either. Life is just supposed to make you feel.’ That you even get to be here being miserable—there is a miracle in that.”
Make Sunday a DIY spa day
Allure beauty assistant Kathleen Suico elongates her skin-care regimen on Sundays as a part of her weekend relaxation ritual. “I like to exfoliate, slather myself in body butter, and hang out in my onesie,” she says. Yes, please.
If just looking at flowers makes you feel happier, you’re not alone, and science backs it up. Studies show that flowers make us less anxious, less depressed, more compassionate at home, and more enthusiastic at work. If you don’t have a significant other buying you flowers on the regular, treat yourself and arrange your own. If you do, congratulations—you found a winner.
“Music can affect the pleasure center of the brain, the same area activated when you have an orgasm,” says neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, a professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal. So go ahead and blast Drake—sorry/not sorry, neighbors.
Ignore the candy jar
It might give you some instant satisfaction, but it’s all in your head. A study led by Felice N. Jacka, a scientist at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, found that diets consisting of processed foods and sugars increased chances of depression by 52 percent.
Change your perspective
Gilbert clearly has her head on straight, so don’t mind us as we apply every one of her words to our lifestyle. “I consider anything that is a problem of abundance to not be a problem at all. You have too many choices, too many emails, too much work: All of these things are problems of abundance. It doesn’t mean they aren’t things that need to be managed or handled. It means you need to put it in perspective. The only real problems are problems of scarcity—those are the tragedies,” she says.
Paint your nails
Multiple Allure editors say painting their nails settles their mood. Dana Burke, associate social media manager, says it really Zens her out—especially in the middle of a hectic week.
Take a walk
Thirty-minute lunchtime walks improved “enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work,” according to a study that was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and led by Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. If you don’t have a full 30 minutes, try half of that to start. One Allure editor takes walks while she eats her midday apple, for example. It breaks things up, she says.
Stop focusing on money
David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, says, “I know a lot of really rich people who’d say they’ve achieved success but not significance. We’re so busy with the external world that we don’t focus on our own moral improvement. There are all sorts of books for building a good career, but we’re not clear on how to become better people. Most things that produce joy are long commitments.”
Studies show that optimism can decrease stress hormones, so try to think positively. “In many ways, a healthy mind is a self-deceptive one,” writes Shelley E. Taylor, a professor of psychology at UCLA, in her book Positive Illusions.
It’s pretty obvious that sex makes you feel good, but according to a Carnegie Mellon University study, the key to it making you happy is about quality, not quantity. Participants in the study were asked to increase their frequency of sex, and they found it to be less enjoyable due to the routine aspect to it. Spontaneity is important.
Try not to overreact
Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness, says research shows our mind is better at bouncing back from negative experiences than we think it is. “As a rule, we tend to think negative events are going to make us feel really bad for a really long time. But research shows that even the worst events make us feel bad for a relatively short time. We’re very good at finding new ways to think about the world once things don’t go our way,” he says.
Spend time around happy people
This sounds creepy—and it kind of is—but the smell of certain chemicals in happy people’s sweat can make you happy, according to research published in Psychological Science. Energy is infectious, but who knew scent was, too?
Yes, even if it’s semi-fake, the act of smiling makes you happy. In a study led by psychological scientists at the University of Kansas, subjects were forced to position their faces in a smile (without them actually thinking they were smiling—chopsticks were used to hold their cheeks up). In stressful situations, the forced-smile position reduced the body’s stress response. Basically, a fake smile is better than nothing.
“Rumination—whether rehashing things from the past or worrying about the future—worsens and lengthens periods of depression and can make everyday bad moods more intense,” says Susan Nolen-Hoeksena, a professor of psychology at Yale. Find a positive creative outlet and try to stop thinking about the past.
Study after study shows that meditation can help depression, anxiety, and even pain. The tricky part is finding time, but you really don’t have an excuse: Just five minutes can be beneficial. And it doesn’t matter if you can’t get to a yoga studio. Apps like those from Gaiam and Rituals make it easy to complete a guided session using the speaker on your phone.
Grab a sheet mask
The most relaxing step of any skin-care routine is unwrapping a sheet mask, applying one to your face, and putting your feet up. These days, there are easy-to-wear options that don’t slide off when you sit or stand. But really, this is the time to lounge—no chores allowed.
Wear bright lipstick
We’re sure color experts have something to say about this (well, according to slide 10, orange is the way to go), but it doesn’t take a study to know a seriously bright lipstick can turn your mood around.
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