Whether seasonal sadness has you feeling less than happy or you've just had one hell of a wild year (this is basically all of us), we can surely use all the joy and happiness-boosting tips, tricks, and strategies we can get. There is no such thing as feeling too good, after all. So add these seven small and easy ways to improve joy and happiness that we learned from science and experts on the subject to your toolkit for 2022 and beyond.
1. Go to the beach
Regardless of the season, a trip to the beach may be the happiness boost you're craving. There's a science-backed reason (three, really) why the beach is many people's happy place. It can help you reconnect and recharge, embrace a vacation mindset, and provide a mental reset needed to deal with life's tough situations. Not a beach person? No worries. "Being in nature or anywhere outside where there is fresh air will always bring benefits for a person's well-being," clinical psychologist Aura Priscel De Los Santos previously told Well+Good.
- Andrea Bonior, PhD, a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and professor focused on the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression
- Aura Priscel, educational psychologist and member of the National Coalition on Healthcare
- Bethany C. Meyers, founder and CEO of The Become Project
- Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist, life fulfillment expert, and author of Date Smart, Joy From Fear, and Aging Joyfully
- Laurie Santos, PhD, cognitive scientist and professor of psychology at Yale University.
- Michelle Wax, dating coach
2. Start your day with introspection
The way you start your morning can help set the tone for the day. So, to ensure you start each day on a positive note, Michelle Wax, a happiness coach and founder of the American Happiness Project, recommends asking yourself these key questions each morning: What can I look forward to today? What has the potential to stress/worry me today, and how will I choose to respond to it? And, how do I want to feel at the end of the day, and what do I need to do (or not do) to make that a reality?
3. Implement a bedtime ritual
Similarly, having a solid bedtime routine that makes you feel good can help you end your day on a high note and lead to a better night's rest. So what does an ideal mood-boosting nighttime routine entail? Happiness experts recommend setting a strict bedtime, journaling, expressing gratitude, getting ready for bed well before bedtime, shutting down all electronic devices, visualizing what you want the next day to look like, going for a walk, or connecting with your partner (if you have one). The key, Laurie Santos, PhD, a happiness expert and professor of psychology at Yale University, says is to keep your routine short and sweet, so you're more likely to stick to it long-term.
4. Plan your next vacation
Traveling can be a big source of joy and happiness for many. While your day-to-day duties may not allow you to hop on a plane and travel the globe every week, simply planning for your next vacay can elevate your mood. It's called vacation anticipation. "The mere idea of getting away can bring a sense of immediate happiness," Carla Marie Manly, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Joy from Fear, previously told Well+Good. "In essence, the simple act of imagining a future positive event can induce a sense of joy and well-being."
To reap the rewards of vacation anticipation even more, experts recommend making a list of the benefits you'll gain from travel (i.e., more joy, giving your daily routine a shakeup, experiencing a new culture). Then, ask yourself other ways you can satisfy those core desires in your daily life. For instance, trying a new restaurant can be a way you experience a new culture—no travel required.
5. Build your happiness-boosting product arsenal
While material things won't necessarily buy us happiness, certain well-being resources and tools can help cultivate more joy in our lives. In particular, happiness experts swear by journals for self-reflection, fitness accessories that encourage you to move your body (think treadmill or weighted jump rope), and a light-therapy lamp for daily mental health boosts.
6. Get clear on what happiness means for you
Happiness is subjective. One person's definition of happiness may be wildly different from someone else's, which is why it's important to understand what happiness means and looks like for you specifically. To help with this, psychologist and Detox Your Thoughts author Andrea Bonior, PhD, shared five key questions to ask yourself: What would you do with a totally free day? How would you like your life to be summed up someday? What are you most willing to put effort into? What activities put you in "flow?" And what faces do you see when you hear the word love?
7. Do things that produce feel-good hormones
The feel-good hormones dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins send positive, happiness-boosting signals to the brain. So, by doing activities that naturally produce them, we can essentially give ourselves a dose of joy. Pretty cool, right? Here are some happiness expert-recommended activities to keep in your back pocket when you need a boost: singing in the shower (dopamine), self-massage (oxytocin, aka the cuddle hormone), fake smiling (serotonin), and dancing (endorphins).
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