By Elizabeth Foley
Like exercise, happiness is a practice. If you want stronger muscles, you have to constantly practice weight training. Consistency is the key to seeing results. The same is true when it comes to becoming happier. There are a number of scientifically backed activities that are proven to increase happiness. The more often you engage in activities that boost happiness, the better you will feel. Here are five activities that you can do daily to boost happiness.
Go for a walk, take a yoga class, play tennis, and get your body moving. Physical activity decreases stress and can reduce stress-induced brain fog. According to research, physical activity improves happiness due to a positive influence on biological processes including decreased inflammation and metabolic pathway support (1). Physical activity also leads to the release of endorphins that can improve mood and well-being.
Acknowledging the goodness in life is fundamental to the practice of gratitude. Experiencing gratitude activates the release of oxytocin and dopamine which are often referred to as happy hormones. In one study, participants with baseline depressive symptoms kept a journal for two weeks as they completed a variety of gratitude exercises. Results revealed a decrease in depressive symptoms and an increase in positive emotions (2). Taking time each day to remember the things you are grateful for will have a major impact on your happiness.
The benefits of learning include increased self-esteem, confidence, and creativity. There are a variety of ways to and cultivate happiness in your daily life. For instance, you can read, listen to a podcast, take a class, or meditate. Research indicates that daily activity coincides with higher levels of momentary happiness. One longitudinal study that followed older individuals found that those who were working experienced more happiness during relaxing activities on the weekend; while non-working individuals experienced more happiness during administrative activities (3). Researchers concluded that despite the short-term increase in stress due to working or improving a skill, the long-term benefit of learning through daily activity makes people feel happier and more content.
It comes as no surprise that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on mood. When you do not get enough sleep, your mental health suffers. In fact, research finds that quality of sleep is a predictor of life satisfaction since sleep deprivation strains the immune system leading to an increased risk of disease, depression and obesity (4). It is generally agreed that around eight hours of quality sleep are needed a night. Taking steps to improve sleep will have a positive impact on your overall mood and happiness.
Humans are social creatures, so loneliness has a negative effect on health and happiness. Interestingly, our relationship to social media also plays a role in our wellbeing. According to research, there is a negative relationship between social media addiction and happiness due to an increase in social anxiety (5). Those who unplug from social media often are typically happier than those who engage regularly according to the World Happiness Report. Healthy socialization involves forming meaningful connections with friends, family and community. Unplug from social media while spending quality time with the people in your life and you will see a major improvement in happiness.
What do all of these activities have in common? Each happiness activity on this list is a form of self-care. Happiness is a welcome side effect when we care for ourselves. Making self-care an essential part of your daily routine helps balance life's demands. Learn more about living a healthy lifestyle at Health By Principle.