7 quick ways to get happy right now
Turn that frown upside down. No, really: research shows it works.
No theory here. No nightly exercises for months. You're feeling sad or angry.
How do you get happy fast?
Sex, exercise, socialize
When researchers survey 5000 people from 83 countries, what do they learn about happiness?
We're happiest when we're having sex, exercising, or socializing.
Using smart phones, Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University collected a large sample of experiences and associated happiness. They also measured "mind wandering." Their database currently contains nearly a quarter million samples from about 5,000 people from 83 different countries who range in age from 18 to 88 and who collectively represent every one of 86 major occupational categories. Their findings confirm what had been found previously: happiness is high during sex, exercise, or socializing, or while the mind is focused on the here and now, and low during commuting or while the mind is wandering." [Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life]
Researchers asked people to do a bunch of different exercises to quickly increase happiness. What was most effective? Smiling.
More than 26,000 people responded. All of the participants were randomly assigned to one of a handful of groups and asked to carry out various exercises designed to make them happier… When it came to increasing happiness, those altering their facial expressions came out on top of the class — powerful evidence that the As If principle can generate emotions outside the laboratory and that such feelings are long-lasting and powerful. [The As If Principle: The Radically New Approach to Changing Your Life]
Research shows comparing yourself to others can make you feel better — but only if you compare yourself to those worse off than you:
"Generally if people compare themselves to those who are worse off, they're going to feel better," continues Bauer, now a research associate at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and a clinical psychologist at Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Associates of Toronto. "When they compare themselves to people who are better off, it can make them feel worse." [Barking up the Wrong Tree]
Do your taxes
Complex cognitive tasks like doing math can alleviate a bad mood:
…recent experimental findings have demonstrated that performing a cognitive task can take the edge off negative emotional responses and help people put things into a more neutral perspective (Morrow & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1990; Van Dillen & Koole, 2007)… The idea is straightforward: stuff your head with numbers, instead of irrational ideas about getting back together with your ex. [Barking up the Wrong Tree]
Take a nap
Studies show we can process negative thoughts quite well when we're exhausted — just not the happy ones. So get your rest.
Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine. In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81 percent of the words with a negative connotation, like "cancer." But they could remember only 31 percent of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like "sunshine" or "basket." [NurtureShock]
So, again, the seven are:
- Downward comparisons
- Do your taxes
(I'm not recommending you try them all at the same time… but if you do, I want to hear about it.)
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