8 Hacks For A Happier Life

Susannah Hickling 10 March 2022

Here are a selection of scientifically proven but simple ways to cultivate contentment

Help other people

Whether lending a hand or offering a handout, giving to others has been found to make you feel better. A study from the University of British Columbia found that people who spent money on gifts for others
or gave to charity reported being happier than people who spent cash on themselves.

Volunteering can make you feel good too, according to a number of studies. And there’s a big bonus: giving your time to help others is also associated with better health.

Pet a dog

Research has shown that feelgood brain chemicals like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin increase when you stroke a dog, and that levels of the stress hormone cortisol reduce.

Walking a dog also boosts the feel-good factor, with a study from the University of Liverpool finding that owners who promenade their pooch get a lift from knowing their dog enjoys it.

Listen to music

Upbeat music can have a positive effect on our wellbeing, according to research from the University of Missouri, especially if you actively try to be happier when you’re listening.

Psychologists from Goldsmiths, University of London also found that people who listened to positive music judged a grey square to look brighter than it actually was.

Watch a sad film

You might need to listen to cheerful music to improve your frame of mind, but it’s not the same when it comes to movies, according to academics at Ohio State University.

Watching a tragic film appeared to make viewers reflect on their own relationships and realise how much better off they were than the characters in the movie.

Keep a gratitude diary

Californian researchers found that counting your blessings really does benefit you emotionally.

Simply jot down the little things you’re grateful for, whether that’s a nice cup of tea, spotting a pretty bird in the garden or a phone call from a friend.

Meditate

Mindfulness meditation which focuses on experiencing the here and now has been shown to increase feelings of contentment.

What’s more, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in the US looked at brain scans of 16 people who took part in an eightweek mindfulness meditation course and found changes in the brain that indicated less stress and heightened self-awareness and compassion.

Go outdoors

Numerous studies have found being outside is an effective pick-me-up. If it’s a green space, even if it’s just your local park, that’s better still.

But best of all, according a University of Sussex and LSE study, is a visit to the coast. Researchers asked people to log their happiness levels on a “Mappiness” app and being by the sea on a warm weekend day came out top.

Plan a trip

You don’t have to be lying on a Spanish beach to feel good vibes—just planning and anticipating a holiday is enough, a Dutch study found. The author suggested two shorter breaks in a year were better than one big holiday to stay positive.

Read more: The health benefits of freshwater sources

Read more: Why nature is so healing

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