“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
- Abraham Lincoln
Exercise = Endorphins. Endorphins = Happiness.
Have you ever been incredibly frustrated by how happy fit people tend to be? Spent some time in the gym glowering at those who smile sunnily at you while sweat drips of your brow, and you feel like you’re going to collapse from the exertion of it all? There’s a reason for these smiley cheery people — science has proven that sustained and consistent exercise or physical activity has a significant impact on a person’s mental state. Physical activity releases endorphins (eventually), and endorphins make individuals happy. It’s quite simple really!
Keep a journal. At the end of every day, write down 3 things you are grateful for in that day. Take a Gratitude Challenge. Actively remind yourself that there are many things in your life for which you are lucky, for which you should be grateful. When you prime yourself to be grateful, and start examining each day and event through the lens of gratitude, you will surprise yourself with how much more content and happy you feel at the day’s close. (I personally highly recommend a gratitude journal, or journaling in general!)
Helping Others (VOLUNTEER!)
Martin Seligman, a Professor at University of Pennsylvania, articulaes why helping others helps us feel happy: “…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.”
A number of various studies and experiments have effectively demonstrated that any act of kindness, any unselfish deed has a much greater impact on the doer than the receiver, and the effects of the same usually outlast a selfish indulgence. Honestly, probably the only thing more gratifying than working to help someone else, is eating a bar of chocolate. Only helping other people is calorie-free, and when done in a sustained manner the impact is multifold and the happiness generated is manifold.
Fake It Till You Feel It
Sometimes, it’s easiest to convince your body to feel a certain way. If you’re feeling down and you force yourself to smile you don’t even realize when you’re actually feeling better. Laughter therapy is a thing for a reason — it is widely believed that there is “embodied cognition” which basically means that you several aspects of the cognition (and emotions) are shaped by parts of the body beyond just the brain. The next time you’re struggling, force a smile, wait a while, and things will naturally seem brighter and better!