There’s an avalanche of practical (and otherwise) information out there these days designed to help you feel happier about how you live your life. We like these hacks we found recently because they’re fun, doable and based on professional research of some kind!
1. Watch This Funny Dog Video
Just do it -- 204,386,258 other people think it’s funny.
2. Hang Out with Friends
“Home is where the heart is,” as the old proverb goes. And so you may guess that people are happiest in the warm embrace of family. After all, these are the people you’ve known the longest, who have surrounded you with love and care since birth -- parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and yes, even your sometimes-annoying siblings. Good times.
But pleasant as it is to spend quality time with the fam, hanging out with your friends is probably a bit more pleasurable. At least that’s what the data suggests, says Dr. George MacKerron, senior lecturer at the University of Sussex. His research interests include wellbeing and behavior, environmental quality, and spatial analysis.
He also invented the Mappiness iPhone app that collates information from thousands of people to find out when, where and why we are at our happiest. The Mappiness app survey of nearly 22,000 participants in the UK found that being with friends offers a slightly greater boost in happiness than being with family. Here’s Dr. MacKerron’s take on the finding:
“We found that being with family members — other than one’s partner — is associated with greater happiness than being alone. And being with one’s partner or good friends is associated with even greater happiness.”
The data also indicate that spending time in natural environments has a more positive effect on people. MacKerron suggests, “spend time with partners, friends and family outdoors and in natural environments, in good weather, and do enjoyable things — particularly physical or cultural activities.”
3. Do Something Nice for Someone
Folks at the Action for Happiness organization remind us that our capacity for living a happy life is not set in stone. Although the genes we’re born with influence about 50% of the variation in our personal happiness, and our circumstances (like income and environment) affect only about 10%, as much as 40% is accounted for by our daily activities and the conscious choices we make.
So our actions really can make a difference.
And the most powerful way to boost your own happiness levels, they say, is to do things for others - whether small, unplanned acts of kindness or regular volunteering. “The people we help may be strangers, family, friends, colleagues or neighbors. They can be old or young, nearby or far away.”
“Giving isn't just about money, so you don't need to be rich. Giving to others can be as simple as a single kind word, smile or a thoughtful gesture. It can include giving time, care, skills, thought or attention. Sometimes these mean as much, if not more, than financial gifts.
“Scientific studies show that helping others boosts happiness. It increases life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduces stress. It can help to take our minds off our own troubles too.”
4. Become a Teaching Assistant
“Oh it’s not just a job, it’s more like a labor of love!” You’ve probably heard that before and wondered what it might be like to work at something you truly enjoy doing AND get paid to do it. Are there really jobs that people eagerly look forward to every morning? Working as a taster at a chocolate factory? Writing jokes for a sitcom?
Indeed there are, but they may surprise you.
CareerBliss recently announced their top 10 Happiest Jobs in America and the number one happiest job in the U.S. is teaching assistant. Runners up were: QA Analyst and .Net Developer.
A teaching assistant is responsible for helping a certified teacher or professor with instructional tasks. They may help to prepare materials for lessons, assist the teacher with projects and lesson plans or be assigned to provide one-on-one support to students on an as-needed basis. The typical salary for a teaching assistant is around $30K annually, or $14 per hour.
Check out current job openings for teaching assistants at CareerBliss.com.
Laugh often and loudly! Besides adding joy and zest to life, laughter provides some very real health benefits. Laughing has been found to boost immunity, lower stress hormones, decrease pain, relax your muscles and prevent heart disease.
In fact, laughter has been used as a therapeutic tool for many years because it is a natural form of medicine.
American journalist Norman Cousins credits laughter with curing his crippling arthritis in his book, “The Anatomy of an Illness.” In it he describes the personal therapeutic benefits of laughter. His strategy? Watching hours of Marx Brothers and Three Stooges comedies, and episodes of “Candid Camera” on TV.
If you can’t spontaneously make yourself laugh and funny old movies aren’t your thing, the folks at HelpGuide have a few practical suggestions, including this simple tip:
“Spend time with fun, playful people. These are people who laugh easily–both at themselves and at life’s absurdities–and who routinely find the humor in everyday events. Their playful point of view and laughter are contagious. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lighthearted, humorous person, you can still seek out people who like to laugh and make others laugh. Every comedian appreciates an audience.”
6. Move to Fremont, California
Fremont, California, claims the title of Happiest City in the United States, according to the 2020 WalletHub study released in 2021. The annual survey compared more than 180 of the largest U.S. cities across 30 key indicators of happiness, focusing on the areas of emotional and physical well-being, income and employment, and community and environment, were evaluated using 30 relevant metrics. It was also rated one of the safest cities in the U.S. in 2020.
What’s the vibe of this mid-sized Northern California city? A Niche.com reviewer reports: “While caught between major urban cities, Fremont retains the vibe of a large but cozy suburban town. With its increasingly diverse population, Fremont brings in cultural aspects from every part of the world, like in the city's architecture and cuisine.”
In the early days of film, more than 350 silent movies were shot in the area. This rich history is showcased at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum, that operates a silent film theater there.
Fremont also boasts its very own ghost, the White Witch of Niles Valley.
Photo: David Ball – Wikimedia Commons
7. Listen to “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Why? Because it’s a Queen masterpiece, an anthem of freedom and crazy good times, sung with every ounce of his being by Freddie Mercury. What more do you need?
Besides, neuroscientist Jacob Jolij declared it the “happiest song in the world” according to the results of a recent survey of 2,000 music lovers.
Sure, his research drew criticism from some grouchy corners the internet. But don’t listen to the haters, just listen to Freddie. You’ll immediately feel happier. Yes, you will.
8. Have a Glass of Wine
I don’t have to remind you that using liquor to feel good and to banish all the bad things in your life is usually a downward-spiraling highway to hell. That said, social imbibing -- getting silly with friends at the bar after work, celebrating a birthday or gathering round the TV to watch the big game – adds zest to life and is one of the perks of being a grownup.
Before you tipple, however, you may want to know how different types of drinks can affect your emotions.
The folks at Alcohol.org recently surveyed over 1,000 people across the U.S. to understand how drinking alcohol makes them feel, from nostalgic or creative to sad or anxious: “While nearly 95 percent (or more) of the men and women we polled said that drinking made them feel happy (not uncommon as a result of the extra endorphins), many also said they felt other less enjoyable emotions as well.
The men who responded said that wine, cocktails, and India pale ales (IPAs) made them happiest when they drank, while women said that cocktails, wine, and vodka left them with the most positive emotions. However, vodka was also listed by both men and women as a drink that made them feel anxious. Whiskey was also frequently associated with negative feelings.
Our take? Quaffing a golden IPA or sipping a good mid-shelf wine (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the two most popular types in the U.S.) will keep the good times rolling and prevent you from curling up in the corner, a scared, sobbing mess.
9. Take a Walk
“Walking helps us remember what it feels like to be fully alive.” That’s the gist of Antonia Malchik’s new book, “A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time.” We need to walk now more than ever she says because with our car-centric culture, and an insatiable thirst for productivity and efficiency, we're spending more time sedentary and alone than we ever have before. And that isn’t good.
Spending time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine, is one of the fastest ways to improve your health and happiness, says Time magazine’s health writer Jaime Ducharme. “It’s been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.”
And meeting up with friends or neighbors while you walk is an easy way reconnect with others and catch up on all the local happenings.
Health experts agree that spending as little as 20 minutes in a walking around the block, in a park, or hiking in the woods is enough to significantly improve well-being.
In Japan, “forest bathing,” a short leisurely walk through a forest or green space, is part of the national public health program, as it has been scientifically proven to be highly beneficial for one’s health.
One reason, apart from the visual beauty and serenity of a walk in the woods, is the therapeutic quality of the air. This is due to various essential oils, generally called phytoncide, which trees emit to protect themselves from germs and insects. Breathing in phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function. Trees soothe the spirit, too.
10. Do a Jigsaw Puzzle
Working on a jigsaw puzzle is hugely satisfying and can truly bring happiness, say the puzzle masters at Ravensburger, the leading jigsaw puzzle manufacturer in Germany. “What is most fascinating is spending quality time on your own, whilst allowing your mind to drift away to another place or another world, all while searching, finding, assembling and ultimately seeing the puzzle scene come together."
This isn’t just a line from the company’s promotional materials. It has been scientifically proven that doing jigsaw puzzles is sure to lift your spirits and make you a happier more confident person.
Psychologist Stephan Lermer, of the Institute for Personality and Communication, has studied the effects of puzzle solving. “By doing puzzles, we achieve the perfect balance. It is where competence meets challenge. It means we have a task that we are capable of doing but are not sure how long we need to complete it and whether we will be successful at it, on the first try. That is the charm of doing a puzzle.”
Dr. Ruth Ray Karpen, of Wayne State University, adds, “Completing a puzzle can strengthen our self-confidence and our feelings of resilience. It might even increase the production of dopamine, which not only enhances feelings of well-being, but also stimulates learning and memory.”
And get this: David Cooper, head of the British Jigsaw Puzzle library, believes that puzzles “can add 10 years to your life because they are so absorbing that you forget your problems.”