Sometimes, the going gets rough. And while self-help books and articles are everywhere, most advice aims for long-term results, which means a longer road to gratification.
But, when you’re having a bad day and things just aren’t going your way, it’s hard to feel validated in doing things that will only pay off later.
Humans are constantly seeking validation and positive encouragement. Even if you don’t think you’re the type, your brain is just wired that way. But that’s not a limitation. In fact, there are many ways you can make your brain work for you to actually make you happier right now.
So if today is not going your way, or you just need a little pick-me-up, here are five small and simple things you can do right now that are guaranteed to make you happier:
1. Pick one thing to look forward to every day.
And reward yourself with it. Whether it is a scoop of your favorite ice cream, watching a new episode of a good TV show or taking an extra-long shower, find something you can look forward to all day long.
The human brain likes immediate gratification, so finding one small aspect of your day you enjoy and can anticipate is guaranteed to make you feel a little happier.
2. Enjoy physical pleasures.
Food, sex, exercise, a hot shower – whatever it is, stop and enjoy the physical pleasures of your day.
When we are stressed or overwhelmed, it is easy to live in our heads and be constantly thinking of the next meeting or assignment we have to get done.
Practice being mindful, and whenever you do something physical, pause and take stock of how it is making you feel, literally. Paying close attention to your body is a great way to make sure your body and mind are in sync.
When all the parts of a machine are working together, it will function more efficiently.
Whether exercise is a part of your daily routine, or you don’t even own a pair of sneakers, one of the absolute best and surefire ways to boost your mood is to get moving.
When you exercise, your body produces endorphins, or “happy chemicals,” as I like to call them. These endorphins reduce feelings of pain and stress, and help you to relax.
So even if you only have five minutes, do some jumping jacks or run around the block. No matter how hard you try, your body will not allow you to feel unhappy once your blood is pumping.
4. Get outside.
Sunshine is your friend.
When your skin soaks up the sun’s powerful rays, it produces vitamin D, which is scientifically proven to promote healthy bones, low blood pressure and maintain high levels of serotonin.
If you live in a place where sun isn’t so easy to come by on a daily basis, try investing in a "happy light." It simulates the sun’s UV rays and causes the same chemical processes to occur in your body. More sun means more vitamin D, which means more serotonin and more happiness.
Pro-tip: Combine numbers four and five, and exercise outside.
5. Do something for someone else.
You know that feeling you get when you’ve gotten your friend the perfect gift? Or when you stop and help an elderly woman into her car at the grocery store?
Well, there is a reason you feel good when you do nice things for other people. A scientific study conducted at the University of Louisville wanted to test if seeking pleasure or doing good for others ultimately led to higher rates of happiness, and — surprise, surprise -- doing good for others was the unequivocal winner in reported happier outcomes.
The results of the study were deemed “enormously optimistic,” even by the most cynical scientists out there. And guess what? Optimists live longer, too.
So take a moment out of your day and do something for someone else. It can be a phone call to an old friend, a couple bucks to the homeless man on the street corner or simply holding the door and offering a smile.
You will be a happier person because of it.
Last but not least, remember that happiness is a choice. You have a lot more control over how you feel than you might think. Get your brain and your body working on your side, and you're well on your way down the road to happiness.