Happiness is a state of mind—a feeling that everyone chases—but some of us never quite reach it. It is the underlying sense of contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction that truly makes life worth living. The good news is that everyone has the opportunity to be happy—we just need to dive beneath our complex layers of thoughts and emotions. But that’s easier said than done.
Don’t worry, though! Science is here to help. In this blog, we will look at nine ways that are backed by science and can help you tap into your inner bliss and become happy.
1. Practice Smiling
“Life is like a mirror, smile at it and it smiles back at you.”
When you feel down in the dumps and need a quick pick-me-up, turning that frown upside down can help. As corny as it sounds, smiling can trick your brain into believing that you are happy, which can then spur actual feelings of joy.
Science has shown that the mere act of smiling enables a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing certain hormones, including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which can all help lower stress and elevate your mood. It doesn’t end there—smiling can also make you healthier.
Frequent, unabashed smiling has been shown to support the immune system, lower blood pressure, and may even reduce the risk of chronic illnesses.
The good news is that the brain does not bother to sort out whether you are grinning from ear to ear because you are genuinely joyous or just putting on a false front. So, even if you have no reason to smile, fake it. Pretending a smile is not always the easiest thing to do, but if you can take it upon yourself to crack a smile, you will, in turn, begin to feel positive and happy.
2. Meditate to Rewire Your Brain
Meditation is purported to be the “holy grail” of inner peace and calmness, but is it really?
As it turns out, it is.
Scientific evidence points to the fact that mindfulness-based meditation, where you focus on your breath, can have a transformative effect on your mental well-being. Meditation can actually “rewire” your brain so that the neural pathways that are responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress are weakened. Therefore, you can feel more relaxed and experience more happiness in the little things that happen in your life. Meditation has also been linked to greater mental clarity and an improved immune system among other benefits.
The best part? You can easily incorporate mindfulness-based meditation into your frantic life. The only equipment needed is a quiet place where you can sit and focus on your breathing for a couple of uninterrupted minutes.
3. Sleep More
We all know that there is a huge mental cost of not getting enough sleep. How many times have you felt super exhausted and fuzzy-headed at work because you were burning the midnight oil? Did you know that sleeping more can not only make you feel less exhausted and cranky, but it can also actually make you feel happier?
Science has shown that people who get about 7–9 hours of sleep each night are much more likely to experience “repetitive positive thoughts” than those who sleep less. In other words, more sleep = a happier frame of mind. When you get enough sleep, you don’t have to drag yourself out of bed; instead, you can wake up feeling refreshed and hopeful—ready to take on the world. A night of good sleep can also maximize your brainpower for the next day and help you bring your A-game to all of your tasks.
4. Help Others
There is a saying by Saint Francis of Assisi that goes: “For it is in giving that we receive.” We couldn’t agree more. Helping others gives you a sense of meaning and purpose, and when you have a purpose-driven life, you are automatically a happier person.
Science also agrees.
There is enough data to support the anecdotal evidence that helping others is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness.
Believe it or not, helping others (whether through small, unplanned acts or regular volunteering) triggers the same parts of the brain stimulated by food and sex. This is a state of mind referred to as “Helper’s High.” So, if you want to feel good, do good.
You know that feeling you get when you’ve just finished a workout and you feel on top of the world? Sometimes, even when you’re not motivated to exercise; the promise of that euphoric sense is enough to motivate you to break some sweat. You might call that feeling an exercise-induced “endorphin rush”—which is not entirely untrue, but it turns out that exercise makes you happier in many different ways than just pumping “feel-good” chemicals through your body.
Exercising actually has an effect on your brain that is similar to meditation. It can lower stress levels, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and help relieve anxiety and depression.
What’s more, working out can also make you feel more confident. And when it comes to feeling happier and empowered in life, having confidence is key.
So, if you want to be a happy and healthy person, engage in some form of recreational exercise—run, walk, bike, swim, or whatever activity you enjoy most—for at least 15 minutes a day. A 15-minute workout is something we should all be able to fit into our schedules, right?
6. Plan a Trip
When we imagine the most blissful part of our vacations, we picture ourselves taking in the gorgeous views of the Monti Lattari valleys from the town of Amalfi or catching the beautiful sunsets of Hawaii, sipping a Mai Tai at a barefoot bar. But you might be surprised to know that the happiest part of your vacation actually happens before you even step foot in your destination.
Science suggests that planning for your next vacation could benefit your mental health and make you happier. All of the tasks that come alongside planning—like deciding where to stay, what to do, what to eat, and how to get from A to B—work to build anticipation and expectation for good times ahead. This, in turn, raises your level of happiness.
7. Practice Gratitude
While others are adding up their troubles, the secret to happiness is as simple as counting your blessings. Buddhists have proclaimed it for years, but now science has also caught up to the fact that people who express gratitude and show appreciation for what they have are more satisfied than others in their lives.
In this day and age, practicing gratitude can be a hard habit to follow, but it works. If you celebrate what you have and focus on what’s going well instead of dwelling on the negatives, you ultimately become fully present and enjoy every moment. So, what are you grateful for today?
8. Spend Time with Family and Friends
Even for the introverts who are reading this, social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our moods. Several studies have found that spending time with family and friends—whether that includes fun banter, sharing crazy stories that make everyone laugh, or just having a meal together—can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Your friends and family can be your “stress buffer” so to speak, and they can certainly help you cope with negative thoughts. The emotional support that is provided by social ties can also give you a sense of meaning in life and enhances your mental well-being.
When you think about it, your personal relationships are the only thing that really matters in your life. Isn’t that right? So, take some time out of your busy life and try to stay connected to the people that matter most.
9. Go Outside
Perhaps one of the simplest things to do to encourage happiness is walking outside and spending some time in the fresh air. Making time to go outside and interact with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can enhance your mental health and positivity, and lower feelings of stress and depression. Being outside can also improve memory, concentration, and creativity.
The best part is that you can fit a couple of minutes into your commute or even your lunch break and spend time outside.
The Last Word
Whether you have a stressful job, a struggling career, a failing relationship, or a to-do list that just won’t quit, if you approach your problems with a positive attitude, things tend to turn out OK. With these nine tips, you can surely do your best to be happy.
Quotes about happiness
Happiness is a direction, not a place.
— Sydney J. Harris
The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet.
– James Oppenheim
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
– Marcus Aurelius