Here are 5 tricks to help boost your happiness:
1. Don’t dwell. Rumination—whether rehashing things from the past or worrying about the future—worsens and lengthens periods of depression and can make everyday bad moods more intense. Break the bad mood cycle by doing something constructive: Go for a run, get a manicure, play with your kids—and really get into whatever you’re doing.
2. Act the part. “If you want to be happy, practice compassion,” preaches the Dalai Lama.
3. Get healthy. Exercise that is rhythmic, repetitive, noncompetitive, and involves diaphragmatic breathing (from your belly) yields the biggest mental payoff. Yoga has the additional benefit of increasing levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter associated with happy, calm feelings) and lowering levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.
And it turns out that one of the best oral antidepressants doesn’t require a prescription: eat monosaturated fats (like avocado, olive oil, and nuts) and oily, cold-water fish (like salmon) three times a week (or take a fish-oil supplement, otherwise known as Omega-3 Fatty Acids). Almost everyone in our society is deficient in fish oil, which has powerful effects on brain function and mood.
4. Buy flowers and play music. Studies show that flowers make us less anxious, less depressed, more compassionate at home, and more enthusiastic at work. “Music can affect the pleasure centre of the brain, the same area activated when you have an orgasm!
5. Be optimistic. Scientists who study positive psychology believe that a little delusion—ie. actually doing a little magical thinking—can actually go a long way toward making us happier, healthier, and far more successful. Studies have also shown that optimism can reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, improve immune function, and maybe even lengthen your life.