Courtesy of Prevention
Experts say you won’t find true joy in a paycheck or miracle wrinkle-remover. According to happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, of the University of California, Riverside, life circumstances account for only 10% of happiness. Half depends on our genetic “set point,” which is kind of like the weight our body bounces back to after that crash diet. And about 40% of our happiness is influenced by what we do deliberately to make ourselves happy. Next time you need to turn around a hellish day at work or brighten up a draggy afternoon, try one of these proven tips to lift your mood and make you smile.
1. Flip through Old Photos
When you’re feeling down, break out your kids’ baby albums or pics from your favorite vacation. It may actually make you feel happier than a square of Godiva chocolate would! That’s what researchers at the United Kingdom’s Open University found after they examined how much people’s moods rose after eating a chocolate snack, sipping an alcoholic drink, watching TV, listening to music, or looking at personal photos.
The music and chocolate left most people’s moods unchanged; alcohol and TV gave a slight lift (1%), but the winner by a long shot was viewing pictures, which made people feel 11% better. To keep your spirits high at work, upload your favorite pics to your computer and set them as a rotating screensaver. Or splurge on a frame that flips through digital photos; amazon.com has plenty of options at a wide range of prices.
2. Munch on Nuts
For a mood-lifting snack, stash walnuts in your desk drawer. Or sneak salmon into your salad for lunch. They’re both packed with omega-3 fats, which may make people less prone to depression—and easier to get along with, say researchers from the University of Pittsburgh. They measured the blood levels of omega-3 fats (a reliable indicator of consumption) of 106 healthy adults and gave them psychological tests. Those with the highest omega-3 blood levels scored 49 to 58% better on the tests than those with the lowest blood levels.
3. Inhale a Calming Scent
Fill your office with a fragrant candle or diffuser to calm down during a deadline-packed day.
In an Austrian study, researchers wafted the smell of oranges before some participants and lavender before others. The two groups felt less anxious, more positive, and calmer when compared with participants who were exposed no fragrance at all. Add a few drops of either oil to a room diffuser (we like the Scentball, available at amazon.com) and use in your office on stressful days.
4. Open Your Shades
To feel happier in seconds, let the sunlight stream in when you first wake up.
One study of more than 450 women found that those who got the most light, particularly in the morning, reported better moods and sleep. Got more time? Eat breakfast near a window that gets plenty of daylight, and put exercise equipment near a bright view. Some researchers speculate that combining exercise with morning light exposure may amplify light’s beneficial effects on mood, sleep, and alertness, says Anthony Levitt, MD, a University of Toronto light researcher.
5. Walk around the Block
If you work in a windowless office, make sure you step out to see the sun a few times throughout the day.
“A couple of studies show that people who get more light exposure during the day have fewer sleep problems and less depression, and evidence suggests that light can keep you alert and productive,” says Daniel Kripke, MD, a University of California, San Diego, light and sleep expert.
If you have more time, a longer bout of exercise may also spark a smile. “Lots of people skip working out when their moods aren’t ideal because they don’t have the mental energy to switch gears,” says mental health and exercise expert Jack Raglin, PhD, of Indiana University. “But the trick lies in finding the right workout to match the mood you’re in.” When you’re battling blues, try something low-key and mindless. “Studies have shown that even mild exercise—about 40% of your max heart rate—can lift your mood,” says Raglin. “So if you’re not up for the usual high-energy stuff, do some leisure activity you enjoy, such as digging in your garden or walking in a park. View it as mental recreation, not exercise.”
If you’re angry, pick something that makes you focus. “As tempting as it may be, skip the kickboxing,” Raglin advises. “You can’t punch away anger. Instead, do something that involves your mind and keeps you from focusing and ruminating on what has you angry. Play racquetball, or take an aerobics class you’ve never tried. Learning new moves will free your mind from what’s upsetting you.”
6. Clear Away Clutter
Disorganized heaps of paper in your cube or on the kitchen counter can make you anxious.
For some, “clutter is a reminder of things that should be getting done but aren’t,” says Elaine Aron, PhD, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. “It can make you feel like a failure.” For a quick fix, straighten up a few surfaces in your office or in the areas of the house where you spend the most time. “It’s when every bit of space is messy that it’s most disturbing,” says Aron. Don’t bother to organize unless you have a chunk of time. Instead, arrange papers, books, and other detritus of daily living in neat piles or store them in baskets. “Just the illusion of order is enough to ease the mind,” she says.
7. Think Fast
Turn your thoughts into a race—it can lift the blues in minutes, says Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin, PhD. For example, when your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, give yourself 30 seconds to make a list of all the ways she’s been helpful to you in the past—you’ll feel better fast. (If nothing nice comes to mind, quickly jot down other ways she bugs you; speed thinking negative thoughts can still improve your mood, Pronin found.) Researchers believe that rapid thinking may release feel-good brain chemicals—or it could just be a helpful distraction.
For 7 more tips that will lift your mood check out the rest of the article on Prevention.com
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