We all have moments (hell, days) when we’re not feeling even close to the top of the pile. Sure, ice-cream suffices for a while, especially one with cookie dough rippled through, but if you’re looking for a deeper, more sustainable happiness, there are some ways to achieve it. We’re not suggesting it’s possible to be happy all day, every day, but trying a few of these tricks will certainly boost your happiness at any given moment.
Achieve something within your control
One of our favourite thinkers, author of The Four-Hour Work Week Tim Ferriss, explains exactly why you need an outlet other than your job.
“If your entire ego and identity is vested in your start-up, where there are certainly factors outside of your control, you can get into a depressive funk that affects your ability to function,” he says. “So, you should also, let’s say, join a rock climbing gym. Try to improve your time in the mile. Something like that. I recommend at least one physical activity. Then even if everything goes south [work wise]… if you had a good week and set a personal record in the gym or on the track or wherever, that can still be a good week.”
Do something for someone else
Giving back through volunteering or a random act of kindness is truth to the idea that you get what you give, but in this sense, is somewhat magnified: consistent studies prove that doing something for other people makes us happier as a result, even more so than if we did something nice for ourselves. Giving, as opposed to receiving, ignites areas of our brain associated with pleasure.
Consistent studies prove that doing something for other people makes us happier as a result, even more so than if we did something nice for ourselves.
“The benefits of giving back are definitely biological,” Stephen G. Post, bioethicist and co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People, says. “Contemporary neuroscience has confirmed the connection between the physiological and psychological. We know now that the stress response, hormones, and even the immune system are impacted by, and impact, the pathways in the brain.”
Did you know that the act of ‘shinrin-yoku’, which in Japanese means “to take in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathe” is a scientifically proven method of therapy? That little boost you get from heading out into nature is a real thing. And it’s not just the wandering in nature that improves our wellbeing, it’s the actual everyday interaction with it: from the Danderyd Hospital Rehabilitation Clinic in Sweden that uses gardening as therapy, from the countless charities that use surfing as a tool to combat depression and social exclusion, there are endless ways to combine some you-time in the wilderness. Plug into a nearby urban growers project or simply change your running route from an urban one to another that passes through a park.
Explore somewhere (anywhere) new
Are you familiar with the elation that comes with exploring a new city, full of new sights and smells? That’s because you’re hardwired to do so. The brain rewards you for being curious and seeking novelty with dopamine and opioids – the brain’s happy chemicals. Curious people are also shown to be happier, with lower levels of anxiety, more general life satisfaction and a greater psychological wellbeing. Turn down a street you’ve always passed by, try a new park for your morning run or sit in a new café for your morning coffee. Try urban adventuring apps like Geocaching or Dérive to help you on your quest to rediscover your surrounds.
Invest in yourself
While we’ve just extolled the virtues of giving to others, there’s something to be said of valuing yourself too. Take time to exercise and refocus with some yoga, carve out specific time for that run (with activewear that supports you and your goals), or buy yourself that expensive, restorative tea. Does it make you happy? Well then, goal achieved.
Drown your sorrows
Are you a sucker for a sad song? Aren’t we all. There’s a reason behind that though, and one that may just be the key to your daily happiness.
There are four main benefits of listening to melancholic music (or watching a horribly sad film): is allows us drift off into a daydream, thus igniting our imaginations, it’s a potential catalyst for catharsis and emotional regulation, it helps us tap into our empathetic selves and listening to the sad story has no actual ‘real life’ connection (despite the fact you may have just had your heart broken). Now there’s a great use for your commute – just pack some tissues.