How to Get Happy Fast
Proven Strategies to Give You a Quick Mood Boost
Music is incredibly powerful. In a three-minute time span it can make you sad, nostalgic, calm and most importantly--happy.
“When I’m feeling a few shades of blue, nothing lifts my spirits more than putting on my favorite tunes and shimmying away,” says Registered Dietiitian Jacqueline Aizen.
If you feel that music has the same effect on you, it’s for good reason. Research has shown that music triggers a release of dopamine from the reward center in your brain. This release is similar to the reaction that occurs when you are satisfied from eating or sleeping. In other words, more dopamine means a happier you.
The next time you feel yourself slipping into a grumpy mood, crank up the happy tunes and get that dopamine releasing. It won’t hurt to move around a bit either.
“Movement can also trigger powerful emotions and when combined with some amazing tracks, you’ll be on cloud nine in no time,” says Aizen. Really, who can’t be happy when they’re dancing around to their favorite bubbly song?
For anyone who has ever meditated, you know it can leave you feeling calm, relaxed and joyful. While you may not have time for a deep, extended meditation session, you can adapt the breathing exercises into a quick get-happy routine.
“There are many forms of meditation to explore, but a quick breathing exercise is sometimes all you need to get started,” explains Certified Wellness Coach Elizabeth McGann.
Follow her simple 4-step “Better Mood Breath” Exercise routine:
1. Sit up tall in a chair or seating on the floor. Close your eyes, put one hand in the center of your chest and one hand over your belly button.
2. Take a deep breath in through your nose for the count of eight. Feel your belly expand with the breath.
3. Hold your breath for the count of eight.
4. Exhale slowly through your nose for the count of 10.
Repeat the steps three times and feel your mood gently lift.
So why do meditation methods such as this work? “When we take a deep breath several things happen,” explains Certified Life Coach and Hypnotist Michelle Brock, “not only do we allow more oxygen into our bodies, which creates an instant ‘perk up’ in our brains and our bodies, but we also allow ourselves to slow down for a moment in order to mindfully breathe.”
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Oh, Elle Woods, you’re so wise. Exercise is a great way to combat a grumpy mood.
“The mind and body are connected,” explains McGann, “and when you need to change the dial on your emotions, a great way to do that is to move your body.”
Even if you only have a few minutes, step outside for a brisk walk. The exercise combined with the fresh air will quickly get you in a happier place. If you've got a little more time, go for run, try out a new fitness class, or practice yoga. Making exercise a regular part of your daily routine can also help prevent a cranky mood from getting its grip on you in the first place.
It's impossible to do good deeds and not get a little positive emotional boost. A lot of times we’re so hyper-focused on our own problems that we forget that those around us might need a little pick me up.
“Too much time in your head ruminating on your problem, or state of mind, is what is causing you to stay stuck in your bad mood,” says McGann. So try to reach out and be there for someone else: "A few minutes cheering up a friend in need can do wonders to change your perspective,” she notes.
Think about small things you can do to help out a family member, elderly neighbor or a local charity. When you take the energy you’re expending sulking and re-focus it on helping others, whatever is bringing you down becomes lighter and your mood shifts.
Laughter really is the best medicine. “Laughter releases the endorphins in our brain that shifts us into a place of better well-being,” explains McGann.
Taking a few minutes out of your day to laugh with a friend can really brighten your mood. Or, McGann recommends googling your favorite comedian and watching a clip or two of their material. If you have a favorite passage from a comedian’s book, read over it. Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” are both great funny go-to reads. It’s almost impossible to stay in a bad mood once you’re cracking up.
Getting your giggle on has also been shown to stimulate circulation, relax muscles, and active and relieve your body’s stress response. If that’s not enough to get you smiling, laughter can also improve your immune system by releasing neuropeptides that fight illness and cause the body to release its own natural painkillers.
Fake it Til You Make It
And if you can't find anything to actually make you laugh, try at least putting on a non-genuine smile. According to recognized happiness expert Gretchen Rubin, the simple act of smiling can induce a positive mood, even when the smile is artificial. So act happy to get happy.
Plan Something Fun
Even if you're currently stuck in a drab, gray cubicle, researching a romantic weekend getaway or girls' trip can boost your mood.
Gretchen Rubin says, "Studies show that having fun on a regular basis is a pillar of happiness, and anticipation is an important part of that pleasure. Try to involve friends or family, as well; people enjoy almost all activities more when they're with other people."
And if all else fails, you can always YouTube clips of Channing Tatum in Magic Mike. Not that we've ever done that or anything...
(Sources: psychologytoday.com/blog/your-musical-self/201101/why-music-listening-makes-us-feel-good; mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relief/SR00034, http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2007/04/seven_tips_for_/)
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