Science Says These 5 Things Will Make You Happier

Research-backed habits that will improve your outlook and positive attitude

Happy woman with balloons
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Practice daily gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been shown to do more than improve your mood. People who write down a few positive things about their day are healthier, more energetic, less stressed and anxious, and get better sleep. The key is to make this a regular habit and do it with intention. Think about creating a small gratitude ritual. For example, every morning when you have your coffee you could think of three things that you appreciate about the day before.

Or make it a habit to jot down three good things about your day before you go to bed at night. Your three good things can be really small--perhaps you saw something beautiful or just appreciate being healthy that day. In fact, science shows that it's the small everyday experiences that make us happier (as compared to big life events.)

Surround yourself with positive people. Happiness is contagious. Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, researchers at Harvard and The University of San Diego, found that each additional happy friend increases a person's probability of being happy by about 9%. If you're feeling down, reach out to a friend or colleague who generally has a more positive attitude. Our brains have mirror neurons that will literally mimic what the other person is expressing; so when you need a bit of positive infusion, connect with those who share it.

Do regular acts of kindness. Research has shown that spending money on others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves and doing small acts of kindness increases life satisfaction.

Hold the door for the person behind you, say thank you and mean it when you get your drink from the coffee shop, pick up your colleague's favorite snack and leave it on their desk for them. Even the smallest nice gesture can make someone's day.

Spend more time with family and friends. Having friends can save your life.

Low social interaction can be as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is twice as bad for your health as obesity. Even if you're busy you can find ways to connect with people you care about. Use your lunch break as an opportunity to call a friend or, if possible, take a walk together. If you're busy during the week, how about inviting your friend to do some errands together on the weekend?

Spend money on experiences instead of things. Research shows people report feeling happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than objects. We remember experiences for a longer period of time and our brains can re-live them, making our positive emotions last longer. So instead of that new pair of jeans consider trying a new yoga class or inviting a friend to the movies with you.

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