5 Surprising (But Simple) Mood Boosters

You may not have suspected these things can make you happier, but they do!

Woman enjoying drink on beach.

Go Outside: As little as 20 minutes outdoors is a proven mood-booster.
There's multiple factors involved here--Vitamin D, fresh air, sunlight, exercise--but the bottom line is that when you spend more time outside, you’re happier. Just 20 minutes a day outdoors yields a bunch of benefits; everything from elevated mood to improved working memory. Moving your body makes you feel better (we're more likely to be exercising outdoors, rather than sitting at our desks as we so often do, indoors), and topping off your daily dose o' D is good, too.

But the somewhat-mysterious fact remains that no matter how various studies tried to isolate the single thing that makes the outdoors so beneficial, it can't be boiled down to just "sun" or "fresh air" or "movement." It's everything you get outside, altogether. We're wired to live in nature, no matter what our shiny electronics try to tell us. Time outside = a happier you, period.

Try Something New: Those who continue learning new things are happier than those who don’t.
Scientists have long demonstrated how new experiences help sharpen everything from our motor skills to our memories, but it turns out that people who learn new things on a regular basis are also just plain happier than those who don’t. Perhaps it's because those of us seeking comfort and refuge in what we already know are dealing with fear; perhaps it's simply that continuing to learn new things is what our brains are meant to do.

Most of us know that exercising our talents--whatever they may be--is a great way to feel competent and happier, but branching out and learning has a similar effect, too. Gandhi famously said, "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." Decartes may have said, "I think, therefore I am," but Gandhi was probably happier, and his version probably would've been, "I learn, therefore I am."

Bottoms Up: Turns out a drink or two really does make us happier.
Believe it or not, moderate drinkers are scientifically proven to be happier than teetotalers or those who overindulge. In scientific investigation, people who enjoy one or two drinks on a regular basis are more relaxed and happier than those who abstain. Rates of depression are lowest among these moderate drinkers (compared to their non- or heavy-drinking counterparts). And while there are an exhaustive number of cautionary studies designed to show how excessive alcohol use impairs brain function all the way from memory to reaction time, did you know that short-term memory of problem-solving skills are shown to be enhanced by a drink or two? Apparently you really can have too much of a good thing, so stay moderate... but enjoy your cocktail and its happiness-boosting benefits.

Do Less: More is definitely not more when it comes to life satisfaction.
There is a difference between urgent and important; in our culture of "busy busy busy" we tend to lose sight of it, though.

Being overscheduled has somehow come to be a status symbol in our society. If you're not busy you must be lazy... but that's not true at all. You can be busy and still learn how to take time out for things that matter, work periodic breaks into even a hectic schedule, and just generally try to examine your time commitments with a critical eye. It's okay not to do it all! In fact, doing less is the perfect way to make sure the things you do do are done not only more happily, but better.

Get Blue: The color blue has a positive effect on mood.
It’s odd that we say someone who is sad is “feeling blue,” because science demonstrates that the color blue actually makes us feel calmer and happier. So paint a blue wall in your home, or wear something blue, or buy that cute blue purse you haven't stopped thinking about since you saw it at the store. (If you can get to the beach to watch the waves or stare up at a beautiful, cloudless sky for a while, all the better!) Blue relaxes us and may even sharpen our minds (which makes sense when you consider that a relaxed, happy brain is one that can function at full capacity). Feeling blue is sounding pretty good, now.

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