Good news: If you’re looking for a little more contentment in your day-to-day, you’ve got science on your side. There have been tons of studies that reveal different ways people can live happier, and many of them are pretty easy to incorporate into your everyday life and habits at home. With just a few changes to your routine (and even your decor) like these, you might just find yourself feeling more joyful.
Remind Yourself to Smile
You know that being happy makes you smile, but research shows that the actual act of smiling makes you even happier. According to Psychology Today, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that fight stress. When you smile, it releases dopamine, serotonin and endorphins, and the result is that you feel happier and more relaxed—and it can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, too. An easy way to make yourself smile more at home? Hang art that inspires you and makes you feel good (for example, try putting a fun, motivating print in the bathroom where you’ll see it every day).
Do Something Selfless
Doing things for the greater good? Totally good for your mood—and your community. According to Today, a study out of Canada found that being kind actually brings people joy—but you have to do it selflessly, and not just to make yourself feel better. Researchers found that kindness improves the way we perceive one another and that when you do something spontaneously to help others, it can change your whole attitude. So, the next time you see your neighbor struggling to carry in their groceries, offer a helping hand—you’ll both feel happier afterwards.
Make a Social Connection
Sometimes what you need for a quick pick-me-up is a little bit of social interaction, even if it’s with a stranger. In fact, studies show that talking to people you don’t know can actually make you happier. Researcher and psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn told Huffington Post that humans are built for social interaction, and that we can get just as much value out of conversations with strangers as we can with people we know. In case you needed an excuse to go outside and grab a coffee or head to a local event, this is a great one—chatting with the barista or interacting with new people while you’re out and about will be totally worth it.
Call Someone You Love
Much like interacting with strangers can be beneficial to your happiness, talking to the people you care about—be they friends, family or romantic partners—can have a major impact on your happiness and your health. A longterm (70+ years!) study from Harvard found that the key to happiness—and even living longer—is actually maintaining close relationships with people, according to the NY Times. So, since you can’t always be with your loved ones, take some time every day (or at least every few days) to call and talk with them. Having that interaction is sure to boost your mood in the short term, but keeping it up will also affect you positively for years to come.
Saying “thank you” is more than just an act of being polite—it can do great things for your attitude, too. Harvard studies have shown that practicing gratitude can actually make you feel happier, more optimistic, and more motivated to get things done. Gratitude can also improve your relationships, although that shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’re not already actively saying “thank you” and showing your appreciation for the people in your life, now is definitely the time to start. But aside from that, you can practice gratitude in other ways at home—like trying Marie Kondo’s concept of thanking while you clean and declutter. Thank the items you need to get rid of for how they’ve been in your life; even if it feels silly, it can help you feel free to let go of things you otherwise couldn’t part with.
Get Some Exercise
Have you ever noticed that elated feeling you get when you’ve completed a really good workout? It’s feels like a high—like you’re unstoppable and can do anything you set your mind to. That’s because your body sees exercise as stress, and according to CNN, to combat that, your body releases endorphins (which in turn make you feel happy and even euphoric). To sneak more exercise into your everyday life, designate a spot in your home where you can do the workouts you like—or find sneaky ways to incorporate them into your day otherwise. If you don’t have a gym membership but want one, find one that’s easy enough to get to and isn’t totally out of the way of your usual routine so you’ll be more likely to go more often.
Laugh More Often
You’ve heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine” probably hundreds of times at this point, but it’s true—and the research backs it up. According to Huffington Post, one study found that people watching humorous videos were able to recall more things than those who weren’t, not to mention, they experienced lower levels of cortisol (also known as the “stress hormone”). Laughter enhances your learning ability as well, and can even help you stay healthier longer. Make sure you set aside time every day to watch or read something funny so you can get your daily dose of laughter in—you’ll be better off for it in the long run.
Brittney Morgan is Apartment Therapy's Assistant Lifestyle Editor and an avid tweeter with a passion for carbs and lipstick. She believes in mermaids and owns way too many throw pillows.