7 Tips for Boosting Happiness!

Brad Pitt recently answered marriage questions about his relationship with Angelina Jolie, and shared his personal history of struggling with depression as a teenager and young adult. He reports that he has since overcome the blues. Here are some tips to boost your own happiness ratings:

1. Practice conscious acts of kindness. Research indicates that when we plan and intend to do something nice for someone, we experience a boost in mood. The boost of happiness is experienced during the planning phase, as well as the implementation phase, and again in the recollection phase. So, get creative and plan an act of kindness for a friend, family member, or co-worker!

2. Plan something to look forward to. Similarly, when we plan for a future activity, whether it is a vacation, a concert, or a picnic in the park with our sweetheart, we experience a boost in happiness. In fact, research indicates that the boost is experienced more during the anticipation of the event than the event itself!  Just having something to look forward to helps to get us through those difficult days and provides the respite we need, as if to say, “This, too, shall pass.”

3.  Listen to uplifting music. Since humans first started banging things together, music has been an indispensible tool for regulating mood. Music “sets the mood,” so choosing to listen to positive, uplifting music can lift your spirits and boost happiness!

4. Play (Exercise). Exercise, which I prefer to call “play,” has been found to be just as effective as pharmaceutical anti-depressants in a number of studies. The burst of physical activity increases the release of endorphins and neurotransmitters that serve as feel-good chemicals in our brains. Play reduces stress, increases energy, and is good for the soul.

5. Spend money on experiences rather than stuff. Some of you may be familiar with “Shop-therapy” and the boost in mood that is associated with a new purchase. Unfortunately, that boost is very short-lived and is sometimes followed by anxiety, regret or disappointment. Research indicates that spending your money on experiences rather than “stuff” provides a greater return of happiness on investment. The boost lasts as you recall the experience, look at pictures, and share details with friends.

6. Use your special talents. Each of us is blessed with unique talents and abilities, and when we are immersed in activities that utilize those skills, we are more likely to report states of “flow” that are associated with greater happiness and wellness. Wether it is painting, coaching, singing, woodworking, or gardening, cultivating your unique talents will boost your happiness bottom line.

7. Meditate or pray. Meditative practices, like quiet, mindful prayer, have been linked to increased activity and development of the prefrontal cortext of the brain. As little as five minutes of meditation each day has been proven to significantly increase feelings of happiness. It allows for an increased sense of centeredness and well-being, increased focus and mental acuity. And it is an opportunity to stop, be present, and appreciate all the good around us. And that helps with happiness, too.

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Author & Edited by theapist, counselor Dr. Leslie Hamilton, Ph.D., LMFT