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5 Ways To Increase Happiness (With Scientific Evidence)

5 Ways To Increase Happiness (With Scientific Evidence)

Happiness doesn’t just happen. At least, not for most of us anyway. Sure, some people seem to always be on cloud nine, but that’s not the case for many out there. Depression and anxiety are rising rapidly, with those needing and seeking treatment becoming younger and younger. According to statistics gathered by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), antidepressants were the most prescribed drug among 18-44 year olds from 2005-2008. A past president of the American Psychological Association even said this about depression:

“We discovered two astonishing things about the rate of depression across the century. The first was there is now between 10 and 20 times as much of it as there was 50 years ago. And the second is that it has become a young person’s problem. When I first started working in depression 30 years ago … the average age of which the first onset of depression occurred was 29.5 … Now the average age is between 14 and 15.”- Dr. Martin Seligman

With such an epidemic sweeping our society, we need all the happiness in our lives we can get. However, we can’t just sit around all day waiting and hoping to feel good. We have to take action and need to create happiness ourselves.

UCLA psychology researcher, Alex Korb, has found that there are 5 hacks you can start doing right now to increase your happiness.

Stand Tall, Smile Wide and Open Your Eyes

It turns out that your posture and facial expressions have a profound effect on your happiness levels. Slumped over, with a frown on your face is a sure fire recipe for feeling down. When in doubt stand up straight and SMILE – even when you don’t feel like smiling at all. Not only will you trick your brain into thinking all is right with the world, but you’ll also be more attractive – that alone should make you happier. As the old saying goes, “Fake it until you make it.”

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“That’s part of the ‘fake it until you make it’ strategy because when your brain senses, ‘Oh, I’m frowning,’ then it assumes, ‘Oh, I must not be feeling positive emotions.’ Whereas when it notices you flexing those muscles on the side of the mouth it thinks, ‘I must be smiling. Oh, we must be happy.’ When you start to change the emotions that you’re showing on your face, that changes how your brain interprets a lot of ambiguous stimuli” – Alex Korb

Dr. Korb also recommends wearing sunglasses. Not only because they look cool, but because you also wont squint. Squinting forces the corrugator supercilii muscle to fire. When that muscle fires you squint and the brain interprets this as you being worried. So, wear the shades and you’ll help short circuit the squint-worried feedback loop.

Wake up Refreshed

If you’re going to be happy you MUST get a good night’s sleep. However, too many people are not getting nearly enough sleep to actually refresh and rejuvenate the body and the brain.

“Very few Americans regularly obtain the eight or more hours of sleep that almost all adults need each night.” – American Psychological Association

Sleep and depression are closely linked. Which one comes first? Sleep issues or depression? It seems to be a chicken and the egg scenario.

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 “Depression causes sleep problems, but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression.” – Alex Korb

You may be wondering what are some things we can do to actually sleep better tonight?

Go to bed at the same time each night, begin a nighttime ritual, sleep in a completely dark room, and turn off the smart phone, tablet, computer, as well as the TV too. The blue light from those devices plays havoc with our natural sleep cycles.

“Participants who read on light-emitting devices took longer to fall asleep, had less REM sleep [the phase when we dream] and had higher alertness before bedtime [than those people who read printed books]. We also found that after an eight-hour sleep episode, those who read on the light-emitting device were sleepier and took longer to wake up.”- Anne-Marie Chang

Focus on Your Long-Term Goals

If (or more likely when) you feel overwhelmed, don’t focus on the here and now. Take a minute and remind yourself of your long-term goals. Reframing the focus from the challenges and struggles of right now to the eventual payoff you’re working towards can reframe the situation in your brain and make you happier. Just the feeling that you’re in control of the situation, and working towards your goals, is all it takes for the body to release dopamine (the feel good neurotransmitter) and begin the shift into a happier state.

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Build Good Habits…

…or you’ll just end up stressed out and less happy because you screwed up, or didn’t move yourself towards your long-term goals. Now you feel bad about your choices and ultimately your self.

Lets face it, we don’t always “do the right thing.” How often do we start a diet, know we should order the salad, and opt for the cheeseburger instead? More than we should – I know. One of the keys to increasing happiness is to build good habits and strengthen the good ones you’ve already got. By doing this, you’re going to make more choices that are in line with your long-term goals and strengthen your sense of belief in the control you have over those outcomes. As we learned earlier, focusing on your long-term goals is one way to quickly increase happiness.

Your brain has three regions that interact to build habits: the Prefrontal Cortex (which is focused on things like long-term goals), the Dorsal Striatum (which tries to get you to repeat the actions you’re used to doing), and the Nucleus Accubens (the trouble maker, that just wants you to do what feels good in the moment).

The key to building good habits, and being happy with your decisions, is to listen to the Prefrontal Cortex most often. This means limiting stress in your life. Doing so keeps the Nucleus Accubens muted and Prefrontal Cortex in control of the decisions your making, the actions you’re taking, and (ultimately) the habits you’re building.

“When the Prefrontal Cortex is taken offline by stress we end up doing things that are immediately pleasurable.” – Alex Korb

The easiest way to keep the Prefrontal Cortex online, and make the best decisions is to take one small step towards your goal – no matter how small.

“Instead of getting overwhelmed, ask yourself, ‘What’s one little thing that I could do now that would move me toward this goal I’m trying to accomplish?’ Taking one small step toward it can make it start to feel more manageable.”- Alex Korb

What Songs Remind You Of Happy Times?

Put them on and crank them up!

Playing music from the happiest times of your life reminds you of those places and how you felt when you experienced them. Music from happy times literally transports your brain to that time and place.

“Let’s say college was the happiest time of your life. If you start listening to the music that you were listening to at that time, it can help you feel more connected to that happier time in your life and makes it more present.” – Alex Korb

Conclusion

The pace of modern lifestyle is frantic. With so many stressors awaiting us, it’s easy to understand why so many are depressed, anxious, stressed out, and just plain blue all of the time. However, happiness doesn’t have to be this elusive thing that is outside your reach. With breakthroughs in neuroscience like those mentioned in this article, we’re learning we can have a profound affect on our happiness. Just by implementing simple strategies (like those highlighted here), we can lead happier and more enjoyable lives.

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Last Updated on August 14, 2018

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

Many people believe that long distance relationships are never going to work out. Your family may discourage it, and some of your best friends may advise you not to take it too seriously, in case you get your heart broken.

Nobody says it is going to be easy — the extra distance makes many things unachievable. Things could get complicated, and you could get sad and lonely at times.

However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest, being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships may be tough but they have their own surprises too. To keep your love alive and strong, here are 21 tips to make your long distance relationship work:

1. Avoid excessive communication.

    It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.” Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

    2. See it as an opportunity.

    “If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

    View it as a learning journey for the both of you. See it as a test of your love for each other. As the Chinese saying goes, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

    As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

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    “I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

    3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

      Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise. For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it alright for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

      4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

      Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem. To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

      5. Talk dirty with each other.

        Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. Sexual desire is like a glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Not only is sex a biological need, it is an emotional one as well. Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

        6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

        If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand so as to reassure him/her. Don’t be careless about this sort of matter because your partner is only going to be extra worried or extra suspicious, and of course, very upset, because you are putting him/her in a position where he/she feels powerless or lacking in control.

        Also, It could be easy for you to fall into the trap which you, unconsciously or not, set up for yourself by “hanging out” with your office eye-candy after work, or going out with a girl or guy from your past who has been flirting with you. You need to recognize the dangers before entering into the situation. Don’t just listen to your heart. Listen to your mind too.

        7. Do things together.

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          Play an online game together. Watch a documentary on YouTube or Vimeo at the same time. Sing to each other on Skype while one of you plays the guitar. “Take a walk together” outside while video-calling each other. Go online-shopping together — and buy each other gifts (See #13). You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

          8. Do similar things.

          Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc. to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about. This is a good to create some shared experiences even though you are living apart.

          9. Make visits to each other.

            Visits are the highlight of every long distance relationship. After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfill all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. which are all common to other couples but so very special and extra intimate for people in long distance relationships. It will be like fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows and butterflies everywhere.

            10. Have a goal in mind.

            “What do we want to achieve at the end of the day?” “How long are we going to be apart?” “What about the future?” These are the questions you two need to ask yourselves. The truth is, no couple can be in a long distance relationship for forever. Eventually we all need to settle down.

            So make a plan with each other. Do up a timeline, marking down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal. It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still working together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

            11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

              You are alone but you are not lonely, unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that doesn’t involve your partner.

              12. Stay honest with each other.

              Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. it’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

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              13. Know each other’s schedules.

                It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and when he/she is free, so that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when he/she is in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Know the small and big events that are taking place or will take place in each other’s life e.g. college mid-terms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews and etc. This is especially essential when the both of you are living in different time zones.

                14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

                Like each other’s photos on Facebook and Instagram. Tweet each other. Tag each other. Share things on each other’s walls. Show that you care. Be cool about stalking each other.

                15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

                  There is power in a memento. Be it a small pendent, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a bottle of fragrance. We often attach meanings to the little things and items found in our everyday life, whether knowingly or not. This is what we all do — we try to store memories in physical things, in the hope that when our mind fails us, we can look or hold on to something that will help us remember. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person, when others may see little or no value in it.

                  16. Get a good messaging app.

                  This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allow interactions beyond just words and emoticons.

                  Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g. Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL and etc.) at a low price. From time to time, the app also gives out free sticker sets for different promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

                  17. Snail-mail your gift.

                    Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear and such.

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                    18. Stay positive.

                    You need to be constantly injecting positive energy into the long distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful and you can sometimes feel lonely but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven. One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

                    19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

                      Because gossips and scandals are always the best things to go on and on about.

                      20. Video-call whenever possible.

                      Because looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

                      21. Give each other pet names.

                      Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going.

                        If you still aren’t sure how to make your long distance relationship work, try to answer these questions with your partner together:

                        Long Distance Relationship Is No Issue If You Have Great Answers to These Questions!

                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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