Imagine, it’s 3 pm on a Tuesday and you haven’t left your desk all afternoon. The emails keep pinging and your muscles are twitching. Your to-do list is growing but your motivation is shrinking. Your morale is fading and you feel a case of the grumpies is coming on fast. You need a happiness boost, immediately.
I have for you 3 instant happiness boosters that are backed by science.
Think of these as your armour against grumpiness, ready to be whipped out of your back pocket at any time (just like your phone). These tips can help you at any time, anywhere, but I find them especially helpful at work when things can get hectic.
1) Embrace The Power Of Nature
Stepping outside, especially outside the office, can work wonders. A change of scenery can really change your “Outlook”.
Even better if you can take a walk in nature. Researchers have shown that being in nature can help improve mood. For example, one study conducted in Finland found that when city dwellers walked for 20 minutes through an urban park, they felt significantly more stress relief than those who walked in a city centre.
But what if you don’t work near a park?
Well, you might find this interesting.
You can see immediate benefits from nature just by simply adding a plant to your office space. In one study, the greater the number of plants employees had near their desks, the more productive they were and the less sick leave they took.
Why does this happen?
Well, apparently, we are genetically programmed to be engrossed by nature. This means that being in nature occupies our mind, in a good way. Nature essentially forces our mind to change its focus from that presentation we have next week to the beautiful flowers around us.
So, get outside or visit your local garden centre ASAP.
2) Mindfulness Meditations for Happiness
Did you know there are specific happiness boosting mindfulness meditations you can do?
In the Stop, Breathe, Think app, look for the Be Kind meditations. These will help you feel happier and more connected, especially when Tony from Accounting is bugging you for data entry.
Here’s some science to back this up.
In one study, after participants engaged in 8-weeks of 1-hour daily mindfulness practice, activation of the left-side of their brain increased.
What does this mean?
Well, when we are happy, the left prefrontal cortex of the brain (an area associated with higher order brain functions like concentration and awareness) becomes more activated. When we are sad, the right prefrontal cortex (associated with anticipation, quick reactions to stimuli) becomes activated.
So meditation literally stimulates a part of the part of the brain that actually makes you feel happy.
In the same vein, mindfulness meditation has been shown to make the left prefrontal cortex thicker, while making the amygdala smaller. The amygdala is the part of the brain associated with our primal, “flight or fight” response. Mindfulness also weakens the connection between the two.
Mindfulness gives you a greater ability to override your primal responses with higher order thinking and activates that happiness area of your brain.
The act of smiling (even a forced/fake smile) can also make you happier. When the muscles required to smile are flexed, this sends a signal to the brain that you are happy, which ironically enough, makes you feel happier.
If you’ve been staring at the same Excel spreadsheet all day, take a moment to smile right now. Your brain will be tricked into making you feel happier.
Smiling reduces stress-enhancing hormones and increases mood-enhancing hormones.
Scientists refer to this phenomenon as the facial feedback hypothesis.
Interestingly, the reverse is also true. A study found that people who got Botox, and therefore couldn’t frown, were happier than people who could frown.
We can’t help but feel a bit down sometimes – life is stressful! But I hope these 3 tips are helpful for you. Try them and let us know the results, or leave us your happiness boosting tips in the comments.