At some point in our lives, we all wonder how to be happy when we just can't seem to shake the blues. Well, a whopping 42 studies prove it: There are five key ways to avoid bad moods—and, great news, they're all easy! In fact, you can get happy—and stay happy—day after day just following a few simple steps.
Zap stress by doodling. You probably know stress is bad for your health, making you more susceptible to illness and disease. But did you know it's also a major risk factor for depression? Not to worry: Next time you feel stress start to rise, tamp it down easily by doodling. No matter what your talent level, a Drexel University study shows that simply creating loops and flourishes with a pen, pencil, or crayon quickly relaxes you!
Why it works: Making art distracts you from worries and gives you an outlet for your emotions, which curbs your body's production of the stress hormone cortisol, which is responsible for ratcheting up tension.
Do you tend to get overly stressed when little problems pop up—such as misplacing your house keys or missing a phone call? Preliminary research in the journal Behavioral Brain Research suggests that taking a daily 100-milligram dose of resveratrol (a plant compound from grapes) reins in your body's production of cortisol during sudden snafus, helping keep you calm!
Ward off depression by picturing a lemon. Shocking, but true: Folks who have trouble sleeping are an astounding 10 times more likely to develop depression. That’s because sleep isn't just important for boosting daytime energy—research shows it’s a critical way your brain regulates mood so you wake up happy! So, the next time you have trouble drifting off or can't get back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night, try this trick: Picture a lemon, a brick, a glass of water, and other random objects that have no emotional meaning for you. A new study found this super-simple trick will whisk you to dreamland (and keep you there) with ease.
Why it works: Picturing neutral images diverts your attention away from the worried thinking that keeps you awake, letting your mind wander instead through non-stressful, relaxing, explains study author Luc Beaudoin, Ph.D. Need more ideas for objects to picture as you fall asleep? Beaudoin's created a free app (MySleepButton.com) that lists them for you!
The next time had a bad night's sleep, don't make the mistake of trying to make up for it by turning in earlier, getting up later, and taking naps. A study reveals that actually ups your risk of turning a temporary sleep problem into a chronic one. Sticking to your regular bedtime schedule is the best way to restore your normal, healthy sleep rhythms.
Ratcheting up joy by sharing hobbies. Join a knitting circle, Facebook group, bowling league, Bible study, or other social group and, research proves, you'll significantly lower your risk of depression. In fact, a new study involving nearly 4,000 adults in the Journal of Happiness Studies reveals that your happiness increases 9 percent with every social group you join that's centered on activities you enjoy or beliefs you hold dear!
Why it works: Spending time with others who share your interests and ideals gives you deeper connection to the world around you, which is essential for your overall well-being, said lead study author Julia Wakefield, Ph.D.
And don't forget to be your biggest cheerleader. Folks who remind themselves of their best values or strengths are happier, more hopeful, and experience less anger and sadness, a new study in the Journal of Health Psychology shows. Self-affirmations helps you cope better in stressful situations, in part because you're more apt to anticipate a positive outcome!
Chase away the blues by walking. It's well known that, over time, regular exercise trains your brain to withstand stress and bounce back from setbacks faster. But why wait to gain mood-lifting benefits when numerous studies prove that walking briskly for just 15 to 30 minutes can boost your mood right now?
Why it works: Every short bout of moderate-intensity exercise revs physical energy and triggers the output of uplifting brain chemicals, such as dopamine and endorphins!
In a new study, women struggling with down moods who did gentle stretching for 10 minutes before bed each night also reported feeling happier within three weeks. Stretching helps relieve aches, pains, and other discomfort that can bring on the blahs!
Erase regrets with yoga. If recurring thoughts of past mistakes and hurts are inhibiting your happiness today, try mindfulness yoga. Practicing this combination of focused attention on your breathing and gentle yoga poses—one hour twice weekly—will stop you from ruminating about the past within 12 weeks, a new study from the University of Minnesota revealed.
Why it works: Mindfulness yoga trains you to focus fully on the present by paying attention to your breathing and to the way your body feels right now. And that, over time, increases your self-acceptance, helping you to let go of regrets. Try it for yourself by following this free instructional video.
Another quick fix? Play Tetris. If unwanted memories are crowding your mind and just won't go away, play Tetris. Numerous studies prove this fun video game, which involves fitting colorful shapes together, slams the brakes on intrusive thoughts by fully engaging the visual part of your brain.
Could it really be that easy?! Try out these fast-acting tips and let us know.