There’s so much this time of year has to offer—and you don’t want to miss a second of it because of a bad mood. That’s why we rounded up these sneaky, genius tips that will keep you smiling 24/7. Try one — or a few!— these to get in a good mood in a flash.
Lift your spirits with hot apple cider.
That apple cider you cozied up with this afternoon goes a long way toward warding off worries. In fact, enjoying the comforting sip when your nerves are jangled curbs stress by 52 percent in five minutes, according to scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. They found that a unique compound (malic acid) in the fall fruit triggers the release of mood-boosting endorphins to quickly eliminate worries.
Tame anxiety with a keepsake.
Are you planning on using your grandmother’s china to set your holiday table? It could put you in a good mood! Admiring a keepsake conjures up sweet thoughts and tames anxiety. Yale scientists say a personal “safety signal” — something cherished that’s never been associated with negativity — lights up a part of the brain that helps replace worries with comfort.
Usher in calm by recalling fond memories.
Remember the joy you felt sharing your top-secret stuffing recipe with your niece last Thanksgiving? Turns out taking a few minutes to recall happy memories is a surefire way to keep stress at bay. According to researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey, calling to mind positive memories slashes your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol by up to 85 percent during tense situations. That means even if things get a little hectic during this year’s feast, you can still celebrate with a sense of happy calm.
Ease tension with a chat.
Have you called your best friend lately? One easy way to start your day from a place of calm: Call a loved one to chat, or text a friend a silly joke. Having a positive experience early in the day, no matter what it is that lifts your spirits, eases tension for up to 16 hours, according to research in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Spark joy with extra hugs.
Regularly wrapping your arms around a family member, close pal, or a furry friend is a cheery way to make the happiest time of the year even more joyful. Penn State scientists say getting (or giving) at least five hugs a day makes you twice as likely to feel authentically happy. That’s because these brief embraces trigger a release of the mood-boosting brain chemical oxytocin, prompting feelings of true joy and contentment that remain throughout the day, warding off blah moods.
Keep smiling by piling on the potatoes.
Are potatoes the key to happiness? Could be! Purdue University scientists say enjoying a potato a day (with the skin) helps you feel 42 percent happier, since its potassium soothes the anxiety center of the brain. So grab a second helping of potatoes on Christmas — it’s a tasty way to keep you smiling!
Boost alertness by breathing through your nose.
Looking forward to a fun conversation with loved ones around the Thanksgiving table but feel your mental energy flagging? Inhale and exhale through your nose in quick bursts for 15 seconds, with your mouth closed but relaxed. Rapid-fire breaths in and out of your nose stimulate the release of focus-enhancing brain chemicals (norepinephrine and adrenaline), which Indian scientists say chase away brain drain.
Stay sharp by doodling.
When’s the last time you covered a notepad in doodles? Letting your creativity flow for two minutes ups mental stamina by 29 percent, British scientists say. The repetitive motion stimulates the brain’s alertness center. So get out your colored pens and make a mini-masterpiece!
Put pep in your step by sky gazing.
After breakfast, pop outside to gaze at puffy clouds or birds flitting by. Morning sun resets the body’s pineal gland, helping it shut down daytime production of the sleep hormone melatonin, so you feel up to 35 percent more revitalized, say scientists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Shore up your stamina by learning a new skill.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be cozied up in a Swiss chalet right about now? Imagine you’re at that snowy hideaway, then hop online and learn how you’d say “hello” to someone in Switzerland. Learning new skills quashes tiredness by engaging the goal-oriented part of your brain that keeps your stamina up.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.