It's January, which means that everyone and their mother is thinking of ways to get a jump on the year ahead. Hitting the gym, getting organized, tossing all the clothes you never wear...they're all great goals (if a little, yawn, boring). But why not think bigger? Scientists across the country recently uncovered some truly incredible secrets about what causes our happiness and success levels to skyrocket.
1. Be Bad More Often
We'll gladly take any advice that gives us the green light to naughty it up in the boudoir or let our bitchy side out of its cage. Luckily, researchers have discovered how good for you being bad is. "Breaking the rules is empowering," says John Portmann, PhD, author of Bad for Us. "It shows you that you have freedom to do what you want and are in charge of your life." Take a cue from Megan Fox, Lily Allen, Kate Moss or one of the other girls we have a major girl crush on.
Remember how thrilling it felt in high school to sneak out or throw a party when your parents went out of town? Going against authority reinforces your independence, which leads to greater fulfillment. Don't get us wrong - we're not suggesting you rob a bank or get Marilyn Manson's face tattooed on your back. It's more about trying things that make you slightly uncomfortable. "You need to push out of your comfort zone in order to grow," Portmann says. "Thrusting yourself into new situations will teach you about yourself and what you're capable of."
Plus, you can feel an added rush just from getting a rise out of people. Misbehave as much or as little as you want, but make sure you don't go so far out of bounds that you lose control of the situation or hurt others. Find out how much of a bad girl you are then try this tip to jumpstart your inner badass: Speak up about things you might normally keep to yourself. Approach a bigwig at work and share your brilliant idea, call out a rude salesperson, or voice your opinion in a meeting if you disagree with a coworker. "Not only will this increase your self-confidence, but you'll also gain respect from people," Portmann affirms. It's no surprise that men love bad girls too, but their reasons might shock you.
2. Add to Your Crew
You know your friends influence things like how you dress and your going-out habits. But a series of groundbreaking studies from James Fowler, PhD, and Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, coauthors of Connected, discovered that your social circle plays a key role in determining way more than that.
It turns out that factors like health and happiness are contagious. If a friend loses weight, you're likely to slim down as well. If she's in a good place in her life, her newfound cheerfulness will rub off on you. In fact, people within three degrees of us (that includes friends, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends) have a major influence on how we feel and act. "We subconsciously pick up on cues from those around us about what normal, accepted behavior is," Fowler explains. This means, it's time to deal with that train wreck friend of yours.
So how do you use this info to make your life amazing? First, beef up your network with positive people. "Our research shows that the more connections you have and the stronger those relationships are, the happier you'll be," Fowler says. Join a weekend sports league, go to a swanky cheese tasting, take Italian lessons, throw a party and ask every guest to bring a new person with them - anything that'll bring fun people into your life.
3. Unleash Your Alter Ego in the Sack
Recently, relationship experts have been telling us that in response to the stressful economy, people are more likely to keep their relationships mellow and steady - think low-key dates and predictable sex that's more comforting than carnal. But studies have found that routine is chemistry kryptonite; couples who keep it fresh have the highest rates of satisfaction.
In a State University of New York at Stony Brook study, participants who engaged in a novel activity for just seven minutes felt more in love and happier in their relationship than those in a control group did. "When you try something new with your partner, the same area of your brain lights up as when you first fell for the person," says Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Lovemaking. "Experimenting lets you recapture that feeling of being new lovers - the giggles, the excitement, the thrill of getting to know each other."
It's time to shake things up, and we suggest starting between the sheets. During sex, act in a way that you normally never would. For example, if you've been having mostly soft, slow intercourse, go animal on your guy: Pounce on him, tease him, dominate him. One of these dirty moves should do the trick. On the other hand, if you're usually the initiator, be passive for a change, like by having him tie you up.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.