What would really make you smile right now? Winning the lottery or landing a dream job would be nice -- okay, amazing -- but the good news is it doesn't take a major windfall to boost your mood. Studies show that something as simple as turning off the TV or spending $5 can up your happiness quotient, starting right now. Here, six easy ways to feel great.
Hang with happy people
Just being near a positive person is enough to make you smile: Having a friend with a sunny disposition living within a mile of you increases the chances of your being happy by 25 percent, according to a study from the University of California, San Diego. Researchers suspect that happiness is contagious; glass-half-full types tend to be nicer to everyone around them, which makes those people pleasant, and so on. Catch the smiley vibe by regularly joining your most cheerful friends for a run.
If you're on your third straight Law & Order episode, turn it off already! After analyzing data that spanned 34 years, University of Maryland researchers reported that people who described themselves as "somewhat happy" watched 10 percent more hours of TV than those who rated themselves "very happy." The theory: Being glued to your flat screen may temporarily entertain you, but it isn't particularly satisfying in the long run. Worse, the tube time takes away from more fulfilling activities, such as a yoga class and a picnic with friends.
Capture your winning moments
And keep them where you can see them, like on the fridge or your desk. A snapshot featuring you with a big smile reaching the finish line or hiking a tough mountain trail will improve your mood and trigger goal-oriented thinking, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Lose the blues
Here's some slim-down motivation: A recent study in the journal Obesity found that depressed patients on a weight-loss program not only succeeded in ditching around 8 percent of their weight but also reported significant improvement in their moods. The psychological lift may be due in part to an increase in participants' self-esteem and body confidence.
Laugh a lot
Who knew that your dad's dorky jokes served a health purpose? Studies suggest that laughter can reduce blood pressure, decrease stress hormones and increase endorphins. What's more, there seems to be no difference between real and forced laughter. "I tell clients to giggle when they're sitting in traffic," says Ronel Corbin of ESPA International, who runs a laughter therapy program at the One&Only Palmilla resort in Mexico. "It really will make you feel better."
Give, even just a littleFive dollars truly can buy you happiness. People told to spend that amount on a friend or as a charity donation reported feeling better at the end of the day than those told to use the money for themselves, a study in the journal Science found.
-- By Joanne Chen for FITNESS magazine
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