10 quickie pick-me-ups to try right now
Crank up the mood music
And believe it will really make a difference. Listening to cheerful tunes boosts your mood—so long as you believe that it will, found University of Missouri researchers. Study participants listened to cheery music, and those who heard it with happy intentions noticed an improvement in their moods—while the group not told to think of it as a happiness booster did not. "We can stay in the upper half of our 'set range' of potential happiness as long as we keep having positive experiences," says coauthor Kennon Sheldon. So keep blasting "Suit & Tie" and "Blurred Lines," especially next time you're missing a friend who recently moved away or feel down about how a work presentation went.
Stop and smell the flowers
Yeah, they're pretty, but it's not just the cheery appearance of blooms that can shift your mood. Their smell is just as powerful, finds a study from Rutgers University. Researchers asked two groups of people to write about three life events—one past, one recent, and one future. Those who did so in a florally-scented room wrote three times as many happy words than those who jotted down their ideas in unscented air. Now that's enough of a reason to splurge on a new floral perfume or candle, isn't it?
Create an emergency perk-up file
Whether it's a ticket stub from your favorite band or a dog-eared love letter from your husband, we all have special mementoes that are guaranteed to make joy bubble up. "I worked with a group of critical-care nurses in Boston, and they are instructed to keep a file on their desk with pictures of fun events, cards from patients, kind emails from co-workers, and artwork from their kids," says Shawn Achor, author of Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. "When they have a lousy day, they just open their file to get a happiness booster."
Do nice things and everybody wins
Karma's real, folks. When people make the effort to do three kind acts a day, depressive symptoms drop by 94 percent, according to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Leave an extra-hefty tip for your barista tomorrow morning, pick a bouquet for an elderly neighbor, or drop by a new-mom friend's house to see if she needs an extra hand.
Devote an afternoon to artistic appreciation
Beauty—and a fresh perspective—is in the eye of the beholder. "At Yale Medical School, students are required to go to the art museum for a class, which a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found increased their ability to see new detail by 10 percent," says Achor. Don't live within spitting distance of a fancy museum or gallery? Google your favorite artist and start browsing. "You'll increase your brain's ability to see new opportunities and the positives you might have been missing," adds Achor.
Think back to when you kicked butt
Some might say gloating makes you a poor sport, but we say brag away, and expect to start beaming. When we recall memories, our mind travels to the way we felt during that experience, says Robin H-C, life coach and author of Life's In Session. "The lines between real and imagined are blurred, so if you vividly replay an achievement, it can quickly reconnect you with those positive feelings." Think back to the birth of your first child or your first date with your husband next time the blues strike for the emotional equivalent of an awesome vacation.
Hit the couch
We fought them kicking and screaming as kids, but nowadays, few things sound more luxurious than an afternoon nap. And no, midday snoozes are certainly not just for lazy people. Science suggests that the opposite is in fact true—a 10- to 30-minute nap helps improve short-term mood, alertness, and productivity, three things to feel positively chipper about. "It's hard to be happy when you're not getting enough sleep, which can make you either feel numb or agitated," says Pamela Gail Johnson, founder of the Secret Society of Happy People. You may not be able to doze off at your desk every day, but next time your kids hit the hay, take it as an opportunity to do the same.
Put a smile on
Flash your pearly whites—even if it's the last thing you feel like doing. A study published in Psychological Science found that even forced grins rev up cheer. "This is literally 'fake it 'til you make it,'" says Achor. And like yawns, smiles are contagious, but so are frowns. "When we're having a bad day, other people can mirror our stressed-out expressions and project that negative feeling back on us," says Achor.
Step away from the screen
Between feeling phantom vibrations on days we leave our cell phones at home and failing to leave our computers for a single moment between breakfast and lunch, being too plugged-in has become a reality. "If I sit at my desk for too long, I hit an unhappy wall," says Johnson. "I run out of energy and feel depleted." She suggests trying your very best to step away for 10 minutes whenever possible in order to recharge your batteries—and not just when you've ODed on glowing screens. "Any task that you continually do for 90 to 120 minutes requires a break to give your body and brain a rest, and being more productive increases your happiness," she adds.
Keep a water bottle handy
Eight glasses of water a day isn't just important for your physical health. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration made healthy women feel pessimistic. Lack of H20 was also linked to fatigue and scattered concentration, so aim to drink two liters a day to keep your brain—and your body—humming at peak performance. If that goal seems iffy to you, divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces over the course of the day.