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Self-Improvement

10 Weird Ways to Be Happy Today, Backed by Science

We never get tired of thinking about happiness, do we? Life is so much nicer when you’re able to couple it with joy and gratitude.

We’ve published posts before about simple ways to be happy¬†and retraining your brain for more gratitude, and Buffer’s CEO Joel has even shared his own daily to-do list for happiness. (There’s also our popular list of things to stop doing to be happier.)

Meanwhile, science continues to study happiness, finding ever more specific and idiosyncratic ways we can bring just a bit more of this elusive quality into our lives.

I love keeping an eye on these studies, and thought I would share the latest batch with you here to see if any of them might resonate with you and make you just a bit happier.

Here are 10 truly unique ways to be happier that you can start today!

10 weird ways to be happy

1. Do cultural activities

Need a boost of joy? Trying seeing a play or heading to a museum.

A study that collected data on the activities, mood and health of 50,000 adults in Norway found that people who participated in more cultural activities reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.

cultural activities

“Participation in receptive and creative cultural activities was significantly associated with good health, good satisfaction with life, low anxiety and depression scores in both genders,” the researchers write.

Curiously, men saw stronger benefits from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts or theaters) while women more enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities and dance).

2. Keep a diary: Rereading it brings joy

To learn to find more gratitude and joy in¬†every day—not just special occasions, the boring days, too—try keeping a diary and re-reading it from time to time.

Researchers who did a variety of experiments involving keeping a journal discovered that “ordinary events came to be perceived as more extraordinary over time” as participants rediscovered them through their older writings.

In other words, simply writing down our ordinary, regular-day experiences is a way of banking up some happiness down the line, when the activities we describe could bring us unexpected joy.

3. Make small talk with a stranger

Chatting up your barista or cashier? Good for your health!

Behavioral scientists gave a group of Chicago train commuters a $5 Starbucks gift card in exchange for striking up a conversation with a stranger during their ride. (While another group kept to themselves.)

Those¬†who started conversations¬†reported a more positive experience than those who had stayed quiet—even though they had predicted they would feel happier being solitary.

Another¬†study¬†saw similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a¬†$5 gift card¬†in exchange for having a¬†‚Äúgenuine interaction with the cashier.”

It seems that connecting with another person—no matter how briefly—increases our happiness.

4. But have meaningful conversations, too

While positive small talk is great, more substantial conversations could up our happiness quotient even higher.

A study that tracked the conversations of 80 people for 4 days found that, in keeping with the small-talk study, higher well-being is associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others.

But researchers also discovered that even higher well-being was associated with having less small talk and more substantive conversations.

conversation types

“Together, the findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial,” the researchers write.

So dive deep in your conversations with friends and loved ones—it’s great for you.

5. Live in the suburbs and get involved

This one seems to apply to the U.S. A. only, but I still found it quite interesting.

I would have guessed that city dwellers might be the most satisfied with where they live, but in a poll of 1,600 U.S. adults, the highest rate of happiness was found in the suburbs.

84 percent of suburbanites rated the communities where they live as overall excellent or good, compared to 75 percent of urban dwellers and 78 percent of rural residents.

Another study on city happiness found that residents are happier if they feel connected to their cities and neighborhoods and feel positively about the state of city services.

So wherever you live, make sure to get involved in your community for maximum happiness.

6. Listen to sad songs: They provide emotional release

How could sad songs make us happy? And why do we seek them out?

That’s the question researchers wanted to answer with a survey of¬†722 people from around the world.

They discovered that there are 4 main reasons we take comfort in melancholy songs:

  • They allow us to drift off into¬†imagination
  • They might provide us catharsis (emotion regulation)
  • They allow us to relate to a common emotion (empathy), and
  • They’re divorced from our actual problems (no ‚Äúreal-life‚ÄĚ implications)

reward of imagination, emotion regulation, empathy, and no ‚Äúreal-life‚ÄĚ implications

 

Researchers determined that “listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation.”

7. Spend money on experiences, not items

Here’s one that’s easy to understand but might be tougher to fix.

We know that spending money on life experiences will make us happier than spending money on material things (and it does!) but we can’t seem to stop ourselves from choosing the wrong option.

That’s what a study in The Journal of Positive Psychology found as they¬†surveyed people before and after they made purchases.

The series of studies concluded that we’re more likely to spend on¬†items than experiences because we can quantify them more easily and we want to see the best value for our dollars.

However, they found that the study subjects reported that after they spent, experiences brought them greater well-being and they considered them to be a better use of money.

So if we can keep that in mind, ¬†it’s possible to have our cake and eat it, too—definitely something to be happy about!

8. Set tiny, attainable goals: Make someone smile

It might be cliché, but making someone happy will make you happy, too.

And science says the more specific you can be with your goal, the better.

University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd found that a group of people who were told to make someone smile felt both happier and more confident that they’d actually achieved their goal than a similar group who’d been told simply to make someone else happy.

Even more interesting: In a separate experiment, people wrongly predicted that going for the bigger goal would make them happier.

‚ÄúIf you can meet or exceed your expectations of achieving a goal, you will be happier than if you fall short of your expectations,‚ÄĚ Rudd¬†explained.

9. Look at beautiful things: Design makes us happy

Could looking at a beautiful object make you feel happier?

The smartphone company HTC conducted a study that says yes.

In a series of laboratory and online experiments, volunteers looked at and interacted with objects that fell into 3 categories: beautiful, functional, or both beautiful and functional.

Their reactions uncovered some interesting findings, like:

  • Well-designed objects that are both beautiful and functional trigger positive emotions like calmness and contentment, reducing negative feelings like anger and annoyance by almost a third.
  • Purely beautiful objects (not functional) reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing a sense of calmness and ease.

Objects that were both beautiful and functional created an especially high level of emotional arousal:emotional arousal

In general, people feel happier looking at and using beautiful objects that work well.

10. Eat more fruits and veggies

We know being healthier makes us happy, but can carrots give you purpose?

I have to admit I didn’t expect such a direct link between happiness and eating a lot of fruits and vegetables as researchers in New Zealand report.

Their 13-day study of 405 people who kept food diaries showed that people who ate more fruits and vegetables reported higher than average levels of curiosity, creativity, and positive emotions, as well as engagement, meaning, and purpose.

Even more interestingly, participants often scored higher on all of those scales on days when they ate more fruits and vegetables.

‚ÄúThese findings suggest that fruit and vegetable intake is related to other aspects of human flourishing, beyond just feeling happy,‚ÄĚ writes the research team.

What are some¬†ways to be happy¬†you may have discovered recently? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

  • Exercising! Exercising makes me happy. I bring it to quite an extreme though. I exercise more than 10 hours a week, as a triathlete haha :)

    • Exercising is such a great one, Alfred! Glad to hear it works for you!

    • Sherif Eissa

      Me tooo, mostly running and swimming :) but also viewing the sea or taking a walk along it

  • Juliet

    I love this post. Thank you for sharing it, Courtney! I definitely live by 1 and 7 – arts and theatre make me happy, and 8 is my new year resolution, which I’ve been sticking to! You might also enjoy this 28-day kindness challenge by Greatist and KIND: http://agooddaystory.tumblr.com/post/109792182406/inspiration-28-day-kindness-challenge Because being kind to others in even very small ways definitely makes me happy! :)

    • Hey Juliet, thanks for giving this one a read! Love your New Year’s resolution; seems like you’ve got this happiness thing down! :)

  • Number 3 and 4 are the reasons why I love working at one of the
    top toronto event staffing
    agencies
    . When I’m out in the field working as a brand ambassador or promotional model, my main goal is to increase brand awareness. But by doing so, I get to talk to hundreds of people I never would have had the chance to talk to before. Most of the time, the conversations expand from brand awareness to them sharing an experience with me. I make so many connections this way, and at the end of the day I feel truly happy.. just from talking to complete strangers!

    I also personally have a large calendar where I write everything I do each day (even the little things, like ‘went to the mall’/’danielle slept over’) so I can look back and remember what I did, who I talked to, and what was important. I also highlight the number of each day bright pink when I workout.

    Another thing that made me happy was also mentioned on this list- participate with your community. In the winter, I joined the Pickering volleyball recreational team. Majority of my team mates were 50+. I had an amazing time with my team and after our games we would hit a local pub. I never would have gotten the chance to participate and meet the people in my community without this sport.

    • Sounds like you’re hitting the happiness sweet spot, Nicole! Congrats!

  • I feel like it’s easy to forget this, but items can create experiences. For example, tap shoes are an item, but without them I can’t have the experience of taking tap class. Therefore, they’re one of my favorite items. A lot of experiences can’t be done without some equipment.

    • Super great point, Brittany! I agree 100%; thanks for bringing that up!

    • WithheldName

      I respectfully disagree 100%. But have a wonderful day anyways.

  • joehack3r

    I enjoy combining #3 and #8 – having a little small talk and making the person smile. The world would be a much better place if everybody focused on connecting with strangers and making them happy.

    • Hear, hear! Awesome to see this philosophy in action; way to go!

  • Courtney, awesome weird ways :) Love the last one as I am vegan, so this one is easy for me :) Make someone smile works all the time, totally agree to that one and spending money on experiences is also a perfect way how to get happy. I’ve recently found out things are not bringing any benefit to my happiness, only experiences, giving love, being kind. Things are just making my life more comfortable or enjoyable.
    I also rather listen to happy songs than sad ones :) And probably it is time again to continue with writing a diary every day :)

    • Those sound like some great realizations, Petr! Thanks for checking this one out!

  • Subebx Subebx

    Don’t forget get vaccinated…

  • Waaaaaiiiittt… No mention of chocolate?! *gasps*

    Otherwise, great tips! Thanks Courtney. :)

  • Jane Steranko

    Gardening always energizes me. Join a group, it can be one that makes you think, one that gets you civics minded and one that focuses on just meeting new people. Each group is like a little solar system. Get multiple systems going. Before too long a few will be in more than solar system of yours. These might be good people to further cultivate a friendship.

  • Vladimir Zakharov

    Hi Courtney – translating this now to Russian via Unbabel and enjoying every bit of it. Thank you! (And thanks that you decided to share this with the prevailingly unhappy Russian people)

    • Haha, happy to be of service!

    • WithheldName

      If you live in Russia, grow as many indoor plants as you can during that long winter.

  • Fede

    Hello. This article is excelent!!!! I feel very happy when I’m going to go the beach and when I eat with my family in the park. I discovered this article “47 Ways To Avoid A Bad Day and I like it very much!!!! Goodbye.

    • We can’t have too much happiness; thanks for sharing!

      • Fede

        Thank you for this article!!!!! : D

  • Gabriela Radu

    I was intentionally searching today for ways to be happier. Thanks for this! I for one like to cook / take a walk when my mind just stops thinking about anything that involves a decision.

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