Happiness Helper #1: Shop Smart
Money may buy happiness, but only if you spend it wisely. To get more happiness for your dollar, splurge for experiences instead of stuff. Experiences allow you to spend quality time with family and friends; a new pair of shoes is a solo endeavor.
Happiness Helper #2: Do a Good Deed
People who volunteer are likelier to be happier than those who don't--regardless of how much money they make or other socioeconomic factors. Researchers believe volunteering boosts happiness because it increases empathy, which makes you appreciate all the good stuff in your own life.
Happiness Helper #3: Flip Through Old Photos
When you're feeling down, break out your kids' baby albums or pictures from your favorite vacation. It may actually make you feel happier than a square of Godiva chocolate would! The music and chocolate left most people's moods unchanged; alcohol and TV gave a slight lift (1%), but the winner by a long shot was viewing pictures, which made people feel 11% better.
Happiness Helper #4: Lighten Up
After just three weeks of bright-light therapy, more than 50% of the participants in a study about depression reported a better mood and sounder sleep. An hour of bright indoor light a day was as effective as antidepressants--and had no side effects.
Happiness Helper #5: Track the Good Stuff
Every night, write down three things that went well for you that day, no matter how minor. Be descriptive and note the role you played in making each happy moment happen. You'll be increasingly mindful of how much control you have over the bright spots in your life.
Happiness Helper #6: Go With the "Flow"
Some joyful moments seem to call for conscious reflection and dissection. At other times, we savor experiences best when we simply immerse ourselves in the present moment, without deliberate analysis or judgment. Listen to your favorite music with headphones in a dark room. Lose yourself in a novel you just can't put down. Set aside enough time at least once a week for your favorite hobby so you can attain a level of absorption known as the "flow" state.
Happiness Helper #7: Get a Move On
Exercise sparks the release of feel-good endorphins, but it also satisfies something more profound: the human need to perform and excel. Although any fitness activity you enjoy is good, you'll enhance its benefits even more by taking it outdoors.
Happiness Helper #8: Tap into Your Spiritual Side
The more frequently that people attend religious services, the more content they are, according to a study in the Journal of Economic Psychology. If prayer isn't for you, try meditation or a restorative yoga class instead. New research shows that spiritual practices, such as regular mindfulness exercises, can actually change brain structure in a way that promotes a sense of well-being.
Happiness Helper #9: Pucker Up
Kissing is romantic, but it gives more than your sex life a lift. And if you need yet another reason to plant one on your beloved, smooch for heart health: Research shows that regular kissing reduces cholesterol in men and women alike.
Happiness Helper #10: Sing in the Shower
The shower, with its cocoon of privacy and superlative acoustics, brings out the diva in us all. And we would be wise to let her take the steamy stage and croon away.