Sometimes it can feel hard to keep up a happy state of mind. The emotion, like all the others, isn’t always permanent. But there are ways to keep it up or boost it when you need it ― and luckily, they’re simpler than you think.
1. Log some time with your furry friends.
Play fetch with Fido or sneak in a few cuddles with your kitten. Interacting with your pets can release oxytocin in the brain ― you know, the “warm and fuzzy” hormone ― resulting in that joyous feeling.
2. Count your blessings.
There’s nothing like a little thankfulness to boost your mood. Research shows expressing gratitude can make you happier. Try writing down three things you’re thankful for at the end of each night.
3. Remind yourself how great you are.
PSA: You are awesome — you just gotta believe it for yourself. Studies show self-acceptance is crucial to a happier life, but it’s a habit we barely practice.
4. Call your mom.
Pick up that phone. Research suggests hearing your mom’s voice can help reduce stress. And less stress means a happier you.
5. Meditate, meditate, meditate.
The list of meditation benefits seems endless, but perhaps one of the more positive perks is what the practice can do for your mood. Research shows that allowing yourself a few moments of zen-like escape each day may make you happier.
6. Listen to music.
Admit it: There’s nothing quite like a solo jam session, and apparently science agrees. Research shows that trying to boost your mood while listening to music actually can help lift you to a more positive state. Press play ASAP.
7. While you’re at it, listen to sad music.
No, really. Studies also suggest listening to sad music can help boost positive feelings. (We just see this as another excuse to listen to Adele on repeat.)
8. Give back.
We didn’t get to where we are without a little help, so why not extend that same generosity to someone else? Not only will your kindness influence others, studies show it’ll also make you happier, too.
9. Hang out with someone who is happy.
Joy really is contagious. Research shows the more you surround yourself with positive people, the happier you’ll feel. Time to go catch up with your BFF?
10. Watch a funny video.
Find something that tickles you, watch and let the giggles ensue. Laughter can reduce stress, after all.
11. Plan a vacation.
The anticipation for a trip is almost as good as the trip itself. Prepping for a vacation has been shown to increase our happiness levels, the New York Times reported. The warm sun or exciting slopes are just an added bonus.
12. Whip up a good meal.
Feeling blue? Tap into your inner chef and hit the kitchen. Researchers say people who employ creative process in small ways ― like coming up with a new pasta recipe for dinner ― feel happier overall.
13. Get in a good workout.
Consider this our love letter to exercise. Not only is it good for your body, but it’s equally as beneficial to your brain. When you work up a sweat, you release endorphins, immediately upping your happiness levels. Go ahead, get moving.
14. Spend money on experiences.
A fulfilling life doesn’t lie in our possessions, it’s found in the experiences we have and the people we share them with. If you’re going to spend a little moolah, spend it on a trip, a concert or any other experience that will bring you joy. Science says you’ll be happier in the long run.
15. Challenge yourself.
Work for that promotion or take on that marathon. It’s a lovely treat for your mind, according to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project. “Challenge and novelty are key elements of happiness,” Rubin wrote in Real Simple. “The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.”
16. Fake a smile.
We get it — smiling may be the last thing you want to do when you’re in a sour mood, but it could help to turn that frown upside-down. Research shows faking a smile can help elevate our mood, even if we’re not genuinely into it right away. Talk about the power of suggestion.
17. Go outside.
Take advantage of your backyard or stroll a park you’ve never been to before and thank yourself later. One study found that going for a brief walk in nature can help improve your mood and alleviate stress.
18. Make some new friends.
Research shows making friends increases our happiness and well-being. Join a club, talk to your coworker or strike up a conversation in the grocery line — you never know what kinds of new connections you can make.
19. Drink a glass of milk.
Dairy contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that helps create serotonin, the “happy” chemical in the brain. Milk: It not only does the body good, it does the brain good too.
20. Take a cozy bath (like Barry the dog).
If that isn’t the look of happiness, we don’t know what is. Plus, research suggests that warm baths make us feel warm on the inside, too.
21. Get enough sleep.
More sleep = A happier you. Too little shuteye slows down our cognitive processes and increases the risk of depression. Try hitting the pillow 30 minutes earlier each night or taking a nap in the middle of the day.
22. Embrace the aging process.
Most people wish they could avoid aging, but studies show that we’re happier as we get older. Experts theorize this could be because the older we get, the more we reflect on positive experiences. Sounds like a great reason to love those birthdays.
23. Have a good cry.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it may actually work. Research has found that crying can lead to positive increase in mood following the flow of tears. Those in the study reported feeling better than they did before they had a reason to cry.
24. Follow the “golden ratio.”
This theory, developed by positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, holds that for every one negative experience you have, you should have three positive ones in order to achieve happiness. Makes sense to us!
25. Show your appreciation for someone else over email.
Technology isn’t all bad. Take a break from your overflowing inbox and switch gears to a different kind of email. “We fight so hard against the negative and we forget to tell people how powerful a two-minute positive e-mail could be,” Harvard-trained researcher and Before Happiness author Shawn Achor told Oprah in 2014.
26. Give someone else a compliment.
27. Find the perfect temperature.
The weather outside has a direct influence on how we feel on the inside. One study found that happiness is maximized at an approximate 57 degrees Fahrenheit.
28. Keep a one-sentence journal.
Sometimes the most mundane moments turn out to be the loveliest source of happiness. Research shows recording these everyday events may make us happier later on because we appreciate them a lot more when they’re revisited. In other words, if you ate a scrumptious chocolate brownie on Wednesday, write it down.
30. Stop to smell the flowers, literally.
Eau de Happiness? One study on how scent affects joy found that participants who were in a floral-scented room selected three times as many happiness-related terms than negative terms.
31. Have sex.
32. Just TRY being happy.
Can you think yourself to joy? Some researchers believe so. According to two experimental studies, taking happiness into your own hands can boost your well-being.
33. Try to cut back on work.
Residents of Denmark, one of the happiest countries in the world, spend less time than most Americans in the office. Only 2 percent of Danes work long hours, which is categorized as 50 hours per week. And full-time workers still devote 66 percent of their day to self-care, like eating and sleeping. Maybe do as the Danes do?
34. Get spiritual.
Spirituality and religion have been linked to higher happiness and well-being, according to a review of studies on spirituality and health. Sometimes it helps to know you’re connected to something greater than yourself.
35. Celebrate little victories.
There’s power in small moments. Whether it’s getting an answer correct at trivia or catching your favorite song on the radio, indulge in the little “wins” of your day. “I think when we take time to notice the things that go right — it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day,” Susan Weinschenk, author of How to Get People to Do Stuff, previously told HuffPost. “That can help with our moods.”
36. Think of happy memories.
Research shows nostalgia makes us happier and more optimistic. Time to dig out those old yearbooks?
37. Skip the small talk and go deep.
Anyone can talk about the weather. Let yourself get a little more connected and have a substantial conversation with someone — research shows it will boost happiness and well-being.
38. Recite a positive mantra.
You can either create your own or find one online (personally, we like these encouraging words). Search for a phrase that’s going to bring meaning to you. Research shows having a mantra can help with bad feelings. Find yours!
39. Spend money on someone else.
Investing in other people really does pay off — for them and for you. According to one 2008 study, spending money on others promotes your own happiness.
40. Become a better listener.
How much do your really pay attention to your conversations? Researchers theorize the more we listen, the happier and more meaningful our lives are — particularly within our relationships. As Epictetus once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
41. Take a selfie.
The next time someone judges you for taking one of those infamous front-facing photos, show them this: A 2016 study found that selfies actually increase confidence and make you happier. Boom.
42. Talk to someone IRL.
Put down that phone and log some real FaceTime. Human beings are social creatures (and not just on the internet), so it’s time we tap into those resources. Research shows we simply feel better when we’re around other people.
43. Lower your expectations.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a lackluster New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day. It’s no secret that expectation can lead to disappointment if the bar is set too high (in fact, research backs this up). We’re not implying that you should set the bar low, but sometimes realistic ideas make you happier in the long run.
44. Look on the bright side.
There are perks to seeing life through a glass half full. Try looking for a silver lining in any situation. Optimists are not only more joyful, they also may live longer. That’s a lot of extra time to be happy.
45. Finally, just look at this smiling face.
Give one (or several) of these a try the next time you’re feeling low. Happiness looks good on you.
A previous version of this article appeared in March 2015.