6 Hacks for Instant Happiness
Quick tips to infuse your day with joy
When you get stressed or sad, do you find yourself overeating, drinking too much, binging on TV, or being glued to your smartphone? I won’t deny that my first impulse when feeling down is to gorge on chocolate cake. But I know refined carbs aren’t going to fix my problems (no matter how tasty they are!), so I like to have a few healthy happiness hacks on standby for when I need a pick-me-up.
1. Practice Gratitude.
Practicing gratitude is an easy practice but tremendously powerful. Like working out at the gym, the more you practice, the stronger your gratitude muscles get. The best way to start a gratitude practice is to start. Think of something you are grateful for, say it aloud, or write it down. “I am grateful for….”, fill in the blank. It can be something as simple as being grateful for your heart beating, or it can extend to people, pets, nature, your home, your job, a sunset, music, or great sex. Nothing is off-limits.
You can even start a gratitude journal. I prefer paper, though some excellent smartphone apps do the job nicely.
Countless studies have made it abundantly clear that regular meditation has numerous benefits, including better sleep, more creativity, a sharper memory, reduced anxiety, a healthier body, less stress, and increased happiness.
While it takes multiple meditation sessions to deliver long-term benefits, there is one that delivers instant benefits. It’s called Compassion and Loving-Kindness Meditation, or Metta meditation. Here’s a 5-minute version I created. It’s become my go-to meditation practice at home, on trains, busses, planes, at work… anywhere I want a quick dose of “feel good” energy.
The happiness in this practice comes from simply thinking good thoughts for someone else. What could be easier?
3. Tap into your inner child.
Getting in touch with our inner child helps us let go of our limiting beliefs and return to an innocent state of being filled with play, laughter, curiosity, discovery, and boundless possibility.
Start by making a list of things that brought you joy when you were young. Maybe it was a special toy, a book, a movie, a costume, or a game. Pick the one that excites you the most and repeat that experience as an adult.
Want to play kickball or hide n seek. Permit yourself to be as silly as possible and laugh as much as possible. Go ahead. Be childish.
4. Spend some time in nature.
There are many studies about the positive effects of spending time in nature. A 90-minute walk in nature has been shown to yield changes to people’s brains in a way that can protect against depression. If you’ve got 90 minutes, go for it. Otherwise, merely 20 minutes amongst trees, flowers, and shrubbery can lower stress hormones.
Be sure to put down your phone and notice nature. Stop and smell those roses. Roll in the grass. Hug a tree. I no longer believe in multi-tasking, but if you combine Number four, Spending time in nature, with Number five, Exercise, you can easily double your daily dose of happiness.
The mood benefits of just 20 minutes of exercise can last up to 12 hours, and studies show that physically active people are happier and more satisfied with their lives. And while there are tremendous benefits to a regular exercise program, even people who don’t exercise regularly will feel instant benefits from a quick dose of getting their butt off the couch or stepping away from their desk and putting their body in motion.
If you already have a favorite type of physical activity, go for it. My favorites tend towards activities that energize me without entirely wiping me out; going for a bike ride, hiking (especially with my dogs), doing yoga, or swimming. But the all-time favorite one that I can do without even leaving my house is cranking up some music and dancing like a fool.
6. Do something good for someone else.
Volunteering connects me with other people and helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. Studies have shown that helping others kindles our own happiness, and the more often we help, the more the benefits of happiness increase.
Try volunteering at a local organization or starting closer to home by doing little acts of kindness for loved ones, neighbors, people in your community, or even people at work. Whenever I’ve volunteered to help at hospitals, schools, pet shelters, or homeless shelters, I’ve always walked away feeling happy.
Bake some cookies for your co-workers, walk a little old lady across the street, buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line at the coffee shop, or smile at strangers.
Give of yourself what you’re able to give without expecting anything in return. Expectation when helping others leads to resentment, and that’s the opposite of happiness.
There you have it; my top 6 happiness hacks for feeling better now and infusing your day with joy. I hope you found one or maybe even six that resonate with you. And feel free to leave a comment to let me know if there’s something not on the list that you enjoy. I’m always looking for new ways to get my happiness on.
Jimmy Farren Hickey is an extroverted introvert passionate about yoga, mindfulness, personal growth, self-care, gardening, travel, cooking, laughter, art, music, beauty, and burritos. He is a passionate human-centered creative professional who has led creative direction and UX design for hundreds of advertisers, more than 25 magazines, and at one behemoth e-commerce giant named Amazon. He currently lives in Portugal with his husband and dog.