So often, the habits that experts recommend to increase happiness arenâ€™t compatible with actual daily life. Who has time to sit down for an extended meditation session when youâ€™re juggling 1,000 different things?
Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to boost your well-being throughout the day in just a few minutes. Here are five research-backed happiness â€œhacksâ€ that take five minutes or less, but pay dividends all day long.
- Tackle your hardest task.
Loretta Graziano Breuning, founder of Inner Mammal Institute and author of â€œHabits of a Happy Brain,â€ believes that humans can essentially rewire their brains. How so? By understanding that we have certain â€œhappy chemicalsâ€ that were inherited from earlier mammals â€” and using that knowledge to develop habits that turn those chemicals on.
One of those chemicals is dopamine, which Breuning describes as â€œa sense of accomplishment,â€ and you can stimulate dopamine by going straight at your most difficult task of the day â€” ideally pretty early on. Have an email youâ€™ve been putting off? A particularly challenging stretch of child care? A deadline you need to hit, or a difficult conversation youâ€™ve been putting off? Tackle it first.
(If the task youâ€™re taking on isnâ€™t something you can complete in five minutes or less, break it into smaller chunks. Then start with one.)
Ultimately, the goal is to â€œfocus on a specific target,â€ Breuning said, and to celebrate yourself when youâ€™re done. It might feel counterintuitive to tackle a hard task when youâ€™re looking for a feeling of happiness, but stimulating dopamine in your brain can help keep you humming along (and feeling proud of yourself!) all day long.
- Take 10 deep breaths.
In a December study led by a team of researchers with the University of Wisconsin-Madisonâ€™s Center for Healthy Minds, experts broke down the four pillars they believe are essential to cultivating mental well-being: awareness, connection, insight and purpose. All these sound pretty lofty, but the pillars can be broken down into small daily habits that, over time, train the brain.
When it comes to awareness, for example, one of the simplest exercises to try is just breathing. Close your eyes and focus on the act of taking 10 breaths, the researchers suggested. Thatâ€™s it! (Or consider 4-7-8 breathing. Or roll breathing. Or any of the hundreds of other types of focused breathing. Just find one or two methods that feel good to you so youâ€™ll actually stick to it.)
Ultimately, research really does show how powerful mindfulness meditation can help to lessen feelings of anxiety and stress both in the moment and in the longer term. But the good news is that you donâ€™t need to spend a huge chunk of your day doing it.
Turn on some good music in order to boost your well-being.
- Listen to a happy song. (Bonus points for dancing!)
When youâ€™re exhausted or dragging, press play on an upbeat song. Research shows hearing happy music is on par with mindfulness meditation.
For example, in a 2016 study of older adults with Alzheimerâ€™s, listening to music improved their sense of well-being and mood and lowered their feelings of stress. On the other end of the spectrum, studies have shown that singing to babies in the NICU helps to keep them â€œquietly alertâ€ and reduced parental stress.
Bonus points for dancing or moving your body along with the music, which can help increase your energy levels even further while zapping stress.
- For a few minutes, focus on the people whoâ€™ve got your back.
According to Breuning, another key â€œhappy chemicalâ€ is oxytocin, which people tend to think of as the love hormone, though she thinks of it as more closely tied to feelings of trust. To stimulate oxytocin quickly, she recommended thinking about the people you trust. Ask yourself: â€œIf I need support, who will be there?â€ Breuning said.
You might go ahead and connect with that person by sending them a quick text or giving them a call, (or if youâ€™re together at home, giving them a quick hug). And those simple moments of social connection with someone you love and admire are a big-time happiness booster.
But just thinking about who is in your â€œherdâ€ can be enough, Breuning said. It stimulates your brainâ€™s oxytocin, which helps you feel safe and secure.
- Do something kind for someone. (Or just think kind thoughts!)
Research shows that daily acts of kindness are a simple way to boost happiness and they donâ€™t have to be big. What matters is that youâ€™re deliberate about it.
â€œIntentionally set a goal to be kinder to others,â€ experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest . â€œExpress sincerely felt kindness to a co-worker. Make a special effort to extend kind words to a neighbor. Hold the elevator for someone or take time to help a loved one.â€
Experts also now understand that it can be equally powerful (at least from a happiness-boosting perspective) to simply spend some time cultivating a sense of kindness toward someone in your own head â€” whether or not that person even knows it.
The Center for Healthy Minds recommended thinking about things you admire about that person. Then â€œrecall situations where they expressed these qualities and then imagine expressing your appreciation,â€ the group noted. â€œYou can then extend this to people you donâ€™t know very well and eventually even to people you find challenging.â€
By spending some time sending happy thoughts someone elseâ€™s way, youâ€™ll bring a bit of joy into your own life.
SOURCE: The Huffpost