While these simple steps will not change the world and may not ‘cure’ your stress or sadness, even brief moments of happiness can lift your mood and contribute to more or longer periods of a positive mood.
1. Smile: Even if you don’t think you have a reason, smiling will make you feel happier.
Because we smile when we are happy, the act of smiling tricks the brain into thinking we feel good. It will actually release dopamine into the body—the feel-good hormone, and serotonin, the mood stabilizer. An added perk might be that your smile will help someone else feel happier.
2. Exercise: This could be a full workout or 30 seconds of dancing around the room to whatever song is playing on the radio. The point is to get the body moving because your brain releases endorphins—the body’s natural pain reliever, when you move.
3. Watch something Funny: Sometimes we need to relax with a funny movie or a cute and funny internet video. The laughter will release dopamine and serotonin into the body, and by getting into the story or watching that silly pet, you actually get a break from being yourself and whatever stressors are going on in your real life. The philosopher Aristotle came up with the idea of catharthis—emotional release from watching a character suffer. You can experience joy or happiness by watching someone else be happy.
4. Give Someone a Compliment: This one will not only make you feel happier, it will make the other person receiving the compliment feel good, too. When you do this, your brain will release oxytocin-the love hormone. You can also just know that you have a positive impact on the world around you and you have done something nice for someone else.
5. Treat Yourself: Do something nice for yourself. That can be giving yourself time to read, calling a friend, indulging in an ice cream, or just taking a nap—go ahead and do the thing you want to do (safely) that will make you feel better. No guilt allowed here. And not only did you get a reward, your brain will see the reward happening and to celebrate by releasing more of the feel good hormone dopamine into your system.
6. Listen to a happy song: Remember a song from your youth that made you dance, feel happy or remember your best friends. Scientific research continues to show that music has “significant potential to enhance brain health and well-being” (Global Counsel on Brain Health, 2020) so pick an old favorite from a happy time, play it and remember that joy. Who knows you might even start dancing and get a little exercise in there too.
7. Touch something that feels good: Pet your dog or cat, put on your favorite cozy socks or best sweater/hoody, hug a family member, or wrap your hands around a warm drink feel the heat sink in. These sensory inputs will help you feel calm and can lower your stress level.