Each Monday in January, we're sharing a number of science-backed tips guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Here are more things you can easily do (today, tomorrow, next week or next month!) to find your happy place.
Eat with Your Ears
If your idea of a happy meal involves crunching your way through a bag of chips, science is on your side. Researchers at Oxford University had participants score food for nine sensory qualities and found that those they described as “crispy” and “crunchy” gave them the most pleasure. This effect may be evolutionary, since these textures were a signal to our ancestors that food was fresh enough to eat. So pass the celery—or the salty snacks!
Get the recipe: Wedge Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Crunchy Croutons
Make a Getaway Plan
From the fun-is-in-the-anticipation files: A large-scale Dutch study revealed that it’s not necessarily a vacation that promotes happiness; the act of planning a trip and the anticipation you feel leading up to it may contribute to your good mood, as well. In fact, in the study, only the vacationers who had fully kicked backed and relaxed while away reported a lasting happiness boost after they came home. Sounds like a good reason to plan your next vacation at a soothing, stress-reducing spa!
Use the Good Stuff
Don’t save Grandma’s silver for special occasions. Using fancy cutlery makes even an unremarkable meal more joyful. According to a study by the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, people who ate dinner with heavier, more formal- looking cutlery enjoyed their meal more than those who used lightweight utensils. The participants also guessed that the food eaten with the higher-end utensils was worth more money and judged it as more “artistic” than did the diners who dug into the same dish using lighter-weight forks and knives.
Put on a Happy Face
We’ve all heard that the link between smiling and feeling happy works both ways—feeling good leads naturally to a grin, and conversely, pasting on a smile, even a forced one, can lift a bad mood. But a smile can also keep you calmer under stress, a study from the University of Kansas shows. Subjects held chopsticks in their teeth to create certain facial expressions and were subjected to stressors like multitasking and physical discomfort. When they “smiled”—albeit unintentionally—through the stress, they recovered faster and felt better.
Volunteer Your Time
People who lend a helping hand are happier than those who don’t, studies show. Any amount of time you can give to others is worthwhile, says Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., science director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. But the volunteering sweet spot to make you feel good is 100 hours a year, according to a European study. That’s only about two hours a week—more than manageable! Visit volunteermatch.org for ideas of ways to help others in communities near you.
Catch Some Rays
Everyone wants to get outside on a sunny day to hit the beach or grab a table at a sidewalk café. And there’s a reason you should indulge that urge. Serotonin, a body chemical associated with mood, is affected by exposure to daylight, and high serotonin levels are linked to more positivity, greater mental focus and a sense of calm—quite the trifecta. If you’re a cubicle dweller, tear yourself away from those oh-so-urgent emails and get outside in the sunlight periodically, says one researcher. No one’s suggesting you skip the sunscreen, but you might think about slipping off your shades for a bit, however cool they make you look. Even 10 to 15 minutes of letting your eyes drink in the sunlight could make you healthier and happier.
Get more tips for happiness here!