We are chest deep in winter — just ask the citizens of Chicago. The skies are bleak, the weather is frigid, my happiness level is at an all time low. I actually went for a run outside yesterday. That little burst of energy resulted in a gross chest cough and a strained calf, because I haven’t used either of my calf muscles since mid-October. It’s rough out there.
But I’m not going to let this winter get me down, and neither should you.
If you make a conscious effort, you can create and sustain your own happiness each and every day. What follows are 10 easy ways to do it. Work one, two or all ten into your daily routine and voila: you will no longer be another miserable person that is simply just existing through this winter.
1. Become an Actress
Because think about how much the world benefits from the endearing and charming Jennifer Lawrence.
Listen, I’m not telling you to deliver a monologue or tighten your grasp on Shakespearean English. Instead, start acting happier in order to really feel it. For example, let’s say you had a low sales day at work and you’re bummed out about it.
Instead of going home, sulking on the couch, and stuffing your face full of Salt and Vinegar chips, cook the celebratory meal you would’ve had, listen to music, dance around your kitchen. Do whatever you would normally do when feeling cheerful. By acting happy, your head and heart will start to believe it, too.
2. Write and Feel Right
Another way to let go of your negative emotions is to write them down, crumble them up and throw them away. It sounds crazy, but doing this can help you reduce the strain of your everyday worries. Do NOT be like the annoying acquaintances on your Facebook feed that complain about every little hiccup in their day. You know how absolutely annoying they are.
Alternatively, if you write about the good in your life — great job, supportive partner, amazing vacation stories, or anything else that makes you smile — you’ll feel more positive.
3. Pay It Forward
One sure-fire way to put a smile on your face is to make someone else happy. Our relationships are vital to our happiness, so it’s extremely important to maintain them. Do something nice for a friend, family member or co-worker every single day. Not only will you feel great about yourself, but you’ll make someone else feel happy, too. Furthermore, you’ll be strengthening the bonds of your relationships. That’s a win-win-win.
4. Buy a Smile
As mentioned above, it’s a great idea to treat others; it turns out that treating yourself is a great way to feel happy, too. Now, don’t go spending your money on an expensive dress or a fancy new tablet every week. We get the most satisfaction from purchasing experiences, such as trips, delicious dinners or concert tickets. Back away slowly from those gorgeous black biker boots and pack your bags for a weekend by the ocean — your smile will last longer.
5. Get Moving
You won’t want to skip the gym any longer when you recognize the many benefits of exercise. Getting your sweat on releases an antibody-endorphin tag team that leaves you feeling great in the short and long run. Antibodies help your body to fight against sickness, which means you’ll feel great in the days and weeks ahead. Meanwhile, endorphins give you a euphoric boost post-workout. You may even start looking better, to boot. You can even get physical outside, weather permitting.
There is a word of caution to this tale: If the winter weather fights, you will fail.
Sorry — I watched the Disney version of Hercules this weekend and it seemed like the perfect opportunity for a quote.
On a serious note, make sure you keep outdoor physical activity to the minimum if the conditions aren’t right. You’ll be more likely to injure yourself or become sick.
6. Love the Little Things
I have this pair of Timberland wool socks that come up to my knees. They are hideously ugly and SO GLORIOUS. I put them on every day after work for an instant mood boost. The fact that keeping my tootsies warm brings me such joy might seem strange, but life is all about the little things. These things might feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but honing in on the good things — no matter how little they are — can lead to a mood boost that might last all day long.
7. Spend Time Outside
Home. Car. Office. Car. Home. You might not spend much time outside during the week, and that can dampen your spirits. Fresh air can have incredible effects on your happiness levels. For one, people who live near green spaces report improved mental health. The sun also does its part by naturally boosting your body’s store of Vitamin D, which has been linked to a decrease in depression. A simple 15-minute stroll will have you just as radiant as the sun that’s shining down on you.
8. Make the Most of Me Time
Maybe those few hours after work or after the kids go to bed are the only hours of the day where you don’t have to answer to anyone. What do you do with that time? Many people might scroll through Facebook, answer e-mails or veg out on the couch while watching mindless reality TV.
Those things might sound relaxing, but none will boost your happiness levels. Use your free time to do something you genuinely enjoy, and eliminate anything that doesn’t make you feel like a million bucks. I’m prone to taking super long baths in the winter months, complete with a glass of red wine, a candle, tons of bubbles, and whatever book I’m reading at the moment. Investing your time in a workout class you dislike or a dreaded group lunch means nothing if they don’t make you feel happy.
9. Let It Go
That song has a point. After all, harboring anger or resentment is murderous for your soul. You can’t move forward and find true happiness without letting go of things that happened in the past. Make an effort to lower your stress levels and minimize the worries that plague you. A clean slate will change your world.
10. Look at Every Glass as Half Full
If you want to be happy, make happiness your goal. You should never feel like you’re working or burned out by your efforts, but being conscious about how you react to situations will certainly make you happier in the long run.
In one study, half of the subjects were told to listen to music and focus on how the songs made them happy. The other half was told to simply relax while listening. Who do you think came out with bigger smiles and more cheerful hearts? The ones who actively sought out their happiness in the song.
Now it’s your turn. Go forth and use these tips to be happy. If nothing else, I hope my excellent use of gifs made you smile from one ear-muffed ear to the other.