With Coronavirus declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) this March, ‘social-distancing’ is now the new normal in many parts of the world. What steps can we take to stay happy during these uncertain times? We take a look at the science behind why these small steps can make you feel more positive.
The latest research published in the Review of General Psychology suggests that being happier is all about the small things. The study found that our everyday choices and actions have the greatest impact on our happiness levels – more so than wealth, possessions or our genetics. Cherry Casey uncovers 11 surprising things we can start doing right now to be even happier, all backed by science…
Science suggests the way we stand and sit may have an impact on our mood. Dutch scientist Erik Peper found that when his students made a conscious effort to sit up straight or walk tall without slumping their shoulders, they found it much easier to conjure up positive thoughts and memories. A study by Clark University also found that simply smiling can actually lead to a feeling of joy.
Travel plans may be on hold for the time being but a study published in Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness comes during the planning stage of a holiday . This is because we enjoy the sense of anticipation and it can boost our happiness levels for eight weeks. While booking a trip at the moment isn’t possible, why not have a think about what destinations you’d like to visit? Planning what you might do once things are more settled will give you something to look forward to and could be an instant way to lift your mood.
Take time for you
With the rise of JOMO (the joy of missing out – the opposite of FOMO, meaning the fear of missing out), simply focusing more on the here and now, spending time away from the distractions of your phone or giving yourself some dedicated ‘me-time’ could help improve your wellbeing, according to high achievers such as Oprah and Bill Gates. This has been proven by new research published in Biological Psychiatry, which found that meditation – taking the time to sit still and focus on your breath – has markedly positive effects on the brain. The participants who meditated showed greater measures of connectivity in the brain associated with calmness and stress.
Turn up the volume
While listening to feel-good tunes sounds obvious, music can affect our brains in more ways than we think. Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics found that listening to rhythmic music can alter our brainwave speed, with slow beats encouraging slow brainwaves associated with a calmer or meditative state. Even more prescriptive, listening to Weightless by Marconi Union apparently slows the heart rate, reduces blood pressure and lowers levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and is proven to be more relaxing than any other music tested to date.
Action For Happiness have found that even small acts of can help you feel positive. There’s plenty you can do from home without risking your health. Pick up the phone and call someone you know is alone. Video calls and messages work just as well too.
Sweat it out
It’s well known that exercise releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins, but research by the American College of Sports Medicine has shown that getting active for 30 minutes also releases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – all hormones that can make us feel instantly happier. And social distancing doesn’t have to put a stop to your exercise efforts. There’s plenty you can do from the comfort of your living room. Give these 6 Ways To Workout At Home a go, or try out Jess Ennis Hill’s best bodyweight exercises.
Keep track of the positives
A study by psychologists at published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that keeping a note of things we’re grateful for can help us feel more optimistic. The study’s group of participants wrote about things they were grateful for across 10 weeks. They felt more satisfied and hopeful about their lives than those who simply wrote about major events. They even reported fewer physical ailments including colds and headaches.
According to a recent study, eating bright yellow foods like bananas and poached eggs can actually help you feel more cheerful. It’s also been proven as the colour most associated with happy, healthy people, according to a study published in BMC Medical Research Methodology.
Become a water baby
According to research by marine biologists, being near water plugs the brain with happy hormones including oxytocin, while reducing cortisol. It’s proven that water has a calming effect can be a welcome break for the brain. While swimming might be off the cards for now, even the shower or bath can stimulate the same relaxing effects and shut-off everyday distractions like traffic noise and chatter.
Spend time with animals
Just five minutes spent interacting with a pet could help the brain release endorphins and feel-good hormone dopamine – according to research published in the journal Environment and Behaviour, even watching fish glide around in a tank reduces blood pressure by 4%.
Learn something new
According to Vanessa King, positive psychology expert at Action for Happiness, learning is a core need for our wellbeing. The sense of accomplishment we feel when we learn something new massively helps boost our confidence and self-esteem. If you’re spending more time at home, why not give an online language course a go? Or jump on Youtube for some new recipes to try with your cupboard essentials.
Did you know that eating certain foods can have a significant impact on your mood? Check out our five foods that can boost your happiness levels.