Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Simple things that will turn your mood right around

By Barbara Pierce

We might dream of a vacation in the Caribbean, winning the lottery, or buying a Ferrari, but there’s good news for those of us who aren’t likely to fulfill those dreams anytime soon.

We actually don’t need any of that fancy stuff to feel happy.

Because it’s the simple things — like the sensation of the warm sun on our faces, the smell of fresh-baked bread, or the sight of a fresh coat of snow — that give us a boost. They bring us a feeling of well-being, deep satisfaction, pleasure and endorphins flowing through our brains. In a work, they make us happy.

Here are some of the simple things that will make you happy:

• Stop and see the roses: If you have time to stop and smell the roses, great! But if you find yourself in a hurry (and who doesn’t these days?) simply seeing beautiful blooms can lift your spirits, according to a study done by Harvard.

The happiness boost is greatest for night owls who have a hard time getting going in the morning, they found. So buy yourself some flowers and put them on a vase near your bed. Or take the scenic route for your morning commute and make sure to actually enjoy the scenery.

“Just look at the beauty of nature and you’ll feel good,” said Lynn Scarfuto of Herkimer, who regularly enjoys the beauty of the area as she photographs the Mohawk Valley as a member of Mohawk Valley Through the Lens.

• Get some fresh air: Learn to love the outdoors! When you go outside, you will feel so good. Studies show that nature lowers depression and anxiety. Nature is the brain’s miracle medicine. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of being out in nature,” Scarfuto said.

If you do something active while you’re outside, like walking or riding your bike, it gives you even more of that happy feeling.

• Take a social media break: The more time you spend on social media, the less happy you are, says a study. The reason? Looking at pictures and reading updates from friends leads you to compare your worst self to their best selves, leaving you feeling sad and left out.

But the solution is simple: Spend more time in real life with people you care about and save social media for specific updates rather than aimlessly scrolling through everyone else’s version of their perfect life.

Happiness is contagious

• Hang out with happy friends: Happiness is infectious; you can catch a good mood from your friends, say researchers. It’s so contagious, in fact, that one happy person can infect people three degrees removed from them with their joy.

• Learn about your roots: Connecting to your heritage helps you feel happier by giving you a better sense of your own identity, helping you feel linked to your relatives, and finding value in shared experiences. Call your grandma and ask her about her childhood. Who knows? Maybe you’ll finally get an explanation for Uncle Bill.

• Exercise: Exercising is a natural way to boost your mood. “I go five days a week, and I have noticed a drastic increase in my level of happiness!” said one person online. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that are associated with a feeling of euphoria.

• Hop in the sack: The fact that sex can make you happy won’t surprise you. Couples who had sex once a week reported being happier than couples that had less sex. And couples that had sex more frequently weren’t any happier than those hopping into bed together once a week. Spice up your sex life with some adult sex toys online.

• Swap jeans for nicer clothes: For depressed people, jeans are the clothing of choice, say researchers. That may be harsh, but it is true that how you dress can play a role in how you feel. Women in the study said wearing a dress made them happy.

Other simple things that bring happiness include: sleeping in clean sheets, the clean feeling after a shower, laughing so hard it hurts, snuggling on the sofa with a loved one, doing something for others, waking up before the alarm and realizing there’s more time to sleep, and popping bubble wrap.

The No. 1 thing that will bring you happiness:

• Get together with someone or call someone: The No. 1 thing guaranteed to bring the most happiness isn’t actually a thing — it’s a person.

“It’s relationships that are most important, not material things,” said one researcher.

Our relationships are actually necessary for our own personal happiness, found the study. The number of interactions people had with others predicted day-to-day differences in happiness, found another study.

Our close relationships keep us grounded and influence both happiness and the sense that we are part of a larger community.

Interestingly, even our interactions with people we don’t know that well increase our happiness.

That’s significant! Well, now you know! Now go call someone!