Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy.
Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness, lower stress, even improve immune function.
2. Find Something to Look Forward To
One study found people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.
Anticipating future rewards can actually light up the pleasure centers in your brain much as the actual reward will.
3. Commit Conscious Acts of Kindness
A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.
Pick one day a week and make a point of committing five acts of kindness.
4. Infuse Positivity Into Your Surroundings
Our physical environment can have an enormous impact on our mindset and sense of well-being.
Studies have shown that the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are.
Physical activity can boost mood and enhance our work performance in a number of other ways as well, by improving motivation and feelings of mastery, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping us get into flow—that “locked in” feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.
6. Spend Money (but Not on Stuff)
In his book Luxury Fever, Robert Frank explains that while the positive feelings we get from material objects are frustratingly fleeting, spending money on experiences, especially ones with other people, produces positive emotions that are both more meaningful and more lasting.
Spending money on other people is called ‘prosocial spending,’ and also boosts happiness.
Draw two columns on a piece of paper (or take ten minutes at work to create a nifty spreadsheet) and track your purchases over the next month. Are you spending more on things or on experiences? At the end of the month, look back over each column and think about the pleasure each purchase brought you, and for how long.
7. Exercise a Signature Strength
Each time we use a skill, whatever it is, we experience a burst of positivity. If you find yourself in need of a happiness booster, revisit a talent you haven’t used in a while.
Even more fulfilling than using a skill, though, is exercising a strength of character, a trait that is deeply embedded in who we are.
Studies have shown that the more you use your signature strengths in daily life, the happier you become.
Your health is more than what you put in your body. It is also everything outside of you that makes you, you. Your jobs, your relationships, who you choose to give your time and money to.
Take care of you so you can take care of others well.
Find out what helps your soul thrive.