5 Things Science Says Will Make You Happier

Research-backed habits that will improve your outlook and positive attitude

Happy woman with balloons

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It's easy to assume that things like money and a luxurious lifestyle lead to happiness, but research shows that it's the more simple experiences—like practicing gratitude or spending time with friends—that promote a sunny outlook.

Whether you need to shift from negative thoughts or want to continue a streak of positivity, here are five ways to boost happiness every day.

Practice Daily Gratitude

Expressing gratitude has been shown to do more than improve your mood. People who write down a few positive things about their day are healthier, more energetic, less stressed and anxious, and get better sleep.

The key is to make this a regular habit and to do it with intention. Think about creating a small gratitude ritual. For example, every morning when you have your coffee, try thinking of three things that you appreciate about the previous day. Or make it a habit to jot down three positive things about your day before you go to bed at night. Your three things can be seemingly small (a beautiful flower you saw during a walk) or big (the fact that you're healthy). In fact, science shows that it's the small everyday experiences that make us happier, compared to big life events.

Surround Yourself With Positive People

Happiness is contagious. A landmark 2008 study found that living within a mile of a happy person boosts your own happiness by 25%. If you're feeling down, reach out to a friend who generally has a more positive attitude. Your brains have mirror neurons that will literally mimic what another person is expressing; so when you need a bit of positive infusion, connect with those who share it.

Practice Regular Acts of Kindness

Research has shown that spending money on others makes us happier than spending money on ourselves and doing small acts of kindness increases life satisfaction. Even the smallest nice gesture can make someone's day. Here are a few easy ways to show kindness:

  • Hold the door open for someone behind you.
  • Say thank you and mean it when you pick up your next cup of coffee.
  • Donate clothes to a local shelter.
  • Help an elderly neighbor with yard work.
  • Bake a dessert to share with your coworkers.

Spend More Time With Family and Friends

Friendships can be one of the keys to longevity. In fact, one study found that low social interaction—and in turn, loneliness—can be as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is twice as bad for your health as obesity.

Even if you're busy you can find ways to connect with people you care about.

Use your lunch break as an opportunity to call a friend or, if possible, take a walk together. If you're busy during the week, consider inviting your friend to do some errands together on the weekend.

Invest in Experiences, Not Objects

Research shows people report feeling happier when they spend their money on experiences rather than objects. We remember experiences for a longer period of time and our brains can re-live them, making our positive emotions last longer. So instead of that new pair of jeans consider trying a new yoga class or inviting a friend to the movies with you.

A Word From Verywell

While these ways to increase happiness may come easily to some people, if you're coping with depression, chronic stress, or other psychological illnesses, it can be difficult to see the bright side. Remember that every day is different and that these are practices to work on daily. If you continue to have difficulty coping, consider talking to a friend or family member for support, or contact your doctor for advice on next steps.

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