7 Science-Backed Ways to Become Happier

  1. Focus on the now. Letting your mind wander can make you miserable, but if you pay careful attention to what you’re doing in the present moment—even if you’re emptying the dishwasher—it will increase your well-being. Although emptying the dishwasher isn’t an activity that people are dying to do because it makes them so happy, focusing on putting the spoons in their proper place is a form of mindfulness that calms the brain by blocking future worries or rumination on the past that’s similar to meditation.
  2. Exercise more. According to Inc., “Regular exercise actually works as well as the popular antidepressant Zoloft at relieving depression. Why? Like common mood-boosting drugs, working up a sweat increases the amount of neurotransmitters circulating in our brains. It also reduces stress, and, of course, keeps you healthy.”
  3. Get out in nature. Countless studies have proven that getting outside and being one with nature has profoundly positive effects on mood.
  4. Be kind. Lending a helping hand is a big happiness booster. Center for Healthy Minds founder Richard Davidson says, “There are now a plethora of data showing that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being.”
  5. Limit social media. Connecting with your friends in real life will result in more happiness, but frequently looking at carefully curated distorted representations of other people’s lives increases loneliness and decreases life satisfaction. In fact, taking a break from Facebook can boost your well-being.
  6. Spend wisely. A new flatscreen television may affect your happiness levels in the days after purchasing it, but it won’t help create lasting happiness. Spending on experiences, on the other hand, like travel or a day spa, will result in more lasting joy.
  7. Trim your commute. “When researchers rank activities for how happy they make us, one consistently comes in near the bottom of the list—commuting,” says Inc. Before you move into that apartment that’s an hour away from your office, carefully think about the tradeoffs involved with commuting. If you can, avoid it altogether.

For more science-backed ways to be happier, visit Inc. now, and learn about how the brain’s inner workings affect happiness by reading The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

What activities make you happier?