One of Roko Belic’s wealthy Hollywood friends approached him with an interesting question: “Why does it seem like the people who clean celebrity homes and do their yard work are oftentimes more happy than the celebrities themselves?” Belic found this concept so fascinating that he spent years exploring the topic. The result: Happy, a documentary by the Academy Award-nominated director that is now available on DVD.
We spoke with Belic about the project, and he shared these five simple steps to make your H.Q. (happiness quotient) skyrocket.
- Be grateful. “Gratitude is one of the best tools to boost your mood,” Belic says. “Thank someone who did something for you with a handwritten note, even if it’s just a few sentences long.” The act of writing the message adds happiness to your life for days. If you send the note, you extend the joy even longer (as you anticipate the letter arriving in their mailbox). And if they thank you back?
- Novelty keeps life fresh. Try something—anything—new! Whether you take a different route to work, eat at a new deli for lunch or go to a concert rather than a movie this Friday, doing something out of the ordinary “helps you appreciate what you have and expands your life,” Belic says.
- Set humble goals. Many researchers have tried to pinpoint what makes certain countries, like Denmark, happier than others. Having expectations that are within reach seems to make you feel more accomplished. “Aim to provide for your family or find a job where you are friendly with your co-workers,” Belic suggests, rather than trying to win the lottery or finish first in a marathon. You’ll be much more likely to actually make these goals a reality and won’t feel like you’re missing out on the “better things in life” if you frame it this way.
- Go with the (fitness) flow. Aerobic exercise affects the dopamine system in your brain, Belic explains. “Think about it: You rarely see a person complaining about how terrible they feel after finishing a good run or spending a day surfing,” he says. Fitness is even more beneficial for your mood if you’re able to find “flow” in the activity. Look for something that totally captivates your attention and keeps your mind fully on your body rather than on paying the mortgage or something else stressful.
- Share the wealth. “Happiness is contagious. Research has found that the happier you are, the happier your friends are—and even your friend’s, friend’s, friends are,” Belic says. Translation: If we were playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, joy spreads to your third degree connections. If you prioritize your happiness by following the previous four steps, you’ll boost the collective mood. “This isn’t just good for individuals; it’s good for the world. Happier communities have fewer crimes, less pollution and more people who are willing to help a stranger in need,” Belic adds.
Now tell us: What’s making you smile lately?
When we’re at our desks or at home, having motivational pictures and slogans around make great reminders to stick to our workout plans. But what about when you’re already doing your workout but need an extra boost? These shirts from ViewSPORT may just do the trick.
ViewSPORT shirts have Sweat Activated Technology so that an image becomes clearer as your workout gets tougher. They call it “motivation through perspiration.” We like the tanks that say “I Run You for Breakfast” and “Chase Me” but you can also customize your threads with your own logo or quote.
Now tell us: What would you put on your shirt to push you through a sweat session?
When the weather suddenly plummets and you find yourself going to and coming home from work in complete darkness, it’s hard to not feel a seasonal funk coming on. But now thanks to PhotoFortune, you can instantly lift your spirits without ever having to face the bitter cold outside.
Photographer Margaret Hyde’s app for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch delivers a daily fortune cookie reminding you to live, learn, and laugh with inspirational messages and photos taken by Hyde on her travels around the world. Keep the fortune for yourself or share it on Twitter and Facebook to brighten someone else’s day.
Bonus: This fortune cookie comes sans greasy takeout, meaning you’ll put a smile on your face while keeping your waistline in tact!
More from FITNESS: 5 More Ways to Beat the Winter Blahs
When it comes to losing weight or making healthy choices, you probably think that it takes hours at a gym, plus long nights preparing and planning nutritious meals. But guess what? Quick and easy changes can also really improve your immediate health and wellness too!
So just how quick is quick? One minute—that’s it! Try any one of these 60-second activities to easily reap the healthy benefits.:
1. Drink a tall glass of water. We all know the many health benefits of drinking water, but did you also know that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue? So, the next time you feel your energy waning, grab a glass of water and guzzle it down!
2. Twist it out. So many of us spend every weekday seated in front of a computer. Not only can sitting all day wreak havoc on your posture, but it can also compress your spine and exaggerate its curvature. A simple twist can help undo this. As you sit in your desk chair, simply twist your upper-body to one side, hold for 30 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. If you have the space to sit on the floor, try this torso twist stretch.
3. Take a deep breath. How often do you think about breathing? If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about it often enough. For a quick pick-me-up, simply take five deep breaths. Slowly inhale for at least five seconds and exhale for 10 seconds each time.
4. Put on a favorite song. There’s nothing quite like your favorite music to perk you up and get you feeling good. Listening to music has been shown to improve immunity and release endorphins. Bonus points if you dance along!
5. Sit up straighter. Did you know that bad posture can put unnecessary stress on your low back? Take a minute to focus on sitting up straight with your shoulders down and back.
6. Do 10 pushups. Being strong is important, but having functional strength is even more important because it makes everyday activities easier to accomplish. A push-up is a great, quick exercise for building functional strength. Drop down and give me 10—or as many as you can do in 1 minute.
7. Encourage someone. Isn’t it interesting how you always seem to feel better after helping someone else feel better? Whether you post a supportive comment on a friend’s profile page or write a few kind words in a card or an email, it can quickly boost your mood too.
8. Wash your hands. It seems like cold and flu season is always in full force (or just around the corner). One of the simplest and easiest ways to stay well year round is to wash your hands…or just grab your waterless hand sanitizer.
9. Try aromatherapy. A number of different smells can have a positive effect on your mind and body. For example, peppermint can energize you through a workout and jasmine has been shown to reduce anxiety.
10. Give yourself a mini-massage. Massage has a number of health benefits, including reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and speeding muscle repair. While you may not be able to spend the time or money getting one at a spa, pampering yourself with just 1 minute of self-massage by rubbing your own hands, feet or shoulders can do wonders.
More from SparkPeople:
While previous studies have recommended smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, to cheer yourself up, new research suggests that putting on a fake smile might actually make you feel worse.
Scientists followed a group of bus drivers for two weeks and found that the those who forced smiles felt worse and did not perform well at work while those who smiled genuinely felt better and were more productive.
So if faking a cheerful disposition won’t do, what are your go-to pick-me-ups? (Treating myself to a soy latte always works!) Share your guaranteed mood-boosters in the comments below!
Someone once told me that seasonal affective disorder (ie, seasonal depression) is all mental. That it’s my choice to decide how I feel for the day.
You know what? I think that’s phooey. I know my body and my mentality incredibly well…and if I happen to be grumpy and sluggish every single winter, I don’t think it should be dumbed down to as if I’m making a simple decision. Skinny jeans or leggings? That’s a decision. Happy or cranky? That’s a bit more complicated, thankyouverymuch.
So in my quest to combat me morphing into a seasonal sloth, I’ve started taking advantage of light therapy. The point of a light therapy device is that it mimics outdoor light…thought to then cause a chemical change in your brain to lift your mood and ease other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. The Mayo Clinic explains it pretty well, if you want more info.