Five activities that make you happy, according to scientists

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Good things come in small packages. 

The same applies to happiness. It is not necessarily available in piles of riches or material blisses but may exist in little, simple things.

Happiness is an abstract concept that represents the experience of positive emotions like contentment, satisfaction, and joy. The latest research shows that staying happy improves overall health and well-being. Also, this feeling is different for everyone. For one person, it may be spending time with loved ones while for others, it may be doing something they like. 

However, scientists have found that some activities are proven to bring happiness to most people. These activities are very simple yet effective and don’t cost much. 

  1. Volunteering 

Volunteering may seem counterintuitive but it is quite effective. As they say, the one way to care for yourself is to care for others. However, you should not neglect your own needs while caring for others.

review of 40 studies conducted during the last 20 years show that the most effective activity for boosting mental health is volunteering. Volunteering is a positive psychological intervention that improves mental health and makes you happy. 

It even reduces the risk of death from a physical illness resulting from mental distress. Many other studies have shown that happiness and kindness complement each other. 

When you solve someone else’s problem or realize that your work is actually helping someone, you will eventually feel better about yourself. This way, volunteering not only makes you happy but also helps you strengthen your self-image and self-esteem. 

You do not have to do it full time. Instead, join a volunteering program or some NGO that suits your routine and works for the causes you support.

2. Running 

Running can make you happy, physically fit, and reduce stress. When you physically exert yourself, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are a kind of neurotransmitter or messengers that help relieve stress and ultimately have a relaxing effect.  

Along with endorphins, running also triggers the release of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Increase in serotonin levels improves the mood and the general sense of well-being. It also improves appetite and sleep cycles, all of which are related to a good mood. All these chemical messengers tend to improve the mood and render a person happy.

Scientifically, the feeling of happiness is characterized by the release of these hormones. And running helps release all of these hormones. Moreover, regular running also helps balance the level of stress hormones like adrenaline. This hormone plays an important role in the fight-or-flight response, and too much of this can lead to stress. 

Hence, be it the Monday blues or symptoms of depression, running can prove to be a mood booster. A study found that 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week can relieve the symptoms of major depression as effectively as drug therapy. Several other studies indicate that regular physical activity can reduce the chances of the relapse of depression. And the best part is, all you need is a pair of running shoes and you are good to go. 

3. Meditation 

Science proves that meditation tends to have a calming effect on people. Meditation refers to a state of focusing quietly and intently on the present for a determined period of time. It is a mind-body method that uses several techniques designed to enhance the brain’s capacity to influence body function. 

According to a study, this practice helps reduce the feelings of anxiety and depression. Several other studies show that right after meditation, people feel calm and contented with elevated awareness and empathy. In fact, research shows that regular meditation can revamp the brain by raising the levels of happiness. 

Research has proven that long-term mediators like Buddhist monks have well-developed brain areas that increase awareness and emotional control. Several cases have also shown that completing a meditation program brings changes in the brain that are linked with perspective, memory, and self-image. Mindfulness programs especially reduce the negative aspects of stress. 

Apart from reducing stress and relieving anxiety, mediation also promotes emotional health. It increases attention span, reduces age-related memory loss, and some of its forms generate kindness. 

4. Good, sound sleep

Sleep affects many aspects of your life, including your health and performance. Above all, it affects your mood and the ability to stay happy. You may have noticed that you are more likely to become irritable, stressed, and short-tempered after a sleepless night. After you have gotten adequate sleep, all these feelings alleviate, and you get back to normal. 

Scientific evidence tells that even partial sleep deprivation can affect the mood significantly. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that people who take only 4.5 hours of sleep every night for one week complained of feeling more stressed, sad, angry, and mentally exhausted. When they adopted normal sleep patterns, they experienced a drastic improvement in mood. 

Therefore, taking adequate hours of sleep is very important for your mood and overall happiness. Experts recommend 6-8 hours of sleep for adults. 

5. Going outside 

Going outside brings a lot more benefits than you may think. Not only that going outside gives you a break from monotony but it also gives you a changed outlook on stuff. Experts recommend visiting a greener, natural site while going out. It helps you shun away the negative thoughts. 

According to a study, taking a walk in nature can reduce negative thoughts about oneself. Moreover, going to a natural space reduces activity in the brain region that plays a vital role in mood disorders and thinking patterns. 

Being surrounded by nature tends to have a therapeutic effect and acts as a detox from negative thoughts that can disrupt a person’s happiness. Beautiful surroundings help you feel calm and relaxed. So, there you have it. When you are feeling down, simply going out to a nearby park, running, or helping someone can change your mood. And isn’t that what you always wanted?

Guest post by Sadi Khan

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