No matter who we are or how we’re feeling at any particular moment, we could always feel a little happier. And let’s be honest, there are some days when we need an extra boost of happiness more than others!
Sometimes feeling happy is like trying to hit a moving target and though we might know why we’re in a funk on some days, on others we just can’t quite figure it out.
You know the days I’m talking about…they usually start off by hitting snooze too many times, realizing you forgot to charge your phone and spilling your perfectly brewed cup of coffee all over yourself as you’re walking out the door! The day has just begun and it feels like things are not heading in the right direction.
So what can we do turn things around? What are some quick and simple actions that we can take to feel happier right away?
Check out these five incredibly simple ways to feel happier within minutes and let’s hit that happiness reset button together!
1. Mindful Breathing
We’ve heard a lot about mindful breathing lately and about how being aware of how we breathe can help us feel better and be healthier. Research has shown that using specific breathing techniques can actually reduce our blood pressure and stress levels quickly. A quick reduction of stress and a feeling of well-being? Mindful breathing is definitely an easy way to feel happy in minutes. (You can also read about how to reduce stress and be happy using mindful meditation here.)
There are many mindful breathing techniques out there, but here are some that I think are especially helpful.
The Relaxing Breath Exercise
World-renowned leader in integrative medicine, Dr. Andrew Weil, says that:
“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.” – Andrew Weil, M.D.
So how do we practice mindful breathing? Should we just be aware of our regular breathing? Well that’s a great start, however, according to Dr. Weil there are three specific breathing exercises to help us reduce stress levels and feel happy. Those are:
- The Stimulating Breath Exercise
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise
- Breath Counting
The 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise (also referred to as the Relaxing Breath Exercise) would be the ideal mindful breathing technique to use when our stress levels are starting to rise. And who doesn’t feel better and happier when you’re less stressed? Let’s give it a try right now using Dr. Weil’s instructions.
While sitting comfortably, place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout this exercise. You’ll inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth, making a sort of whooshing sound.
The timing of the breaths is the key to this technique:
- With your tongue in place, exhale completely through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
The full instructions and videos from Dr. Weil can be found here.
The connection between the awareness of our breath and our body is really one of the most important components of any yoga practice. In one of my favorite yoga books, “Yoga Girl” by Rachel Brathen, Rachel describes the flowing of breath during yoga and how that breathing should feel and sound. She suggests:
“Keep the breath flowing in and out of the nose and try to find a balance between the two sides of the breath, with the inhales and exhales equal in length.” and “Keep a steady pace of breath, letting the sound of your breathing help you maintain focus as you practice.”
Now we don’t have to be on a yoga mat to use this mindful breathing technique and you don’t even need to be interested in yoga! Just take a moment to focus on your breath, maybe close your eyes, and breathe deeply in and out through your nose, maintaining a steady pace.
Taking a moment wherever you are and taking some deep, lung-filling, mindful breaths is a quick and easy way to feeling less stressed and more relaxed. Try to observe and be aware of the little changes that you begin to feel. Did your shoulders relax downward? Or maybe your jaw unclenched a little bit? By simply pausing and taking some mindful breaths, you’ll be on your way to feeling happy in minutes.
Smiling is a natural response to feeling happiness, but I know what you’re thinking, “Why would I be smiling if I’m not feeling happy?”
Well, it turns out that there’s actually a lot of big benefits to smiling even when we don’t feel like it. Smiling can actually make you feel happy! Research has shown that when we smile, whether it’s a fake smile or one that’s the real deal, our brain releases feel good endorphins throughout our bodies.
Psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman conducted experiments to find a link between stress and smiling. According to the Association For Psychological Science, “they concluded that when people smiled while completing stressful tasks, their stress levels and hearth rates were lower than people who had a neutral expression doing the same tasks. The experiment led the researchers to conclude that when facing a stressful situation, it might be a good idea to put a smile on your face, as this lowers stress. These findings show that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.”
Wow, that’s pretty cool! So let’s use our body’s automatic response to our advantage and trick our brains into making ourselves feel happier. It might feel kind of awkward at first, but try putting on a big, huge smile and see what kind of difference it might make for you. Even better, do it while looking at yourself in the mirror and have a good laugh!
Recently, one of my favorite motivational speakers and generally awesome person, Stephanie Staples, has been using the hashtag #smilesmatter on social media. I absolutely love that and I couldn’t agree more! Smiles do matter, not only as a way to make ourselves feel happier but also to make the people around us feel good too.
3. Share the Love
Have you ever been the recipient of an unexpected gift or kind gesture? A small bouquet of dandelions from a child or a friend bringing you a cup of coffee from your favorite shop? Didn’t it feel fantastic to know that someone was thinking of you?
Sharing is caring, as they say and one of the easiest ways to feel happy in minutes is to be thoughtful of others and do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture (though that would work too) but a small act of kindness to brighten someone else’s day.
“The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.”
– Mark Twain’s Notebook
Doing something kind for someone else is really one of the easiest ways to feel happier in minutes. There are so many things that you can do, your options are truly endless. You could:
- Buy a coffee or treat for your co-worker
- Hold the door open for the person behind you
- Give a sincere compliment to a friend or family member
- Help someone else to accomplish a goal
- Get involved with a charity that you’re passionate about
One of my good friends, who also happens to be my co-worker, is just the best at sharing the love and doing thoughtful things to make people happy. One of the many things that she’s done, that really stands out in my mind is on one hot summer day when she brought popsicles to the office. Yep, those popsicles that you had when you were a kid. Let me tell you, you’ve never seen a more giddy group of adults standing outside the back of a building with melted popsicles dripping down their chins! Such a simple thing, but the happiness that she created that day was amazing.
Whether your act of kindness is big or small, one thing remains true: making other people feel happy feels good! The happiness that they’ll feel will be contagious and before you know it, you’ll feel happy too.
I think that we can all agree that there’s a strong relationship between music and our emotions. Isn’t it amazing how you can hear a song that you haven’t heard in forever and in an instant memories start flooding back to you? You’ll remember where you were when you heard the song, who you were with and what you were doing. It seems like an automatic response, so in an effort to find an easy way to feel happy in minutes, let’s bring on the tunes!
Take a moment to think of some of your favorite songs. They can be ones that you have on repeat every morning or ones that you haven’t heard or even thought about in years.
Is there a song that you love that just makes you smile every time you hear it? Maybe it’s that song you had on repeat on a fun road trip with your friends or that crazy dance song they kept playing at the tiki hut on your last beach vacation. Music can certainly make us feel nostalgic and reminiscent of past experiences, both positive and negative. So focus on the tunes that recall fun-filled, happy times and start making a “Happy Vibes Only” playlist.
It doesn’t matter what genre of music you choose or even how many songs are on the list, as long as they speak to you and make you feel happy, just crank it up!
5. Get Social
Sometimes when we don’t feel happy and the day seems to be going off the rails, we just need to call for backup! Being around others and feeling support from people we care about can really help up the happiness scale.
Why not take a few minutes to have a chat (in-person, call or text) with a friend, family member, co-worker, or even coffee barista for that matter. A friendly, relaxed conversation can be just what’s needed to feel happy in minutes. It’s amazing how a fun conversation with people you care about can immediately make you feel good!
We’re social beings and interactions with other people are just a part of what makes us who we are. So why not try being a part of a group activity? Maybe drop in to your favorite yoga studio for a class or head to the gym for that group cycle class you’ve been thinking of trying?
Another easy way to feel happier in minutes, is to scan through your favorite social media for positive and fun posts. Just be careful not to get sucked into what I like to call “the negative social media vortex”. There is so much negativity out there that it’s easy to get sucked into and actually feel worse about, well, everything. Stick to the uplifting and light, funny content for some smiles and laughs. I highly recommend the Waves and Willows social media feeds! 😉
Everyone has days where happiness seems elusive, almost like a mirage on the horizon. We all have those times when it feels like nothing is going our way and crawling back into bed seems like the only logical thing to do.
But there are things that we can do to reframe our mindset, to relax and give ourselves a happiness pick-me-up. So go ahead and try these five simple ways to feel happy and create a boost of happiness for yourself (and others) in minutes!
Do you have a simple way to feel happy? Have you tried any of these ideas? Let me know!
Wishing you happiness!