The Ultimate Skeptic's Guide to Happiness
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Happy Now?1 of 8
By Shannan Rouss
The problem with most mood-boosting, love-your-life advice is that it either sounds like something you read once on a magnet, or it's just not realistic. (No, sorry, I won't write down ten things I'm grateful for every day.) To help you get past the self-help mumbo jumbo, Glo takes a straight-talkin' approach to brightening your day.
Say Cheese2 of 8
Old advice: Feeling glum? Try focusing on all the positive things in your life!
New advice: Instead of trying to reason your way to feeling better, just grin and bear it, literally. According to a system known as facial feedback (a theory first proposed by Darwin), the physical act of smiling—whether real or fake—activates the parts of your brain where emotion and happiness are processed.
Play It Again3 of 8
Old advice: Dance like no one is watching!
New advice: While the sentiment is nice (on a bumper sticker), other people are often watching—at work, on the train, in the café. A more realistic alternative? Listen to your favorite songs—again and again and again. A 2011 study found that listening to the same few tunes boosts dopamine. "You're following these tunes and anticipating what's going to come next and whether it's going to confirm or surprise you, and all these little cognitive nuances are what's giving you this amazing pleasure," says study author Valorie Salimpoor.
Tissue, Anyone?4 of 8
Old advice: Watch a movie that makes you laugh. (After all, laughter is the best medicine!)
New advice: Watch a movie that makes you cry. Yes, research confirms that a reliable tearjerker can make you happier. The reason? "It puts a new perspective on your life," says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. Cue Beaches.
Note to Self5 of 8
Old advice: Make a list of your goals. You can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it!
New advice: Maybe you can accomplish anything (within reason), but that list of pie-in-the-sky goals isn't the way to do it. Forget aiming high; aim low. It's much easier to achieve a goal that's, well, attainable, says Yael Levey, co-founder of DreamBigly.com. (Write ten pages of novel by the end of next month is much more effective than Write novel.) She suggests picking one goal at a time and being specific. "Giving your goal constraints makes it far less daunting."
Go With the Flow6 of 8
Old advice: Do something adventurous—like bungee jumping or skydiving!
New advice: Unless you plan on becoming a professional skydiver, taking the leap will give you a onetime rush but offer little long-term benefit. Instead, seek out a dopamine surge by learning something new—and becoming a pro at it. Whether it's juggling, shooting pool or playing the drums, practicing a skill and getting "into the zone" puts you in what experts refer to as a flow state, which decreases stress and increases feelings of happiness and calm.
Message Received7 of 8
Old advice: Make new friends!
New advice: Find a texting buddy. Texting may have gotten a bad rap, but it's not all bad. According to research by Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist and professor at University of California, Berkeley, receiving a simple "U ok?" check-in text may help people feel less stressed and alone.
Chew on This8 of 8
Old advice: Have some dark chocolate!
New advice: We have nothing against dark chocolate. Quite the opposite, in fact. We love dark chocolate—maybe a little too much. Luckily, research suggests that chewing gum may have a similar mood-boosting effect, although experts aren't yet clear on how it works. In one study from Cardiff University in England, chewing gum was associated with greater alertness and a more positive mood.