Simple Steps to Happiness


With the holidays done and spring months away, it can feel like there’s not much to smile about these days. But shaking off those winter blues may be as easy as making a few simple changes in your daily routine. To help you start smiling, we combed through the latest scientific research -- and came up with five research-backed moves to boost your mood. C’mon, get happy!

1. Step into the sun.
When it’s chilly out, spending time outside may be the last thing you want to do. But soaking up the sun’s rays can have a big impact on your mood, reveals a study published in the journal Lancet. Researchers found that brains produce more of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin on sunny days.

To ramp up your mental wellness, open your shades first thing in the morning. Bundle up and head on short walks outside or, on frigid days, find the sunniest spot in your home or office.

2. Snack on fruits and veggies.
On any given day, most of us only get three servings of produce. Not only can bumping up your intake reduce your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and obesity, but it may also improve your mood. The more produce you eat, the happier you are -- with seven servings being the ideal amount, according to a study of 80,000 people published in the journal Social Indicators Research.

To sneak more servings into your day, incorporate fruit into your snacks. Have an apple or pear with cheese or nut butter; baby carrots or cucumber slices with hummus; or berries with low-fat yogurt. Or slip some veggies into your main dishes: Your family won’t even notice spinach blended into smoothies; cauliflower puree added to mashed potatoes or mac n’ cheese; or diced carrots, mushrooms and squash mixed into spaghetti sauce.

3. Decorate with greenery.
These days, the view from your window may be gray skies and barren trees. To brighten up your space -- and your outlook -- place a few pots with ferns, flowers or succulents on your windowsill. Researchers from the University College London found that greenery can ease stress and lift a mood, and a separate Harvard study revealed that seeing flowers in the morning bring on happier days.

Have a brown thumb? Tack up a picture of your favorite outdoor scene at your desk. The British researchers showed that simply gazing at greenery could have a mood-improving benefit.

4. Break a sweat.
It’s no secret that exercise makes you feel better. But ramping up your workout may have bigger rewards for your mental wellness. According to a study from England’s Manchester Metropolitan University, people who did vigorous workouts experienced a bigger mood improvement than those who did a moderate one -- and both were happier than their couch potato counterparts.

No gym? Try our sweat-worthy at-home workout. You’ll be grinning after just 15 minutes.

5. Consider a light box.
If you can’t shake your sluggish mood, you may want to consider a light box. These devices are specifically designed to mimic the sun’s bright rays. They can be bought over-the-counter or with a doctor’s prescription; it’s generally recommended to switch on the box for at least half an hour every morning.

Remember: If you’re experiencing a severe and/or persistent case of the blues, always consult your health care provider.

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash