5 scientifically-proven ways to boost your mood instantly

Feeling stressed-out, down or blue? We've all been there. Luckily, you don't have to stay there thanks to new research that shows you how to get happier instantly.

We've rounded up five of the easiest, fastest-acting and most surprising happiness boosters that scientists swear by:

Happiness booster #1: Imagine you’re laughing

Women who picture themselves—or someone else—laughing experience an automatic boost in mood, reveal brain scans done by Bowling Green State University researchers. And the opposite is true, too: Women who picture themselves—or someone else—crying experience an automatic decrease in mood. Turns out, imagining any emotional response, including laughing or crying, lights up areas of the brain involved in that emotion almost as effectively as the true emotion does, says study leader Nakia Gordon, Ph.D.

Happiness booster #2: Watch a movie with a surprise ending

Emory University and Baylor College of Medicine researchers discovered that engaging in any activity that has an element of surprise gives you an instant happiness boost. In fact, being surprised can make you even happier than doing your favorite activity. “Until recently, scientists assumed the neural reward pathways—which act like high-speed Internet connections to the pleasure centers of the brain—responded to what people like," says Read Montague, M.D., Ph.D., co-author of the study. However, when he tested this idea in brain scanning experiments, he wasn't expecting the result: the reward pathways responded much more strongly to feelings of anticipation, unexpectedness and not knowing the outcome of an event than to enjoyable activities. 

Happiness booster #3: Snack on walnuts

They’re loaded with uridine—a naturally-occurring substance found in walnuts, sugar beets and beet molasses—that puts the kibosh increases feelings of happiness in the same way antidepressants do. But unlike pills, which can take weeks to kick in, the effects from walnuts are immediate, reports study author Perry Renshaw, M.D., Ph.D., director of McLean's Brain Imaging Center. That's because it directly affects the brain, helping to improve energy efficiency in the brain as well as increase the production of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, he explains.

Happiness booster #4: Listen to your iPod

You know how a malted milkshake or cookie makes you feel happier instantly? Well, if you want the mood boost without the fat and calories, simply turn on your tunes. New bran scan studies conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital show that the same parts of the brain that are activated by the euphoria of delicious food are also stimulated by music!

Want to feel even happier? Then sing along. Research by musicologist Gunter Kreutze, Ph.D., shows that stress hormones decrease while you sing—and the unique breathing patterns singing requires ratchet up feelings of joy!

Happiness booster #5: Give thanks

It happens to everyone—someone lands a great promotion or flashes by in a shiny new car and instead of sharing in their excitement, you're left feeling defeated, and even jealous. But, neurologists studying Tibetan monks recently discovered that shutting off envy—or any other negative emotion that's bringing you down—is as easy as saying, “Thank you.”

"Amazingly, these words have the power to trigger activity in the right prefrontal cortex,” explains M.J. Ryan, author of The Happiness Makeover—and that floods the brain with the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, causing a feeling of calmness, contentment and security to wash over you instead.

Being grateful for anything works—from the health of your family or the love of your mate, to the simple the fact that you just got a stylish new haircut or someone let you cut ahead in line this morning at the coffee shop.



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