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16 science-backed ways to be instantly happier

ELLE logo ELLE 13/04/2015 Elizabeth Narins
16 Science-Backed Ways to Be Instantly Happier © Tyler Joe 16 Science-Backed Ways to Be Instantly Happier

1. Eat a clementine. The scent of this fruit is one of the most positive and arousing things you can smell, according to a study conducted in the journal Chemical Senses.

2. Light a vanilla-scented candle. In the same Chemical Senses study, participants ranked the smell of vanilla bean right up there with clementine as a super-uplifting scent that's even more relaxing.

3. Do your happy walk. Instead of slumping over and walking around with a frown, stand up straight, roll your shoulders back, and put a little hop in your step. Imitating a "happy walk" can actually make you happier, according to a recent study.

4. Make your desktop or phone background green. The calming colour is associated with happiness, comfort, peace, hope, and excitement. Which means it will improve your mood more even more than the sight of your latest selfie.

5. Clear your desk.Because clutter elevates stress levels, organising your stuff can be the perfect anecdote to a bad mood: It literally clears the way for better vibes.

6. Call your mum. The sound of her voice can mitigate stress and muster up the feel-good hormone oxytocin—two things that pave the way for happy feelings, according to an experiment in which researchers purposely stressed the s**t out of girls, then let them call or see their mums. Afterward, the daughters who called their mums felt just as good as the ones who got to hug it out in person. (Which is good to know if you moved out a long time ago but still consider your mum your BFF.)

7. Give your pet a lil' love. You don't need science to explain why pets make you feel irrationally euphoric. Just look at these guys, and try not to smile.

8. Say thank you. Your mum was right about this. While researchers know that materialism can make people miserable, gratitude can curb the effects, according to recent research. So jot down a quick thank-you note—even if it's just a "thank you for being you." You'll feel way better about buying that new bag for yourself.

9. Swap mopey music for upbeat stuff. People who listen to positive music while trying to be happier are more successful than people who listen to any old playlist, according to a research conducted at University of Missouri.

10. Buy an experience instead of stuff. Not to throw shade at your shoe collection, but science says buying material things doesn't breed happiness. When you spend money on experiential things, though, like tickets for a concert or a trip, you benefit from the anticipation, which provides instant happiness that lasts throughout your countdown. The same goes for buying things that provide an experience, like a new song, book, or podcast, according to a recent study. The ideal purchase should reflect your true values, like a book on a topic that genuinely interests you—not some B.S. self-help book that's just going to stress you out.

11. Give up your favourite food for a bit. Saving your favourite foods for special occasions can help condition your response when you eat them. One study found that people who ate chocolate after they'd given it up for a week were significantly happier than people served the same stuff without any previous food restrictions. If the thought of living a whole week without chocolate is enough to send you spiralling, save your after-lunch chocolate for a post-dinner dessert. The anticipation should brighten your mood instantly, with benefits that peak when you get to dig in.

12. Bask in the daylight. Everyone knows that blue skies and fresh air can be a total blessing, even when you're in the world's worst mood. When you can't get outside, open the blinds or turn on some lights: In a study where older adults suffering from depression were exposed to either one hour of pale blue light or one hour of dim red light (the placebo) every morning for three weeks, the blue light improved people's moods and reduced their stress more than the dim red light, with results that lasted into the evening. White light will do the trick too—the brighter, the better.

13. Speak up when someone is p**sing you off. Instead of being passive aggressive to your boyfriend or complaining about him constantly to anyone who'll listen, just say, "Babe, it bothers me when we leave the bed unmade. When you're the last one to get out of it, can you please make it?" Expressing succinct complaints to the person who can fix them can help you resolve the issue ASAP, which paves the way for happiness that's here to stay, according to a study recently published in The Journal of Social Psychology.

14. Think about what you are doing right this second. Letting your mind wander makes you substantially less happy than focusing on the task at hand, according to over 650,000 real-time reports collected by the Track Your Happiness iPhone app, which monitors people's happiness in real time. So remind yourself you are reading this article — hello, and welcome!

15. Think a mile a minute. Research shows that quick, varied thinking can lead to elation. So, quick! Who are the 10 people in your life you're most grateful for? What are the 12 best gifts you've ever received? What are your first five teachers' names?

16. Just try! In one study, people who listened to music with the intention of improving their moods made more headway on the happiness scale than people simply who listened without making any effort. You have to want it to win it, people!

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