10 ways to be happier

Here are a few things that I try and to do pick myself up when I'm having a bad day (or week... or month...)

1. Go outside. Often, when I'm saying goodbye to my boyfriend after he comes to stay for the weekend, I'll be in my room crying and won't be able to stop. As soon as we go outside to start walking him to the train station I always feel immediately a little more positive about the situation. The same goes for if I'm feeling down and I'm just in my house on my own - if I force myself to get out and go to uni or into town or even just to the shop to get some milk, I always feel better having been outside in the fresh air.

2. Smile. Okay it's an obvious one, but Psychology studies have shown us time and time again that if you smile while you're doing something, you enjoy it more (for an example, check out one of the original papers on this topic by Strack, Martin and Stepper, 1988). So even if you're stuck at work all day and you're bored and it's raining, give the next customer that walks in a huge welcoming smile, and you will certainly improve your mood, and probably theirs too.

3. Notice the little things. I only truly notice and appreciate the little things when I'm on my own, but it does often help me feel more grounded and secure in my life. If you take time each day to notice something positive, you'll find you probably have a more positive outlook for the whole day. It could be something as little as noticing a pretty flower or a nice pattern in the clouds or a cute puppy on the train, but it will certainly give you a better chance at having a happier day.

4. Appreciate the good. When things seem to be all going wrong, the best thing to do is look for the silver lining. And there always, always is one. You live too far from your family to see them? At least you have a family that want to see you! You don't like your job? At least you have one! And, like me - you hate saying goodbye to your boyfriend every weekend?! At least you have a boyfriend that loves you and comes to visit! Although it seems hard, try and be grateful for the things you do have rather than resenting the things you don't.

5. Be kind to people. Nothing beats that feeling after you've done something nice for someone without expecting anything in return, so use this as a way to improve your mood when you're having a bad day. Even something small like complimenting your friend or buying your housemate her favourite chocolate bar on your way home can give you a real buzz of happiness knowing that you've done something nice when you didn't have to.

6. Exercise. I know it seems like the last thing you want to do when you're feeling down, but honestly even just going out for a 5 minutes walk will make you feel better. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, go for something a bit more challenging, e.g. running, cycling, yoga, swimming, pilates, dancing... The possibilities are endless, and if you've never tried something like yoga before, just look it up on youtube for a beginners video tutorial.

7. Baking. Ok it might just be me on this one, but I find baking and cooking really stress relieving. During exam period I do so much baking I think my housemates and I put on about a stone each. Maybe it's just because I'm focusing on something else other than what's making me stressed, but I really do find it helpful. If you're not that confident in the kitchen, just get a packet cookie or cupcake mix, or look up an easy recipe online.

8. Spring cleaning. Maybe this one is again just allowing me to focus on something other than what's stressing me out, but I find that once I really get into tidying and cleaning my house, I'm not really thinking about anything else. I feel like I have a task to do, and once it's done I feel proud that I've accomplished something for the day, and don't feel as bad any more!

9. Nap. Ok maybe this is because I'm a student, but naps do really help you feel better. When you've got 2 essays and 4 exams all due in this week and you're so stressed about them all you don't know what to do first, have a nap. Even just lay down with your eyes closed and rest. Just for half an hour. 45 minutes at the absolute most (otherwise it's not a nap, it's a full on sleep). Then when you wake up you'll feel refreshed and hopefully in a different mood from earlier.

10. Hug one of your mates. Or mum. Or dad. Or boyfriend. Or girlfriend. Anyone really. Maybe even a pet. Contact with others causes happier brain chemistry, so just say to someone that you're feeling down and need a hug. Any true friend will be happy to help :)

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