50 Tiny Changes That Will Make You a Happier Person

Happiness doesn't have to be complicated. Here's how you can choose joy every single day.

1/50 View as List

Stop and see the roses

rosesDmitrij Yakovets/Shutterstock
If you have time to stop and smell the roses, great! But if you find yourself in a hurry (and who doesn't these days?) simply seeing beautiful blooms can lift your spirits, according to a study done by Harvard. The happiness boost is greatest for night owls who have a hard time getting going in the morning, they found. So buy yourself some flowers and put them on a vase near your bed. Or take the scenic route for your morning commute and make sure to actually enjoy the scenery. It's not just flowers—try these 50 of the best simple pleasures that make life worth living.

Snap a selfie

Say cheese! Snapping a funny, happy, or silly selfie gives you an instant mood boost, according to research published in The Psychology of Well Being. And if you send it to a friend who gives you a positive response, you'll feel even happier. Why? We love connecting with people and simply seeing a friendly face, even if it's our own, perks us right up. Here's proof selfies have been popular since 1839.

Picture it

The next time you're having your own terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, try picturing yourself in a different situation and you may be able to imagine yourself into a better mood, says a study published in Frontiers in Psychology. This technique, officially called "self-guided positive imagery," is so powerful that it can not only combat negative emotions in the moment but it actually changes the structure of your brain, helping you feel happier in the long-term.

Swap jeans for nicer clothes

jeansCozy Home/Shutterstock
Jeans are the clothing item of choice for depressed people, say researchers from the University of Hertfordshire. It may be a harsh assessment of denim but it is true that how you dress can play a role in how you feel. And it's not just the jeans. Women in the study said they were more likely to wear baggy tops when feeling blue but would put on a dress to feel happy. Putting a little more effort into your outfit is an easy way to lift your mood and signal to others that you're feeling good. What your outfit color says about you.

Take a social media break

The more time you spend on social media, the less happy you are, says a study published in Depression and Anxiety. The reason? Looking at pictures and reading updates from friends leads you to compare your worst self to their best selves, leaving you feeling sad and left out. But the solution is simple: Spend more time in real life with cherished loved ones and save social media for specific updates rather than aimlessly scrolling through everyone else's perfect vacation snaps. Here are other things that happen when you take a social media break.

Take a walk through nature

The Japanese have a practice, called Shinrin-Yoku or "forest bathing," that involves walking slowly and mindfully through nature. It's not a hike to get somewhere or a tour of a scenic area but simply an enjoyment of the outdoors. And this simple jaunt, they say, brings peace, happiness, and freedom from worry. They may be on to something. A study published in Environmental Health and Medicine found that strolling through forest environments lowers stress hormones, slows your your heart rate, reduces blood pressure, and increases feelings of safety and well-being. There's a reason they call nature the brain's miracle medicine!

Make a choice—any choice

thinkingDean Drobot/Shutterstock
Free will, the ability to choose for yourself, is an essential component to happiness and if you are one of the fortunate people to live in a time and place where you have it, you can use that knowledge to make yourself happier, according to research in Frontiers in Psychology. Simply being able to make a choice, say, what you eat for breakfast, what job you take, who you marry, or what you do in your free time, is a powerful source of happiness. But here's the key: You have to recognize you have the power to choose and are using it to choose something you want.

Give a little

Doing good makes you feel good. It really is that simple, according to research done by Harvard Business School. OK, well it's mostly that simple. In the study, giving money to a charity voluntarily made people feel happier. But if they were only donating out of guilt, because they felt compelled to, or because they were hoping it would benefit them then their happiness was dampened. Moral of the story? Find a charity that you love to support and donate for that reason only.

Share good news

happyWAYHOME studio/Shutterstock
People are always happy to get good news but you know what makes us even happier? Giving good news! In a study done by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that sharing good news, even little things, gave both the giver and the receiver a significant bump in happiness. "This study [shows] how important it is to share with your partner when good things happen, as well as to respond positively to the sharing of good news," says author Sarah Arpin, a social psychologist at Gonzaga University.

Find the joy in parenting

parentMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Between midnight attacks of the stomach flu (why do kids only puke at night?) and tantrums in the grocery store, parenting can feel like one long slog towards college. But overall there is more happiness than misery in being a mom or dad so it's important to look for and remember the good moments, says a study published in Psychological Science. Number of kids and the age you are when you become a parent may also play a role in how happy your kids make you. Researchers from the London School of Economics found that one or two children provided the most happiness and that older parents found more joy in parenting than younger ones. Just avoid these terrible parenting tips!

1/50 View as List

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.