Weird yet proven ways to boost your happiness | Sunday Observer

Weird yet proven ways to boost your happiness

28 March, 2021

I’m tired of re-reading the same tips over and over on how to be happy. We all know we should meditate, exercise regularly, sleep better and practise gratefulness.

But isn’t there something else? Something just as scientifically-proven, yet less-known?

As someone who’s always been fascinated with happiness, I set out to find an answer. Though most of the following tips can be considered weird, they have research that backs their effect on happiness.

Listen to sad music

I used to believe I was a masochist because I put depressing songs on repeat after a bad day.

I was wrong.

According to a 2014 study that surveyed 722 people around the globe, “listening to sad music can lead to beneficial emotional effects such as regulation of negative emotion and mood as well as consolation.” In other words, melancholic songs bring us comfort.

Travel frequently — or at least think about it

At one point or another, we’ve all heard that traveling has many benefits. But did you know the frequency of our trips has a noticeable impact on our happiness?

A 2021 study by Washington State University concluded that people who travel around 4 times per year are 7 seven percent happier, on average, than those who don’t.

Moreover, the researchers noticed that people who consistently think and talk about future vacations tend to travel more. And even if they can’t, just the act of anticipating a trip makes them happy, according to a Cornell University study.

So even if you can’t travel 4 times every year, make plans for future trips and reap the benefits.

Buy yourself some happiness by spending on others

After a certain amount, they say money can’t buy happiness. However, a 2008 study proved that we could definitely buy ourselves some joy if we spend money on others.

In the study, the researchers gave the participants an envelope with money and asked half of them to spend it on themselves and the other half to spend it on others. After measuring subjective happiness before and after the experiment, they realised that those who had bought something for another person felt happier.

So on the next self-care day, consider buying something for someone else.

Get your hands dirty

Though extremely weird, it seems we should play in the dirt like children.

According to a 2007 study, breathing in the smell of dirt may lighten your mood since it contains bacteria that produces effects similar to antidepressant drugs.

Mycobacterium vaccae, the bacteria, is reported to increase serotonin levels in the brain, the hormone that leads to depression when low.

In other words, let’s return to our playground days and get our hands dirty.

Consciously binge-watch Netflix

I have good news: A 2020 study by the University of Zurich found that “enjoying short-term pleasurable activities that don’t lead to long-term goals contributes at least as much to a happy life as self-control.” (Finally! A study that confirms what I knew all along.)

However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. People who experience guilt or are unable to disconnect from work when binge-watching Netflix or eating a cheat meal don’t reap the happiness benefit.

To fight this, the researchers recommend consciously planning our downtime. Ensure your schedule has a balance between productive and undisturbed momentarily pleasurable activities.

Buy more takeout or hire a maid

This is another tip that challenges the old adage that money can’t buy happiness.

A 2017 study by the University of British Columbia found that people buying time — hiring a maid, buying takeout, paying the child next door to mow the lawn — experience greater life satisfaction.

But does this mean we need to be wealthy to be happier? No.

“The benefits of buying time aren’t just for wealthy people,” UBC psychology professor and the study’s senior author Elizabeth Dunn said. “We thought the effects might only hold up for people with quite a bit of disposable income, but to our surprise, we found the same effects across the income spectrum.”

The idea is to buy yourself out of unpleasant activities, whether that’s hiring a butler the entire week or a maid for a couple of hours.

Value your time.

Make your wife happy

I laughed hysterically when I came across the 2014 study that concluded that not only does a happy marriage lead to a happy life, but that a happy wife is the key to a happy marriage.

My husband wasn’t as thrilled, though. He resisted the idea until I read the study’s conclusions out loud.

“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage, she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Deborah Carr, a professor in the Department of Sociology, School of Arts and Science.

As it turns out, the old saying “happy wife, happy life” is sage advice.