3. Do something fun. Temporarily distract yourself from the stress, and re-charge your battery, with an enjoyable activity. Watching a funny movie is a reliable way to give yourself a pleasant break, and listening to your favorite music is one of the quickest ways to change your mood. When my older daughter was in the intensive-care unit as a newborn, my husband dragged me off to a movie one afternoon -- and that few hours of distraction made me much better able to cope with the situation. Be careful, however, not to “treat” yourself by doing something that’s eventually going to make you feel worse (taking up smoking again, drinking too much, indulging in retail therapy). My comfort-food activity is reading children's literature.
Much like yawning and a case of the giggles, happiness really is contagious. One study found that happiness has a waterfall effect among pals (and their pals… and their pals’ pals). When one person’s happy, it spreads to his or her friends and entire social network over the long term. Pretty much the most awesome way to influence other people, right?
Feel more compassion. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, once said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion.” You may think that feeling compassion for others has nothing to do with your own level of happiness, but in fact, being able to feel compassion for a friend or stranger in a difficult situation can make you a more whole, self-aware, and grateful person. If you’re so busy obsessing over your own struggles and never look around to see how other people are feeling, you’re bound to be less happy than a truly compassionate person.
While some factors that affect happiness might be outside of our control (such as genetics or certain life circumstances), there are always actions we can take to amp up our own good feelings. To smile wider, be more satisfied with life, and feel altogether better—both in the present and the future—try introducing any (or all!) of these practices into your life.