Got 10 minutes? Put a little skip in your step starting right now with these quick-action, science-backed tips:
Fake it until you make it
Could a mood boost be just a smile away? Some researchers believe so—in a study at the University of Cardiff in Wales, participants who got cosmetic Botox injections that hindered their abilities to frown reported feeling happier and less anxious. And not because they turned back time—they didn’t report feeling more attractive. “It would appear that the way we feel emotions isn’t just restricted to our brain—there are parts of our bodies that help and reinforce the feelings we’re having,” said study co-author Michael Lewis, likening it to a feedback loop.
Hold the door for someone
Or pay for the coffee or the person in line behind you at Starbucks. Or compliment a stranger’s outfit. A small act of kindness can have a big impact on your mood, increasing happiness, boosting self-esteem and reducing stress. Researchers call it the “helper’s halo.”
Google your next vacation destination
So you can’t take a vacation to de-stress and feel happier in the next 10 minutes. But you can plan some of it—and research shows it’s actually the planning stage of a getaway that gives you the biggest happiness boost. Researchers show that vacationers feel most happy before their trips, thanks to the pleasure we get from anticipation. Whether your next trip is a month away or a year away, spend a few minutes a day looking through guides, creating a destination-themed playlist, or learning a few words of the local language for an instant mood boost.
Look through old photos
Whether you’re biting into your favorite chocolate, taking a bubble bath before bed, or taking a mid-day break to catch up on your favorite site, do it without distraction and be present in the moment. Research shows that savoring a positive moment increases the happiness we get from it—so even if you only have 10 minutes, you can make every single one count.
Feeling down? Laugh it off. Research has shown that laughter improves mood, counteracts depressive symptoms and mitigates the negative consequences of stress on our psychological well-being. Bookmark your favorite LOL-inducing videos for a quick happiness boost whenever you need it.
Take a cuddle break
Not every day leaves a lot of time to connect with our partners—but taking just a few minutes to hug or snuggle up to each other can reduce stress, boost mood and make us feel more bonded. Even quick touches throughout the day makes a big difference.
“Having this friendly touch, just somebody simply touching our arm and holding it, buffers the physiological consequences of this stressful response,” experimental psychologist Matt Hertenstein tells NPR. Friendly touches also increase our levels of oxytocin, which promote feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.
Call your most enthusiastic friend
If you need to get out of a funk, spend some time chatting with a friend who’s always looking for a silver lining. Happiness is contagious, research shows, and spending time with happy people tends to make you feel happier, more energetic and less stressed. One study even put a number on it, finding that each additional happy friend you have increases your probability of being happy by nine percent.
Put on your headphones
Tune out the coworker who’s annoying you and pull up Spotify at work. Listening to (and even anticipating listening to) music that moves you, which causes your brain to release dopamine, a feel-good chemical.
De-clutter one small space
Know that euphoric feeling after doing a big spring clean at home? Don’t wait until spring—and don’t feel like a huge clean-up is required for a mood boost. De-cluttering can have a big impact on your well-being—in fact, women who describe their home environments as messy or chaotic were found to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and depressed mood. If you only have 10 minutes, do 10 minutes worth of tidying up—clean up your coffee table, get rid of a few old sweaters you haven’t worn in years or organize a desk drawer at work.
When all else fails listen to some good ol’ HAPPY music!