Illustration: Sean McCabe
Yeah, sure. All's right with the world in 30 seconds? Even drugs don't work that fast. But scientists and economists have begun to study happiness in a rigorous way, and they're learning a few things about emotional elevation—including several proven ways to give yourself an instant mood lift without the guilt of a Godiva binge or shopping spree:
Tell a good joke.
Seriously: Hearing someone else laugh triggers a response in areas of your brain related to smiling, according to research from University College, London.
Pull out a photo album.
A survey conducted by a British psychologist queried subjects about their mood before and after they ate chocolate, drank wine, listened to music, and gazed at photos of loved ones. Only the photos gave a noticeable lift—an 11 percent improvement.
Be affectionate with your partner.
A study from the University of North Carolina found that women who got several hugs a day from their husbands had significantly lower blood pressure than those embraced less often. Another study using fMRIs showed women's brains to be far less reactive to the threat of mild electrical shock when holding a loved one's hand versus a stranger's.
Ask an office mate how she's doing.
A recent study from Spain found that professional support—including a good relationship with coworkers—will help make your job far more satisfying and absorbing.