31 Days to Waking Up Happy for Life
Get started on a month of research-backed ways to increase the joy in your life.
Illustration: Jun Cen
1. Catch Some Zzz's—the Right Way
Turkish researchers found that people who tend to sleep on their right side have mellower dreams, with themes of relief, joy, peace and love. They also report feeling better rested and less dysfunctional during waking hours.
2. Don't Dream in Half-Light
Four weeks of sleeping in a 5-lux glow—the equivalent of nightlights, streetlights, a TV or computer screen—suppressed levels of the feel-good hormone melatonin and shrank parts of the hippocampus, leading to moodiness and despondency. (Note: Depressive symptoms vanished after two weeks of pitch-dark slumber.)
3. Rethink Your Shower
Researchers theorize that ending your shower with a decrease in water temperature (to about 68°F), and staying under the spray for two to three minutes, may trigger neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a sense of well-being.
4. Have a Little Tulip with Your Coffee
In a study led by Harvard Medical School psychologist Nancy Etcoff, PhD, women who saw flowers when they woke up reported feeling happier (and less anxious) at home, as well as more energetic at work.
5. Soak Up Antidepressant Rays
Step outside for a half hour, or so, if you can. The morning light—especially from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.—may be more effective in curing the winter blues than late-afternoon or evening light.
6. ...Just Don't Forget One Thing
On the sunniest days, we squint; and squinting can make us angry, explains Daniele Marzoli, PhD, a psychologist at Italy's University of Chieti-Pescara. Since mood and facial muscles are linked, your face signals to your brain that you're irritated (even if you weren't...initially). To make matters worse, the tetchiness flares up almost instantly, explains Dr. Marzoli. Luckily, this one has a simple, fast-acting and potentially elegant remedy: sunglasses.