1. Get out in nature.
In one 2012 study published in the Journal Psychological Science, researchers gave more than 10,000 people questionnaires about their mental health over nearly two decades, and found that people who lived in urban areas with the most green space (such as parks) reported feeling the least mental distress and the highest well-being.
2. Listen to happy music.
A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to positive music while attempting to improve their mood reported feeling happier than people who listened to music that wasn’t positive, or didn’t actively try to boost their mood. So crank up the Pharrell Williams!
3. Do something awe-inspiring!
As part of a two-part study published in 2015, students filled out a questionnaire and submitted samples of their spit for analysis. The students who said they had recently had awe-inspiring experiences had lower levels of a stress-related substance called interleukin-6 in their spit, compared with those who didn’t feel awe.
4. Find something to laugh about.
In one small 2003 study, researchers put 16 volunteers in an MRI brain scanner and showed them cartoons rated as funny or not funny by volunteers. When a different set of people saw the funny cartoons, scientists saw a boost in blood flow to several parts of the brain’s “reward” system — specifically, the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens, and amygdala. And the funnier the cartoons, the bigger the brain response — and, presumably, the more tickled people felt.
5. Get some exercise!
A growing body of evidence supports the idea that exercise can improve your mood. A small 2001 study had 15 male college students run on a treadmill for either 10 or 15 minutes. Both groups of students reported a boost in their mood and a decreased anxiety, compared with before the run.
6. Give someone a hug.
Studies have shown that friendly physical touching can lower stress hormones and boosts the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is known to promote social attachment in some circumstances. (However, oxytocin is not just a “cuddle hormone” — research suggests it can also make people less trusting of others outside their social group.)
7. Eat a healthy snack.
You can get B-12 from animal products such as fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and fortified breakfast cereals. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can also take vitamin B and folic-acid supplements. So start feeding your mind the nutrients it needs.
8. Get some sun.
Sunlight has been found to improve mood by boosting levels of the brain chemical serotonin. In addition, exposure to bright light during the day helps your body produce melatonin sooner, which helps you fall asleep at night. Just don’t overdo it with that UV …
9. Reflect on something positive.
Sometimes, just looking back on what went well during the day can help lift your spirits. Doctor and wellness expert Susan Bialiwrites in Psychology Today about an exercise developed by psychologist and happiness expert Martin Seligman: “At the end of your day, look back and find three things that went well. Reflect on them, and even replay them in your mind, revisiting those good feelings.” It can’t hurt, can it?