If adulthood has already disappointed you, it’s easy to sink into an unhappy existence fueled by Netflix marathons and Lean Cuisines. While we think of happiness as a result (one that’s sure to appear when we find the dream job we love and a perfect relationship without the help of Tinder), we’re missing out on the chance to actually be happy in the meantime. In college, happiness was found at the bar. Now, it’s a little more complex, but still easy enough to pursue.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to get out of the bed without consuming vast quantities of caffeine, there are 10 scientifically proven ways to naturally be happier in life and at your cubicle.
1. Exercise: 7 Minutes Could Be Enough
I know exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy, but at the end of a long day hitting the gym is the last thing I want to do. Fortunately, if 7 minutes are enough, that sounds like 7 minutes in heaven. Next time I go to Pure Barre, I’m going to walk out 7 minutes in and say I’ve had enough… or I would, if it wasn’t so expensive. Exercise is so effective that it helps people recover without relapsing from depression. I’d rather pay for a gym membership than therapy, so I’m in.
2. Sleep More: You’ll Be Less Sensitive to Negative Emotions
This is easier said than done. No, not because I’m out on the town every night, but because I’ve been on a Gossip Girl marathon lately that’s impossible to cut short until long after midnight. I think my shame from that is leading to more negative emotions than the lack of sleep is.
3. Spend More Time With Friends/Family: Money Can’t Buy You Happiness
“Increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.” While I’d like to disagree, I’ll have to wait until my income changes to weigh in on this particular argument, which could be a decade from now. I still think that whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to shop.
4. Get Outside More: Happiness is Maximized at 57°
Sadly, staring out of your window all day doesn’t count when it comes to getting outside more. Luckily, all you need is to spend 20 minutes outside and you’ll be happier, and have a better memory. Being near the water is supposed to make you happiest, but I can’t help but wonder if it also makes you craziest, because Florida.
5. Help Others: 100 Hours a Year is the Magic Number
Helping others for 100 hours per year (2 hours per week) is the perfect amount of time to spend giving back. Doing something good for another person “produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise.” Spending money on activities, like concerts or dinner with friends, provides more happiness than material items. Buy your friend a drink, and you’ll be buying yourself a boost in happiness (and karma).
6. Practice Smiling: Reduce Pain, Improve Mood, Think Better
When you smile like you mean it actually works, as long as it’s not the fake one you use for photos. If you can force yourself to smile for real, it will boost your happiness immediately. A smize doesn’t count.
7. Plan a Trip: It Helps Even if You Don’t Actually Take One
Planning a vacation might seem stressful these days (I recently bought Coachella tickets on a whim, and while I’m not sorry, my bank account is). Despite the money and the stress, the act of planning a vacation produces the highest spike of happiness, for 8 weeks. People enjoy the act of anticipation more than anything else. After the vacation, you drop back to your baseline happiness level, so your Pinterest planning is basically a drug. If you already used up all your PTO over the holidays, put an event on your planner, and every time you feel trapped in your cube, look at your calendar and remember that there’s always an escape. After all, even if it’s a let down, it’s the anticipation that matters.
8. Meditate: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness
While you may think meditation is a sad hobby for hippies, it works better than a Xanax prescription. Brain scans show that after meditating, the “parts of participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.” Before you start worrying about becoming a Birkenstock-wearer on a self-sustaining farm somewhere, try it. Meditation has been proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. Silly me, I thought that was the consumption of alcohol.
9. Move Closer to Work: A Short Commute is Worth More Than a Big House
If sitting in traffic for hours on end all day is driving you insane, a bigger house won’t make it work. The only thing that can make up for the misery of a long commute is making it a short one. While you might not think it matters, if you add up the hours you spend Snapchatting in traffic, it’s a lot.
10. Practice Gratitude: Increase Happiness and Satisfaction
Remind yourself what you’re grateful for. Even though postgrad life can often be mistaken for hell in comparison to your college days, you don’t have it that bad. While we’re constantly comparing ourselves to our seemingly more successful counterparts on the internet, take a minute to realize what you do have. I’m not suggesting you start using the #blessed hashtag unironically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t count your blessings (very) privately.
Quick Final Fact: Getting Older Will Actually Make You Happier
It’s basically the opposite of a post grad problem, but as we age we get happier. I think it’s because we start to truly give zero fucks. Once you survive your mid-life crisis (I hope it’s nothing like my quarter-life one), you’re bound to be happier, so that’s something to look forward to. Researchers think that when people age, they stop hanging out with frenemies and focus more on themselves (I guess because death is imminent?).
So, even if you’re constantly struggling with the mundane reality of postgrad life, it doesn’t have to suck even half as much as you think. Walk outside for a minute without staring at your phone, compare your life to someone who actually has it bad (instead of wishing you were gallivanting around Europe with the rest of Facebook), and realize that when it comes down to it, you really are #blessed – and if you’re not feeling that way, follow those 10 sort of simple steps, and you will be soon enough. Because, science.