1. Pet a furry thing. According to a study by the University of Missouri- Columbia, petting a dog for just 15 minutes will cause your brain to release those awesome mellow-you-out hormones: serotonin, prolactin, and oxytocin. It will also actually lower levels of cortisol, the hormone that induces stress. So if you’re me, instead of yelling at the cat for making a mess, you should just take a deep breath, sit down, and pet the entitled little so-and-so.
2. Eat chocolate. Remember in the Harry Potter books, how the kids would eat chocolate to revive themselves after an encounter with the happiness-sucking dementors? Well, it kind of actually works like that. According to the Journal of Pharmacology, a few ounces of dark chocolate a day will, in fact, elevate your mood. Chocolate contains tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. It also contains GABA, a protein that has a calming effect. It will perk you up and chill you out. Any woman who has had PMS already knows this, but now you have The Science.
3. Hug someone. Get their permission first, but yeah. It turns out physical contact with other humans lowers your blood pressure and heart rate and causes your brain to release those good ol’ endorphins.
4. Smile. Yes, actually do it. Even if you feel like a jackass. Your brain reacts to signals from the body. The act of smiling seems to activate the happiness centers in your brain. You will be deliberately triggering a better mood. And you’ll look marvelous doing it. Fake it ‘til you make it, as they say.
5. Stand up, stretch, and open your shades. Studies have found that people who get more light exposure (go for a walk outside if you can) feel better, sleep better, and are less depressed.
Other things you can do: change your self-talk (be positive – if you have to pretend you are your best friend, do that), go watch some funny cat videos on YouTube, make something or cook something – do something creative, or (this is my favorite) do something nice for someone else. Helping others increases empathy, researchers have found, and when you feel more connected to others, you are happier and more appreciative of your own life.