10 unusual but scientifically proven ways to cheer yourself up

1. Get in the mood

Want to get a dose of joy? Try going to the theater and see a play. Or visit a museum. Researchers from Norway collected data on the pastime and moods of 50,000 people and found that those who attend (or participate in) more cultural events suffer less from depression and anxiety and show higher levels of happiness.

We found a significant positive relationship between attending cultural events and good health, life satisfaction, and low levels of anxiety and depression in both men and women.

Steinar Crockstad
psychiatrist, director of the HUNT Health Research Center, Levanger, Norway

Interestingly, the men in the study enjoyed more of those cultural activities where one only had to contemplate the beautiful. For example, museum or art exhibitions, plays, and concerts. And women preferred activities where they had to take an active part – meetings at clubs, singing, walking outdoors or dancing. You can check at the same time whether this distinction is confirmed in your case.

2. Keep a diary

Much has been written about the beneficial effects of a diary on mental balance. And indeed, taking notes helps to improve your mood – a study by Ting Zhang of Harvard University confirmed this.

Zhang and her colleagues found that the most ordinary and mediocre events recorded in a diary, after a period of time begins to be perceived as more meaningful and enjoyable.

That is, if you write about something ordinary, like going to the movies or meeting a friend, and then reread it a year or two later, you will remember it with more joy and warmth than at the moment. You can see the diary as a way of “investing” some happiness in the future.

3. Talk to a stranger

Researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder of the University of Chicago conducted an experiment. They gave a group of passengers on a Chicago train a $5 Starbucks gift card. In exchange, they pledged to start a conversation with a fellow traveler during the trip. The other group of test subjects, on the other hand, had to spend the journey in silence.

As a result, those who overcame their shyness and chatted with others showed improvement in mood and mental well-being. Those who did not interact with anyone, however, did not become happier.

Experts from the University of British Columbia conducted a similar study. They also gave five-dollar Starbucks cards to customers in cafeterias in exchange for the promise of a small dialogue with the barista. And such fleeting communication, while seemingly unimportant, also led to an increase in the mood of the subjects.

So contact with others, even brief ones, improves our mood.

4. Spend time with friends and family

Chatting with casual acquaintances is certainly not a bad thing. But more meaningful conversations with the people we care about are more important.

Researchers from the University of Arizona conducted a study that monitored the emotional state of 80 people for four days. And it showed that the happiest people are those who more often communicate with family and friends on topics that seem important to them. Those who are socially active, but prefer casual conversations about nothing, are less satisfied with life. In general, finally call your grandmother already.

5. Live in the countryside

According to the survey, the happiest people are those who live in the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle of metropolitan areas. 84% of respondents in this category reported their satisfaction with their living conditions, while in the cities only 75% of satisfied citizens.

Similar results were obtained by researchers of happiness from the Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University. They found that suburbanites had eight times higher levels of satisfaction than stone jungle dwellers. So consider moving to the countryside. Or at least take a trip to the country to get some fresh air instead of slaving away on potato plantations.

6. Listen to sad music

You’d think melancholic songs wouldn’t lift your spirits, but rather drive you into the abyss of depression. But no. A survey conducted by researchers at the Free University of Berlin, showed that many people listen to sad music when they are sad, and it helps them get rid of melancholy.

There are several reasons for this, the scientists suggested. First, sad melodies allow us to experience catharsis. Second, they promote empathy.

In addition, sad music creates feelings of nostalgia and awakens pleasant memories.

All in all, as the researchers summarized, listening to sad songs can reduce negative emotions and provide solace.

7. Buy experiences, not things

Spending money on something tangible feels good. But according to a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, a pleasant experience brings us more positive emotions than some thing for the same cost.

Researchers concluded that people are more willing to spend money on items than on experiences, because things are easier to evaluate, feel and consider. But those who did choose experiences ended up reporting that the experience was more rewarding and satisfying to them than the material goods.

So if you have a choice – to renovate your kitchen or to fly to Rome – and you want to feel happiness, choose the latter. Of course, the renovated interior you will then contemplate for many years, and the Colosseum you will see only once… But who will argue that it is better than a freshly painted wall?

8. Make someone else laugh

It sounds pretty cliché, but to make yourself happier, you can try to make others happy. University of Houston professor Melanie Rudd and her colleagues studied a group of people who were given the task of making someone smile. At the end of the experiment, those who managed to bring joy and cheerfulness to the interlocutor felt a rush of positive emotions themselves.

9. Look at beautiful things

Smartphone maker HTC conducted a study showing that beautiful things make us happier looking at them. And if they’re also functional, it’s even better. It doesn’t matter if you’re admiring your smartphone, a designer desk or a new teapot.

In a series of experiments, researchers showed volunteers things from three categories: beautiful, functional and beautiful and functional at the same time. The results showed that well-designed, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable objects that are pleasant to use induce calm and peacefulness. And they reduce negative feelings, such as anger and irritation, by almost a third.

Simply beautiful objects, while not particularly functional, reduce negative emotions by 29%, increasing feelings of calm and at ease.

In general, surround yourself with beautiful things. They lift your mood.

10. Eat more fruits and vegetables

It’s strange, but carrots and tomatoes can make people as happy as chocolate, a well-known source of endorphins. That was the conclusion reached by researchers from New Zealand. They conducted a 13-day experiment involving 405 people. And they found that those who ate more fruits and vegetables experienced more positive emotions. They also had higher levels of curiosity and engagement, and their creativity skyrocketed.

These findings suggest that eating fruits and vegetables is not only related to feelings of happiness, but also to other aspects. For example, a sense of purpose in life and the ability to be surprised.

Tamlyn Conner
doctor of psychology, senior lecturer at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand

So if you’re feeling down and you can’t have any sweets, have an apple.