Get Happy With These 8 Happiness Boosters
Parade Magazine, Hope Cristol
July 7, 2017

When you’re stressed or sad, it’s easy to bury your head under the covers or hit the fridge. Lift your spirits with one of these simple, science-backed secrets instead. And launch the gallery to see what makes celebrities smile.

Grab some art supplies.

The adult coloring craze is still going strong, and it’s more than good fun: A 2017 study in the journal Art Therapy found the act of coloring an image lowered anxiety and improved mood. Want to explore a new creative pursuit? Try painting. Studies have shown it can improve quality of life and depression in cancer patients, so it might help you beat the blues too. Try the Stress Less Paint-by-Number Flowers Kit ($17,

Exercise your gratitude muscle.

We know that expressing gratitude, especially daily, can make us happier. The problem? The average person runs out of things to say they’re grateful for, says Michelle Gielan, positive psychology researcher and author of Broadcasting Happiness. Her advice: Focus on unique, specific, small stuff. Instead of saying you’re grateful for something general like your health, try, “I’m grateful for my health because it allowed me to go for a 20-minute run today,” Gielan says. “If you keep it up, you’ll start to notice all these things to be grateful for, including conversations at work or a flower in someone’s yard.”

Have a “bucket list” buddy.

Several studies suggest that spending money on life experiences can bring more happiness than spending it on material things. It’s even better when you share them with someone, according to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Get real about social media.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can boost your mood or drive it into the dumps, according to 2016 research in JMIR Mental Health. Do an honest assessment of how it makes you feel. Supported and connected? By all means, log on and feel the love. On the other hand, if social media tends to bring out negative emotions or FOMO (fear of missing out), step away from the screen.

Get more green in your life.

More time in nature can boost your happiness. In fact, a 2013 study in Global Environmental Change found that people are “significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments.” Of course, there are plenty of urban green spaces too, and a 2014 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that even those can lower stress.

Don’t fret about a lack of sex.

A 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that U.S. adults are having less sex now than they did in the late 1990s. Yet mental health experts say people worry their lack of sex is “unhealthy.” It’s time to let go of that anxiety. First, there is no “normal” amount of sex. Second, another 2017 study in the same publication found that sexless Americans had happiness levels similar to those of sexually active folks. So stop sweating the lack of bedroom action and take back that mental space for happier thoughts.


It’s probably the last thing you want to hear when you’re sad or mad, but a study in Psychological Science found that when assigned to stressful tasks, participants who were asked to smile while doing them recovered from the stress faster than nonsmiling participants. Other research suggests that if you make yourself smile by recalling happy memories, you can improve your mood.

Ask your doc about vitamin D.

If you’re depressed and have a vitamin D deficiency, taking a supplement may help turn things around, according to a 2017 review in the Journal of Affective Disorders. How do you know if you’re low on D? Your doctor can give you a simple blood test to find out. Don’t be surprised if you have low levels: Research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that nearly 75 percent of adolescents and adults don’t have enough of the sunshine vitamin in their bodies. The recommended daily maintenance dose is 600 IU.