Trick Yourself Happy!

Improve your frame of mind with these surprisingly easy steps.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Improve your frame of mind with these surprisingly easy steps.

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Sit up straight.

The better your posture, the easier you’ll find it to think of something that makes you happy. When you’re slumped forward, it takes twice as much brainpower to access happy memories, says Professor Erik Peper from San Francisco University. So go on and straighten up!

Look up.

“When you’re feeling powerless you look down and shrink, but when you’re feeling empowered and positive your posture expands and you look up. Creating that posture has the same effect, so arrange your world so you regularly look up – put joyful images high on the wall. When you’re sitting put a pillow under your lower back as it naturally helps you tilt your posture upwards,” says Professor Erik.

Put a spring In your step.

The bouncier you walk, the more positively you think. “People who walk in a happy way recall fewer negative words than those moving in a more depressed style,” says researcher Johannes Michalak from the University of Witten/ Herdecke in Germany. Try swinging your arms and looking around you as you stride.

Use a diary.

Scheduling activities in a diary creates a positive mood boost. When we’re feeling down, we tend to put off doing activities that might make us feel better, like exercise, or avoid things we’d normally enjoy. “Experiencing more, or more varied, activities can definitely lift your mood,” says study author Professor David Richards from the University of Exeter.

"Typing a password that makes you feel happy each day can naturally boost your mood."

Eat a Chilli.

“This is something I do when I need a quick mood fix,” says motivational speaker Nicole T Harcourt. “I actually keep a few little red hot chillies in my handbag at all times. They release the same endorphins as exercise but it’s easier than trying to run somewhere in heels.”

Jump in the air.

This is the trick business mentor Rene Mayne suggests to clients who can’t quite shake themselves out of a funk. “Sit and think about what’s causing your mood. Once you’ve come up with the answer, jump into the air like you’ve just won the lottery. Repeat this three times. As you do this, you’ll shift your energy so whatever’s causing your mood won’t have the same impact on you – either it’ll disappear or you’ll come up with a way to solve the problem,” she says.

Treat yourself to a vanilla yoghurt.

Women who eat full-fat yoghurt regularly are less prone to bad moods as it’s believed healthy bacteria and fats it contains actually help modulate emotions. For a bigger boost, however, make yours vanilla-flavoured. Dutch researchers found this is the flavour most likely to boost mood, possibly because we associate the scent of vanilla with happy memories like eating ice-creams on the beach.

Change your password.

Using a life-affirming password, known as ‘positive passwording’ is such a trend in the US there are even books and websites looking at how to choose the right phrase for you! The theory is that typing a password that makes you feel happy each day can naturally boost your mood. “It’s got to feel believable to you though or it will be met with resistance by your mind, and it won’t work,” says life coach Alex Kingsmill. She suggests using words like ‘choose’ – for example, ‘Ichoosehappy’ rather than ‘Iamhappy’ – so everything feels more doable even if you're not in a happy mood. 

Say thanks to your pillow.

It’s well known that being grateful for all you have in life creates a more positive mindset, but sometimes, especially if you’re feeling particularly down, it can be hard to get started. “Start by expressing gratitude for inanimate objects. You might say ‘I’m grateful for the pillow that stopped my neck aching in bed last night’ or ‘I’m grateful for the ceiling that means the rain doesn’t touch me.’ Start with the simple things, then, as you train your gratitude muscles you can start looking for positives deeper in your life,” says business coach Irena Bee.

Find someone in a good mood.

Happiness is catching. The sweat produced by happy people contains chemicals thought to infuse others around them with a similar feeling, say researchers.

“Happy people also see possibilities in life rather than focusing on problems and if you hang out with them this mentality transfers to you,” says motivational speaker Dr Dain Heer.

Get your eyes tested.

When our vision is compromised, we're more likely to suffer low mood and depression, as it's more difficult to enjoy things that keep us independent, like driving. “If you think your eyesight is changing, do seek medical attention. There might be something you can do to help stop things getting worse, and it having further effects on your health,” advises Professor Jufnoo Rahi from University College Hospital.

Stand on one leg for a minute.

“When you do this you have to focus and be calm and this brings your attention to the present moment, which is well known to reduce stress and boost mood,” says Alex. Use this mental reset as what she refers to as a ‘choice point.’ “A lot of mental attitude comes from a conscious choice as to how we see things,” she explains. From this moment on, therefore, make the choice to think happy thoughts.” W

Text: helen foster/ Photos: