Your 7-day happiness plan

We could tell you to buy a dog or migrate to Australia, but this oneweek plan is much more doable when you want to get happy fast

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

We could tell you to buy a dog or migrate to Australia, but this oneweek plan is much more doable when you want to get happy fast

My Reading Room

Listen to upbeat music: It works as an instant “get happier” fix, with one proviso: While you’re listening to it, focus on the fact that the reason you’ve chosen that particular song is because you’re trying to boost your mood. People who simply listen to the music without knowing or acknowledging why they’re doing it won’t benefit, say the American researchers behind the discovery.

Bonus health benefit: Listen to the music while you’re exercising and not only will your mood improve, you’ll be able to work out for longer too. Exercise endurance improves by 15 per cent when you train while you’re listening to motivational pop or rock music.


Make someone else smile: Doing something kind for someone else is a proven way to increase your own happiness, provided you’re specific about what you’re trying to achieve. The key is setting concrete goals (like “I’m going to make someone smile today”) rather than more generalised ones (such as “I’m going to make someone happy today”). It works because the more specific the goal is, the more likely your expectations of success will be met, says the science. And success at benevolent tasks equals happiness.

Bonus health benefit: As well as feeling happier yourself, making an effort to perform random acts of kindness has relationship benefits too, according to a Canadian study. People who do nice things for others most days of the week report increased relationship satisfaction.


Exercise during your lunch break: On the days people do that, they’re significantly happier when they return to work and leave feeling more satisfied at the end of the day, say researchers. That’s a positive any day of the week, but you might find it particularly useful mid-week: Wednesday’s the day when most people’s mood hits its lowest point as it’s the furthest away from either weekend.

Bonus health benefit: Your brain will perform better at work too. The same study found that a mid-workday workout increased productivity and time-management skills, plus improved communication between colleagues.


Go to the theatre: When you’re trying to bump up your happiness level, consider buying tickets to a show rather than a new dress, suggests a 2014 study. In fact, even just being able to look forward to seeing the performance will be enough to boost your mood, say the researchers.

Bonus health benefit: Seeing live theatre is good for your physical health, too. Partaking in cultural activities has been linked to improvements in general health and well-being, as well as lower stress levels.


Make an effort to stay focused: On average, we spend 47 per cent of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing and experts say this subconsciously makes us feel unhappy. So how do we stay focused? Turn your phone to silent: Smartphone notifications, like dings or vibrations, cause just as much distraction as taking a call or texting when you’re trying to concentrate, even if you don’t interact with the device, say US scientists.

Bonus health benefit: You’ll be safer on the road too. Not only is the distraction that’s caused when a phone buzz comparable to actually texting while driving, talking hands – when you’re at the wheel – creates a similar level of impairment as driving drunk.


Do some volunteer work: It’s a tried-and-tested mood booster: People who do it feel more satisfied with their lives and cut their depression risk. But to reap the rewards, bear in mind that the reason why you’re volunteering is just as important as whether you do it in the first place. Find a cause you feel passionate about, rather than doing something just because you’re trying to make yourself feel good.

Bonus health benefit: You’ll lower your risk of high blood pressure by around 40 per cent as well if you spend about four hours a week volunteering. And that means your risk of heart disease and stroke will drop too.


Eat five serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables: That combination and quantity made people (especially women) happiest in a study carried out by an Australian university. Complex carbohydrates in fresh fruit and vegetables increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Plus, individual mood-boosting nutrients like flavonols and omega-3 fatty acids also contribute.

Bonus health benefit: It’s a tactic that could also help you fight the “weekend weight gain” as we eat up to 400 calories more on weekends than on weekdays. 

“I feel happy when I…

” The Weekly’s readers share what perks up their day

My Reading Room
“Make someone’s day”

“Whether it’s dispensing practical advice, offering practical help in his or her work, or simply being a listening ear, it makes me feel good about myself when I know I’ve helped or blessed someone today.” – Shirley Chua, 37, teacher

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“Hang out with my kids”

“Just doing simple tasks together like baking cupcakes, drawing pictures or taking a walk in the park makes the day feel extra special.” – Joyce Goh, 35, HR manager

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“Head outdoors”

“Taking a walk with my baby and dog and taking in the fresh air and green scenery takes my mind off any unpleasant or stressful thoughts. Seeing my dog run freely makes me feel carefree too!” – Elaine Tan, 29, teacher