As a clinical psychologist, I often come across what I call the chicken-and-egg dilemma of happiness. It’s the question of what really makes us happy. People often argue whether when we are happy we do happy things or if we are happy because we do things that make us happy.
Nowadays the research in behavioral psychology indicates that our actions influence our emotional state, not the other way around. So the answer is that we should try to do things that make us happy in order to feel happier, especially if the goal is to get out of a bad state of mind. It’s not only possible to “talk yourself out of a bad mood”—it’s maybe the only way out of one.
Here are 3 ways to instantly improve your mood:
Look through your camera roll
Select pictures, such as that of a pet, children or friends that trigger a joy response. Once you have settled on a picture, name a few reasons why looking at the picture brings you joy. Does it remind you of a funny experience or remind you of a source of happiness and nurture? Studies indicate that thinking about previous events and the actual sensory experience which made you happy in the past will bring those same emotions to the present, immediately increasing your mood. What I also love about this tip is that it’s also customized: those photos of your kids or your dog resonate most with you because it’s something real drawn from your life and nobody else’s
Start your day off with a positive self-statement based on fact.
This is a tip drawn from my experience as a sport psychologist—instructional and motivational self-talk have been linked to enhanced athletics performance—but the concept can be applied equally well to all situations. The underlying truth, that what we think influences our actions and emotions, is universal.
Note that I say “based on fact” for a reason. If you start your day by saying, “I’m the perfect parent, no exceptions!” – well, it may be true, but if you’re in a bad mood, odds are that you won’t believe yourself. A better example of effective self-talk is “I am an excellent parent because I brought my daughter to the park after school and saw how happy she was.” The more specific the statement, the better the chance that you will actually believe it—and the better the chance that it can actually help you.
Compliment three people every day.
By complimenting others you may also gain new friends and newfound confidence. A study had college freshmen give three compliments a day for twenty days to see how it affected them. After this was completed, the subjects reported higher levels of self-confidence that resulted in an increased sense of belonging. The study believed that this was due to the fact that compliments are often reciprocated. So by complimenting others, you can induce a cycle of happiness.