How to Be Happier

June 6, 2019

Girl with a backpack hiking through the woods

Want to be happier? Who doesn’t?

Anxiety, stress, and depression have continued to rise in America year over year, which tells us we’re not alone in this pursuit. The good news is that happiness has been pretty extensively studied. What was found is that some relatively simple habits can have some noticeable impacts on our quality of life and overall happiness.

Ready to give it a try? Here are three scientifically-backed habits shown to increase happiness. The challenge is to pick from these three activities (pick one, two, or all three). Then do the activity (or activities) of your choice for 20 minutes a day for 20 days straight. See how you feel after the 20 days are up – we bet it’s better.

  1. 20-Minute Nature Walk

    Even if you’re not the “outdoorsy” type, you can still benefit from spending time outside. Trees and forests, in particular, may have something unique to offer. Research has found that plants release a chemical called phytoncides as a way to help protect themselves from insects. But phytoncides help us too. Studies have linked phytoncides to positive effects on our white blood cells.

    Furthermore, spending time in nature has also been linked to reduced cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and improved mood. Though research still isn’t entirely sure why this is, one study found that after a 90-minute nature walk, subjects had a reduction in prefrontal cortex activity – an area of the brain associated with negative thought rumination.

  1. 20 Minutes of Journaling

    You may be thinking, “But I’m not a writer!” We understand. The beauty of journaling is that it’s for your eyes only, so don’t worry about proper grammar or sporadic thoughts. Instead, use this space to reflect on your day. Pick out the best part of your day and write it down. Even if the best part was your morning coffee and the day got worse from there, write it down.

    Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude journaling like this report having less anxiety, a better mood, reduced stress, and possibly even improved heart health. Forcing yourself to find some good in every day helps you begin to see it easier over time. Plus, when you’re having a bad day, reading through your past entries will help lift your spirits.

  1. Read 20 Pages of Fiction

    Many of us feel like we don’t have time to sit and read a book, but the reality is we’re actually reading more than ever – it’s just in the form of tweets, commercials, texts, etc. Unfortunately, the benefits of reading a book are lost when we read how we currently are.

    Studies have found a correlation between people who read fiction and higher levels of empathy, better social cognition, and helpfulness. While it’s difficult to measure these types of traits, the results of many studies suggest that reading fiction can help us lead happier, deeper lives.

Remember to continue to do the things that bring you joy in your life. Whether it’s 20 pages of reading or something else entirely. It’s easy for our hobbies to fall to the wayside when life gets hectic, but it’s oftentimes exactly what equips us to tackle challenges head-on.

If you’d like to learn more about Neurocore’s counseling services or brain training program, give us a call at 800.600.4096.

Hammond, Claudia. (2019, June 3). “Does Reading Fiction Make Us Better People?” Retrieved from
Harvard Health Publishing. “Sour Mood Getting You down? Get Back to Nature.” Harvard Health,
Morning Edition. (2018, December 24). “If You Feel Thankful, Write It Down. It’s Good For Your Health.” Retrieved from