About a year and a half ago, I began designing inspirational posters—which work like a "pattern interrupt" to help stop a moving train of negative thoughts in its track. Many of my posters, to my surprise and delight, wound up going incredibly viral, being shared literally millions of times.
My belief? In today's time-challenged, coffee-chugging world, it's often hard to find time to read an inspirational self-help book. But you can always find time to read an inspiring poster.
I began wondering: What are other "instant happy" tools—to help people swiftly bounce back to a happier frame of mind? Below are my top 15 happiness power tools.
1. Do a shower power meditation. Take a shower and multitask washing away your stress and anxiety. Concentrate on the feel of the water upon your skin. Envision the power of the shower washing away your negative thoughts. Whoosh! Envision fear, regret, and anger soaping off you and swirling down the drain.
2. Get lit. Studies show that sitting in dark rooms can lead to darker thoughts and that, alternatively, spending time in bright light (from being outside in the sun or inside in very well-lit rooms) can create happier brain chemistry. With this in mind, the Princeton Theological Seminary recommends something called “happy light bulbs,” which are either 60- or 100-watt daylight bulbs.
3. Stare at something yellow. Put on a yellow shirt. Buy some yellow flowers. "Yellow can lift your spirits and self-esteem," says color psychologist Angela Wright.
4. Walk on something green. Being surrounded by nature is good for human nature. Go take a hike—or go for a stroll in the park.
5. Say, “ohm.” Give yourself the gift of five minutes of quiet time, sitting in a comfortable position, humming "ohm.” Studies show the sound of "ohm" vibrating in your throat relaxes your body—even warming up the skin a bit.
6. Organize your home or office—and clean up messy thoughts in the process. It’s a funny thing how the less clutter you have all around you, the calmer your mind becomes.
7. Give yourself a helpful hand—with some hand reflexology. Massage the chakra points on your palms—right at the base of each thumb. They match up with your adrenal glands, which need a little loving attention when you’re stressed or depressed. Hold one hand in the other; then, use the pad of your thumb to gently but firmly massage this zone.
8. Send the universe some “muah!” Gratitude is often the antidote to depression. And that’s a researched fact. A study done by the University of California showed that when people took time each day to think about five things that made them happy, they increased their overall joy and improved some health issues as well.
With this in mind, send five “muahs!” to the universe. Literally. Think up something you’re grateful about, then pucker up, and blow the universe a kiss! Then do it again! Appreciate. Blow a kiss. Repeat. Appreciate. Blow a kiss. Repeat.
9. Sniff your way to a happier mood. Studies from the University of Miami School of Medicine report that lavender is a major olfactory happiness tool—shown to improve mood, soothe anxiety, and even help to reduce some physical pains. If you don’t have lavender around your home, grab a bottle of Vanilla Extract from your kitchen cabinet. This yummy scent is also considered a powerful aromatherapy happiness booster. Added bonus: Studies also show the scent of vanilla arouses men, so consider yourself forewarned!
10. Have some punch. Punch a pillow. Punch a teddy bear. Punch some dough. Get the negative energy out of your system through energetic action.
11. Do some heavy petting—with a dog or cat. Lots of studies repeatedly show how pets are a powerful, furry form of stress relief. They lower blood pressure and reduce harmful stress hormones like cortisol.
Plus, hugging and playing with pets has been shown to increase happiness-inducing oxytocin. One Grimshaw study specifically showed that patients who spent a short amount of time with a dog right before undergoing an operation experienced a 37 percent reduction in their anxiety levels.
12. Go fish. A Duncan study showed that watching a fish tank for 30 minutes lowered blood pressure significantly.
13. See your problems from a headstand position. Many yoga passionistas (including celebrity yoga guru and fellow Positively Positive contributor Jennifer Pastiloff) recommend doing headstands to release stress. MRI studies even back up a headstand’s mood-boosting benefit—showing how regular headstands literally improve brain function.
14. Get doodle happy. Grab some magic markers and doodle lots of heart icons. Big heart doodles. Small heart doodles. Give some of the heart doodles smiley faces.
The silliness of this doodling action, combined with the repeated visual stimuli of seeing icons representing love, will cheer you up. Extra feel-good bonus: Doodle your heart icons on a plain white card and mail it to a friend or loved one with a note expressing your adoration of them.
15. Read your way to a happier you. Read through my newest book Instant Happy—overflowing with my viral posters, which work as "Negative Thought Interventions" (because they help stop and swap negative beliefs for positive ones) and “Inspirational Flashcards” (because they remind you of tools and beliefs which best support your happiness). Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but I fully believe in the power of inspirational posters to create a quick attitude shift to a happier frame of mind.