Workout Wednesday: Simple Tricks to a Happier You

health-kids-smilingJoy. Good vibes. Felicidad. Happiness. A large part of overall health is emotional well-being. When we are emotionally healthy, we are usually in a positive state, commonly known as being happy. But what is happiness? And how can we get more of this good stuff in our life?

HAPPINESS is hard to pin down. Martin Seligman, a leading researcher in positive psychology, breaks happiness down into three parts. These are pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure means giving our body what it wants – satisfying primal needs. Engagement means living the “good life” of family, friends, enjoyable work, and hobbies. And finally, meaning refers to the utilization of our talents to a greater purpose. According to Seligman, all three of the parts are important, but engagement and meaning make the biggest difference in how good we feel about our life.

Let’s add another layer. Happiness can describe how we feel right now, or how we feel generally over time. This is called the “experiencing self” versus the “remembering self.” They’re both important, and you can build your life in a way to augment both types.

Some people worry that wanting to be happy is a selfish pursuit. The opposite is actually true – research has revealed that happier people are more productive, sociable, and healthy. And in turn, this will work to increase the mood of those around you. By working to increase your own spirits, you’re spreading the good vibes to those around you as well.

Using the three categories from Seligman, we’ve created some simple, actionable things you can do to boost your mood right now.


  • Eat a piece of dark chocolate – it releases dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter)
  • Munch on some walnuts – omega-3s have been linked to lower depression rates
  • Introduce a calming fragrance to your room
  • Get in the sunlight when you first wake up
  • Make time to get outside in the sun during the day (but don’t overdo it!)
  • Crack a smile – research has shown that even these muscular changes can induce a positive mood


  • Have a genuine conversation with a good friend
  • Look through old photos of loved ones
  • Clear away clutter in your space – even the illusion of order can clear the mind
  • Use “rapid appreciative thinking” to quickly brainstorm 5 things that you’re grateful for
  • Laugh out loud! Stream a hilarious video. Laughter releases dopamine.
  • Zone out occasionally – clear your mind and meditate
  • Do something you’ve been meaning to right now


  • Spend 30 seconds and do a good deed for someone in need
  • Take 5 minutes to brighten a loved one’s day – flowers, a card… anything!
  • Spend money on experiences – not stuff

Take 2 minutes and do something from this list. You’ll thank yourself later!

Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on


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