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Column: Psychological tricks to become happier

<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/breadpitt08/" target="_self">Liza Del Mundo</a>

Liza Del Mundo

February 27, 2023
Since the pandemic, many people have been affected by COVID-19, losing opportunities, plans, hopes and experiences, affecting our happiness and overall well-being. Many of us panicked and tried to reach out for mental support, but faced barriers such as high costs and high demand.

Two years after the pandemic, the mental health issues we dealt with during that terrifying situation still lingered in us. Not only that but the stress and anxiety we currently undergo in our lives in school and work can sometimes impact our overall well-being. Luckily, there are several ways to deal with unhappiness, stress, and anxiety to get you through the day. 

The first psychological trick to becoming instantly happy is to fake a smile. How does that work, you may ask? According to a 2021 study published in the American Psychological Association Journal, smiling or faking a smile can trigger facial muscles, tricking your brain into thinking you’re happy. Smiling can increase levels of hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the body.

Low serotonin levels are associated with depression and aggression, and dopamine increases feelings of happiness. Serotonin release is associated with reduced stress therefore smile. Smiling will make you feel better and allow you to see the world around you in a positive way. 

The second psychological trick is to laugh. Some people may believe laughing is a meaningless, foolish trite. However, laughing is a misunderstood area of science. Based on the novel An Introduction to the Psychology of Humor by Janet B. Gibson, laughter is a force that improves physical and mental well-being.

Psychologists measured the frequency and intensity of 41 people’s laughter over two weeks with their ratings of physical and stress. The more laughter experienced, the lower the reported stress, according to a a 2020 study published in the Public Library of Science Journal.

Regardless if the instances of laughter were strong, medium, or weak in intensity didn’t matter. As you laugh, you take yourself or the situation less seriously and may feel empowered to problem-solve

The third psychological trick we should all do is to spend more time with our family or loved ones. An article published by Carnegie Mellon University found that people use their family and friends as a stress buffer. They talked about their problems instead of seeking negative coping mechanisms like drinking alcohol, smoking or indulging in unhealthy substances. Maintaining a strong relationship with friends and family is much more likely to help you achieve ultimate happiness. 

Last but not least, put down your phone! Everything has become available on mobiles in current years, and it can be easy to sink into those responsibilities and construct more stress for yourself. The overuse of smartphones creates a psychological dependence, and detachment from the device will create anxiety.

A growing body of research shows there is a link between smartphone dependency and signs of depression and loneliness, according to a 2019 article in University of Arizona News.

Research has revealed that teen phone use negatively impacts sleep, which leads to anxiety. Additionally, the Sleep Foundation recommends avoiding screen time at least 30 minutes before bed. Completely removing your phone and other devices from your life is nearly impossible, instead, try to limit your use and instead pick up a hobby, prioritize gratitude, read a book or newspaper, and devote your time to having a simple willingness to learn something new that can enhance your skills and knowledge. 

These psychological tricks are proven effective for temporary use and perhaps long-term. If you are looking forward to improving your well-being and overall happiness, socializing and showing effort toward challenging activities such as exercising, meditating, cooking, and learning a new subject, needs effort and consistency. Think of mental health as a diet.

When you are stuck on your phone or binge-watching a TV series, think about the way you feel. Sometimes, the things we find easy may not be the most healthy and nourishing things for our minds. It is vital to do everything in moderation, which means we must know how to balance our needs and wants.

For instance, you want to watch your favorite TV series, but you also need to balance it with quality time socializing with friends and exercising like a simple walk outside the park. The things that fulfill, satiate, and improve our well-being take some effort, patience, and dedication to work. The psychological tricks are effective, however, it is also essential to find balance and consistency in our lives to guarantee long-term happiness.

Author’s note: The article only provides tricks and ways to temporarily aid emotions such as anger and anxiety. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please reach out and talk to people you trust, such as your family, friends, or counselors/teachers. If you are uncomfortable sharing with those around you, please reach out to the following hotlines. 

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 988
  • California Youth Crisis Line 1-800-843-5200 (THE 5200)
  • Crisis Text Line (anywhere in the USA) Text “youth” to 741741 to reach a trained counselor
  • National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453)
  • California Child Abuse Reporting Emergency Response Hotline
    • Find your county’s phone number here.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (799-7233)
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) 1-800-656-HOPE (656-4673)
  • The Trevor Lifeline (LGBTQ) 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
  • Teen Line 1-800-TLC-TEEN (852-8336)
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