As Caregiver extraordinaire, you are the driver of the happy bus. When you’re in a good mood, you bring everyone along on the ride to happy town. Here’s how to feel more joy every day—and spread it to those you love.
Hug It Out
Eight hugs a day is your Rx for happiness in relationships, according to neuroeconomist Paul Zak, aka “Dr. Love.” A friendly body slam increases levels of the love hormone oxytocin, and triggers the release of the mood-boosting neurochemicals dopamine and serotonin. Studies show benefits to both hugger and huggee, and if there are no humans around to embrace, cuddling a pet works, too.
Sharing is caring—and that goes for folding laundry. A study from the University of Western Ontario found that partners who divvy up home chores are happier and more satisfied than those whose to-do lists are less balanced. As we learn in the movie Enough Said, with Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini: If you want someone else to do a task, stop doing it yourself. You may be amazed at what happens next.
Love Your Love Life
Sadness is contagious in couples, studies show, but so is happiness. Take care of your relationship—and dial up the joy—with a little Netflix therapy. New research from the University of Rochester found that couples who watched and then discussed romantic comedies improved their relationship just as much as couples who underwent counseling. Top rom-com picks: Date Night, Fools Rush In, Meet the Fockers, and Love and Other Drugs.
Exercise will open the floodgates of endorphins, those feel-good hormones that amplify happiness and relationships. Carving out me-time for your workout (moving for just seven minutes has been shown to lift mood) will also fortify your sense of personal value—I deserve this!—and may improve how you feel about your body, even if you don’t lose a centimeter off your love handles.