There’s the “duh” prescription of feeling good: Exercise more, hug someone, pet your Labrador retriever. Boring! Better: Positivity researchers are now turning up unexpected happiness triggers that can turn your frown upside down. Here are three that we love:
1. Tearjerker movies
Put “Titanic” and “Atonement” on your feel-good flick list. Sure, a tragic romance makes you cry in the theater, but after the credits roll, you’ll remember what’s good about your own main squeeze — thereby boosting happiness, researchers report. The sadder the plot, the happier you feel later, they say.
2. Doing less for your kids
Back off, Tiger Mama (and you too, Tiger Grandma). Women who practice “intense mothering” — believing that moms should always sacrifice their own needs, continually provide stimulating activities, and derive most of their happiness from their kids — tend to be more depressed than women who think that “good enough” parenting is, well, good enough. If you can’t lighten up for yourself, do it for the kids. Maternal depression can interfere with the emotional bond between mother and child and can lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive, self-esteem, and school problems in children.
3. Reading a newspaper
If you’re among the 19 million Americans who have canceled their daily paper, it’s time to re-subscribe or read the online edition of your local paper. Perusing a broadsheet instead of gawking at the TV emerged as a key difference between most- and least-happy folks in a University of Maryland study that analyzed how more than 30,000 people spend their free time.