Today’s Solutions: January 18, 2022

More than 165 million Americans plan to shop over the holiday weekend from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday. But have you considered . . . doing something else? Research suggests that your experiences—like hiking or having a meal with friends—are ultimately more satisfying than possessions. With that in mind, here are four things you can do instead of spending and buying things this Monday.

Just go to a park: One incredibly simple way to feel happier, multiple studies suggest, is to spend time in nature. In one study, people who went for a walk in a natural area felt more positive emotions and less anxiety than people who walked in an urban area; if you can’t make it to the wilderness, another study showed that spending time in a green urban area also helped.

Go meet a friend: Being social is a reliable way to make yourself happier. A decades-long Harvard study that has followed people throughout their lives also says that relationships are the key to happiness. What are you waiting for? Go out and meet a friend, or visit a community space where you can make a friend.

Do something creative: Spending time doing something creative—regardless of if you have any artistic talent—makes people happier and more energized. In some cases, making art or music might lead you into “flow,” or a state of absorbed focus that helps you temporarily lose track of time and other worries.

Move around: Even a small amount of exercise makes people happier. A recent review of multiple studies found that working out as little as once a week, or for only 10 minutes each day, makes people happier than others who don’t exercise. Those who exercise more are even happier (though note that there are diminishing returns: taken to an extreme, it’s no longer helpful). 

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