Getting an immediate lift in mood is as easy as taking a small risk. Tune into this week’s episode to find out the science behind risk-taking and why it’s so effective at lifting positivity right away. Then, find out my 7 suggestions for incorporating this easy tip into your life.
Check out the book that inspired this podcast, THE HAPPINESS UPGRADE: ONE SMALL STEP UP TO A HAPPIER LIFE (available at Amazon) at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
Learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast at HappinessUpgradePress.com.
Follow @HappinessUpgrade on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Want to turn around a low mood or make an already happy mood even happier right away? It’s as easy as taking a small risk.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I’m your host, Gabrielle Lichterman, health journalist and author of the book The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. Every week in this podcast, I share one easy study-backed method to improve your mood, plus my 7 suggestions for ways to try the technique during your week. And now for this week’s Happiness Upgrade tip….
Want to shake yourself out of a funk or make an already happy mood even more joyful? Try taking a safe, but thrilling risk!
Folks who take a chance on something—even if it’s small—get an instant surge of good feelings.
On top of that, numerous studies show that people who regularly take risks are happier with their lives than those who never take a leap of faith.
And, believe it or not, this holds true regardless of the outcome. This means that if you take a risk and it turns out like you’d hoped, you’ll obviously get a surge in positivity.
But, if you take a risk and it does not give you the result you wanted, you actually still end up happier than if you didn’t take the risk!
So, why would that be? It’s because the result of taking a chance or doing something outside your comfort zone is not the part of risk-taking that lifts your mood. It’s taking the risk itself.
And researchers have figured out why.
According to research from the UCLA, taking a risk immediately prompts the body to churn out pleasure-inducing chemicals, such as dopamine and adrenaline. Together, these chemicals give you a rewarding, amped up feeling, similar to what you’d get if you were drinking a bit more caffeine than you usually do or you got an unexpected happy surprise, like a gift. In fact, it’s the same euphoric rush that you got when you were a kid making prank phone calls or when you talked to your first crush.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a big risk, like jumping out of an airplane, to get this buzzy sensation. You can spur it on command just by taking a small, safe risk.
But, that immediate spurt of happy juices isn’t the only reason taking chances buoys your mood. What’s also happening is that despite the uncertain outcome, risk-taking makes you feel like you’re more in control of your life by giving you an opportunity to go after something you want. This feeling of control is something that University of Michigan researchers have found is tied closely to happiness levels.
Why? Well, we live in a world where we often feel like we have little to no control, for example, over how much traffic we have to battle, the price of groceries we have to pay and the troubling acts we hear about in the news that we often can’t directly do a thing about.
By deciding to take an action that’s small and safe, yet still has an uncertain outcome, you get to assert control. That sense of control makes you feel more powerful. And that powerful feeling can spur an upward spiral that makes you more resilient to life’s stressful challenges, which helps keep your mood high despite them.
There’s one more benefit of taking a risk to keep in mind: Taking a small chance not only boosts your mood in the moment. You may also end up trying something new or making a change that brings you greater joy for days, weeks, months or even years.
So, how can you add more safe risks into your life so you can use it to give yourself a Happiness Upgrade this week? Here are my 7 suggestions:
1. Dare to step outside your comfort zone, for example, by singing at an open mic event or filming yourself dancing in public for a fun social media challenge. Every time I film myself in public for my Happiness Upgrade account on TikTok, I get a pleasurable zing since I know I’m often taking a small risk. For example, I could end up looking incredibly silly in front of strangers. And despite my shyness and social anxiety, I actually end up smiling every time after I film myself while out in public. That combination of dopamine and adrenaline often work to boost your mood even in situations you find uncomfortable.
2. Ask someone new out on a romantic date or ask someone new out on a platonic friend date. I recently struck up a new friendship with a woman who takes guitar lessons with my husband. She and I are the same age, we’re both writers and we share similar interests. It’s been years since I’ve struck up a new friendship, and as I mentioned before, I’m pretty shy, so asking her out on a friend date was an exciting risk for me. Luckily, she accepted and we’ve been having fun going to museums around town together for the past few months. So, taking that initial risk boosted my mood in the moment. And it’s led to more happy moments with my new friend.
3. Try a new look, for instance, wear a different type of outfit than you usually do or style your hair differently. Then, go to a restaurant, live music show or other public place and show it off.
4. Enter a competition, for example, submit one of your photos, recipes or songs. You can find many competitions by simply searching online. Of course, always make sure the contest you want to enter is legitimate first. But, you may discover that your creation is something that wins a coveted award or a cash prize.
5. Send in your application to a dream job. Ask for a raise or promotion at your current job. Or take a step toward changing your career or starting a new side gig.
6. Try an activity that you normally shy away from because it comes with some kind of safe, but thrilling risk. For you, maybe this is zip lining, riding a roller coaster or putting on roller skates at your local roller rink.
7. Strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger. Since you don’t know them, there’s no way to know what they’ll say back or where the conversation will go from there. I’ll share two examples of how this can turn out:
When I lived in SoHo in New York City, I discovered that one of my neighbors in was a famous musical artist I admired. On my way home once, I happened to pass by her and, despite my shyness, I mustered the courage to tell her “Hi, I love your music”. She made an awful face and growled at me! I remember being disappointed but, I was also filled with this incredible mood-boosting electricity that I actually took the risk to say anything. Those brain chemicals were hard at work giving me a thrilling sensation even if it didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.
Another time, I was standing outside an off-Broadway playhouse waiting to go in when a male actor who appeared in some of my favorite movies happened to be smoking a cigarette nearby. I took a chance again and said “Hi, I love your work”, and he was absolutely charming and appreciative. Naturally, I was experiencing those same uplifting feelings again thanks to those stimulating brain chemicals. And his kind response certainly made me even happier.
I wanted to share my experiences just to show you that even when it doesn’t work out like you’d hoped—and, of course, it won’t always turn out as you hope—you can still get that thrilling, pleasurable sensation that comes just from taking just a small risk.
Those were my 7 suggestions for adding more happiness-lifting risks to your week. I hope you find them helpful.
Thank you for joining me for another episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast. I hope the mood-boosting tips that you heard today help you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade.
This podcast was inspired by my book, The Happiness Upgrade: One Small Step Up to a Happier Life. This book shows you how small, easy actions can halt an unwanted negative mood and lead to a rise in happiness. You can find my book, The Happiness Upgrade, at Amazon.
This week, I’m thrilled to share that my book, The Happiness Upgrade, is a winning finalist in the 13th Annual International Book Awards in the psychology/mental health category. I appreciate that the judges recognized the power of taking small, easy actions to spur a big change in mood.
If you enjoyed this episode of the Happiness Upgrade Podcast, please subscribe to it and share it with friends. There’s a new episode every week.
To learn more about the Happiness Upgrade Podcast, visit HappinessUpgrade.com. And follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by searching @happinessupgrade.
The Happiness Upgrade Podcast is written, edited and produced by me, Gabrielle Lichterman. If you like this show, please rate it. This helps other listeners find independently-created podcasts like mine.
I would love to connect with you and know how you give yourself a Happiness Upgrade. So, send me an email at Gabrielle@HappinessUpgradePress.com.
I hope your week is filled with fun risks and happiness!