It’s the Simple Stuff That Makes You––And Your Brain––HappySometimes when we want to change our mood, we overlook the small stuff and focus on the big stuff. Instead of looking at what’s simple and right in front of us, we tend to look beyond into the aspirational abyss. Let’s say you’re not feeling so great and you’re looking for a little stimuli to perk you up. What do you think might get you back on track? 2,000 bars of chocolate? $25,000? Or how about simply. . . smiling?

That’s right, research suggests that smiling gives the brain just as much pleasure as those bigger ticket items. It’s what’s known as “biofeedback”––which is your brain looking for clues for how it’s supposed to feel. Alex Korb, postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA, says it’s a two-way street, too: if you smile, you’ll feel happy; and if you feel happy, you’ll end up smiling. Win, win!

What else makes your brain happy? You don’t have to try to change the world…just thinking about your long-term goals when you’re stressed can change the way your brain perceives the world. And that matters because dopamine gets released into the nucleus accumbens, which makes you feel better.

Smiling and focusing on long-term goals––what other simple things make your brain happier? To find out what else neuroscience has discovered about happiness, read the full article in The Week here.