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No matter how positive we try to be in our lives, all of us experience the occasional bad day. It is sometimes tempting to withdraw from the world when this happens—choosing to crawl into bed and do nothing rather than face disappointment. However, evidence from behavioral scientists suggests that combatting unhappiness with creative hobbies is an effective way to boost your mood. Engaging in even the simplest of creative activities has been proven to reduce depression: here are a few things you can do in and around your own home to feel happier.

Make nature your muse

Rather than approaching your garden as another weekend chore, think of it as a way to express yourself creatively. Relish the rich soil running through your fingers while you work, taking time to appreciate the vibrant colors and earthy smells that surround you. Plant things that make you smile instead of what is only practical and tend to them not because you have to, but because you want to. Watch them thrive and appreciate the fact that because of you, a little more beauty exists in the world.

Become a shutterbug

Thanks to modern technology, everything you need to take a stunning photo is literally at your fingertips. Capturing a happy or funny moment visually can lift your spirits in the time it takes to push the button on your smartphone. Be conscious of elements such as lighting and composition instead of snapping quick selfies—these can often awaken our inner critic, and therefore promote negativity rather than positivity. Instead, focus on the moment the sun hits that magical point on the horizon or the excited look on your child’s face when she comes home from a good day at school. Treasure the moment the picture is taken and feel happy looking at it later, remembering that even though life can be difficult sometimes, it also contains freeze frames of joy.

Bake (and then let them eat) cake

Everybody is familiar with the concept of comfort food. You can scarcely watch a romantic comedy without witnessing the film’s heroine diving recklessly into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s when the plot takes a bad turn. While this may produce temporary happiness, you can feel worse than before once your sugar high crashes. That is why adding a creative element to comfort food is a much better option, and also allows you to share something soothing and delicious with the people around you. Research a recipe and don’t be afraid to improvise with your favorite ingredients; happy culinary accidents can occur! Baking is a creative activity that inspires positive feelings in stages: first in the act itself, second in seeing the delight that others experience when they eat your creation and finally when you reward your own taste buds with the finished result.

So, next time you find yourself in a bit of dip, resist the urge to dive under the covers. Raise your happiness quotient by doing something creative. Pick up your gardening gloves, your camera or your rolling pin and get happy!

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