New Year’s Eve can sometimes feel like a cosmic joke, luring us in with champagne and noisemakers, then leaving us cold, cranky, and wondering how the evening could have strayed so far from our totally reasonable expectations.
But to that we say—not this year! If a magic formula for a not-sucky New Year’s exists (other than hiding under the covers and watching Home Alone), we think we’ve cracked it. Just follow these science-backed guidelines and boost your odds of a successful night.
People who exercise are happier in general, according to countless studies—but even if you’re not a regular gym rat, hitting the elliptical or going for a run outside for as few as 20 minutes can instantly boost your mood, laying the groundwork for a fun night. But that’s not all! The endorphins released during exercise also help us manage stress, which will come in handy should you face any holiday hijinks.
Sequins are festive, but will you really ever wear that glittery tank top again? (No. The answer is no.) Instead, opt for a red dress or top (or sweater or tie, if you’re a guy). Several studies have shown that the color makes us more attractive to the opposite sex—and of course, red is broadly associated with passion and eroticism. Whether you're looking to lock down a midnight kiss or feel extra amorous with your bae, the color will set the stage for a sexy evening.
Forget about drinking Champagne all night (hello, hangover!) and turn your attention to the ever-enjoyable and overlooked espresso martini. First, the caffeine will give you some much needed energy for whatever the night brings. Second, coffee is a known aphrodisiac, said to increase blood flow and release dopamine—which is sure to put you in a flirty, frisky mood. Third, the martini is, well, a martini. And it’s freaking delicious. Recipe here.
It doesn’t take much effort to dish out compliments, and simple props like “great dress,” “thanks for hosting,” or “you smell how David Beckham looks” can come with big rewards. In fact, researchers found that complimenting someone can provide the same degree of social reward as receiving cash money. And on the flip side, studies show that people who actively show gratitude and express admiration toward those around them are happier, healthier, sleep better, and even have more romantic partners. Not a bad way to start the year.
Listening to happy, upbeat music leads to an instant mood boost, researchers from the University of Missouri confirmed. (Though most of us could confirm this without scientific research.) When we do, our brains release the feel-good hormone dopamine, giving us an instant rush of pleasure. So if you need a pick-me-up when your night isn’t going to plan, try rocking out!
Sure, your bathroom trips may increase, but the rewards will make them well worth it. Research has shown that even mild dehydration can impact mood in a negative way—so being well-hydrated before the night begins is a smart move. Then, keep drinking that water all night long (all night). Chugging water can increase energy, and of course, may even prevent a hangover.
We’ve all seen the viral videos about our generation’s obsessive cell phone use, urging us to “look up”—and there’s no better time to change our ways than on New Year’s Eve. Researchers from the University of Essex found that people report lower levels of relationship quality when a phone is simply nearby, even if no one is using it. Participants in the study felt less trusting of the phone’s owner, and also felt the owner was less empathetic to their needs. So put down your phone and love the ones you’re with this holiday.
Research has shown that even a small amount of dark chocolate can brighten your mood—so if you still have holiday candy lying around, feel free to indulge before going out. The chocolate will release endorphins in your brain, which can reduce your stress levels and lead to feelings of euphoria. Make it dark though. Milk chocolate isn’t as magical.
Consider making more adventurous holiday plans this year. More than one study has shown that adrenaline-inducing activities make people more attracted to one another—which could come in handy if you’re on a date, or have a crush on someone in your group. So hit up a theme park, head to a karaoke bar, watch a scary movie, or spend the night playing laser tag.
Before you roll your eyes, hear us out: The best way to guarantee a great time is, yes, to tell yourself you’re having a great time, research suggests. So even if Uber prices are surging, it’s raining outside, the open bar is three rows deep and the bathroom line isn’t moving, think yourself happy by putting on some rose-colored glasses. Can’t hurt, right? Right?!
Like weddings and prom, New Year’s Eve is riddled with intense social pressures to have the best time ever. And yet, studies show that big, one-off events—like buying a new car, getting a raise, or attending a once-a-year party—will only make you happy for a finite period of time. The best way to approach the night is with a positive and laid-back “I’ll have fun no matter what” attitude (see above). Even if that means playing drunk Scrabble with your mom. Cheers!
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.