- Exercise is the greatest stress alleviator

- A simple hug makes us feel happiest

- Reading is our biggest boredom buster

- Sound of the sea is most soothing

The secret to happiness in modern Britain is simple and free – give someone a hug or bake them a loaf of fresh bread.

New research reveals that nothing makes Brits happier than a hug or the smell of freshly baked bread, according to a study* by leading kitchen specialist Magnet.

Magnet polled 2,000 British adults to discover what makes them happiest, what irritates them the most, which are life’s best stress-relievers and what sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches are the most powerful in our busy, modern day lives.

The Magnet Sensory survey showed that the humble hug is possibly the most powerful mood changer. Some 44% of the nation says that a hug makes them feel happy like nothing else. And a simple kiss (17%) is also a guaranteed way to improve your mood.

Unsurprisingly, the kitchen – the hub of family life - plays a large an integral part in exciting all of our senses. Nothing makes us feel happier than the smell of baking bread or freshly cut grass and the aroma of a home-made roast dinner is guaranteed to remind most Brits of their childhood.

When it comes to sounds that make us smile, it’s the simple echo of human laughter (19%) that has the greatest effect.

Britain is never happier than when fondly remembering its childhood, the study shows. And looking at old family photos (29%), listening to childhood songs (25%) and enjoying the taste of home-cooked meals (18%) that most powerfully evoke those early memories. It is also virtually impossible to hear a school bell and not be transported back to those carefree days of school-life – though Brits also cite the sound of children’s TV as a powerfully evocative reminder of those heady childhood days.

Neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis, said:

“Indulging in a bit of reminiscence can be really energising. Aromas have an uncanny knack of triggering recall of events from before the age of ten thanks to a quirk in the wiring of the senses. Sights and sounds on the other hand tend to evoke recollections from late adolescence and early adulthood; most often emotional events or moments that helped to define who we are. In the kitchen this is all mixed together: the sights, sounds, aromas and flavours associated with a typical celebratory meal are blended into a multisensory concoction perfect for cueing up fond recollections galore.”

A Magnet spokesperson said:

“We set out to identify the sensory stimulators that were most likely to make us laugh, cry, illicit memories and even alleviate our stress.

“We were surprised to find out that despite the beautiful natural world around us, or the advanced technology in our homes, the humble hug can be the most powerful stimulant in our lives. This simple gesture has the power to transform the way we feel in an instant.

“We’ve discovered that our homes are full of sights, sounds and smells that have a dramatic affect on the way we feel. From the smell of freshly baked bread to the sound of rain pouring on our roof, to the soothing rhythm of chopping vegetables, every day is filled stimulants that provoke emotional responses.

“We now hope to use this insight to identify and develop kitchen innovations that can stimulate multiple senses and improve our feelings of wellbeing.”

The research discovered that nothing makes us cry like watching a sad film (49%) though looking back at old pictures tends to bring a tear to our eye too (14%). And there’s no more irritating sound than that of a car alarm (23%), though crying babies (18%) tend to get the nation’s back up too, according to the study.

Fortunately there is a sensory cure for the negative emotions we feel when irritated – and none is more powerful than the simple act of listening to music (47%).

Come stress and boredom and us Brits have cures for both – reading a good book (21%) and listening to music (13%) is most likely to alleviate boredom. And when it comes to stress-busting, exercise (15%) or stroking your pet (14%) are Britain’s best and favourite cures. Fortunately just 5% turn to food in times of boredom or stress.

The old saying “What you see is what you get” really rings true. An overwhelming 40% of Brits believe that sight most influences their daily mood.

*The results are based on a One Poll Survey which was carried out from 12 – 14 November 2016