Following in the footsteps of my earlier post on Depression, I wanted to share ways to lift ourselves to become a much more spirited happier person.. Happy people accomplish more, they are generally more productive, more rested and definitely healthier.
There are many ways out there but I like the following as they have been backed by scientific evidence and they basically makes sense! You can try them one by one or why not try few or all of them at one go? These are all easy day to day things you can do which are guaranteed to perk you up.
1) It only takes 7 mins!
What am I talking about? Exercise. Yes you only need 7 minutes of exercise to help you become happier. Exercise has such a profound effect on our body and our mind that it is a powerful tool to overcome depression. It can relax your body, increase your brain power and even improve your body image. Plus, exercise helps our brain to release endorphins and proteins to make us feel more positive. Even if our actual body doesn't change much, how we feel about our body does change.
2) Sleep More
Good sleep not only helps our body recover from the day and repair itself, thus helping us to be more focused and productive. Sleep is also important for happiness because it affects our sensitivity to negative emotions like fear and anger. Of course, how well and how long you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up which would make a difference to your whole day.
3) Spend more Time with Friends and Family
Are you aware that staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top 5 regrets of the dying? Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with family and friends make a big difference to how happy you feel. Interesting fact is that even if our actual income increases, it buys very little happiness. So I guess the age old saying, Money Can't Buy Happiness holds true till today.
4) Get Outside
Making time to go outside has a huge advantage in that good weather and fresh air boosts your positive mood, improved thinking and working memory. The American Meteorological Society found that the ideal temperature for happiness is at 57deg F or 13.9 deg C. So keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 mins of fresh air. There is no hard and fast rule about this - whatever weather fits your liking, just get out!
5) Help Others
To help make yourself happier, you should help others. Sounds rather counterintuitive doesn't it? In fact 100 hours per year or roughly around 2 hours per week is the optimal time we should be dedicating to help others in order to enrich our lives.
Another interesting fact is that spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves (that explains why I tend to spend quite a bit on my close friends and family!).
Smiling can make us feel better but that must be backed by positive thoughts. Smiling helps us to feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. A smile is also a good way to reduce some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances.
Remember, there is a huge difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles. When you really smile, it will reach your eyes, eyes will narrow and wrinkles will form around your eye sockets. A fake smile won't have that.
7)Plan A Trip
As opposed to actually taking a trip, simply planning for a vacation or a break from work can improve our happiness. A study showed in the journal Applied Research in the Quality of Life showed that the biggest spikes in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation because people enjoyed the sense of anticipation. It also showed that after the vacation, happiness quickly dropped to base line levels for most.
This applies to even a night out with friends. Simply planning for the rendezvous can improve your mood levels significantly.
Meditation has often be touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span and helping to keep you calm. It turns out that it is also useful for improving happiness. It has proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life and it can actually make you happier long term. Research has shown that our brain patterns are somewhat different from before meditation as compared to after meditation. Thus, it is reassuring to know that what we feel today and think is not permanent and that it could be altered by meditation.
9) Move Closer to Work
This is a surprise but our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The effect of our travelling to work twice a day for 5 days a week can build up over time and make us less and less happy.
As Harvard Psychologist Danial Gilbert puts it " Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell everyday."
10) Practice Gratitude
This might seem like a simple strategy but it does make a huge difference in your outlook. There are many ways to practice gratitude for eg, keep a journal of the things you are grateful for, share 3 good things that happen each day with a trusted friend or your partner or going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.
Before I pen off (or type off), I would like to share an interesting fact. As we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend to naturally grow happier. Research has shown that older people tend to focus less on the past negative faces and situations than the happier ones. And older people learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unachieved goals and tend to focus on their greater well being. Hence, we can conclude that even if we feel miserable right now, there is hope for us in the future.