Find Your Happy Place
Are you happy? It’s such an important question because happiness has such a huge impact on your health, from your arteries to your heart, from the glow in your skin to the pep in your step. Happy feelings influence your brain and body chemistry in ways that make you better able to cope with pain and stress and to fend off colds, flu, heart disease, and even cancer. Follow these steps to help make yourself happier, day in and day.
Believe in Yourself
Finding true happiness requires taking a good hard look at yourself. The goal is to identify any off-the-wall beliefs about your self-worth and adjust them. When you’re at ease with yourself and open to others, friendships seem to blossom naturally. Just acknowledging secret self-doubts may help you develop enough humor and compassion toward yourself to reach out to others, who, underneath, are probably just like you: sometimes unsure and shy.
Hang Out with Happy Friends
Having someone in your immediate social circle who is upbeat ups your chances of happiness by 15%. Why? It seems happy people have the power to spread their feel-good vibes far and wide the same way a ripple spreads through a pond. Not only do immediate friends matter, but friends of friends, too. So make plans to have lunch with a friend or go for a walk together. It could have far-reaching benefits for your mental health.
Make Time for Play
Swap your endless to-do list for some spontaneous playtime. It packs big benefits for your health, mood, mind, job, and even your relationships. When you’re floating free, happy, and totally absorbed, you’re taking a mini vacation from deadlines, bills, and your crazy-busy schedule. Anything counts, from enjoying a silly moment with your spouse to hosting an impromptu gathering, to cooking up a new recipe in the kitchen.
Is your inner voice quick to snap out things like, “How could you forget that, you idiot?” Sometimes the noise inside our own heads is our biggest stressor. When negative thoughts crop up, imagine a stop sign in your head, and tell yourself, “Stop!” To turn things around, trade in put-downs for positive thoughts and affirmations. For example, when you feel tired during a workout, think, “I am strong” or when you start work on a difficult task, think, “I can accomplish anything.” Empower yourself to think positive.
Connect with Others
Make every effort to talk — really talk — to people you care about. If they’re far away, stay in touch through e-mail, phone calls, video chat, and, when you can, face-to-face visits; you’ll all benefit by connecting. Get physical, too; hugs stimulate oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” spreading a feel-good boost. Lovemaking does, too, in steady relationships (those couples report the highest happiness levels). Plus, connecting with others may keep you healthier by providing a coping mechanism for stress.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Simply writing down what you’re thankful for makes you healthier, happier and more optimistic. Feeling thankful comes, in part, from counting your blessings each day. If you’re not sure how to journal, start by answering: What three things am I thankful for? You might find that journaling gives you a better, happier outlook for each day because you’re looking for moments to include in your journal each night.
Lend a Helping Hand
Volunteering at a nearby school or retirement residence, running to the pharmacy for a sick friend, or lending emotional support to a loved one can give your happiness quotient a big boost. How? Giving back and bonding with others inspires gratitude for what life has given you, and can help you define your purpose in life. The secret to being happy may be realizing that true happiness isn’t about being high on life all the time, but slowing down enough to share your natural gifts with others. Plus, find out how volunteering can help you live longer. (I’m volunteering for Hospice.)
Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Spending time with awesome Mother Nature makes you feel alert, enthusiastic, energetic, and simply happy. Is it the fresh air, the sunshine, the greenery? No one knows for sure. But something about being al fresco appears to help people get even bigger benefits from their workouts and they’re also more likely to stick to their outdoor sports be it walking, bicycling, kayaking or an outdoor fitness class.
Turn On Some Tunes
If you want to feel happy, less stressed and more energetic, flip on your stereo. Whether you love Bach, Lady Gaga or The Beatles, music that makes you feel good increases your heart and breathing rates and makes your brain release dopamine, a lovely feel-good neurotransmitter. Plus, no matter whether you enjoy listening to your favorite music alone or with friends, it will more than likely give you the mood boost you’re looking for.
Meditate or Pray
For some, being spiritual means going to church. For others, it means finding a quiet place to meditate and think about life. No matter how you do it or what you call it, meditation and prayer can help slow breathing and brain activity, and reduce heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, when you do pray or meditate, you’re more likely to be filled with peace, joy, and other positive emotions that can also lead to positive physiological responses throughout your body.