Did you know that happier people are healthier people? There has been a good deal of research on the subject of happiness and it’s effects on health and longevity. These studies have used several terms to signify happiness: positive emotions, subjective well-being, emotional vitality and positive well-being to name a few. These emotions encompass feelings such as optimism, hopefulness, enthusiasm, emotional balance through stressful events and engagement in life. The various studies have found that increased happiness or positive emotions can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, strengthen the immune system, boost energy and improve overall satisfaction with life. Health is not all it has been shown to impact. Happy people have been found to have higher incomes, higher social rewards, more social support and higher work outcomes or productivity. Not feeling the happiness? Perhaps you need to change the way you approach life. Here are a few tips from the experts and researchers.
10 Tips for Improving Happiness:
1) Practice altruism and acts of kindness. Doing for others has been shown to create higher feelings of happiness than doing for self. Random acts of kindness has a ripple effect and creates happiness in others. Spread the smile!
2) Exercise – move your body every day in some way. Exercise releases endorphins, the “happy juice” in the body. It also has been shown in numerous studies to improve concentration, memory and cognitive performance. Studies show it is best to mix it up, challenge the brain and body so it doesn’t get bored. Vary the type of exercise and intensity.
3) Take it outside. Research shows that people who exercise or simply sit outside are happier and calmer. The Japanese have a practice they call Shinrinyoku, or “Forest Bathing” and have set up parks to facilitate walking/sitting in open space and nature, breathing in oxygen in a peaceful, quiet environment. It has been shown to lower stress and boost immune system. For more info, go to www.hphpcentral.com/article/forest-bathing.
4) Practice Mindfulness. An awareness of self and the environment in the present moment without judgement. Anxiety is future based thoughts and depression is past based thoughts. Focus on the present, in the moment instead of dwelling on past or projecting to the future. Check out www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/10/science-meaningful-life_n_4570843.html
5) Find your funny bone. Tap into your sense of play, laugh, be silly. Don’t be afraid to let go and be frivolous and goofy. Studies have shown laughter to release endorphins, alleviate stress and have an overall positive effect on health and well being. Laughter is contagious so spread the giggle.
6) Be Grateful. Practice daily gratitude. Before bed or upon rising, speak or write what you are grateful for that day. It helps with perspective and balance and opens you up to positive energy.
7) Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Release or limit the interactions and relationships that are toxic. These are relationships that bring out insecurity, guilt, jealousy and judgment.
8) Learn to forgive and let go of the past. Caroline Myss talks about taking back your power instead of giving it away to the past. When you hold grudges or dwell on the past, it depletes energy, makes you tired and unable to move forward.
9) Do what you love, NOT what you “should”. As my wisdom coach, Pamela says, “Get rid of shoulds honey, they are low vibrational energy”. Do what makes you feel good and follow your heart and inner knowing.
10) Be positive in your thoughts and words. Be aware of how you think and speak as negative thoughts draw negative things and feelings, while positive thoughts draw positive things- Laws of attraction. Change negative thoughts into positive ones. I tell my clients this regularly- not “I can’t”, but “I will” . Negative thoughts are like rocks that weigh you down while positive thoughts are like feathers, light and giving you wings to fly.
RESOURCES: Want to learn more or delve deeper into the keys to happiness?
The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. (Penguin; 2007) by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. (Blackwell; 2008) by Ed Diener
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. (Free Press;2011) by Martin Seligman, PhD
Be Happy: Release the Power of Happiness in You. (Hay House; 2009) by Robert Holden, PhD