We all want to become happier, but just resolving or wishing to be happy doesn’t really work, and can backfire as you may obsess about your setbacks and feel less happy.
We do know that physical activity affects our mental state. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day has been linked to better moods. The type of exercise isn’t that important, it could be brisk walking, weights or jogging. One study of many studies showed that those who exercised 30 minutes on most days were 30 percent more likely to consider themselves happy than those who were less active.
There is a place you can go to become happier……outside. One study had people walk in green parklands for 50 minutes, and compared to those walking in an urban environment they had lower levels of anxiety and performed better on memory tests. A part of the brain that has to do with negative thoughts had less neural activity in those who were in green spaces. So being in nature can make you not focus on negative emotions.
One tried and true way to become happier is to keep a gratitude diary. One study showed that those who wrote down 5 things they were grateful for once a week for 10 weeks reported 28 percent less stress. Maybe this sends a message to our brain that we are ok which in turn reduces the stress hormone cortisol. A side effect was that the people who wrote down what they were thankful for also ate better and exercised more, which themselves improve moods. When you take the effort to come up with what you are grateful for now, the feeling will just come back to you again spontaneously in the future.
More important than exercise or things like cholesterol levels on being happy is having good friendships. And the research has shown that if that friendship entails a hug, that positive feeling were even more greatly increased.
Meditation is one of the main key practices to a happier life. Meditation can increase your levels of feel-good chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin and studies also indicate it may increase your capacity for happiness and reduce your propensity towards negativity. Meditation can reduce your anxiety levels. Studies have shown it actually re-wires your brain so that the neural pathways responsible for fear and anxious thoughts are weakened.And getting rid of anxious thoughts can keep you sleep better at night. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are more empathetic and compassionate towards other people, so you make others happier, and this in turn makes you feel happier.
Yoga is one of the best tools for a happier life, and it doesn’t take long to see results. There is a relaxing neurotransmitter called GABA that spikes after just a single hour of yoga, improving your mood after just one class. Those who stick with yoga report being happier and healthier. Most yoga incorporates awareness and regulation of the breath, which lowers stress and anchors yourself in the moment, both of which are needed to feel happier.
Although less known in the west, Qi Gong exercises have the same benefits as yoga and work on balancing the acupuncture meridians as well, which is a key to health and thus happiness.
By now you should know how good sleep is necessary for health, but equally as much for happiness too. We all know how you get cranky after a bad night of lack of sleep. People in studies tend to focus on negative thoughts after sleep deprivation. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep, and it should be during the night. Studies have shown that sleep was the single most influential factor in daily mood. A recent Gallup poll showed that those who get adequate sleep are more likely to rate their lives as happier.
Of course we should all know how eating well affects our brain health and thus our happiness. Simple sugars, refined flour products, heavy meats, low quality oils and cheeses can throw off our neurochemistry. I found out early on that I had a wheat sensitivity, and the main symptom I got was wanting to nap and feeling depressed. So do an elimination diet where you cut out the main allergenic foods for 10 days to see if your moods lift.
Although supplements won’t help your soul, they can help you become less depressed, especially if you have deficiencies. Most people need an Omega 3 products like fish or krill oil for their nerves. Some products like 5-HTP or SAMe can help with serotonin deficiencies. Any real deficiency of a vitamin or mineral can lead to negative moods, especially B vitamins . There are also many homeopathics that can help with negative feelings, especially flower essences that are made specifically for emotional issues as well as many essential oils.
I find that somehow getting a different perspective on life makes me happier. If you have seen my guided meditations or cosmic contemplations then you have seen the tools I use to pull me out of a funk. When I see myself floating on a spherical rock hurling through infinite space amidst trillions of stars, it puts everything in perspective and I laugh at my troubles.
Faith in something greater than ourselves is a key solution to becoming happy. It has been proven that money or material things after a certain level of getting survival needs met, doesn’t make us happier. It is knowing that we are unconditionally loved, that we are eternal beings, moving onwards in consciousness as part of greater divine plan that brings real joy. And then we start trying to help others to feel loved and happier, and somehow as a side effect, the act of helping makes us happier too. So lets all becoming happier and raise the planet to a higher state of joy.