I think its pretty safe to say that most everyone on Earth wants to be happy. ?There are so many variables that contribute to a person’s overall sense of satisfaction and each person has a different set of circumstances and challenges and chemical make up that can make it easier for some than for others to be happy. ?However, happiness is to some degree a choice. ?Essentially, we can not choose the cards we are dealt, but we can choose to learn how to win the game with the cards he have.?? Some people are predisposed to feelings of sadness or on a much larger scale, clinical depression; this is certainly not a choice, but it is also not a life sentence. ?If you think you may be suffering from depression, the most important thing you can do for yourself is seek help. Talk to your doctor to explore the treatment options that are best for you. ?Whether you are suffering from depression, you are going through a bad time at the moment, or even if you’re just having a bad day, there are some basic practices that have been proven to help boost feelings of happiness and alleviate symptoms of depression. ?Here are a few ideas that are sure to give you a little lift when you are feeling down,
If you only choose one of these tips, let it be exercise. Exercise causes a domino effect of happiness that continues to reap positive results beyond just the immediate boost. The initial effect of course, is the release of the “happy hormones” (or neurotransmitters) such as serotonin and norepinephrine. Just 20-30 minutes of physical activity can cause a significant improvement in mood for up to 12 hours and that is just after doing it once. Regular exercise, (3-4 times a week) carries the added benefit of increased strength, weight loss, and a strengthened immune system, ?all of which will contribute to a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence. ?Exercising has been shown to decrease stress, anxiety, and fatigue, while increasing mental clarity and ability to focus, and can improve sleep habits. You really can’t go wrong with this one.
Whether it be your time or your money, donating to a cause is also an excellent way to increase happiness. ?Actually, research has shown that people feel better after giving a gift than they do after receiving a gift. It may be the sense of purpose derived from knowing that you helped someone in need. It may be that being a part of a cause makes us feel connected to others. It could be because this good deed helps alleviate any guilt you may have for any past not-so-good-deeds, making you feel like “Hey, I’m not so bad after all” ?Whatever the reason may be, it is undeniable that helping others will make us feel better leaving two people better off than before.
MRI studies have shown that ?meditating ?over a long period of time can cause physiological and structural changes to the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, which is a monumental discovery for those of us diagnosed with ADHD. ?Meditation can decrease stress, increase focus and attention span, and improve memory. The deep state of rest that is achieved during meditation also triggers the release of those same “feel good chemicals” that are released with exercise. ?It does take practice and some patience, but the results are incredible and well worth the effort of training yourself to reach a meditative state. ?Start with just a few minutes a day and gradually extend your time to about 30 minutes.
Fresh air and sunlight are immediate mood boosters and it only requires walking out you door. The sun increases our levels of vitamin D and serotonin, increasing not only our mood but our energy as well. The fresh air, green grass, and sounds of nature help us to feel more energized, yet relaxed at the same time. Humans have an innate emotional connectedness to the outside world, but we live in an age that is increasingly spending more and more time indoors, in front of screens, and disconnected from the beauty of the outside. We need to make a conscious effort to put down our phones, close the laptops, and run around outside for a while. ?If you are stuck in an office all day, try to take your lunch break outside. ?Walk to pick up the kids from school rather than driving, take the dog for a walk, just get outside.
Don’t underestimate the power of giving thanks. Numerous studies have shown that practicing gratitude is strongly associated with an increased sense of personal satisfaction. Its easy to lose sight of what matters most to us when we are focused on the stress of life’s daily hassles. ?The rush hour traffic, important deadlines, crabby kids, messy house, the fact that I have been on hold with Comcast for the past 45 minutes!! ?And these are just the little annoyances that add up to cause a whole lot of frustration; we are also faced much larger hardships throughout our life’s ?journey that can turn our world upside down. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the end of a marriage, and so on. Life ain’t easy. ?By making a conscious effort to come up with something to be grateful for on a daily basis, we are shifting our focus from a place of negativity to a more appreciative and optimistic frame of mind. ?Journaling is a great way to do this. ?Just keep a pen and a notebook next to your bed and time a little time each night to write down one thing that you are grateful for that day. There’s always something. ?Maybe the sun was shining and the weather was unseasonably warm in February. Maybe someone made you smile. Or perhaps you were able to get your phone/cable/internet issues resolved with a short and simple phone call with a super friendly Comcast costumer service representative. ?(Ha ha, now I’m just being unrealistic) ?Over time you will have trained yourself, in a sense, to have a more positive outlook on things. ?And if one day, you are going through a particularly tough time, you can find some comfort in your past entries to remind you of all that you have.
These are just a couple ideas to point you in the right direction on your journey to happiness. ?If you add a little bit of each of these practices into your day to day, you will start to see big results in the way you feel in general as well as the way you feel about yourself. ?Good luck to you and here’s to happiness!