Becoming Happier and Less Stressed
While many people report that they do feel fairly happy overall, almost everyone reports wanting to have greater happiness and lower levels of stress. Well, it turns out there are lots of things we can do to feel happier and better every single day! Read on to find out what you can do to become happier and less stressed– and stay that way.
Eight Empowering Happiness Habits
Exercise regularly. Pretty much every research study out there has found that regular exercise reduces stress and anxiety levels and leads to greater overall well-being and happiness. Interestingly, the positive effects of exercising can be seen both immediately and over time. In the short term, most individuals feel less stressed and more relaxed immediately after exercise. In the long term, after exercising regularly for 2-3 months, individuals have lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Eat the right foods. This means plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fruit, fish, and lean meat. Research has shown that, while people and animals who are stressed may temporarily crave sugar and fat, in the long term, these foods aren’t likely to make us feel better! Instead, the foods that help keep us calm and happy are those that are most nutritious, providing ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and opt instead for fresh, balanced meals.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. The average American sleeps less than seven hours a night, even though most people need at least seven or eight hours! Sleep deprivation can increase levels of stress and anxiety, making people less emotionally stable, more easily agitated, and less happy overall.
Be positive. Did you know that you can make yourself happier simply by being more positive? Both your thoughts and your words actually impact your mood and your experience of the world. Thinking positive thoughts puts you in a better mood, facilitating more positive events in your day and leading to more positive emotions and thoughts later in the day. Known as an “upward spiral,” this trajectory has profound consequences for our levels of happiness and well-being. So cultivate positive thoughts and emotions! Focus on what is positive and good and negate negative or defeatist thoughts and feelings.
Let negativity go. Don’t dwell on negative experiences, dark thoughts, or difficult events. While it may be tempting rehash that annoying argument you had at work today when you’re talking to your partner or your friend, resist the temptation!! Studies show that dwelling on negative experiences, whether by ruminating alone or venting to another, only makes people feel worse. It deepens the negative impact of the initial experience and allows the bad mood to permeate your thoughts and possibly those of the person you’re talking to. Sure, talk to a friend if you’re having a hard time. But don’t complain about something just for the sake of complaining.
Set the right goals. Did you know that people whose goals focus on inward self-improvement become happier over time than people whose goals are focused on exterior gains like making money? This is because focusing on exterior or material goals means getting caught up in the web of comparing oneself to others rather than practicing self-acceptance. By contrast, setting goals that focus on inward self-improvement leads to the kind of personal growth that fosters happiness.
Keep up friendships and build your social circles. Spending time with friends and family reduces stress and fosters a range of positive emotions, from love to acceptance to trust to joy. Both the positive emotions and the act of engaging with others contribute to happiness and well-being. Make new friends to bring novelty and excitement into your life, and hold onto old ones to foster deep and lasting social connections.
Get help when you need it. If you’re having a bad day, email a friend to say hello and try to take your mind off of what’s bothering you. If you need to talk to someone, make a phone call and ask for advice. If you’re experiencing depression, ask friends to recommend a therapist or counselor or visit your doctor. Don’t be afraid to tell others how you’re feeling or to ask for help when you need it! It is only by addressing the setbacks that life brings us that we can learn to live happier, healthier lives.