Body and mind are inextricably linked. That’s why nutritionists resolve health issues by addressing both your mental and physical well-being. Improving your eating habits can do wonders for your mood, but to ensure optimal emotional health in today’s world, you need to train your mind to see life from a positive perspective. Here are some of the best ways to increase your satisfaction in life, happiness and ultimately, your overall health.
Learn to be happier
Finding ways to manage stress is fundamental. Stressful events, people or situations can’t always be avoided; however, you can train your mind to think positively and to let go of negative thoughts and reactions so they don’t wear you down over time. It takes practice. Establishing a morning ritual that sets a positive tone for your day and evening ritual that allows you time to reflect, is a powerful way to help you improve your happiness quotient.
Keep it neutral
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches that the negative feelings you experience in response to what happens in your life are deeply rooted in your beliefs, most of which are irrational or wrong. Accepting life events for what they are, instead of labelling them ‘good’ or ‘bad’ allows you to distance yourself, look at the bigger picture and ultimately get something positive out of any situation.
The outside perspective
A great technique for distancing yourself from negative feelings and increasing your ability to react in a more rational and positive way to stressful situations is to pretend it’s not happening to you, but to someone else. What advice would you give someone if your reaction wasn’t clouded by your personal feelings? Distancing yourself emotionally allows you to take more reasonable decisions and maintain a more positive state of mind.
Leave bad habits behind
Most people have bad habits that contribute more to misery than happiness. Eating too much, drinking too much, smoking too much – all contribute to later regret and self-loathing. But habits are hard to break. Simply eliminating them will not work – you need to replace them with something else. So, the next time you get the urge to eat/drink/smoke, tell yourself you can do it later – this satisfies the craving somewhat. Then replace it with something healthier or more constructive; eat a healthy snack, drink a cup of green tea, go for a short walk. You’ll be surprised how effective this method is for ridding yourself of the bad habits that are getting you down and interfering with your happiness potential.
Be grateful for what you have
One of the greatest contributors to unhappiness is your wants and desires – whether they are fulfilled or not. That’s because as soon as you get the very thing you want, another newer, better, thing comes along. It’s a never-ending cycle. The solution is to renew your appreciation for things you take for granted by depriving yourself of them for a while. Try going without hot water, your morning cup of coffee, the internet or any of your favourite (but taken for granted) things for a period of three days, then reintroduce and enjoy. Sounds silly – but It really works!
People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress and have more positive emotions. They also have less anxiety, sleep better and enjoy better overall health. Research has shown that those who practice gratitude have improved levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, reproductive hormones such as testosterone and pleasure-related neurotransmitters such as dopamine. Being grateful also strengthens your immune system and plays an important role in preventing premature aging and disease.
Not sure how to cultivate gratitude? Try keeping lists of things your grateful for each day, write thank you notes and letters of appreciation, say please and thank you often and smile!
Appreciate having ‘enough’
Financial problems and work stress are two of the biggest contributors to stress and anxiety. The solution is simple – buy less and free up your time by working less. Yet many people get caught on the treadmill of working more to pay bills to accumulate material goods they think they need to fill a void in their life. That void can only be filled by love, connection and experiences that bring more purpose and happiness into their lives.
Other habits that boost happiness
Instead of focusing on eliminating negative experiences from your life – which are often beyond your control – concentrate on increasing your positive experiences. It’s the little things that count. Choose to happy by letting go of grudges, being kind and not getting hung up on petty stuff. Here are some more ideas for upping your happiness quotient:
- Identify what or who makes you happy and make more time for them in your life.
- Make happiness a priority by scheduling your life around events that make you happy.
- Take the time to relish life’s ‘small’ pleasures: a good book, a comfy bed, your morning coffee.
- Get rid of joyless distractions. Social media getting you down? Ditch it.
- Smile more – the facial contractions send messages to the brain that promote happiness.
- Research shows that experiences make us happier than possessions. Do more, buy less.
- Have a back-up plan for when you’re having a bad day. Jogging, listening to your favourite music, watching a film, calling a close friend – whatever works.
- Socialise more – even with strangers. It increases your sense of connection.
- Get away. Breaking the routine and getting away from the daily grind can help you recharge the batteries and create meaningful memories.
- Get outside. Exposure to bright light is crucial for your emotional well-being as it promotes the release of endorphins and increases your levels of vitamin D – a deficiency of which is associated with depression and low mood.
- Practice kindness. Simple acts like giving a compliment, letting someone go ahead of you are contagious and make yourself and others feel happier