If you want to learn how to become happier, the following science-backed methods will help you a lot.
One of the theories in the field of psychology claims that all people have a “starting point” of happiness, which defines their wellness. All our life revolves around it and the fact if we feel more or less happy depends on what is happening in our daily lives. But we can “reboot” our minds.
While the world may or may not be in worse trouble than it’s been before, you can still feel good in life. You can do little things like exercising, eating well, meditation, writing, getting enough sleep, and self-affirmation.
While these simple practices may not transform life on planet Earth, they can show you how to become happier, feel more at home here, and begin to appreciate and enjoy your life more.
Let’s take a moment to explore each of these options.
1. Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is restorative, and if you don’t get enough, your body does not have enough time to heal and catch up with its metabolic housework. While it may seem to be productive to work more and sleep less, this is not a sustainable way to live. Don’t try to get by on 6 hours if you need 8 or 9 hours to get a good night’s rest.
2. Eating well
While there is no shortage of delicious food, this is not exactly what is meant by the phrase, “eating well.” Tasty food— which is often high in salt, sugar, and fats — also throws your metabolism out of balance. These high-calorie, low-nutrient foods don’t give your body the right proportion of macro- and micro-nutrients. As a result, you feel tired after a meal, not replenished and refueled.
Eating well, then, refers to eating foods closer to nature — fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, organic meats, etc. Your body knows what to do with these foods, but it has no idea how to process a common sweetener like high fructose corn syrup.
Meditation is a broad term. You can just sit in a quiet place relaxing and letting go of intrusive thoughts. It’s like rebooting a computer, which is processing an excessive number of tasks simultaneously.
However, many people find meditation difficult. It’s not because meditation itself is difficult – after all, it’s the art of doing nothing more than breathing, visualizing, or repeating a mantra while sitting perfectly still – but because they are trying too hard to do it right.
In addition, there are many religions that use meditation, which creates quite a bit of confusion about the practice itself. If you’re not a religious person, you feel you’re being hoodwinked into adopting erroneous belief systems.
If you belong to organized religion, you wonder if you’re betraying your faith. And if you do happen to belong to a religion that believes in meditation, then you’re always dismayed at not clearing your mind of thoughts and feeling a sense of oneness with all sentient beings.
Here are 4 tips to put your mind at ease (no pun intended):
- Forget about doing it right. Meditation is not about performance.
- Choose the type of meditation you find easy to do.
- Realize that meditation does not belong to any religion but is merely a practice that many Eastern religions have found helpful in promoting spiritual insights. You can even meditate if you’re an atheist to calm your mind and provoke the relaxation response.
- Think of the mind as a bucket and thoughts and feelings as sand swirling in the bucket. By meditating, you allow the sand to settle to the bottom of the bucket and your mind now becomes still and peaceful.
Writing can be a way of sorting through your ideas to get clarity. It’s useful even if you don’t plan to be a published writer. You can write in your journal about your day or as a way to figure things out.
You can also write what’s called Morning Pages. This idea, introduced by Julia Cameron in The Artists Way helps free up mental and emotional clutter. Cameron explains:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.”
Exercise has a direct effect on your mood. By joining a fitness class, you not only get to hang out with like-minded people and engage in a fun activity, but you’ll also build muscle, burn fat, improve flexibility, and stimulate feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine.
Thus, it is recommended to work out or do any other kind of physical activity for at least 15-30 minutes a day. Aerobic exercise (for example, jogging) is shown to have a powerful antidepressant effect.
6. Self-affirmation and effort
Our beliefs are like the software that runs our minds. In order to clear erroneous beliefs, we can use another piece of software called self-affirmations.
Happy people consider happiness a lifetime goal, writes leading psychologist Tom G. Stevens in his book ‘You can choose to be happy‘. To do this, we must re-evaluate our beliefs and values, work on our self-control, and be in an environment that encourages positive feelings.
Suppose, for example, you were disinterested in class when you were little and because teachers, parents, and fellow students labeled you as stupid. This is a damaging belief because it limits your ability to learn new ideas. By using an affirmation like, “I quickly solve difficult problems and have a great memory,” you slowly begin to erase the erroneous beliefs that others fostered upon you.
Affirmations might work partly because even the slightest effort to become happier can have significant effects on your life. Two small pilot studies published in the scientific journal Journal of Positive Psychology show that the participants who tried to become happy enjoyed a better mood and increased wellness.
7. Practice gratitude and enjoy the little things in life
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson claims that the human brain responds automatically to negative events and this response is even stronger than when we experience positive things. But we can reverse this negative tendency by practicing gratitude and appreciating the small joys of life.
Indeed, a study published in the journal Social Behavior and Personality shows that gratitude is a habit that can be developed and makes us enjoy life more.
Moreover, did you know that even a simple smile of gratitude can significantly boost your mood and make you happier? A study conducted at Michigan State University shows that people who smile often and make happy thoughts tend to be in a good mood and do not give up easily.
As such, psychologist Robert Emmons recommends writing down three things you are grateful for every day. For example, you could write about how much your friends and family mean to you. It could look like a trivial exercise, but according to Dr. Emmons, a daily reminder of the reasons to be grateful for ‘infects’ people with optimism about the future.
Another great way to practice the attitude of gratitude and positivity would be to think about your achievements for the last 24 hours at the end of the day. Why is this important? Because when you praise yourself and cultivate positive thinking, it boosts your self-confidence and motivates you for further achievements.
Final thoughts about happiness
You may not realize it, but each day, you have many opportunities to become happier. Yes, if you are to believe the politicians and the press, the world has never been in a worse condition.
That’s probably what people thought in ancient Athens, too, when the Spartans were delivering ominous threats, or in Rome when the Visigoths were marching toward the capital.
By trying out these 7 ideas that show you how to become happier, you can stop worrying about the state of the world, have a better mood, and, finally, start experiencing greater self-fulfillment. People have been frustrated since the beginning of recorded history, but you can choose to set yourself free from intrusive thoughts.
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