Happiness can be influenced by external circumstances but is more significantly shaped by one's perspective and daily habits. The science behind happiness is extensive and suggests that happiness can be cultivated with intentional effort. Here are ten tiny changes that scientific studies indicate you can do to become happier:
1. Get physical.
Exercise has been shown to improve mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and boost self-esteem. The best exercise for you is the exercise that you actually do on a regular basis. Aim to engage in physical activity, even if it's just a short walk, every day. Just 30 minutes of walking each day can enhance your mood and reduce the risk of some diseases.
2. Practice gratitude.
It may seem very simple but take time each day to reflect on what you are thankful for, no matter how small. This helps shift your focus from what you lack to what you have, leading to increased happiness and satisfaction. After you start doing this for about one month you should feel a sense of fulfillment you did not previously have.
3. Be kind to yourself.
Too often we self-critique ourselves. Think about how you treat yourself when you make a mistake. What about if you fail to reach a goal you set, or miss a deadline? Self-criticism and negative self-talk are correlated with reduced happiness. Instead, practice self-compassion and focus on your strengths and positive qualities. Don’t know how to be self-compassionate?
Try one or more of these simple exercises:
If you make a mistake or miss a deadline instead of criticising yourself, think about what you would tell a friend in a similar situation. In most cases, you would give encouragement to your friend. In future cases, say what you would to a friend to yourself.
Do something that relaxes you. Walk, get a massage, massage your own neck, or eat something healthy and fun. Then tell yourself, when you succeed next time you would reward yourself
Try meditating for 5-10 minutes. Even 5 minutes of meditation has been shown to be beneficial to our mood.
4. Connect with others.
Strong social connections are essential for happiness. Make time to connect with friends and family, either in person or through technology, and prioritize relationships that bring joy to your life. If you don’t have close friends, try volunteering or joining a club you are interested in to make new friends. There are even apps like Meetup and meetme for meeting new people in groups or individually respectively.
5. Set goals and work towards them.
Having a sense of purpose and progress in life significantly increases happiness and fulfillment. Set realistic and achievable goals for yourself and track your progress towards achieving them. Several Apps, like Strides and Way of Life, are available to help you set goals and complete them.
6. Get enough sleep.
Sleep is essential for physical and emotional well-being. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and establish a bedtime routine to help you wind down before sleeping. So, shot watching TV and put away your phones and ipads one hour before bed.
7. Practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. This can help reduce stress and anxiety and increase happiness. Try practicing mindfulness through activities like meditation or deep breathing exercises.
Helping others can bring a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction to your life. Find a cause you are passionate about and volunteer your time or resources to help others.
9. Avoid comparisons.
Comparing yourself to others can lead to feelings of inadequacy and decreased happiness. Instead, focus on your own personal growth and progress, and celebrate your unique qualities and accomplishments.
10. Embrace change.
Change can be scary, but it can also bring new opportunities and growth. Embrace new experiences and opportunities, even if they are outside your comfort zone.
Becoming happier requires small intentional changes to your daily habits and perspectives. By practicing gratitude, connecting with others, being kind to yourself, and embracing change, you can cultivate a happier and more fulfilling life. Why wait, start now to nurture your happier life.
Written by Aldrin V. Gomes, PhD, FCVS, FAHA
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