Live a happier, healthier life by implementing powerful habits into your daily routine. Whether it's managing your social media diet or accepting what you can't change, being intentional can help to get your mood on track — and boost those happiness hormones.
While the challenges of the pandemic have been high and mighty for us all, Vanessa King, a happiness expert and founder of Action for Happiness, has revealed what we can do to live a happier and more positive life. Whatever season you're facing, let these tips help you find joy everyday...
1. Dig for joy
If you're struggling to find joy, there's one simple yet powerful thing that can help: digging for joy. "Take a moment once a day to recognise the things that are good in your life. At the moment I'm calling it 'having a dig for joy' to find the little moments that make us happy in our day," Vanessa tells Country Living.
"Our brains are naturally wired to focus on what's wrong and we often overlook the little good things. It's not saying to ignore the bad things, but there are also usually some good things to. If we stop to notice those things, it has both a physical and a psychological effect on us. These little moments can help to buffer against stress and anxiety. It's a simple practice to do even on terrible days."
2. Create something to look forward to
Encourage a sense of normality by planning for the days ahead. While the pages of our diaries sit as empty as the London commuter trains, penciling in a virtual coffee with a friend, a walk outside or a book to finish will give you purpose each day.
"Even if you've had a hard day, you can create something that sparks joy," Vanessa explains. "Maybe it's running yourself a nice hot bath or ringing a friend that makes me laugh. You can create something to look forward to — it doesn't have to be a big thing. It trains your brain to notice things in the present."
3. Connect to reconnect
While connecting with loved ones has been harder — and different to what we're used to — it holds great power. "One of the most important things for feeling happier is our connections with other people," Vanessa adds.
"If we can do something that helps us to stay connected, that amplifies the feel-good effect that we get from other people. Feeling connected is so important for our wellbeing. Chronic loneliness can, in severe cases, be as damaging to our health as smoking or obesity. If you're lonely that's a signal that you need to connect with people. It's a bit like if you're thirsty you go to get a glass of water."
4. Do something kind for others
In many cases, sadness is a normal human reaction to different life changes and events, but there are some habits that can help with this. "If you find yourself feeling a bit down, a great thing to do is something kind for another person," explains Vanessa.
"When we do kind things for others, it actually activates the reward system in our own brain. It releases the reward neurone dopamine. If we're doing something for someone else, then it also takes our mind off our own worries as well."
In fact, a January 2020 study backs this up, discovering that the key to tackling loneliness could lie in a simple act of kindness. Interestingly, the researchers found that those who make time to help others stop feeling lonely themselves. "If I do something kind for someone else it gives me a boost for my wellbeing, but if I ask someone to help me then that's an opportunity to connect and show them that I value what they can offer," Vanessa adds.
5. Ask for help
Don't be afraid to ask for help. While often perceived as a weakness, asking for help is indeed a strength. "You don't have to only ask for help when you're struggling, but you can always ask for help when you want to learn or share," Vanessa explains, telling us that we can often get "embarrassed" when asking for help.
As well as this, she tells us that communities who help one another are actually "happier, stronger and more resilient", which is certainly something we could all do more of. "Giving kindness and asking for help is the heart of the social balloon," she adds.
6. Be a good friend to yourself
When was the last time you said something kind to yourself? "Notice how you're talking to yourself. Sometimes we can be really kind to other people but really tough, critical and nasty to ourselves," Vanessa explains.
Especially during times like these, when everyone is trying the best they can, it's important to show ourselves a little love. "If you notice yourself getting frustrated or cross with yourself, just say "hang on, this is a really tough time, lots of people are finding it hard". Notice how you talk to yourself. Be a good friend to yourself."
7. Move your body for your mind
"Although we don't always act like it, our body and mind are connected. Our bodies are designed to move, which keeps our brain in shape," explains Vanessa.
"A brisk walk can be as effective as taking prescribed medicine, especially for those with mild depression. Make sure you're getting enough movement in your day. Many of us are spending a lot longer at our desks than we would normally do. Think of ways you can introduce movement in your day to help boost your mood."
8. Look for the "awesome" outside
Nature is a natural healer and can do wonders for your mind, body and more.
Speaking about the power of heading outside, Vanessa says: "A recent study instructed people to go out for one walk for 15 minutes a day and look for "awe" – things that are literally awesome. It's one of those emotions where you like at something, like an old cedar tree for example, and just say "wow". Not only did this boost people's mood, but those people were pro-social because it took them away from all of their worries and their to-do lists. It helped to put things into perspective."
Why not step outside on a walk and soak up what's around you? Who knows what you might find...
9. Manage your social media diet
The profound power of knowing how you spend your time — whether that's at work or relaxing in the evening — can help you to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Vanessa explains that importance of limiting the doomscroll: "Manage your social media diet. When you look back on your life you're not going to wish you spent more time of your time scrolling," she advises.
10. Accept what you can't control
Do you find yourself trying to change things you have no control over? Accepting that many things are out of your control isn't giving up or giving in; it's simply learning to understand what's in your power.
Vanessa expands on this, telling us: "Accept how things are now, but also think about how you can make a slightly different today or a slightly better tomorrow. There's a lot of things that are out of control at the moment, but try to not spend too much energy on those. What can you do to make a better tomorrow."
11. Don't be expect too much of yourself
"Don't expect yourself to be perfect. If you mess up, it's OK to be open and honest. I'm learning that there's some things that I'm good at, but then there are other things that I'm not so good at. It's about accepting that and learning how to work with it. A great phrase I love is "don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides". Accept how you are feeling."
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