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  • Samantha Ford

How to be happier today: Add these 5 healthy habits into your routine

Happiness is a state of mind. Specifically, it is a state of “well-being and contentment.” However, the definition can be tricky, and assumptions about the word can cause confusion. Many do not even realise that learning how to be happy is something which can be intentionally practised.

We can sometimes put up barriers to happiness because we choose to focus on working harder and success, rather than our positive emotions. Or perhaps you have tried to be happier, but have faced too many challenges and it just didn’t work?

Many studies have researched the link between happiness and health. The question is, are you happy because you are healthy or does being healthy make you happy? Happiness and health are most definitely intertwined and researchers are continuously trying to untangle their relationship.

Regardless of your version of true happiness, living a happier life can be achieved. And a few tweaks to your regular habits can help you get there.

1. Eating for your mind

Eating healthily for your physical health is well recognised, however there are also foods which impact your state of mind too. It turns out there is a direct link between what you eat and how you feel. People with depression, for instance, often make food choices that can actually contribute to low mood. Luckily, there are also foods which can help make you feel happier. These foods infuse your body with nutrients, allowing the brain to produce neurotransmitters that give you a natural high. That is why you can actually support depression with nutrition.

Avoiding processed starchy carbohydrates such as white pasta, bread and cereal is a great place to start. They cause blood sugar to crash which can lead to you feeling tired, irritable, anxious or moody. Complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, beans, vegetables provide a slower release of energy and in most people, prevent low blood sugar induced symptoms.

2. Take time to reflect

Many of us do not take time for ourselves to reflect, rarely do we schedule time to reflect on us and how we are feeling. Imagine you are having a catch up with a friend. Ask yourself what they would be asking, such as;

• What have you been up to lately?

• How are you?

• How are you feeling about work/life/relationships?

• Are you happy?

When answered honestly but not too harshly, these questions will help you regularly reassess and reprioritise and ultimately lead to a happier life. We recommend you do this at the beginning of every month. Go on, send yourself a meeting invite!

3. Detach yourself from your phone

Are you addicted to your mobile phone? Many studies have shown that mobile phone addiction has physical and psychological effects at the same time. Sleep deficit, anxiety, stress, and depression, have been related to mobile phone usage (Shoukat, 2019) and are certainly not going to contribute to overall happiness.

time away from phone

Get into the habit of setting your phone on do not disturb mode after 8pm, or better still turning it off. Involve people who live with you and designate a mobile phone station where you put your phones to bed at the same time! If the thought is making you feel anxious, then build up slowly. Try one night per week to begin with and then increase from there. What will you do with that extra time? Perhaps you will rekindle some of your past hobbies such as reading, writing, or dusting off the board games and having some family time.

4. See friends and family more regularly and connect

Human beings are social creatures and several lockdowns showed even the most unsociable of people how important human connection is. Whilst some of us might prefer to hibernate during the winter, it is important to schedule time with people you love. Making new friends is not just for children either. As we get older it can seem less important or harder to make new friends, but widening your circle of friends can open up different opportunities, connections and experiences.

Prefer the fury type?

That’s fine. Animals can show us lots of affection and make us very happy. If you cannot have a pet for some reason, but love animals, why not take a trip to an animal shelter or petting zoo.

together in nature

5. Get into nature

In a 2019 review (Bratman et al. 2019) researchers concluded that contact with nature is associated with an increase in happiness, subjective well-being, positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life - as well as decrease in mental distress. Another study suggested spending 30 minutes or more a week in green spaces can help lower blood pressure and the chances of developing depression (Shanahan et al. 2016). Your green space can be a local park or any area with some trees and nature. Most urban places have green spaces to visit. Or plan some trips to more open space in nature on your days off if you can.

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