[By June Sim]
5 simple proven strategies to keep your spirits up. Happiness is not reserved for the rich and famous, it’s a state of mind that all of us can aim to achieve. All we need are some reminders on how to get back on the path to happiness.
Happiness is difficult to define and even harder to measure. As a relative state, happiness is what psychologists call our “subjective well-being” and, fortunately for us, it is a state that we can actively change for the better. Some people feel that the more you want something too badly, it is likely to evade you. And this is truer for happiness than anything else. The reason why happiness seems to evade the millions of people searching for it is because they are looking in the wrong places.
Most people look for happiness “outside” themselves rather than “inside”. They may feel that they would be happy if they could afford a house of their own or a bigger car. Others may feel that their life can only be complete if they found the right life partner or if their children loved them more. In all these cases, these people are searching for happiness “outside” of themselves. Most of the time, even after realising some of their goals, they find themselves no happier than they were before. In fact, some of the wealthiest people in the world are also the loneliest and saddest people around.
But fret not, we have compiled a list of helpful tips to lift your spirits and put the smile back on your face without costing you a cent. Read on.
1) Accept yourself — One of the key reasons why people are unhappy is that they do not really like or love themselves enough. It is essential that you accept yourself as what you are without any caveats and conditions to attain happiness. Don’t get too critical about yourself – your looks, your brains, your capabilities or your financial condition. Just learn how to love yourself as you are. You will realize that once you are comfortable with what you are, others will accept you more willingly.
2) Hear the music —Whether regarded as an evolutionary accident that piggybacked on language or as the gateway to our emotions, music activates parts of the brain that can trigger happiness, releasing endorphins similar to the ways that sex and food do. Music can also relax the body, sometimes into sleep as it stimulates the brain’s release of melatonin. A study of older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery showed that they had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure, and their hearts did not work as hard as those who underwent surgery without music. A second study, of patients undergoing colonoscopy, showed that listening to their selection of music reduced their anxiety levels and lessened the dosage required for sedation.
3) Hugs & kisses — It’s no secret that a roll in the hay or a big bear hug feels good. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters in your brain that reduce pain and, in the absence of pain, can induce euphoria. A rush of such chemicals might seem like a temporary solution to a dreary day, but there are added benefits, not the least of which is expressing affection and strengthening the bonds of a relationship. Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland upon orgasm; often referred to as the “hormone of love” or the “cuddle chemical,” it is associated with feelings of bonding and trust, and can even reduce stress.
4) Count your blessings -— but not everyday. Researchers found that people who once a week wrote down five things they were grateful for were happier than those who did it three times a week. However, when people do anything too often it loses the freshness and meaning. In essence, gratitude might not be for everyone. But if it is, another exercise is to think of a person who has been kind to you that you’ve wanted to thank — a teacher, mentor or parent — and write a letter, once a week to different individuals over two months. You don’t even have to send it to feel happier.
5) Nurture your spiritual side — Ever wonder why religious people often seem more contented? Survey after survey shows that people with strong religious faith — of any religion or denomination — are happier than those who are irreligious. Experts believe that faith provides social support, a sense of purpose and a reason to focus beyond the self, all of which help root people in their communities. That seems reason enough to get more involved at the local church, temple or mosque. For the more inwardly focused, deep breathing during meditation and prayer can slow down the body and reduce stress, anxiety and physical tension to allow better emotions and energy to come forward.
6) Move that body — We’ve all heard about a “runner’s high” but there are plenty of other ways to achieve that feeling. Dance. Play a sport. Do a set of sun salutations at dawn. Whatever it is, work out as hard as you can or take it easy with a few stretches. Either way, just moving your body releases endorphins, the quintessential feel-good chemicals found in your brain. How endorphin release is triggered by exercise is somewhat of a controversial science because researchers don’t know if it is caused by the positive emotion felt upon meeting a physical challenge or from the exertion itself. Either way, physical motion can provide a rush of good energy that can lift a mood, be it anxiety or mild depression, and it’s a good way to keep healthy.