[By Jessica Hong]
We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, and if you’re feeling down in the dumps then this is definitely true. Laughter not only releases pent-up emotions, but also help your body produce endorphins to boost your mood. Here are some tips to get your happiness levels up and boost your well-being to greater heights.
Here are nine ways to choose happiness:
Limit Media Exposure
Today, many of us are choking on “data smog,” a dense cloud of trivial, irrelevant, or otherwise low-value information made possible by the internet’s power to disseminate vast amounts of media virtually free. The result is fractured attention spans and attenuated human relationships. Monitor the time you spend with digital media (yup, that includes television, the internet, email, text messaging and so on) in a given week, and cut that amount at least 25 percent in the following week. Use the time you free up for outings in nature, exercise, or face-to-face communication with friends. If you like the result, keep restricting virtual life “surfing” and expanding real-life, connected, human experiences.
Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t
When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. Being grateful for the goodness that is already evident in your life will bring you a deeper sense of happiness. And that’s without having to go out and buy or acquire anything new. It makes sense. You will have a hard time ever being happy if you aren’t thankful for what you already have.
Eat yourself happy
While our outlook often changes based on external factors, if your mood is often low it may be that you are suffering from a nutrient deficiency. Research has found that having low levels of omega-3 fatty acids (which are essential for good brain health) increases risk of depression and negativity, while research by Kuopio University in Finland found that taking B vitamin supplements could help treat depression. Try choosing foods rich in these nutrients to eat away the blues.
Smiling and, especially, laughing, are potent mood boosters. One way to quickly, intentionally inspire laughter is via laughter yoga. Begun by Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, India, the first “social laughter club” convened in March of 1995 with a handful of people. Now, according to the official laughter yoga website, there are more than six thousand clubs in 60 countries. The method used in laughter clubs is straightforward. After brief physical exercises and breathing exercises under the direction of a trained leader, people simulate laughter with vigorous “ha-ha’s” and “ho-ho’s.” In the group setting, this “fake” laughter quickly becomes real and contagious and may continue for a half hour or more. And the joy lingers; regular participation in laughter clubs has been shown to improve long-term emotional and physical health in a variety of ways, including a significant lowering of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Choose to take care of your body
Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Recent studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise significantly raises happiness levels in the near-term. Not only that, six months later, the people who had continued to exercise were less likely to relapse into depression because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
Start being honest with yourself and everyone else. Don’t cheat. Be faithful. Be kind. Do the right thing! It is a less complicated way to live. Integrity is the essence of everything successful. When you break the rules of integrity you invite serious complications into your life. Keep life simple and enjoyable by doing what you know in your heart is right. Don’t get involved with drama that doesn’t affect you.
Choose to help others when you’re able
Care about people. In life, you get what you put in. When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life. Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less.
Forgiveness is almost universally held by philosophers and saints to be a key to happiness – and modern research confirms that those who can quickly and easily forgive when appropriate enjoy better emotional health. Conversely, resentment is the fuel that feeds depressive rumination, and can quickly spiral into a self-reinforcing low mood. Fortunately, the ability to forgive can be cultivated. So start forgiving someone today and see what a difference it makes.
You say grace before meals right? But perhaps this gratitude should extend to all other parts of your life, from watching a play to going swimming. Like forgiveness, gratitude can and should be cultivated through diligent practice. One powerful method is keeping a “gratitude journal.” Spending a specific time each day or week recording things for which one is grateful has been shown boost subjective happiness levels in as little as three weeks. A less formal practice – and one that I follow – is to devote a few moments of my morning meditation session to feel and silently give thank for all of the good things in my life. Make mental notes throughout the day of blessings such as a cooling summer rain, blossoming of flowers in spring, or a glorious sunset. Of all of the practices listed, learning to feel and express gratitude may be the most important in achieving and maintaining a happy life.