Happy people tend to eat healthier, exercise more, and get better sleep than those who are stressed out or depressed - all habits associated with health. Here are 10 simple steps for a happier, healthier You!
1. Eat more whole foods
Nutrition actually influences the structure and the functioning of our brain cells. We now know that the foods that you eat directly influence communication within the brain. The key to improving your mood with food is to cut back on processed snacks in favour of whole foods. Studies show that a ‘primal’ diet made up of fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, as well as meat, fish and eggs, is best for weight control and improvement in risk markers for illnesses, such as heart disease and diabetes. This ‘go primal’ food philosophy will enable you to cut through the marketing hype and dietary misinformation, and allow you to make healthy food choices quickly and confidently. It has been found that people who take diet rich in olive oil, vegetables, fish and whole grains are generally less depressive symptoms than those who eat junk food.
2. Just add water
You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s important to drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day to keep our bodies functioning properly. Water makes up to two-thirds of the body and performs a plethora of functions, including acting as a solvent, carrier of nutrients, temperature regulator and body detoxifier. Maintaining hydration can have a profound influence on our vitality and energy levels, including mental alertness. Always keep a bottle of water with you. If you see it, you will drink it!
3. Get more sleep
Sleep has the ability to optimise mental and physical energy, and optimal levels of sleep (about eight hours a night) are linked with reduced risk of chronic disease and improved longevity. People with insomnia produce higher rates of stress hormones than others, according to new research. This puts their bodies in a hyper-aroused state that can make it difficult for them to wind down. The inability to sleep causes more stress, which can have a devastating impact. People who don’t get enough sleep can become depressed. Inversely, more and better-quality sleep can make you feel happier.
4. Spend time outdoors
Head for the great outdoors to boost your mood and your self-esteem. Research has shown that if you expose yourself to nature and exercise, there’s a significant influence on mental outlook. Natural settings stimulate the mind. People who are into outdoor activities tend to be significantly less angry, depressed and tensed.
Don’t fret if you’re not near a mountain range or the ocean. Your own backyard, a local park, a nearby botanic garden or a green oasis in the middle of town will do just fine.
5. Walk regularly
Aerobic exercise, including something as uncomplicated and low-impact as walking, is associated with a variety of benefits for the body and the brain, including a reduced risk of chronic diseases, anti-anxiety and mood-enhancing effects. Aim for a total of about 30 minutes of brisk walking every day.
6. Make social contact
There’s a lot of research supporting the idea that social support can have a positive effect on mood. Share time with a buddy to get a mood boost, whether it’s connecting via phone, email, or even better, an in-person get together. Try to find time to cook dinner, make a phone call, have lunch and do whatever possible with someone you cherish.
Seeing your friends on a regular basis can be just as important to your mental health as exercise and nutrition.
7. Work out
Exercise can help reduce anxiety and improve mood. There are physical reasons why working out may help make you happier, such as releasing feel-good brain chemicals; raising your body temperature, which may have a calming effect; and reducing immune-system chemicals, which may contribute to depression symptoms. Exercise also builds your confidence, distracts you from worries and helps you interact with others.
8. A furry friend
Pets are more than just a cute and cuddly source of joy - their companionship is good for your health. People who share space with a pet experience less stress and have lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels than those who don’t.
Pets provide more than companionship and a warm welcome home. They lend a willing and helpful ear. Many pet owners confide in a pet because pets don’t judge, condemn or talk back. Studies have found that dog owners are often as emotionally close to their pets as to their closest family members
9. Laughter is the best medicine
A good laugh increases the number and activity of disease-fighting cells, dulls pain, reduces levels of stress-related hormones and prompts the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Laughter prompts physical changes that help the immune and endocrine systems function better. So take yourself a little less seriously, find something that tickles your funny bone, and share this wonderful, free gift of laughter with others.
10. Practice random acts of kindness
Modern-day living tends to be aspirational and we can easily find ourselves chasing an ever-growing list of goals, many of which can be material. Some of us could do with spending more time focusing not on what we don’t have, but on what we do. Random acts of kindness are good for givers and receivers alike. It could be a quick call or text to someone you care about or have lost touch with, or showing a fellow motorist some consideration, or giving up your seat on a train or bus, or buying someone lunch or giving a spontaneous bunch of flowers.