Ah, happiness. It feels so elusive, doesn’t it? Life throws curve balls at us on a regular basis. one minute, everything is perfectly okay, humming right along. Next thing you know, something (or someone) can enter your space and disrupt your mindset. From there, it could all go downhill unless you take action to protect your positivity and your mental health.
These days, happiness is even harder to come by due to a seemingly endless sources of stressors. So much so that the most recent World Happiness Report has determined that happiness and life satisfaction have been on the decline in the United States. Across the board, the general population is dealing with major stress factors in the most fundamental aspects of our lives: financial, career, housing, health, and family. Time certainly doesn’t seem to be slowing down enough for all of life’s demands to be met – at least, not without some sacrifices along the way.
When life gets busy, all too often, self-care drops to the end of the to-do list. While this is a natural response, it’s actually rather counterproductive and unhealthy.
After all, we believe that the purpose of life is to be happy! If dealing with life’s Mount Everest on a daily basis is robbing you of the opportunity to access your happiness, there are ways to build that back in to your life again. Getting back to happy utilizes our own body’s ability to get those endorphins flowing and improve your mental, emotional and physical well-being. You deserve it.
Happiness isn’t just a mood, it’s a state of mind and a physical response. Healthline explains that endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are important neurotransmitters that are involved in our natural reward circuits that promote an overall sense of well-being by decreasing pain and increasing pleasure. When we carry out activities that bring reward – perhaps a delicious meal, a breath of fresh air, listen to a favorite good song, and so on – the brain releases serotonin, dopamine which is the feeling of happiness, even if it’s fleeting.
The problem is that in the day-to-day grind, it might be odd to put “stop and smell the roses” on the To-Do list. However, much like putting your oxygen mask on before attempting to help others, it’s important to take the time to deliver these moments of happiness to yourself to reduce stress, lessen anxiety, and give yourself a more positive outlook.
Fortunately, there is a wave of interest in all things self-care related these days. That’s excellent news because it’s time to give yourself permission to practice it. In fact, the more self-care you add to your day, the better you will be at managing a routine without losing your grip when something stressful happens. Take advantage of the following five ways to boost your happiness that will make life worthwhile and fun and also have a thoroughly positive impact on your overall well-being.
Even 20 minutes in a change of scenery and fresh air will get those endorphins flowing naturally. In order to maximize the experience, give yourself permission to drop your mental chatter for this short time and fully connect with your location. Look at the sky, trees, listen for birds or other new sounds. Attempt meditation. Note the temperature and how it makes you feel. Breathe it in, breathe it out, and just connect. A study by researchers at Stanford found that “nature walkers had reduced activity in a particular brain region, the subgenual prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is associated with rumination, or worrying on the same issues over and over, a problem described often in depressive and anxiety disorders”
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE
Sure, things are nice. Clothes, books, electronics, you name it. However, what actually makes us feel most rewarded are experiences. Time with a friend, travel, attending a cool event or diving into a new hobby delivers not only the experience itself, they create great memories that can be revisited at any time. Talk about a win/win.
LIMIT THE TIME YOU SPEND ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Today’s technology connects us to people around the globe, at the touch of a button, 24-hours-a-day. That’s pretty incredible, right? Problem is, it’s all too easy to start the compare/contrast game as we sift through an infinite supply of heavily filtered photos and people presenting their idea of what appears to be a perfect life. The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that in the U.S. alone, 7 out of 10 people are active social media users and that while social media has its benefits, there are negative implications. NAMI suggests that we be more mindful of what we consume online, aiming to reduce screen time in order to build real-world experiences.This is a strong case for moderation and developing other habits when you want to escape during a commute or sitting on the sofa.
Get out there and get moving in whichever way you can. Studies have shown that within merely 5 minutes of walking, dancing or anything else that raises your heart rate, the brain releases enough of those happy endorphins to boost your mood in a big way. 10 minutes gives your mind a chance to react to new stimuli and relax, and 20 minutes of exercise offers head-to-toe benefits to every system in your body. According to Healthline, even brief physical exertion lowers blood pressure, increases circulation and reduces anxiety. You don’t have to go to the gym, a brisk walk with a friend or working a longer walk into your daily commute is a great start.
TALK IT OUT -- TRY THERAPY
Sometimes, finding our happiness can be tricky. It’s one of those concepts that can seem so much easier said than done, even when natural endorphins have been deployed. That’s because the mountains we climb on a daily basis are, in fact, big mountains. They weigh on mental health because they matter and need to be resolved and therapy is not solely when someone is in a crisis. Most of us see a dentist twice a year for maintenance, therapy can provide similar benefits.
Consulting a professional with an objective, outside perspective can be an essential step to tackling any trouble spots that are creating life obstacles and dampening your happiness. The great part about therapy is that you don’t need a mental health illness to talk to someone, you just have to be ready to talk about whatever is going on in your life.
Let reflect help you select the right therapist for your goals, your needs, and your style. There are many different types of therapy that offer a chance to get an outside viewpoint and learn new insights through a trusted professional. With reflect, you’ll find a great match for your needs across the Bay Area. Together, the path can be cleared of speed bumps that are hindering your ability to fully embrace joy and live that happy life.
By Jonathan TranPham, founder of reflect
Years ago when my roommate first suggested I go to therapy, let’s just say I didn’t respond with the most open mind.
I’d always been an advocate of therapy and have even recommended it to friends. But I never considered it for myself.
"BAD ENOUGH" FOR THERAPY?
I was sure I wasn't "bad enough" to need therapy. I was functioning overall and was used to managing stress solo. Sure, work was pretty hectic, and I wasn’t sleeping well -- but most of my friends had stressful jobs. And yes, I was frustrated with dating -- but who actually likes the dating scene in SF?
I knew I theoretically could benefit from therapy, but I was reluctant to even consider it. I was worried going to therapy would mean that I was weak or even worse, broken.
Looking back, I’m so glad my roommate pushed me to try.
She made some great points. I go to the gym 4-5x a week to stay physically fit, why shouldn’t I work on my mind too? And going to therapy was like going to the gym for my soul.
More than anything, hearing her personal personal experiences in therapy helped me understand what therapy actually was -- and what it wasn’t.
I decided to give it a try.
Helpful tips for managing stress, incorporating mindfulness, and promoting a healthy lifestyle