Tips to Improve your Mental Health
No one is as happy as a clam all day, every day. Those that look on the bright side end up healthier and more successful than the rest of us. Even in tough times, you have more control over your joy than you think
No one is as happy as a clam all day, every day.
Those that look on the bright side end up healthier and more successful than the rest of us.
Even in tough times, you have more control over your joy than you think
10 ways to be a whole lot happier
The year 2009 was one that few of us will soon forget. But the tough times we’ve been through illuminate the human ability to weather challenges that might at first seem overwhelming. As so many millions have painfully learned, we can’t fully control our circumstances. Surprisingly often, though, we can control their effects on our well-being.
Experts attribute about 50% of a person’s happiness to genetic endowments and another 10% to circumstances — where we live, how much money we make, how healthy we are. That leaves 40% of our happiness in our control. Fortunately, science has much to say about how we can make the most of that 40%. Even small improvements in mood can have cascading effects. The trick is to pay attention to what strategies work best for you.
1- Hope for small changes, not big ones
Research shows that even major life events, such as winning the lottery, barely nudge people’s overall sense of satisfaction.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to improve your well-being. Recent research finds that the little things we do regularly, like exercising or attending religious services, can have a major impact on our happiness.
In one study, Yale University psychologist Daniel Mochon, PhD, and colleagues at Harvard and Duke universities discovered that people leaving religious services felt slightly happier than those going in — and the more regularly people attended services, the happier they felt overall. The same is true for exercise — people not only feel happier after going to the gym or a yoga class, but they also get a bigger boost the more often they go.
2- Flip through old photos
When you’re feeling down, break out your kids’ baby albums or pics from your favorite vacation. It may actually make you feel happier than a square of Godiva chocolate would! That’s what researchers at the United Kingdom’s Open University found after they examined how much people’s moods rose after eating a chocolate snack, sipping an alcoholic drink, watching TV, listening to music, or looking at personal photos.
The music and chocolate left most people’s moods unchanged; alcohol and TV gave a slight lift (1%), but the winner by a long shot was viewing pictures, which made people feel 11% better. To keep your spirits high at work, upload your favorite pics to your computer and set them as a rotating screensaver. Or splurge on a frame that flips through digital photos.
3- Fake it till you make it
Putting on a happy face — even if you don't feel like it — actually induces greater happiness, says Loyola University Chicago social psychologist Fred B. Bryant, PhD. So be exuberant. Don't just eat the best peach of the season; luxuriate in every lip-smacking mouthful. Laugh out loud at a funny movie. Smile at yourself when you pass by a mirror. After all, he says, "a surefire way to kill joy is to suppress it."
4- Chat up your spouse like a stranger
No one wants to make a bad first impression, so we tend to put our best face forward, especially with people we don’t know. And that turns out to be a good strategy for enhancing our own happiness. In a study by University of British Columbia psychologist Elizabeth Dunn, PhD, and colleagues, observers judged that people conversing with strangers tried harder to make good impressions than did people conversing with their romantic partners — and the more they did so, the happier they felt after the interaction was over.
Another experiment showed that people instructed to talk with their romantic partners as though they were trying to make a good impression (as they would with a stranger) felt happier after the experiment ended than those who were told to interact normally.
5- Say thanks more often
Cultivate an "attitude of gratitude," Bryant says. Pinpoint what you're happy about — a party invitation from a new pal, a seat on a crowded subway — and acknowledge its source. It's not always necessary to outwardly express gratitude, Bryant notes, but saying thank you to a friend, a stranger, or the universe deepens our happiness by making us more aware of it.
But this is a failure we can overcome by deliberately thinking through our choices as though we weren’t already invested in one course of action. The next time you’re faced with a problem that has gone from good to bad to worse, think to yourself: If I were coming into this situation right now, what would I do?
Sometimes moving on is better than "hanging in there."
7- Clear away clutter
Disorganized heaps of paper in your cube or on the kitchen counter can make you anxious. For some, "Clutter is a reminder of things that should be getting done but aren’t," says Elaine Aron, PhD, author of "The Highly Sensitive Person." "It can make you feel like a failure." For a quick fix, straighten up a few surfaces in your office or in the areas of your home where you spend the most time. "It's when every bit of space is messy that it's most disturbing," says Aron. Don't bother to organize unless you have a chunk of time. Instead, arrange papers, books, and other detritus of daily living in neat piles or store them in baskets. "Just the illusion of order is enough to ease the mind," she says.
8- Rethink retail therapy
Before you plunk down that credit card at the mall to feel better, read this. To get more happiness for your dollar, splurge for experiences instead of stuff. Psychologist Miriam Tatzel, PhD, of Empire State College surveyed 329 shoppers and found that “experiencers” — consumers who are easygoing about spending on a great meal out or a concert, for example — are happier than those who lavish their money on material goods such as clothes or jewelry. Added bonus: Experiences allow you to spend quality time with family and friends; a new pair of shoes is a solo endeavor.
9- Talk to a friendly neighbor
Socializing with a cheerful person in your neighborhood increases the likelihood that you’ll be happy too. Surprisingly, this had even more of a mood-boosting impact than spending time with an upbeat sibling, according to a recent study. How often you get together matters most, say the researchers: People who live within half a mile of buoyant friends increase their odds of being happy by 42%. If your friends live farther away (within a 2-mile radius), the chances drop to 22% — probably due to fewer get-togethers. Other research found that “very happy” people visit with neighbors 7 more times a year than unhappy people.
10- Walk around the block
If you work in a windowless office, make sure you step out to see the sun a few times throughout the day. “A couple of studies show that people who get more light exposure during the day have fewer sleep problems and less depression, and evidence suggests that light can keep you alert and productive,” says Daniel Kripke, MD, a University of California, San Diego, light and sleep expert.
Adapted from msnbc.com