Happiness is a popular topic these days. I have even written an upcoming book about it (Growing Happy Kids), and just watched a new movie: The Happy Movie. Although, I didn’t find this film to cover the deepest reasons for becoming happier no matter what I found it a strong documentary about how we can do things every day that make us happier. In my first blog here, I am going to share some of the Top 5 Things we can do daily to become happier.
1. Exercise. Seems pretty simple but the truth is that more we exercise from taking daily walks to sweating at the gym – this movement actually releases feel-good endorphins from our brain making us happier. Even a short 5 minute break walking away from your desk, getting some fresh air and strolling around the block can boost your mood. So think about how you can add just a little more movement into your daily (or weekly) life especially if it includes something like a few morning yoga poses or evening walk.
2. Get Immersed. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the well-regarded psychologist and rock climber, found that the more you immersed into something you love (he termed it flow) the happier you are. This thing you love also requires skill and it is here where you meet that challenge. So do you give yourself permission to get immersed into something you love each day? It may be reading, playing the guitar, creating a website, writing a blog, or cooking a fabulous dinner. Whatever it is for you (it’s writing for me) my suggestion is to do more of it.
3. Laugh. One thing I do for sure every day is laugh. Just today, my eight year-old client said, “My mom is a big fat weenie” and this was her unique way of expressing herself and I laughed. Because we’ve all had that feeling that someone just doesn’t get us and we can cry or laugh. Laughter changes the energy of a situation immediately and lets us become lighter. So when I need a laugh I go to youtube.com and put in my favorite comedian and give myself permission to laugh-out-loud for just a few minutes before my next client arrives.
4. Meditate. Richard Davidson, Director of the Lab for Affective Neuroscience, has studied how meditation affects the working of the brain, and how those changes impact emotional health (happiness). He states, “Emotions – and happiness in particular – should be thought of in the same way as a motor skill. They can be trained.” Dr. Davidson underscores how even a few minutes a day of meditation can begin to have a positive impact on your brain and sense of well-being. Oprah says she meditates twice a day. I aim for once a day where I can sit quietly, and relax into the knowing that all is really well (despite how it sometimes looks, feels, appears like …).
5. Become part of a community. Research shows that by getting involved as part of a community you become happier. You gain a sense of emotional support, and connection with others that fosters a greater sense of well-being. In The Happy Movie, the community in Japan of Okinawa was shown with the 3rd greatest concentration of centenarians (people over 100) because beyond diet, and other health practices everyone was part of this close knit (and happy) community.
Maureen Healy is an emotional health expert with more than 20 years of global experience. She is the founder of Growing Happy Kids, and author of the book by the same name (it comes out April 3, 2012). More info: www.growinghappykids.com and @mdhealy