Write things down, listen with empathy, and when all else fails—take it to the playground.
How can we feel happier on a day-to-day basis? Practicing gratitude, unplugging and living in the present moment come immediately to mind. Sometimes we know all the right answers, but putting those ideas into practice is the tough part. To help you fully embrace life as it unfolds before you, we’ve put together this list of helpful practices. (Happiness overachievers can click on the highlighted links to learn even more about each practice.)
We don’t have to exhaust our willpower or decision-making quota for the day when we make healthy habits automatic. Make one or more of these fundamental habits a regular part of your daily life in order to help you set and keep other healthy habits: 1. Get seven hours of sleep; 2. Go for a 20-minute walk; 3. Don’t let yourself get too hungry; 4. Take time to unclutter; 5. Give yourself a healthy treat.
According to sleep expert Michael Breus, Ph.D., sleeping less than seven hours each night can negatively impact your outlook, make you crave unhealthy foods and even kill your productivity. For those with serious trouble sleeping, he suggests you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, take the TV out of the bedroom and get out of bed if you can’t fall asleep within 20 to 30 minutes.
If you struggle with depression or bouts of anxiety, build up your emotional toolkit. Use the tool of self-compassion to treat yourself with the same loving kindness you would extend to a friend. Silence that inner critic and give yourself a soft place to land when things don’t go right or you are working through a challenging experience. Fill up your mind with kind thoughts about yourself.
One of the most powerful skills you can practice is empathy. We show empathy by asking questions to better understand the person we’re talking with. When we hear our conversation partner expressing complex emotions, we might summarize or repeat what they’ve said back to them to show that we are listening with empathy.
Scientific research has shown there are countless connections between mind and body; to simplify a complicated process: exercise boosts dopamine and other chemicals in the brain that make us feel happier. Find an exercise you love and set a goal (run a 5K, walk 10,000 steps in a day, or go to yoga twice a week). When we have a specific goal, we are engaged with life and excited about our progress and our future.
Make your workday happier by brainstorming new solutions for a work challenge in the morning when your mind is fresh. Sit down with your coffee or tea and spend 10 minutes thinking up as many ideas, solutions and possible outcomes to a problem or opportunity your team is facing. Then share the best three ideas with another team member.
Research from the National Institute for Play shows that putting playtime back in our routines can boost creativity, reduce stress, increase brain function and even improve our relationships with others. Wake up your inner child and play—roll down a hill, play a board game with your family, jump rope or do a cartwheel.
By smiling more often, you will make others around you feel better and you will feel better too, creating a reverberating circle of well-being.
Author Erma Bombeck once wrote, “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but never gets you anywhere.” Karen Cassiday, Ph.D., president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, agrees, saying that worry is simply a fear of uncertainty. Keep a journal of your worries in order to keep them under control; in addition Karen recommends meditating, relaxing and downloading this free app.
Surf champion Bethany Hamilton no longer views the shark attack that caused the loss of her arm as a negative in the scheme of her life. Instead, she practices resilience and fortitude by dwelling on all the positives that have resulted from it. Search for the silver lining and find the positives when you are facing adversity to become a more resilient person.
Sandra Bienkowski is a contributing editor to Live Happy and the founder and CEO of TheMediaConcierge.net.