1. Count your blessings. But not everyday!
Sonja Lyubomirsky, an experimental psychologist at UC Riverside, found that people who only once per week wrote down 5 things they were grateful for, were happier than those who did it 3 times per week. When people do anything too often, it loses its freshness and meaning.
Importantly, whatever you do to create happiness must fit your lifestyle, personality and goals. If gratitude does work for you, write a letter to thank someone who has been kind to you. You don’t even need to mail it in order to feel happier!
2. Hear the music. Music activates parts of the brain that can trigger happiness, releasing endorphins similar to the ways that sex and food do. Music can also relax the body, sometimes into sleep as it stimulates the brain’s release of melatonin. Older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure and their hearts did not work as hard as those who underwent surgery without music. A second study of patients undergoing colonoscopy showed that listening to their selection of music reduced their anxiety levels and lessened the dosage required for sedation.
3. Nurture Your Spirituality. Survey after survey shows that people with strong religious faith-are happier than those who are irreligious. David Meyers, a social psychologist at Michigan’s Hope College, says that faith provides social support, a sense of purpose and a reason to focus beyond the self, all of which help root people in their communities.
For the more inwardly focused, deep breathing during meditation and prayer can slow down the body and reduce stress, anxiety and physical tension to allow better emotions and energy to come forward.
4. Move the Body. There are plenty ways to achieve the equivalent of a “runners high”. Work as hard as you can. Take a walk so that your stress will “take a hike”. Moving your body releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals found in your brain. Physical motion can provide a rush of good energy that can lift a mood, be it anxiety or mild depression and it is a good way to keep healthy.
5. Embrace Your Culture. Appreciating one’s culture creates and strengthens bonds with others who share that culture, and also allows one to identify and appreciate cultural differences. A recent study showed that adolescents of Mexican and Chinese ethnicity maintained feelings of happiness despite daily stress when they had a strong sense of cultural identity. In other research, psychologists found an association between stable cultural identity and overall positive emotion in African American and Native American communities.
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