As we ring in the New Year, we tend to focus on resolutions involving diet, exercise and finances. This year why not add happiness to the list.
According to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences not only does happiness have a positive effect on our immune systems, it also helps lower cortisol, the stress hormone related to type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
There are many ways to change our mindset to happiness – and fortunately most of them are relatively easy and cheap!
Start off Positive: Therapists suggest waking up each morning and focusing on the positive aspects of the day ahead, instead of the negative. It will focus your mindset for the day ahead.
Exercise: Not only will it boost energy, it will raise your heart rate and help clear the fogginess that often accompanies depression. The key is to finding an exercise you enjoy – whether that be swimming, walking, zumba, yoga or some other form of movement.
Meditate: self-help guru, Gabrielle Bernstein, addresses using meditation for happiness in her bestselling book May Cause Miracles. Named “a next generation thought leader” by Oprah Winfrey, Bernstein has 4 tips to help us achieve happiness in 2015:
1. Make your first thought of the day a happy one: She recommends creating an uplifting music playlist to listen to first thing in the morning instead of watching TV. Take the time to meditate for a minute or two while listening to music.
2. Snap out of a negative mindset: Bernstein has a simple technique for this – she wears a rubber band on her wrist. Whenever her mind wanders into negative thoughts she simply snaps the rubber band, telling herself to ‘snap out of it’!
3. Unleash your inner child: When stress takes over, unplug the computer, take a break from work and find the silliness of your inner child. Take a ‘dream break’ during the afternoon and let your mind focus on things you are dreaming of.
4. Sleep to restore your mind: We all keep hearing about the power of a good night’s sleep and it can really help restore our emotional and mental balance. To get a restful kip, Bernstein recommends employing the Kundalini breathing technique: Sit up straight on your bed puckering your mouth in a U shape (as though you are holding a quarter between your lips). Breathe in and exhale through your nose. Continue this for a minute.
DeClutter: Life coaches recommend decluttering your home. It will help you think clearer and be more organized. Clutter saps energy, which in turns makes us feel depressed and scattered. A home free from clutter will also help declutter the mind and make our day more productive.
Focus on Experiences not Things: Leave the credit cards at home, skip the mall and instead focus on experiences rather than material objects. The thrill of purchasing a new pair of shoes will fade quickly, but the memories of enjoying time spent with friends, family, or doing something you love will stick around for much longer.
Keep a Happiness Journal, or Jar: You know the phrase ‘fake it until you make it’? Well it refers to happiness too. If you start to fake happiness – even if you’re not initially feeling particularly perky – you will, over time, feel authentic happiness. Focus on things that have made you happy during the day and write them down in a journal every night. You will be going to bed with a happy thought in your mind. Similarly you can start a happiness jar. Popular on Pinterest this involves writing something that made you happy during the day and popping it inside a large mason jar. At the end of the year, or if you are in the middle of a tough time, open the jar and read your handwritten happiness notes.