More Happiness Tips
Happiness is difficult to define and even harder to measure
Happiness is difficult to define and even harder to measure. We experience it as a combination of elements, in the same way that one wheel or spring inside a watch doesn't keep time — it is a result of the synchronicity of the whole. As a relative state, happiness is what psychologists call our "subjective well-being" and, fortunately for us, it is a state that we can actively change for the better. Here are some ways to start.
1. Count Your Blessings
Count your blessings — but not everyday. Sonja Lyubomirsky, an experimental psychologist at UC Riverside, found that people who once a week wrote down five things they were grateful for were happier than those who did it three times a week.
"It's an issue of timing or frequency," says Lyubomirsky, "When people do anything too often it loses the freshness and meaning. You need to have optimal timing." Lyubomirsky added that it has to feel right. She tried to count her blessings and hated it. "I found it hokey. It didn't work for me. Just like a diet program, what you do has to fit your lifestyle, personality and goals."
In essence, gratitude might not be for everyone. But if it is, another exercise is to think of a person who has been kind to you that you've wanted to thank — a teacher, mentor or parent — and write a letter, once a week to different individuals over two months. You don't even have to send it to feel happier.
2. Hear the Music
Whether regarded as an evolutionary accident that piggybacked on language or as the gateway to our emotions, 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. A study of older adults who listened to their choice of music during outpatient eye surgery showed that they 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. Snog. Canoodle. Get It On.
It's no secret that a roll in the hay, and all that leads up to it, feels good. Endorphins are the neurotransmitters in your brain that reduce pain and, in the absence of pain, can induce euphoria.
A rush of such chemicals might seem like a temporary solution to a dreary day, but there are added benefits, not the least of which is expressing affection and strengthening the bonds of a relationship.
Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland upon orgasm; often referred to as the "hormone of love" or the "cuddle chemical," it is associated with feelings of bonding and trust, and can even reduce stress.
4. Nurture Your Spirituality
Survey after survey shows that people with strong religious faith — of any religion or denomination — are happier than those who are irreligious.
David Myers, 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. That seems reason enough to get more involved at the local church, temple or mosque.
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.
5. Move Your Body
We've all heard about a "runner's high," but there are plenty of other ways to achieve that feeling .Dance. Play a sport. Work out as hard as you can.
Take a walk so your stress will take a hike. Moving your body releases endorphins, the quintessential feel-good chemicals found in your brain.
How endorphin release is triggered by exercise is somewhat of a controversial science because researchers don't know if it is caused by the positive emotion felt upon meeting a physical challenge or from the exertion itself. Either way, physical motion can provide a rush of good energy that can lift a mood, be it anxiety or mild depression, and it's a good way to keep healthy.
Developing Social Support
How to cultivate a network of friends to help you through rough times
Family ties, friendships and involvement in social activities can offer a psychological buffer against stress, anxiety and depression. Social support can also help you cope better with health problems.
Cultivating social support can take some effort. Here's how to develop and maintain strong and healthy social ties.
Understanding the importance of social support
Social support is a network of family, friends, colleagues and other acquaintances you can turn to, whether in times of crisis or simply for fun and entertainment. Support groups, on the other hand, are generally more structured meetings or self-
Simply talking with a friend over a cup of coffee, visiting with a relative, or attending a church outing is good for your overall health. If you have a mental illness, these connections can help you weather troubled times. Your friends and social contacts may encourage you to change unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking. Or they may urge you to visit your doctor when you feel depressed, which can prevent problems from escalating.
Social support can also increase your sense of belonging, purpose and self-
And you don't necessarily have to actually lean on family and friends for support to reap the benefits of those connections. Just knowing that they're there for you can help you avoid unhealthy reactions to stressful situation.
Some people benefit from large and diverse social support systems, while others prefer a smaller circle of friends and acquaintances. In either case, it helps to have plenty of friends to turn to. That way, someone is always available when you need them, without putting undue demands on any one person. You don't want to wear out your friends.
If you want to expand your social support network, here are some things you can do:
Get out with your pet. Seek out a dog park or make conversation with those who stop to talk.
Work out. Join a class through a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.
Start a lunchtime walking group at work.
Do lunch. Invite an acquaintance to join you for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Volunteer. Hospitals, places of worship, museums, community centers and other organizations often need volunteers. You can form strong connections when you work with people who share a mutual interest.
Join a cause. Get together with a group of people working toward a goal you believe in, such as an election or the cleanup of a natural area.
Join a hobby group. Find a nearby group with similar interests in such things as auto racing, music, gardening, books or crafts.
Go back to school. Take a college or community education course to meet people with similar interests.
Having a variety of interests can create new opportunities to meet people. And it may also help make you more interesting to others.
Maintaining a mutually healthy social support system
Developing and maintaining healthy social ties involves give and take. Sometimes you're the one giving support and other times you're on the receiving end. Recognize who is able to provide you with the most support. Letting family and friends know you love and appreciate them will help ensure that their support remains strong when times are rough.
Your social support system will help you if you take time to nurture friendships and family relationships. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Go easy. Don't overwhelm friends and family with phone calls or e-
Be aware of how others perceive you. Ask a friend for an honest evaluation of how you come across to others. Take note of any areas for improvement and work on them.
Don't compete with others. This will turn potential rivals into potential friends.
Adopt a healthy, realistic self-
Resolve to improve yourself. Cultivating your own honesty, generosity and humility will enhance your self-
Avoid relentless complaining. Nonstop complaining is tiresome and can be draining on support systems. Talk to your family and friends about how you can change those parts of your life that you're unhappy about.
Adopt a positive outlook. Try to find the humor in things.
Listen up. Make a point to remember what's going on in the lives of others. Then relate any interests or experiences you have in common. Sharing details about yourself and your life can also help establish rapport.
Be wary of social support that can drain you
Some of the people you routinely interact with may be more demanding or harmful than supportive. Give yourself the flexibility to limit your interaction with those people to protect your own psychological well-
For instance, if your social ties consist of people engaged in unhealthy behaviors that you're trying to overcome — such as substance abuse — you may need to sever those connections to help protect yourself and promote your own recovery.
As you seek to expand your social network, be aware of support systems that are unhealthy, oppressive or rigid, or that demand conformity. These can be just as damaging as having no connections at all.
In addition, if people in your social support system are continually stressed or ill, you may suffer along with them. If your friends place heavy demands on your time and resources, or if you're unable to meet their needs, you may find yourself more anxious and depressed.
You also may pay a psychological toll if you feel obligated to the people in your support network — as if you must continually repay them for their efforts — or if you feel you must conform to their beliefs or ideas.
Social support pays dividends
Social support provides a sense of belonging, security and a welcoming forum in which to share your concerns and needs. And you may get just as much out of friendships and social networks where you're the source of comfort and companionship, too.
Relationships change as you age, but it's never too late to build friendships or choose to become involved. The investment in social support will pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
Depression: Supporting loved ones through their battle with depression
Suicide: Don't let despair obscure other options
Depression and other mental conditions: Support groups can help
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The journal of happiness studies. a quarterly academic publication
The Journal of Happiness Studies, a quarterly academic publication dedicated to finding out what makes the good life and empirically to investigate well-being, came up with the plan based on the latest findings.
The first was to stop comparing your looks with others, as you can cash in on beauty’s emotional high even if you are no oil painting.
The secret is to believe you look great.
The next step is to curb those aspirational desires.
Alex Michalos, a political scientist at the University of Northern British Columbia, in Prince George, found the people whose aspirations soared furthest beyond what they already had tended to be less happy than those who perceived a smaller gap.
Scientists have also found that money can buy happiness, but it doesn’t buy you very much.
Once you can afford to feed, clothe and house yourself, each extra pound makes less and less difference, said Professor Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
The survey also said not to worry if you are not a genius.
Prof Frank said, though few surveys have examined whether smart people are happier, they have usually found that intelligence has no effect.
Happiness is also genetic.
Personality, which has a strong genetic component, and happiness seem to be linked.
Married people are also consistently happier than singles.
In a 15-year study of more than 30,000 Germans, Prof Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, found that happy people are more likely to get married and stay married.
Harold Koenig, at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina, said believing in God or an afterlife can give people meaning and purpose, and reduce the feeling of being alone in the world.
He said: "You see the effect in times of stress. Belief can be a powerful way of coping with adversity."
Several studies have found a link between happiness and altruistic behaviour.
In a study of 3,617 people, Peggy Thoits and Lyndi Hewitt, of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, found that happy people were more likely to sign up for volunteer work.
The last point is to grow old gracefully.
In one study by Stanford University, in California, old people reported positive emotions as often as young people but negative emotions much less frequently.