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.