If you are sufficiently interested in health and longevity to be perusing this section of my website, then you will agree we cannot leave out the subject of happiness, so below, I have expanded on some useful suggestions contained in my article Stress and Anxiety.
Many people would like to feel happier: it should not be too much to ask. Our principal life circumstances such as location, job, family situation etc, will to an extent be a given. Similarly, our outlook and attitudes are partly shaped by genetics and upbringing. Beyond this however, we have the capacity to influence our happiness by choices we make, and by how we react to life’s events. Try these six simple suggestions to increase your happiness.
1) Connect Happy people have stronger social relationships. Invest a little time in friends, family and colleagues. Take a few moments to chat with the postman or the sales assistant in a shop you go to regularly. Look for opportunities to connect with people who share your interests or who value or inspire you.
2) Be Active Physical activity has a positive impact on stress, depression and anxiety. Take up some exercise: walk to the station, take a lunchtime stroll, join a dance class etc. This is all especially important if your working day is spent indoors at a desk. If possible, exercise outdoors: nature has been shown to have benefits all of its own. (Scroll down to Extra Benefits of Exercising in Nature, from 25 June 2011 below.) A walk and a talk out in the beautiful Devon countryside ticks several boxes at once.
3) Be Curious Notice that there is beauty, interest and novelty all around. Look out for the lambs in the fields as you drive by. Look up at the hidden gems of architecture high above familiar streets. Giving yourself time to enjoy each moment not only increases your awareness of these pleasures in life, but it also steers the mind away from unhelpful, repetitive thought loops. Again, nature pops up here because engaging with it contributes to the ability to be present in each moment. Beware of the hours passing unnoticed if you instead engage for too long with your computer or smartphone.
4) Continue Learning Learn to speak a foreign language, play a musical instrument, or master a new hobby. Some learning presents opportunities for working with others, such as in a class or self-directed group, so here you have an additional possibility for more connection.
5) Give Look out for opportunities to give something to your fellow humans: you could express appreciation, do someone a favour, or even just give a smile. (The latter may amount to more than you think: see suggestion 6 below!) Counteract any tendency to dwell on things that are wrong, by reflecting on things you are instead grateful for.
6) Smile Smiling improves our mood. It is an example of positive body language, which affects the brain and hence how we feel. Spend time with smiley people and you will naturally mirror their expressions. We are familiar with the idea of body language reflecting our inner attitudes and reactions to situations. Less well known is that this relationship works the other way around too: the right body language can persuade the brain we are in a more elevated mood.