Health and happiness seem to go hand in hand. They’re separate but complimentary, lifestyle, mental and physical health are all intrinsically linked.
Happiness isn’t just a bonus you experience if you are lucky. It’s an essential contributor to good health and a skill you can work at improving. Health and happiness are absolutely intertwined. When you feel happier you are more likely to engage in healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating nutritious food with pleasure, exercising and socialising and you’re less likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours. There is strong evidence that supports the correlation between unhappiness and poor health outcomes. When you don’t feel happy, calm, well rested and in control, you bring stress and tension into your body. Chronic unresolved stress can lead to all sorts of health problems and be a precursor for disease.
Happiness is an inside job. The happier you are the more likely you are to be healthy. But being content with life is easier said than done – partly because we may have jumbled up the definition of happiness in our fast paced, success orientated world. People rely too heavily on external factors for their sense of happiness, be that a better job, a bigger house, a flasher car, affection from your partner, or reaching your weight loss goal. If you’ve made your happiness dependant on external forces, you’ve lost control, you are no longer a master of your own happiness. When you realise it’s an inside job, not an outside job, things become a lot clearer.
So, what’s the solution?
You should start viewing happiness as a skill. You can’t expect to become better at a sport without practise, just as you shouldn’t expect happiness to come naturally either.
Many of us feel that we are passive participants in our happiness – we think it’s something that happens to us, but in reality, it’s a skill you can develop and get better at.
The key is to build up your core happiness, it’s not about moments, such as getting a pay rise, a new car or going on holiday, but moving your baseline of happiness upwards so that you feel negative emotions less often and for shorter bursts. It’s about developing a sort of happiness resilience that offers protection from the stresses and strains of everyday life. It’s a journey, some days will be better than others, but if you work on your core happiness every day, you will get happier and healthier too.
6 key happiness building techniques to get your started:
1.Choose your happy habits
When you define happiness by success or material possessions, you lose sight of the simple things that can boost your mood every day. A good exercise is to note down 3 things that give you a good hit of well-being, for example, talking with your best friend, a relaxing bath, a walk on the beach, 15 minutes of reading a good book, 5 minutes of stretching. Stick that note somewhere visible as a reminder to tick off each of the things every week. Gradually you can build up more happiness habits until, eventually you are doing something that brings you joy every day.
2. Reduce daily decisions
We often associate choice with freedom, but too much choice isn’t always a good thing. We have to make a staggeringly high number of decisions every day (from deciding what to wear, opening a window, what to make for dinner) Each one takes cognitive effort, which can add up to overwhelm you, without you noticing. Think about how you can reduce unnecessary decisions in you day. For example, meal planning and batch cook dinner, so a number of meals are covered, have a daily ‘uniform’ as in set items for work and daily wear, have an organised and tidy home – so you can readily find things, perhaps write a list of books you want to read or shows to watch, so you aren’t needlessly searching or scrolling.
3. Value time over money
Time is the most precious resource you have so start thinking about your time in the same way you would think about money. The more time you can create to fill with the things you love, the happier you will be. Perform an audit on your life and see where you might be valuing money over time. Maybe you work a 40 hour week, but you have the option to work 36 hours, giving you 4 hours to do with as you please, perhaps a half day out on the water, a long walk on the beach and coffee with friends– is the amount of income you would lose really more valuable than the potential time gaining to enjoy pursuits of your choice? We all have different finances and different priorities but see where you might be able to make a different trade-off and prioritise your time more.
4. Create rules around your phone
Phones have plenty of benefits, like keeping us connected with our friends and family and apps and maps that make your life easier. But, when you aimlessly scroll, regularly check notifications, and are always available you end up losing time and happiness. Counteract the energy draining happiness zapping costs of your phone by drawing up rules you can stick to. They may be having designated phone free areas in your home (such as the bedroom and dining room), phone free times (perhaps meal times and a couple of hours before bed), or times you just leave your phone at home when you head out.
5. Create and embrace time alone
Integrate an element of mental stillness, perspective and reflection into your day, by finding ways to be alone, perhaps that’s getting up that little bit earlier, or letting your family know that this is your 5 minutes of alone time and to give you that space. They key is finding something that doesn’t rely on your phone or computer and is done in complete silence (if silence is hard to come by in your house, sometimes putting on a bit of white noise, such as rain falling, could be a good compromise). At home you could perhaps do something creative, such as drawing, writing, gardening a lovely stretch routine, or even simply gazing out the window while you enjoy your morning coffee or tea. Aim to do this first thing to set yourself up for the day.
6. Transform the bad guys into the good guys
We all come up against people who annoy us in everyday life, and it’s easy to adopt the mentality that we’re victims and they’re wrong doers. But, if you change your frame of mind, you become less reactive, more confident and more in command of your own life. For example, if someone cuts in front of you in the line, instead of thinking about how rude they are and feeling annoyed for the rest of the day, build a story in your mind that reframes them as a good person. Perhaps they’ve been up all night caring for a sick family member or friend and are exhausted from their caring duties and are in a hurry to get back and check on them as soon as possible. Choose to see the best in them, by turning other people into ‘good guys,’ you win. You become kinder, calmer, less judgemental, easier to be around and a whole lot happier!