First of all, we want to say we’re sorry about how you’re feeling. If you’re reading about ways to be happy, that means you’re not happy now. We want you to know that we care and we want to help.
That’s why we made this list of daily things to do to increase your happiness. Use these practical, scientifically sound steps to reduce toxic stress and increase positive energy in your body.
Strengthen Your Body
An unhealthy body is too weak to deal with life’s stressors. Here are some ways to raise your emotional strength by strengthening your body.
1. Get Enough Sleep, Wake Up Moderately Early
Inadequate sleep is the leading cause of stress according to this Huffington Post survey. It may even cause depression and anxiety disorders. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is the best and easiest way to get the emotional strength you need to overcome anything.
A lot of anti-stress articles say that starting your day earlier empowers you. We say waking up early makes some people want to punch their day in the face. If you’re not a morning person, waking in those evil, early hours will just make you cranky.
Instead, wake up moderately early. Choose a time that is comfortable for you as long as most of your day is still bathed in life-giving sunlight.
And if your job and life allows for it, set an alarm for this same time every day. When you keep a consistent sleep schedule, it programs your body’s internal clock. This will maximize your body’s ability to function during it’s allotted, conscious hours.
2. Eat Healthier Foods
It’s a well-known fact (we all like to ignore) that foods high in sugar and fat crash our metabolism, which hinders every physical and mental process in our body. It’s like adding random substances to the gas in your gas tank. Junk food may even cause depression.
Junk food is addictive, so quitting cold turkey is a bad idea. It may wreak havoc on your emotional state and cause you to quit trying. Instead, wean yourself off or at least reduce your junk food consumption.
Also, counter the negative effects of junk food by eating a wide variety of foods and supplementing vitamins. Fish oil, B-complex vitamins, vitamin D and magnesium are great for your mental/emotional state.
3. Do At Least Some Exercise
Hard exercise, especially aerobic exercise, releases endorphins in the body. These are your body’s natural painkillers, antidepressants and recreational drugs, all in one package.
But as with the other entries on this list, forcing yourself to do an activity you hate will not improve your daily happiness levels.
Resolve to add just a little exercise to your daily routine. You’ll soon get used to it and it won’t seem like such a big deal. Then, add a little more.
Release Your Stress Several Times a Day
You may think “relaxing” just means “not working.” But relaxation doesn’t automatically happen when you stop working. For most of us, stress is our default, not relaxation.
Western society is very goal oriented. We’re constantly trying to learn from past mistakes and better our future. This focus keeps us in a continuous work mode.
When we come home from our job, we’re still thinking about the work we didn’t finish, the work we have tomorrow and all the other things we need to get done. You can sit in a chair doing nothing and still be actively or automatically stressing.
To escape this cycle, you need to actively train yourself to relax. Use the following tips several times a day to break up your constant state of stress.
Step one to relaxing is creating a relaxing environment. Find a quiet place to sit or lay down where you won’t be interrupted.
Then, disconnect from everything else in the world. Turn off all technology.
Completely shut off your phone. It’s only for a few minutes; you can turn it back on when you’re done.
This alone helps you relax by shutting out all the external things that stress you out during your day. Then, follow the next two tips on how to relax in this quiet place.
5. Practice Relaxation
Here are some practical relaxation exercises you can work into your daily routine.
Also called “belly breathing,” diaphragmatic breathing is how we naturally breathe when we are babies. As we condition ourselves into a constant state of anxiety, we develop a habit of shallow, “chest breathing.” Breathing from your diaphragm releases stress and anxiety by signaling to your body that you are safe.
To do this, lay on your back comfortably. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Try to breathe so that your stomach rises and falls while your chest doesn’t move.
That’s it! Here’s a video for reference.
For temporary stress relief, you can do this sitting down, anywhere you are, for just a few breaths. To permanently restore this breathing technique as your body’s default, practice this for 5-10 minutes, 3-4 times a day.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is where you relax specific muscle groups one at a time until you’ve relaxed your whole body.
First, sit or lay comfortably. Next, breathe slowly, from the diaphragm if possible. Starting at the top of your head and ending at the tip of your toes, focus on and relax each muscle group in your body.
While you inhale, clench the muscle group. Picture your breath as relaxing energy going into that part of your body.
When you exhale, relax those muscles. Visualize the stress melting and draining out of your muscles as you relax and exhale.
There are many guided videos for progressive muscle relaxation on Youtube.
These exercises help you escape the stress of life by focusing on the moment. There’s more on that below.
Don’t worry: this isn’t about religious doctrine or superstitious mysticism. Meditation is just the practice of focusing on the current moment to release stress.
When we’re threatened, our body enters a defensive mode called “anxiety” to help us survive the danger. If the threats don’t end, neither does anxiety.
The past holds regrets and the future, worries. Focusing on these, you’re surrounded by threats. But if you study this moment you are in, right now, you realize that, for the moment, you’re totally fine.
In the present moment, there are no threats, nothing to worry about. The present moment is safe. When you keep your focus in the present, your body lets go of future worries and starts shutting off its warning alarms.
You can do this any way you like, anywhere, any time. Just open your eyes and look at anything that’s happening right now.
Study it in detail. Or look at something else. Walk outside and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Or close your eyes and explore the present with your other senses. Search out new sounds or savor the flavors of a delicious snack. There’s no wrong way to meditate.
7. Practice Gratitude
Every once and a while, try to think of things you are thankful for. The best times are first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But do it throughout the day whenever you think about it.
If there is a person to thank for these things, give thanks where thanks is due. You have a phone: send a “thank you text” and lift their spirits, too. If you believe in God, give thanks to Him.
Psychologists will tell you to record what you’re thankful about in a journal. But maybe you’re the type to keep a journal for about a week and then stick it in a drawer and never look at it again. If so, clearly journals are not for you.
As an alternative, post them on Facebook before bed. Talking about our lives is what we do on Facebook anyway. We might as well use it as an exercise in gratitude.
More Daily Things to Do to Improve Health and Wellbeing
Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to make all these lifestyle changes at once. Ease into them by gradually adding them to your routine one at a time.
Once they become habit, check here for more daily things to do to improve your mental and physical health. See our health blog here for more healthy life hacks.