Your mental health is an important part of your well-being and your physical actions can influence it both positively and negatively. Mental health suffers when you use drugs or alcohol, and addiction can complicate exiting co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. Addiction and other mental health disorders require therapy, counseling and ongoing maintenance to overcome.
Taking care of your mental health is important, but maintaining your mental well-being goes beyond just treating a mental health condition. A large part of your mental and emotional well-being is the feeling of happiness, which boosts your mood and provides a multitude of major health benefits.
If you think you’re too busy, or that you don’t have what you need to be happy, there’s good news: You can become a little happier right now, right where you are. Happiness can be part of your everyday routine, and it doesn’t require lifestyle changes or moving around your existing priorities. Here are five simple ways you can begin feeling happier each day.
1. Practicing Gratitude
This is one of the easiest but most effective ways to be happy. You can practice gratitude anywhere, anytime and in any situation. It’s as simple as saying a silent “thank you” for moments that made you smile or remembering a time when someone made you feel appreciated. It can even be the realization that you have things in your life right now to feel grateful for.
Gratitude is what you make it: It can be a thought, a thank you note or a journal filled with moments and memories that you want to remember. Other examples include telling someone that you appreciated their help, writing down a list of your favorite things or thinking about the everyday things you normally take for granted. No matter how you practice gratitude, this simple habit can make you a happier and healthier version of yourself.
2. Eating Food That Loves You Back
The food you eat can impact your physical health, and it plays a big role in your mental health as well. Have you ever had a bad day and turned to something deep-fried for comfort? Eating nutrient-deficient foods don’t support your overall body and brain health in the same way that eating healthy, nutrient-rich food do.
Fortunately, there are many types of food that are not only nutritious, but also able to boost your mood. Instead of reaching for the same old thing, try adding these foods to your menu for a happiness boost:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Shiitake mushrooms
3. Talking With Friends
Your relationships have a profound effect on your happiness. Numerous studies show that the more meaningful your friendships and bonds with other people are, the happier your life will be. In fact, a Harvard Study of Adult Development revealed that wealth and fame are not the keys to a long, happy life. Instead, it is the quality of close relationships that predict true happiness.
To maintain long-term happiness, keep your bonds with others going strong. Call up a family member on your way home from work. Get out of the office and have fun with co-workers. Reconnect with a mentor or someone who inspires you. Have dinner with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. To increase your happiness, invest in your relationships.
4. Having a Good Laugh
Laughter truly is the best medicine for both your body and mind. Laughter comes with a whole host of health benefits, including strengthening the heart and stimulating brain activity. The act of laughing boosts your happiness levels by releasing serotonin (a feel-good chemical) in your brain and lowering stress hormones. Laughing also releases endorphins, which is another process that gives you a healthy dose of happiness.
You don’t need tickets to a comedy show to have a good giggle. Find a comedy station you like on a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify, make a playlist of your favorite hilarious YouTube videos or reminisce about good times with an old friend.
5. Making Time for Self-Care
Taking care of your own physical and mental well-being is not a new idea, but it can be transformative once you incorporate it into your everyday life. Self-care isn’t always easy, especially if you’re constantly busy. If you think you’re too busy to take a few deep breaths or drink some water, that’s a good sign you could benefit from self-care.
While they may seem small, simple self-care strategies like stepping outside when you feel overwhelmed or packing snacks before a hectic day are conscious efforts to improve your overall well-being. Additionally, the more you take care of yourself, the happier you’ll be. Self-care strategies can be quick or more complex processes, and they can be mental or physical. Regardless, they are all worthwhile.
Find little ways to give your body and mind a boost throughout the day, such as:
- Getting a breath of fresh air walking outside
- Drinking a glass of water
- Marking off something on your to-do list
- Taking a shower or bath
- Listening to music that makes you happy
By practicing gratitude, you’ll reflect on all the ways you are blessed. When you nourish your body with good food, you’re putting your health first. In keeping your relationships strong, you enhance your own life. By laughing, you learn to let go and give your body a chance to relax. Finally, by practicing self-care every day, you’re on your way to being healthier and happier than you’ve ever been before. Happiness doesn’t have to be hard, and with these five habits, you can create your own happiness throughout the new year and beyond.
Waldinger, Robert. “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From the Longest Study on Happiness.” TEDxBeaconStreet, November 2015. Accessed December 12, 2019.
DiSalvo, David. “Six Science-Based Reasons Why Laughter Is The Best Medicine.” Forbes, June 5, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2019.
Newman, Kira. “Six Ways Happiness Is Good for Your Health.” Greater Good Magazine, July 28, 2015. Accessed December 12, 2019.
Mental Health Foundation. “Diet and Mental Health.” October 2018. Accessed December 12, 2019.