Your mental health matters. It is deeply connected to every part of your being, and your physical actions can strain your emotional and mental well-being. Your mental health undeniably suffers when you use drugs or alcohol. If you are addicted to drugs, you may experience co-occurring disorders like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. These require therapy and counseling to overcome, just like physical withdrawal.  

Taking care of your mental health is paramount, but there is more to mental well-being than just the absence of mental illness. January is the beginning of a brand new year, and it’s also Mental Wellness Month — a chance to start over with your physical health (looking at you, weight loss resolution) and your mental fitness. A big part of your mental and emotional well-being is the feeling of happiness. Experiencing happiness doesn’t just boost your mood; there are major health benefits in being happy as well.

And 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 be a little happier, right now, right where you are. Happiness can be part of your everyday routine. It doesn’t require lifestyle changes or moving around your existing priorities. You can incorporate habits for happiness seamlessly, and watch them work almost instantly. Five simple ways to feel a little happier every day include:

Practicing Gratitude

This is one of the easiest and 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, remembering how welcome or appreciated someone made you feel, or just realizing that you’ve got more blessings than you can count. 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 forever. No matter how you practice gratitude, this simple habit can make you a happier and healthier version of yourself.

Put gratitude into action: Practicing gratitude can look like saying “I really appreciated your help with that project” to a co-worker, writing down your favorite things in a journal, or thinking about the ordinary things you normally take for granted (that are blessings!).

Eating Food That Loves You Back

You eat every day, but there’s more to meals than just sustenance. The food you eat can impact your physical health, and plays a big role in your mental health, too. Ever had a bad day and turned to something deep-fried for comfort? That awful feeling afterward is no mere coincidence. Eating nutrient-deficient foods can wreak havoc on your body and brain, but there are also a variety of foods that are not only nutritious, but Mother Nature-approved to boost your mood. Instead of reaching for the same old thing, add these foods to your snack bag or dinner plate for a happiness boost (your body and brain will thank you):

  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Coconut
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Honey
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Strawberries

Talking With Friends

Your relationships have a profound effect on your happiness. And numerous studies show that the more meaningful your friendships and bonds with other people are, the happier your life will be. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest study ever conducted on happiness, reveals that wealth and fame are not the keys to a long, happy life. Over time, it is the quality of close relationships that predict true happiness. So, 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. Keep your relationships close to your heart, and your happiness will soar.

Having a Good Laugh

The old wisdom, “Laughter is the best medicine,” is true — for both your body and mind. Laughter comes with a whole host of health benefits, including strengthening the heart and stimulating brain activity. Laughter boosts your happiness levels by releasing serotonin in your brain (like an antidepressant would) and lowering stress hormones (cortisol). Laughing releases endorphins, or natural feel-good chemicals, via opioid receptors in the brain, giving you a healthy dose of happiness. While opioid drugs bind to these same receptors, laughter is by far the healthier alternative.

Laugh a little: You don’t have to have tickets to a comedy show to have a good giggle. Find a comedy station you like on Pandora or Spotify to listen to while you drive, dance with your pet (you both might look funny), make a playlist of your favorite hilarious YouTube videos or reminisce about good times with an old friend.

Making Time for Self-Care

Taking care of your own physical and mental well-being is not a new idea, but it can be wonderfully transformative, once incorporated into your own everyday life. Self-care isn’t always easy, especially if you’re constantly busy. But if you think you’re too busy to take three deep breaths or drink some water, that’s a sign you could benefit from self-care. While they may seem small, simple self-care strategies like stepping outside for a moment when you feel overwhelmed or packing snacks before a hectic day are conscious efforts to improve your overall well-being. And the more you take care of yourself, the happier you’ll be. Self-care strategies can range from physical or mental, and from quick to involved, but they are all worthwhile. Find little ways to give your body and mind a helping hand throughout the day, like:

  • Getting a breath of fresh air walking outside
  • Drinking a glass of water
  • Meditating
  • Marking off something on your to-do list
  • Exercising
  • 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 going strong, you enhance your own life. By laughing, you learn to let go and give your body the chance to relax. And by practicing self-care every day, you’re on your way to being healthier and happier than you’ve ever been before. Happiness isn’t hard, and with these five habits, you can create your own happiness this Mental Health Wellness Month.

You deserve real, genuine happiness, not the temporary chemical high that comes from drugs or alcohol. If you only feel happy when you’re using substances, it may be time to think about treatment. The good news is, treatment is more accessible, and often more affordable than you may think. Calling The Recovery Village to evaluate your options is toll-free, totally confidential and obligation-free. Don’t settle for cheap happiness that only lets you down, time after time. A better, happier life is out there. The Recovery Village can help you get there. Call 352.771.2700 today to get started.