Happiness is defined as an emotional state experienced by feelings of joy, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction. Happiness is not a constant state of euphoria, but an overall sense of having more positive emotions than negative ones.
But even the happiest of people still have periods of sadness, loneliness, frustration, and anger. The important thing to remember is that even when they are faced with such discomforts, they still have an underlying sense of optimism that things will get better, and they can face whatever challenges that might come their way.
Why is Happiness Important?
Your level of happiness can predict the positive outcomes in many areas of your life. It can affect your physical health, mental well-being, and overall longevity. One study[i] found people who were more optimistic increased their survival rate by 11 to 15%. Positive feelings also increase resilience which helps you to manage the stress in your life and helps you to bounce back when faced with adversity.
When you have a positive state of well-being, you are also more likely to engage in healthier behaviors such as eating well and participating in regular physical activity. Not to mention that having a happier mental state has also been linked to an increased immunity, reducing your chances of contracting harmful viruses and illnesses.
How to Be More Happy
While you may not be able to control every aspect of your life, there are some things you can do to make your life happier and more fulfilling.
“Enjoy the little things. For one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”
Show More Gratitude
The word “gratitude” comes from the word gratia which means grace, gratefulness, and graciousness. Research shows that gratitude is strongly connected to greater happiness and greater longevity[ii]. It helps you to feel more positive emotions, cultivate good experiences, improve your health, and to deal with adversity. One study[iii] showed that people who wrote about gratitude for over a course of ten weeks, were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Another study[iv] found that a group of fund raisers who had received a “gratitude” pep talk from their director for their efforts made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not receive a talk.
Find a Sense of Purpose
Having a sense a purpose means seeing your life with goals, direction, and meaning. This can help improve your happiness by promoting healthier behaviors. Research[v] has shown that individuals who feel like they have a purpose in their lives have a better well-being and feel more fulfilled.
Ways to Find a Sense of Purpose:
Explore your passions and interests.
Engage in altruistic and prosocial causes
Help to fight the injustices of others
Explore new things you want to learn more about
Numerous studies show that regular exercise[vi] is good for your body, mind, and soul. It is linked to a broad range of psychological and physical benefits including an improved mood. Regular exercise can ward of depression and anxiety. Even a little exercise can produce a boost of happiness. It doesn’t take much. Studies show that people who exercised as little as ten minutes a day, or who worked out only once a week, had higher levels of happiness compared to people who did not exercise at all.
Have a Positive Mindset
Individuals who are optimistic have higher self-esteems and are more positive with the outlook on life and on the future. Having a positive mindset increases your creativity, productivity, and gives you the faith in yourself that you can accomplish any goal you have set before you. A positive mindset allows you to build upon your existing knowledge and abilities.
Ways to Have a Positive Mindset
Spend time with positive people
Practice positive self-talk
Start every day on a positive note ~ Tell yourself something nice or say a positive affirmation.
Listen to a happy song
Share some positivity by complimenting someone or by doing something kind.
Meditate and Breathing
It was once believed that some people were preordained with a disposition towards more happiness while others were more prone to misery. A Time’s article stated that “neither very good events nor very bad events seem to change people’s happiness much in the long term.” (“Is Our Happiness Preordained? - TIME”) Research shows that most people after a tragic event revert to some kind of baseline happiness level within a couple of years. However, recent studies indicate that with certain practice, we can change our baseline level of happiness. We now know that the brain continues to develop, heal, and change in what is known as neuroplasticity. We can actually rewire our brain to work in a more optimistic way and to be more successful!
Two proven practices to elevate our baseline level of happiness are through meditation and breathing. They both can be done in just a few minutes a day and they do not cost a dime. All you need is a little commitment and some dedication. The consistency of both practices is more important than the duration.
Our diet plays a critical role in how we feel from day-to-day. You know the old saying, “you are what you eat?” Well, it holds much truth to it. Eating healthy foods will not only make you look good, but you will also feel better too. Research has found that certain foods can improve overall brain health and certain types of mood disorders.
Foods That Help You to Feel Happy
Salmon ~ Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids which can fight depression and improve your mood.
Dark chocolate ~ Chocolate contains many mood-boosting compounds. It also may release an outpouring of “feel-good compounds” like theobromine, caffeine, and N-acylethanolamine, a chemical substance like cannabinoids that are linked to an improved mood. According to a study in the Journal of Proteome Research, dark chocolate has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Bananas ~ Bananas contain a brain chemical called tryptophan which regulates mood. They also contain folate which has been linked to lowering depression.
Berries ~ Certain berries have a chemical like valproic acid, which is a prescription mood-stabilizing drug. The flavonoid anthocyanidin found in berries also reduces inflammation, which has been associated with increased rates of depression.
Quinoa ~ Quinoa contains the flavonoid quercetin which has been shown to have anti-depressant effects.
Oysters ~ Oysters are rich in vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and iron, all of which promotes good brain health and fights against depression.
Turmeric ~ This yellow spice most used in East Asian cuisine contains curcumin, which fights depression and enhances mood.
Green Tea ~ A Japanese study found that people who drank five or more cups of green tea per day had lower psychological stress.
Apples ~ Apples provide a calming effect, create more energy, and increase overall happiness.
Spinach ~ Spinach contains folic acid which alleviates depression and reduces fatigue.
Mushrooms ~ Mushrooms contains high amounts of vitamin D which has been linked to lowering moods of depression.
Coffee ~ Drinking coffee has been linked to lower levels of depression!
Beans ~ Beans contain magnesium which is linked to having more energy.
Walnuts ~ Walnuts are one of the best brain foods as they have a high antioxidant content and a large amount of alpha-Linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3.
Happiness starts within and can be achieved by having a grateful heart, a healthy diet, and living a good quality of life. But remember, even the happiest people have rough days. It’s ok to feel down sometimes, but don’t stay there! Pick yourself up and keep moving forward with a positive mindset and the determination in knowing that even the biggest storms will eventually pass.
Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the Founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She has several years of experience in content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies. She is the author of the romantic and rare memoir, Passion of Flames. Isabella is currently working to spread awareness on the dangers and inhumanity of human sex trafficking. She has special interests in fashion and beauty, health and wellness, and natural healing as it pertains to the body, mind and soul. When Isabella is not writing, she enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages (currently Italian), and reading books of substance.
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[i] ScienceDaily. (2019, August 26). New evidence that Optimists Live Longer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 29, 2022, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190826150700.htm [ii] Erika Stoerkel, M. S. (2022, October 4). The Science and Research on gratitude and happiness. PositivePsychology.com. Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-happiness-research/ [iii] Positive insights - positive psychology solutions. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2022, from http://www.positiveinsights.co.uk/articles/EMPIRICAL_RESULT_OF_INTERVENTIONS.pdf [iv] A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions ... (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2022, from https://umkc.edu/facultyombuds/documents/grant_gino_jpsp_2010.pdf [v] Rosso, B. D., Dekas, K. H., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2010, October 2). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and Review. Research in Organizational Behavior. Retrieved October 29, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191308510000067?_ga=2.202679318.628728581.1565536149-525230422.1563631094 [vi] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, September 27). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 29, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495