How to raise your happy levels
12 Easy Lifestyle Tips To Increase Happiness In Your Life. By Dani Hunter
There is a whole science devoted to the research of happiness and what creates happy individuals.
I believe that most of us Westerners have experienced bouts of depression and anxiety disorders due to lifestyle habits that are typical of our fast-paced culture, that doesn’t allow time and space for contemplation and relaxation.
In societies such as Bhutan — considered the happiest country in the world, ranked the highest in terms of gross national happiness, which measures quality of life and the generation of ‘material and spiritual development happening together’ — depression in the population is low. It has been said the reason for Bhutan being a country of happy people is that values based on Buddhist philosophy are part of the political and economic scene and involved in every decision-making policy.
In Buddhist philosophy, nurturing the spirit and the community are the common purpose of life, in contrast to the Western culture of consuming and generating individual wealth in order to be happy.
Anxiety and depression can be the outcome of losing one’s purpose in life. Like Socrates uttered before his death: “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Socrates was condemned to death for accusations of “corrupting the youth” with critical thinking and philosophy.
Socrates had a strong sense of purpose that was worth living and dying for. Unfortunately, many of us are living unexamined lives, rushing to work and distracting ourselves with too much television, too many video games and other distractions. All to be able to cope with our own self-inflicted unhappiness. Some of us don’t know what we are passionate about anymore and have become disconnected zombies, a reflection of a consumerist society in the midst of a value crisis.
Looking for the gifts in life
There are gifts to be found in low times and dark nights of the soul, however.
When we experience these dark times, we can gain clarity of what we truly value and want to achieve in our lives. If we have a nightmare job, or relationship, we are granted the experience and opportunity of knowing exactly what we don’t want, so we can choose, reflect and plan wisely what we want to manifest day to day.
There is a gift of becoming resilient and knowing that conflicts are the gifts life gives us in order to grow. In NLP we say, “there is no failure, only feedback”. To learn and know that we are all strong enough to rise up from any difficult experience is a powerful gift.
We become peace warriors, like Arjuna from the Indian yogic philosophical texts and scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna was battling his enemies, that were really his inner demons, presenting him a chance to transcend his ego and take action to be what he had come to do in the world. To live his purpose. Because choosing inaction is an action and it has consequences.
There are many factors that can cause anxiety and depression, some of which can be biochemical or due to poor lifestyle habits. In functional medicine nutrition, dietary prescriptions involving balancing blood sugar levels and nutrient-dense diets, that have all the important macro and micro nutrients important for energy production and organ health, are fundamental for improving optimal health and wellbeing.
There are important lifestyle habits that contribute to mood and mental health, as well as reassessing limiting beliefs and thoughts that are not serving us. NLP, counselling and therapy can be efficient in creating strategies in dealing with painful circumstances and designing a positive lifestyle.
Mindful, flow-inducing activities, such as, being immersed in creating art or practicing a sport, have also been shown in research to bring feelings of satisfaction and joy. There has also been many studies on meditation and its effects on the mind.
Here are 12 easy lifestyle tips to live a more joyful life:
- Create a morning ritual: I love discussing with some of my friends, who are practitioners and healers, their morning rituals and the importance of having a morning ritual. This can entirely change the outcome of a day bringing inspiration, motivation and confidence. Wake up earlier then your kids to meditate (I love listening to Gabby Bernstein’s morning meditations and visualisations in my bed on Spotify, before getting my daughter ready for school). Listen to uplifting podcasts while having breakfast and your morning coffee. Let your morning be the most positive moment of your day.
- Meditation: There have been so many studies on the subject of meditation and its effects on the brain and wellbeing. I personally love kriya yoga meditation, which I learned from my amazing teacher, Stephen Sturgess, while living in London. To avoid resistance, I make my practice as indulgent as possible, by lighting candles and my favourite rose incense. When resistance is high, even 10 minutes re-centres and re-calibrates my mind. I always feel amazing and peaceful after, and wonder why I sometimes have resistance.
For more information on how to do a simple mala meditation based on kriya yoga, read my article: how to use a mala for meditation
- Nutrition: As Hippocrates said, “we are what we eat”, and blood sugar balance is important for managing anxiety and stress. It’s important to eat a nutrient-dense diet, which is an unprocessed diet high in macro and micro nutrients (protein, essential fats, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients) so our bodies can can do their work of fuelling our brains and organs to function optimally. The Mediterranean diet of seasonal and unprocessed fresh produce is a great guideline for consuming nutrient-dense meals. It also allows us to indulge in a glass of red wine at dinner, which is my treat after my toddler is tucked in bed (hello! I live by Bordeaux…the best wine in the world!). I drink regular cups of matcha latte with coconut-rice milk, which tastes divine and is rich in L-theanine that gives me long-lasting focus and wellbeing.
- Exercise is an important habit for mental health and has been widely studied in generating a sense of wellbeing, as well as releasing endorphins. Try yoga, pilates a brisk walk. Or if time for exercising is limited, I try pumping-up my Spotify ‘Ecstatic Dance Toulouse’ playlist with the curtains closed, and breaking out a sweat by dancing like a maniac and partying alone. You can find my playlist via my personal Spotify page: DJ Oracle.
- Sunshine: There has been a lot of research showing the link between low vitamin D levels and depression. The best way of absorbing vitamin D is by exposing skin to sunshine.
- Sleep: I am a better human being when I get plenty of hours of sleep. Lack of sleep can cause irritability, anxiety and lack of energy. Create a relaxing night routine of dimming lights, reading a book, having a bath and aim to go to bed before midnight.
- Flow: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who conducted research into happiness, came to the conclusion that happy people engaged in activities that created a state of consciousness he named ‘flow’, “where self-consciousness is lost, one surrenders completely to the moment and time means nothing”. These are the activities of creating art, practicing music or a sport that requires focus and induces ‘flow’. Find your daily flow activity: paint, write, cycle, play an instrument, whatever makes you lose track of time and sense of self. In art therapy we give art activities as prescriptions for wellbeing. It can be a doodle, colouring in a colouring book, or a short poem that you can do even in 5 minutes. Do one small flow activity every day. I have a small harmonica that I leave around the house for my daughter and I to play.
- Community and relationship: There have been many studies showing the importance of community and relationships for wellbeing, because we humans are social beings. Join clubs, meet with friends and nurture your relationships. Friends are the family we choose.
- Service: Being of service to others in need can really put things into perspective and bring satisfaction and community. Also being of service to a cause can lead to gratification by bringing purpose to one’s life and end frustrating feelings of inertia and inaction. Small acts of kindness uplift any hardened soul.
- Gratitude: When we are grateful for the things we have in life we put our focus on what we have, instead of what we lack. Write daily in a journal the things you are grateful for. These can be simple things such as having a roof over you, a hot meal and shower, a bed to sleep in, things we easily take for granted. Say them out loud to your partner, kids and friends for collective awareness.
- Self-care: As renowned life coach Cheryl Richardson says: “Self-care is an act of revolution”. We can only care for our families and communities when we have cared for ourselves first. When we are happy and feeling well, we are able to take care of others. When we feel miserable, exhausted and unhappy, we end up inflicting pain on others. Choose your self-care rituals, eat healthily, go to your yoga class and treat yourself with the love and respect you deserve. I always joke that “when mamma is happy, everyone is happy”, so I treat myself to a sauna, a massage, an art exhibition, things that matter and make me feel full, as my happiness has always proved itself to be contagious.
- Purpose: What are you supposed to do in this world? What is your life’s purpose? Is it worth living and dying for? If you don’t know, start a journal, meditate and question yourself on your life’s purpose. I love writing in my journal and I am part of an international practical philosophy community that is always making me ask questions about my role in the world and in my community. I do have to agree with Socrates, that “an unexamined life is not worth living”. Know thyself and know what you came to do on Earth. Follow your bliss!
Over to you! What are some of your daily habits that bring joy into your life?