How to Be Happy? Practical Ways to Boost Positive Mindset
Happiness is what everyone desires in life. However, the path to happiness can get tricky, especially when life throws a bunch of obstacles your way. When dealing with a lot of stress and being overwhelmed, it isn't easy to find genuine joy and happiness.
But what if we have more control over our happiness? What if we deliberately push ourselves to become happier and more optimistic? Would it make our lives ten times better?
In this article, we'll dive deep into the science of happiness and how we can intentionally become happier to improve our days.
Happiness is a state of mind. You experience positive emotions, thoughts, or moods when you feel happy. This positive experience overpowers negative emotions or feelings that you may have, creating a positive imbalance in your mental state.
Happiness is also related to your satisfaction and accomplishments in different areas of your life, such as relationships, work, or creative pursuits.
Studies show that those who perceive themselves as happy have a better quality of life regardless of their social status. Moreover, happy people tend to live longer, be healthier, and have more meaningful relationships.
The brain is an ever-changing organ shaped by our experiences. It has a property called neuroplasticity, which allows it to rewire, reorganize and form new brain connections. This means that new experiences and training can change the brain for the better. Therefore, you can train your mind to be happy and rewire your thoughts to your advantage.
Neuroscientists and psychologists agree that happiness is a subjective experience, and what brings joy to you may not necessarily bring the same level of emotion and contentment to others. In fact, if you ask your friends what their idea of happiness is, you might be surprised how it differs from yours.
Despite our differences in our idea of what happiness is, there are universal science-backed techniques that you can do to positively impact your brain and enhance neuroplasticity.
Exercise is a brain food. When you exercise regularly, you flood your brain with Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes new brain connections. Higher levels of BDNF are linked to improving depression symptoms and better cognitive functions.
Furthermore, exercise has a range of hormonal effects on your body, such as releasing endorphins, hormones that can help you regulate pain and reduce stress. Working out also improves your self-esteem and confidence, making you more resilient to stress and feel happy with yourself.
Here’s a plan that will help you to be happy with the results:
Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters that significantly regulate mood, emotions, and overall well-being.
These activities can help boost your serotonin and dopamine levels:
- Exercise regularly
- Practice mindfulness and meditation
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Do a 30-minute yoga
- Have a relaxation massage
- Read books
Eating a healthy diet is another way to increase your happiness. Studies have shown that a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which are found in the Mediterranean diet, can improve your mood and reduce your risk of depression. On the contrary, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fat can increase your risk of depression and anxiety.
Even more interesting is that 90-95% of the body's serotonin is made in the gut. Serotonin is derived from tryptophan, a compound found in bananas, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds. An imbalance in your diet and lack of tryptophan can lead to irritability, poor concentration, impulsiveness, anxiety, and many more.
So fuel your body with nutritious foods that will help you feel good from the inside out.
When you are tense, your body stiffens, your heartbeat races, and thoughts can flood your mind. Often, these make us feel we're not in control resulting in overthinking and more stress.
One way to calm these reactions is to take long and deep breaths. Slow breathing exercises can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us manage our stress levels and feel at ease.
- Close your eyes. Stay still and focus on your breathing
- Take a slow, deep breath using your nose
- Slowly exhale out through the mouth in puckered lips
- Repeat this process for 4 to 5 more cycles or until you start feeling calmer
Setting and achieving goals is a powerful way to increase your happiness. When you set a goal, you give yourself something to work towards and a sense of purpose.
It is also essential to manage your goals and keep the promises you made to yourself. By honoring your promises and achieving your goals, you gradually build self-efficacy- your belief in yourself.
Set achievable goals for yourself, no matter how high or small, whether it's completing a fitness challenge, learning a new skill, or taking on a new project at work.
Being grateful has a profound impact on our brain activities. A 2008 study found that thinking and feeling gratitude activate different brain parts responsible for reward and pleasure. The more we think of grateful thoughts, the better and happier we feel.
Practicing gratitude can become a habit when done routinely, making positive thinking a way of life. An excellent way is to write 5 to 10 things you are grateful for daily. You'd be amazed to realize how much you take things for granted.
Adequate sleep allows your body to rest and recharge, leading to improvement in cognitive function, mood regulation, and stress reduction. Adults typically need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and establishing a consistent sleep routine can enhance sleep quality.
Having a meaningful sleep allows you to have more energy and do more things that will add value to your life. Happy people tend to have higher energy levels, and people with more energy are happier than others. A 2006 study by Princeton researchers found that sleep quality is linked to greater life satisfaction. A recent 2022 study also found that individuals with 6 hours or less sleep are less happy and are more likely to develop depression symptoms.
Smiling is a way to express happiness. However, research shows that it could also be the other way around. Smiling causes the release of more dopamine in the brain which can also positively influence emotions.
When you feel low or overwhelmed with stress, it doesn't hurt to take a moment and smile to get a breather from your situation. Sometimes it could be the first step to gradually feeling better or getting through the day.
Spending time outside can influence brain structures and improve mood, even if you are an introvert. Researchers found that the time spent outdoors fires up areas in the brain associated with planning, concentration, and the overall psyche. So the next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, consider walking outside to clear your head, it’s also good for your fitness!
Doing specific actions to influence your brain can increase your level of happiness. Of course, many things can impact our mental well-being, and it's crucial to seek professional help if you're struggling with a psychological disorder. But for the everyday blues, you have the ability to turn things around and start feeling better.
Happiness is not just about having material possessions or achieving certain milestones in life. It’s about taking care of yourself, setting achievable goals, and engaging in activities that promote happiness and well-being. By incorporating exercise, healthy eating, goal completion, dopamine, and serotonin-boosting activities into your daily routine, you can take steps towards living a happier, more fulfilling life.