Are you happy? And if not, what do you think might make you happy? We all have different needs but there are five activities guaranteed to make everyone happy. So, prepare to be happier than you’ve ever been before…
At The Early Hour, we’ve been thinking about mental wellbeing and what it would take to be truly happy. And there are five activities that we’ve discovered are absolutely guaranteed to make you happy…
How to be happy #1
Take up gardening, green fingers
It’s no secret that being outdoors in the fresh air does wonders for the mind. But being outside and getting your hands dirty could actually help cure depression. Scientists have discovered that Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in soil, may stimulate serotonin production (that’s the happy hormone) – making people feel happier and more relaxed. And all you have to do is dig around in the dirt, which will release the bacteria into the air for you to inhale. It will then work its magic without you doing a thing.
Not everyone has a garden but you could pot some indoor plants, find a local allotment where you’ll have your own patch of land to tend to or get involved with community gardening. If you’re really keen, you could spend some time WWOOFing in the UK or abroad (working on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation).
How to be happy #2
Socialise as often as possible
Have you ever tried spending a substantial amount of time on your own – without any human interaction at all? The likelihood is that even if you live alone, or go on solo travel expeditions; you’ll cross paths with someone, at some point. But while loneliness used to be the reserve of older people, the digital age that we’re living in is making us increasingly isolated. And research shows that loneliness can increase the risk of a stroke of heart attack by a third.
On the other hand, human interaction – whether it’s with a friend, family member, or the cashier when you’re doing your weekly shop – can lift the spirits, even if you enjoy solitude and identify as an introvert. This study measured participants feelings of positivity and happiness when behaving like an extravert and found they was greater than when they were alone, not interacting. So meet up with friends for an evening or just nip down to the coffee shop/pub if everyone’s busy – a conversation with the bar person/barrister could just save your life.
How to be happy #3
Ditch the technology (for a bit)
Until a few weeks ago, I was waking up every morning with heart palpitations. I wondered if my iron levels were low, or if perhaps I was stressed about work, or whether there was something a lot more serious going down (hypochondria alert). And then I decided that rather than worry about why it was happening, I’d simply find a way to stop it happening. So I looked at my morning routine, which involved: wake up at 6.30am, grab mobile phone, upload a photo to The Early Hour Instagram account and then scroll through Twitter until my husband woke up.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that checking your phone before you’ve done anything else probably ain’t such a good idea. So I did some research, read about other people’s morning routines, found a few good ideas and decided to change my morning habits. I now set the alarm for 5.50am, lie in bed listing 10 things I’m grateful for in my life (beginning the day with positive thoughts), spend 15 minutes doing pilates and go for a 20-minute run. It’s only when I return home from my run that I’m allowed to check my phone. Guess what? My heart palpations have stopped.
Most of us use technology to work, or to communicate with friends and family, and so to ditch it altogether just isn’t really a possibility. But if you can find a way to limit it, or cut it out of certain parts of your day (like first thing in the morning and last thing at night), you will notice a big difference in your mood. Give it a try.
How to be happy #4
Get down and dirty (in the bedroom, not the garden)
For new parents, older couples who’ve been together for decades or for people who just don’t have a very high libido, sex can become an issue. However, there are myriad health benefits associated with intercourse, including: lower blood pressure; the release of oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’; it reduces stress hormone cortisol – so can help you feel relaxed – and it’s a form of exercise. The good news? You only have to do it once a week to get all these benefits.
And a bonus is that is will make you sleep well, which is another activity that makes us happy… when we get enough of it.
How to be happy #5
Release your inner bookworm
You know the feeling when you’re engrossed in a brilliant novel; when nothing else matters but the fictional plot you’re following? Well this not only offers welcome escapism from our busy lives but is actually proven to make us more empathic as people. Following a character closely in a novel triggers ‘mirror neurons’ so we store information about how this character communicates and responds to others and then simulate this when we go through a similar experience ourselves.
Becoming better equipped to understand people and their situations will inevitably lead to greater feelings of wellbeing all round. It will not only make your pal happy that you are empathic and understanding about what they’re going through but being able to communicate well contributes to our own sense of happiness, as it bestows us with purpose. In the wise words of Charles Dickens, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
What makes you happy? Any of the above – or do you have something to add? Let us know in the comments below…
Photo credits: potted plants: Designspiration, bed: l-e-a-b-o, via coffeestainedcashmere