How to be happy
The secrets of happiness, shared. By Karen Evennett
If you feel in need of a bliss pick-me-up, here are some easy ways to add a little happiness to your everyday life.
Talk to yourself (but watch what you say)
Optimism has long been linked to good health, but learning to put a spin on negative thoughts may not come easily to you. Start by giving yourself positive little messages, such as ‘I can handle this!’, and never say anything more critical to yourself than you would to a friend or colleague you respect.
Take control of your life
The happiest people are those who do not see themselves as victims of circumstance. If you always blame other people for your problems and wait for them to fix things for you, you never get to rise to the occasion and witness your own strength. If you see yourself as a problem solver, life goes differently. In a study following 13,000 employees made redundant by an American phone company, those who saw their unemployment as a challenge they had to solve had happier lives with fewer stress-related illnesses than their peers who felt helpless. Take the quiz: how self-reliant are you?
Pop a happy pill
Studies show depression can be linked to low levels of folic acid in the blood, so make sure you get your RDA by taking a multivitamin. Read: top 10 cheer-me-up remedies
Say thank you - and mean it
In studies, people who strongly agree with statements such as ‘I have so much to be thankful for’ are less depressed than their ungrateful counterparts. If this isn’t you, get in practice by taking a few minutes a day to reflect on at least five things you appreciate. You’ll have more positive emotions, more energy and a better night’s sleep as a result.
Catch some joy
Hanging around with cheerful people is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. In one study, scientists asked volunteers to scowl at happy faces – but the volunteers found it hard to stop their own mouths from curling upwards!
Sleep yourself happy
Slumber rejuvenates the brain’s cerebral cortex, which drives moods, decision-making and short-term memory. If you stint on shut-eye, your mood will plummet. Read: our guide to better sleep
Small acts of generosity – such as turning the TV channel to a visiting relative’s favourite programme before they have to ask you – will make you feel good about yourself.
Love your layers
Women who live in chilly climates feel better about their bodies and are less likely to have harmful dieting habits than those in warmer places, according to research.
A great way to keep your sanity and your happy demeanour when you’re around bitchy colleagues or friends is to have a funny quip up your sleeve. For example, if someone makes a disparaging remark about your weight, use your sense of humour and surprise them with a smile and a joke. Read: why laughter really is good for you
De-stress your workspace
A US study found that office workers were much happier when they brought their dogs to work with them. If this is out of the question, find other ways to humanise your desk area – tape the happy messages from fortune cookies to your computer screen, or have souvenirs from holidays, such as pictures or pebbles, on your desk to remind you why you’re working so hard.
Don't store up household chores
People who spend their free time on housework have more health problems than those who ditch the drudgery to go out with friends or take a nice walk. Do your laundry and vacuuming during the week, and save weekends for time off with family and friends.
Train your brain
People who have studied for a college degree tend to be happier in later life than those who haven’t, found researchers at the University of London’s Institute of Education. Choose an adult education course to give yourself a boost.
Create a ritual
Before you do a job that is likely to stress you, get into the habit of doing something calming, such as playing your favourite CD. Rituals calm the over-analytical left brain and let the more intuitive right brain take over – making it easier to nip negative self-talk in the bud.
Sort out your debts
Who says money can’t buy happiness? People with higher incomes report less stress and better health than lower-wage earners, according to the journal 'Psychosomatic Medicine'. By getting rid of money-related anxiety, you will sleep more soundly and feel happier as a result.
Keep your TV viewing under control
Watching TV slows the brain’s alpha waves, so you feel relaxed and passive – but those lovely feelings plummet when you turn off the set. Ration your viewing time and find something else to do – such as reading or joining a club – that will have a more enduring impact on your happiness.
Make lots of friends
Studies have shown that people with the most relationships in their lives - with family, friends, colleagues and the local community - live longer than those who have the fewest.
Love your body
Women who get breast implants are three times more likely to commit suicide than those who don’t, according to a report in the 'British Medical Journal'. Low self-esteem is the real problem that needs tackling – therapy will give you more of a lift than surgery.
Have a hug
A brief squeeze with a loved one, followed by ten minutes spent holding hands, is a great antidote to stress, say researchers at a US university. In another study, cuddlers even saw their blood pressure fall.
Stop trying so hard
Perfectionism can cause stress, so introduce a few activities into your life that are non-competitive and don’t lead to either success or failure. For example, you could learn to play the piano but vow never to play in front of anyone.
Buy a good poetry book
Reading rhythmic poetry out loud for half an hour can leave you relaxed for 15 minutes afterwards, according to a study in the 'International Journal of Cardiology'. Try 'The Nation’s Favourite Poems' (BBC Books, £6.99).
Don't become a prisoner of your computer
Websites that load slowly and are tough to navigate can increase heart rate and are a significant contributor to workplace stress, according to the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford. If you hit a page that’s making you agitated, step away from your desk and save your sanity!
Banish bedtime tension
If you’re a worrier, your heart rate is likely to be highest in the evening, making it harder to get to sleep, according to a university study in the Netherlands. To calm your troubled mind so you slip peacefully to sleep, make tomorrow’s to-do list before your head hits the pillow.