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Published on February 15, 2021

How To Feel Happier (10 Scienece-Backed Ways)

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How To Feel Happier (10 Scienece-Backed Ways)

What is happiness and what can I do to feel happier? These are questions that may have entered your mind at some point recently, especially in the unprecedented times that we are living in at the moment.

There is not always a ‘one size fits all’ approach to happiness, the things that make you happy can be different to the next person. However, science can provide some insight into ways that can help everyone to become happier in general.

Before we look further into this, let us take some time to understand what the notion of happiness is.

What is Happiness?

Psychologists have been researching happiness for a long time and they have come up with a fairly recent branch of Psychology called Positive Psychology with the aim to look deeper into happiness. They do this by looking at meaning and satisfaction in life, not solely the superficial happiness such as the fleeting feeling of joy at the new delivery of clothes that you have just received – which can make us feel happy in the short term. This brings us onto attempting to define what happiness is:

In general happiness is understood as the positive emotions we have in regards to the pleasurable activities we take part in through our daily lives. Pleasure, comfort, gratitude, hope and inspiration are examples of positive emotions that increase our happiness and move us to flourish. In scientific literature, happiness is referred to as Hedonia (Ryan & Deci, 2001), the presence of positive emotions and the absence of negative emotions.[1]

Happiness is shown to have positive effects on our health and well-being in ways such as:

  • Appearing to boost the immune system which prevents colds and illnesses.
  • Helps to combat stress by producing less cortisol levels in the body.
  • May protect your heart by reducing blood pressure.
  • May help you to live longer as happier people generally partake in health promoting activities.
  • May help to reduce pain by promoting coping strategies that reduce the perception of it.

How to Feel Happier

Now that we know what happiness can be defined as and the benefits that it can have to our health and well-being, let us take a look at ten science backed ways that can help us to feel happier starting from today.

1. Physical Activity

So you have more than likely heard that exercise and physical activity increases happiness but how does it actually work?

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Firstly, let’s define physical activity. It is basically the action of moving our bodies more. You do not have to run a marathon or go to the gym every day to improve your happiness through physical activity. There are lots of ways that you can become more physically active including: walking to the local shop instead of taking the car, doing the housework or gardening and of course going to the gym or going for a run is beneficial too.

There are many scientific studies which have shown that being more physically active can improve your mental health by promoting better sleep, happier moods and also by helping to manage stress and anxiety.[2]

2. Meditation

Meditation is the act of calming or focusing your mind and being present through meditative practices and mindfulness. It is simple to get started with meditation if you are a beginner. You do not have to be experienced to start seeing the benefits.

There are many benefits that meditation has, these in turn help towards promoting happiness. Mindful meditation can create physical changes within the brain. Studies have shown that it only takes eight weeks to change the shape of your brain and increase the volume of grey matter.

Grey matter plays an important role in sensory perception, emotion, decision making and self control. Your brain naturally releases neurotransmitters or chemicals that help to regulate hormones and balance those hormones that have an influence on key parts of your mind and body.

Studies have shown that meditation and mindfulness can have a direct impact on neurotransmitters, including: Serotonin which regulates mood, Cortisol that decreases stress, GABA which improves calmness and Melatonin that promotes restful sleep which in turn helps mood regulation.[3]

3. Healthy Eating

As with meditation, eating certain foods can help to unlock some beneficial feel-good chemicals such as Serotonin and Dopamine.

Fruit, vegetables and wholegrains contain complex carbohydrates which are important in stabilizing your mood by slowly releasing sugar into your body and by also indirectly assisting in the production of Serotonin.

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Eggs consist of healthy fats, protein and B-vitamins which are known to assist in protection against depression.

Oily fish contains long-chain Omega-3 fats which are important in the functioning of the brain and namely the communication between Serotonin and Dopamine. You really can use food to promote happiness.[4]

4. Gratitude

Gratitude is the act of being thankful for what you already have and being appreciative of that. There are many ways in which gratitude can be of benefit.

For example, research suggests that being grateful improves physical health, people experience fewer aches and pains and feel healthier in general. Gratitude has also been shown to reduce negative emotions and depression and what’s more, increase happiness.[5]

5. Generosity

Research suggests that the act of giving to others activates the parts of the brain that promotes contentment and reward, therefore increasing happiness and emotional well-being.

When we are generous, more often than not we use up some of our personal resources such as money, time or energy. However, the reward that we feel far outweighs this.

Happiness has been found to be linked to the part of the brain called the ventral striatum, this has also been shown to play a role in the brain’s reward system, this gives us the feeling of satisfaction when we engage in a pleasant experience.[6]

6. Self-Care

Stress can be a factor resulting from the unprecedented times that we are living in at the moment. Effects of stress can include: insomnia, fatigue, muscle tension, stomach troubles and a lack of motivation in the short term. In the long term, it can affect weight, the cardiovascular system and it can increase the likelihood of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

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Self-care can help to alleviate the consequences of stress and promotes happiness.[7] If you are running low on energy and in life in general, self-care can replenish that feeling. It can provide a break from stress and anxiety, provide you with time to reflect on you and also frees up time to spend on others. You can practice self-care at home by having a pamper session, reading a book or listening to music to name a few.

7. Sleep

Healthy sleep habits can increase energy and reduce stress and low mood, the result is that we are able to make the most of our time and find more happiness in our days.[8]

Studies of sleep-deprived brains have shown that without sufficient sleep our emotions can run away with themselves and a lack of sleep and stress form a vicious circle.

A lack of sleep can evoke a stressful mindset unable to cope with what the day throws at us and additionally, stress can prevent a good night’s sleep. You can ensure that you get a good night’s sleep starting from tonight by trying these tips: 7 Actionable Tips to Sleep Better and Wake up Energized. Ways to improve your sleep include reducing caffeine intake, reducing exposure to tech leading up to when you go to bed and also by trying to go to bed at around the same time each evening.

8. Reduce Social Media Use

Recent studies into social media use have shown that although it is a fact of modern daily life and does have some benefits, it can also have a negative impact on happiness and how we interact with others.

Face-to-face interactions are now on a par with interactions via social media. Some people do feel happy even without face-to-face contact, but studies show that they come away from social media interactions with a negative feeling including a reduction in self-esteem. This can be due to the temptation of social comparison such as material objects such as cars, money, houses or other comparisons such as looks, body type and the perception of family life that is portrayed.[9]

The good news is that there are ways to limit your exposure to social media, reduce the negative impact of using it too much and therefore promote a happier mindset.

9. Yoga

Yoga is becoming increasingly well-known for its benefits to the mind and body, resulting in an increase in happiness.

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Performing yoga poses can improve feelings of energy and self-esteem. This can be linked with the functioning of the vagus nerves. The vagus nerve is the longest in the nervous system and is responsible for not only the body’s unconscious functions such as breathing, circulation and digestion, but also social competence and emotional regulation.

Yoga have physical benefits such as alleviating pain and also have a positive impact on mental health in ways such as being beneficial to those suffering with depression, anxiety and many others.[10] What’s more, you can do yoga any time at home easily.

10. Declutter Your Space

There has been a buzz around tidiness and decluttering in recent times. Studies have shown that this can have a direct positive impact on happiness.

A tidy space provides an atmosphere in which it is easier for you to focus rather than thinking subconsciously about the tasks that you need to complete. A tidy home also reduces the stress and time involved in trying to locate items needed. For example, a tidy bedroom can help you to fall asleep easier.

One study has shown that mothers living in a messy house had a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol. Organization can promote positive feelings such as accomplishment and satisfaction.[11]

It may be easier than you think to not only declutter your home but to declutter your life and reduce stress.

Final Thoughts

Being happy involves both the absence of negative emotions and the experience of positive emotions such as pleasure, comfort, gratitude, hope and inspiration.

Hopefully, with the above science-backed ways to feel happier, you have found that being happy is easier than you originally thought!

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Featured photo credit: Stan B via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charlotte Chidlow

Declutter Consultant and Life Coach with a BSc (Hons) Psychology with the Open University.

What is Mental Energy And How To Maintain A High Level of It 15 Simple And Professional Tips To Be Organized At Home How To Feel Happier (10 Scienece-Backed Ways) 27 Simple Ways to Pamper Yourself at Home 7 Benefits of Gratitude That Will Remind You To Be Thankful Daily

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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