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Published on February 15, 2021

How To Feel Happier (10 Scienece-Backed Ways)

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!

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.

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

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5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

Reference

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