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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!

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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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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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