By Dr. Mercola
We all strive for happiness and a sense of joy in life. Like many, you probably think achievements such as education, marriage, family and social/financial status can make you happy.
However, studies of happiness have found that these achievements have little to do with your happiness. And for millions of people, happiness remains a rather elusive goal...
Happiness can be identified as "whatever gets you excited." Once you've identified that activity, whatever it is, you can start focusing your mind around that so you can structure your life to do more of it.
A sense of adventure and freedom can also ignite that elusive feeling of happiness. This doesn't require expensive tickets to some far-flung destination—a walk in the woods can do the trick, or simply taking a different route on your way home from work.
More often than not, it's the small, simple things in life that bring the most joy and are the most invigorating. In the featured article, Lynn Newman writes about what gives her joy:1
"When I attune to the simple things that give me joy, my body and spirit ignites! I feel truly alive and wildly happy. I feel free of the heavier burdens, beliefs, and complicated constructs that kept me stuck by focusing only on the 'storms' within me."
13 Simple Tips to Live Happy, Wild, and Free
In her article, Newman lists 10 simple tips for living "happy, wild and free." I've also added a couple tips of my own at the end.
- Review the Happy List
I recently published a list of 22 things that happy people do differently. It was widely appreciated and commented on. So please be sure and review that list to find some novel additional behaviors that aren't listed here.
- Write a list of simple things that give you pleasure... and do them at least a few times a week
Writing down the things that bring you a sense of pleasure and happiness, and reviewing your list on a regular basis, can help you remember to carve out the time to do those simple little things that reinforce your belief that life is indeed good.
- Get moving
Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a tool merely for losing weight and preventing disease – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress, and feel happier.
One of the newest recommendations I have based on NASA scientist Dr. Joan Vernikos, who I recently interviewed, is simply to set a timer when you are sitting and stand up every 10 minutes. I even modified further by doing jump squats at times in addition to standing up. This will help counteract the dangerous consequences of excessive sitting.
- Eat light—and right
What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the short and long term. Whereas eating right can prime your body and brain to be in a focused, happy state, eating processed junk foods will leave you sluggish and prone to chronic disease. Ditto for over-eating, which can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. My free nutrition plan is an excellent tool to help you choose the best foods for both physical and emotional wellness.
- Take a cold shower
Exposure to cold temperatures via cold water may offer health-boosting benefits for virtually everyone. Taking a cold shower increases your circulation and helps minimize inflammation. It also tends to leave you feeling energized and invigorated, so it's great first thing in the morning, or right after a workout.
- Talk less - listen more
Talking less and listening more can help increase heart-centered communication. Listening helps you soak in the wisdom of others and allows you to quiet your own mind at the same time, allowing you to feel content while helping you gain different perspective.
- Get some sun every day
Have you ever noticed how great it can feel to spend time outdoors on a sunny day? Well, it turns out that getting safe sun exposure, which allows your body to produce vitamin D, is great for your mood.
While I don't agree with the author's recommendation to slather on just any sunscreen, getting regular sun exposure is a critical factor for optimal health, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. Remember, if you use sunscreen, you are effectively blocking the sun's rays, which means your body cannot produce any vitamin D. If you are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, a non-toxic sunscreen may be necessary to prevent burning certain areas of your skin.
Getting a little bit of sun on bare skin each day is far better than spending hours outside on the weekends only, as overexposure could certainly be harmful to your skin. You always want to avoid getting burned. A better alternative to topical sunscreen is making sure you're getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet from fresh fruits and vegetables. The carotenoid astaxanthin is particularly effective as an internal sunscreen to help protect you against UV damage.
- Turn off the TV
Evidence shows cutting back on TV time can add years to your life. According to one study, every hour of TV you watch equates to a 22-minute reduction in life expectancy. Watching TV also has a major impact on your brain chemistry. In fact, the longer you watch, the easier your brain slips into a receptive, passive mode, meaning that messages are streamed into your brain without any participation from you. So, rather than turning off your brain, why not turn off your TV and mindfully engage in something from your list of pleasurable activities instead?
As the author states, you don't have to be an artist to be creative. Creativity can take any form, from gardening to cooking, to dancing and singing, to taking up a new hobby.
- Enjoy nature
Spending time in nature is an excellent mental health "prescription." And while you're at it, take off your shoes (as long as it's safe to do so). Walking barefoot, grounding yourself to the earth has a wide range of health benefits over and above the simple feeling of connecting with the Earth. Take up gardening, even if you have little room there is always enough space for a few plants.
- Know the simple truth about yourself
Positive self-talk, affirmations and mantras can play a role in cultivating more happiness. I like the author's take on this:
"With enthusiasm and confidence, state what you know to be true about your authentic self. Ask yourself, 'What is true about myself right now in this moment?' For example, I am enough, I am worthy, I am good, I am loved, I have what I need, or I am a success. State this affirmation out loud a few times to embody the essence of who you really are in this very moment. Take it in! Believe this and you are free!"
- Express gratitude
People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, and have more positive emotions. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you're grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health. Remember, your future depends very largely on the thoughts you think today. So think positive thoughts of hope, confidence, love and success. A simple habit to start is to express appreciation at every meal, either out loud or silently, whichever works for you.
- Laugh it up!
Laughing causes your body to release beneficial chemicals called endorphins, natural "pain killers" that contribute to your sense of well-being and may counteract the effects of stress hormones and cause blood vessels to dilate. Researchers have even found that just anticipating laughter can increase your endorphin levels, whereas laughing may help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation in your body, which is linked to a variety of diseases. So, if you're going to watch TV, why not make sure it's something really funny?
A Healthy Lifestyle Naturally Enhances Happiness
In many respects, a lifestyle that will optimize your health will also help you achieve a happier, more joyful state of mind. You cannot separate your physical health from your mental or emotional health. Once you adopt a happiness mindset, and even before you do, embracing healthy habits will help keep your mood elevated naturally even in the midst of stress. Happy people tend to be healthy people, and vice versa, so in addition to the tips offered above, the following lifestyle strategies will also help you achieve greater levels of happiness.
- Use an effective stress-management tool, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
- Drink plenty of clean water
- Limit your exposure to toxins
- Consume healthy fats
- Eat plenty of raw food, ideally organic and/or locally grown
- Optimize your insulin and leptin levels by cutting out sugar/fructose and grains from your diet, and adding high intensity interval training to your exercise regimen
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of high-quality sleep