Editors note: This is a guest post by freelance writer Izzy Woods. In today’s super-busy, fast-paced world, time is perhaps the single biggest stumbling block to people being happier. ‘I would take a meditation course, but I don’t have time,’ or, ‘I’ll focus on me when things aren’t so hectic…’ I could list all the reasons why you should make time for those things. But instead, what if we remove the time excuse from the equation altogether? Below are five super-simple, super-fast ways to boost happiness without making a single change to your schedule.
1. Take a cold shower
This sounds a little odd, but having a cold shower is actually a great way to boost happiness levels. Cold water has been shown to stimulate the release of endorphins and norepinephrine, both of which boost mood. It can also help boost circulation, get rid of toxins and of course will definitely leave you feeling wide awake!
2. Smile (go on)
Ok, so this might seem pretty obvious. But several studies have shown that purposefully smiling (even when you don’t feel so great) can actually induce positive feelings. This is, incidentally, also a reason not to get botox around your mouth – researchers found that not being able to move the muscles that you use to smile reduces the intensity of emotions. On the other hand a study of women given botox injections in the forehead showed that not being able to frown increased happiness and lowered anxiety. This isn’t about repressing negative emotions and going round with a fixed smile all day long – that’s unlikely to be good for your emotional health or your social relationships! But try reminding yourself several times a day to stretch the right facial muscles – you really will get an immediate boost, especially if someone else smiles back.
3. Snack smart
Again, not exactly a revolutionary concept, but eating the right things at the right time can really help keep you on an even keel. Most people find mid-afternoon can be a low point in terms of energy levels and motivation. Go for snacks with a low glyceamic index, such as fruit and cereal, for slow energy release – this will stop you getting into a cycle of quick highs followed by mood and energy slumps.
4. Twist and stretch!
We all know exercise is good for emotional and physical well-being. Half an hour of activity should be enough to get the endorphins flowing – those incredible chemicals that have the power to reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem and even improve sleep. The fantastic news is that even on days when you can’t fit in those 30 minutes, you can still get many of the benefits. Yoga has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormone cortisol and depression-related chemical monoamine oxidase, while raising levels of mood-boosting serotonin. And the really great news is that you don’t necessarily need to squeeze a full yoga class or routine into your weekly schedule. You can get the benefit by fitting some simple twists and stretches (the building blocks of yoga) into your regular day. You won’t even need to change your t-shirt afterwards. Here are two to try…
- One of the most common areas of tension, especially for people working in desk jobs, is around the neck, shoulders and upper back. To release this, take a belt and hold it with hands just more than shoulder distance apart. Slowly raise the belt over and behind your head, keeping arms straight, and then bring it slowly back in front of you again. The closer together you can bring your hands, the more flexibility you’ve created.
- For a full-body twist, stand in a space with feet hip-distance apart. Relax the arms and shoulders, then gently twist the upper half of the body around to your left, back to center and then to your right. Keep the lower body still and allow arms and hands to swing loosely.
5. Listen to silence for a change
Do yourself a favor and give your brain some time out from the constant bombardment of noise modern life tends to generate. Switch off the radio, leave your iPod at home, allow yourself to leave out the small talk. Get comfortable with the silence. And while you’re at it, take the opportunity to tune in to your breath. Observe it, and when your thoughts start to wander, just bring them gently back to the flow of air in and out of your body. This is the simplest form of meditation, and a really effective way to calm the mind, leaving you feeling rested, focused and ready for whatever is next. Finding ways to cope with stress and time-pressures is crucial for positive well-being. All of these tips offer a simple respite from the day to day grind to help keep you in a positive state of mind and focused on the moment. This is a guest post by freelance writer Izzy Woods. Photo credit: Shandi-lee