We all know that eating five portions of fruit and veg a day is great for your body’s health, but how about adding five helpings of JOY to your life every single day to make you feel emotionally healthy?
“Happiness is essential for your mental health,” Ryan Kerr, who is a registered psychologist, tells Lumity. “Too many people rush through almost every single day of their lives feeling stressed out and chasing their tails. They’re often trying to tick off chores on never-ending to do lists, attempting to please demanding bosses and colleagues and dealing with frazzled partners, friends or kids. Life becomes a case of not living, they feel they’re merely existing because they wake up and run around all day until they fall into bed shattered at night then do it all again the next day.
“My prescription is to factor in five helpings of pure, unbridled joy to each and very day. It can be anything you like so long as you stop to savour the moment. Perhaps you can buy yourself flowers, enjoy an extra special breakfast, spend ten minutes in the evening indulging in a beauty treatment – anything you like so long as it makes you feel joyful and is something for you and for you alone. Doing this will help you feel so much happier in general and less stressed and overwhelmed.”
Here are five of our favourite ways that will give your brain a boost and help keep your mental health in check.
Pick Up Some Art Supplies
You’ve probably noticed them in the checkout line at the grocery store or browsing around your favourite online shopping site. Adult colouring books are getting more popular by the day, and for good reason. Not only can your creations make great decorations, but research has shown that colouring can reduce stress and anxiety. Next time you’re stressed at work, take five minutes to take it out on the page. (By the way, they’re a great way to help focus when you’re sitting in on boring conference calls).
Studies show that visiting nature is good for the brain and lowers stress, although the underlying neurology behind the benefits is still being researched.
A small study looked at the brains of city dwellers who walked alone either near a highway or trees. The questionnaire responses of those who spent time among greenery showed improved mental health after their walk, compared to their pre-walk answers, but what was perhaps more interesting were their brain scans. The subgenual prefrontal cortex of their brains, the part that brooding and negative thinking lights up like a Christmas tree, showed less activity.
You don’t have to be an expert mountain climber to enjoy nature. Take in the beauty around you on a leisurely stroll through the woods, or even at the park by your house. If you’re looking for a challenge, try a longer or steeper course each week. Enjoy the hike alone or invite a friend. Just being near nature is enough to bring your stress levels down.
If you think that empty wine bottles are useless, think again. The DIY trend isn’t going anywhere soon, and once you get started, you’ll be surprised with your own talent. Upcycling means taking old items in your house – say, an old wine bottle or utensils – and craft it into something nice. Here’s some inspiration.
Complex, creative activities, whether it’s knitting or decorating a cake, do a number on your dopamine. Being crafty makes us feel good. Get out your sketchbook or take up crochet for a mood lift that’s also fun (and healthy).
Try a New Workout
It’s no secret that exercise can improve your physical health. It lessens the risk of weight gain and can combat certain diseases. But it can also boost your emotional health. Physical activity triggers chemicals in your brain that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. With a class, you’re also benefiting from the social interactions.
Next time you’re bored, try an aerial yoga, bellydance or rock climbing class – something that’s new to you and that teaches you a new skill so you feel tested and engaged. It might just help your memory and help focus your thinking.
Play with Your Food
A biological anthropologist wrote an entire book with the central idea that cooking is what led to our big brains in the evolutionary process.
Pay tribute to our prehistoric ancestors. Whether you’re making dinner for the family or appetisers for your next picnic, cooking can be extremely rewarding. Dont know where to begin? Foodiskitchen.com is a site that can teach you in just 30 days. Or, plug the ingredients you have into MyFridgeFood.com and see what you can create.
If you’d rather not follow a recipe, just get your hands dirty and see what you come up with. Play with herbs and spices that you don’t usually use, adding cumin to nachos or cardamom to oatmeal.
The possibilities are endless. If you’d like to try a simple happiness workout then click here, or try this simple self-hypnosis trick to summon happy feelings, anytime, any place. You can also add these foods to your diet to help boost your serotonin levels.