The relationship between positive thinking and productivity is well researched and documented. It’s also been shown time and time again how happier people are more likely to be healthier, take less time off work and have the confidence to try new things. But did you know that you can take an active role in increasing your happiness levels? That there are skills which, when learnt, will make you generally feel happier?
Make yourself a good support system
Having and giving support is one of the most important things we can do. “Support networks help us rationalise issues, talk through problems and find solutions,” explains Stephanie Davis, CEO of training company and happiness experts Laughology.
“Also supporting and helping others gives a sense of purpose and happiness.” Think about ways you can help and support those both at work and home. If you can take an active role in creating a support network you will not only feel happier that you are helping but also more confident as you know there is a system in place should you ever need it.
We are all going to face challenges and problems in life, it’s unavoidable. But the way in which we deal with them can help us resolve the problem more quickly and also feel we have gain a new understanding or learnt something valuable from the experience.
“Having techniques to be able to cope with life’s challenges helps us be happier,” says Stephanie.
“Having a good sense of humour helps us to see life in a different way. You can also develop coping and resilience skills through on-line learning courses and by talking to other people to see how they have learnt to look at life in different ways.”
Being there for others through their difficult times allows us to learn lessons for the future too and we will feel less like we are all-at-sea when a situation crops up as we have been through it with someone else.
Learning is good for the soul and keeps brains and hearts alert. So sticking with that job you find easy and comfortable is not going to feel fulfilling after a while.
If you know you need to stay at it then make sure you push yourself in your free time. “Recognise when you need a challenge in work or life and make sure you go for it,” recommends Stephanie. “Even if it scares you, give it a go. Learning increases our understanding of many different things and gives us confidence in many ways.”
So whether it be learning a language, playing a new sport or teaching yourself to cook, expand your mind and your happiness levels will increase too.
Confidence is a key skill when it comes to happiness. That self assurance and belief we can do something helps us face challenges, get on in work and cope with events. “Confidence comes from pushing yourself to do something and achievement, but it’s also a behaviour and a thought process,” says Stephanie. “Acting confident makes you feel confident and makes others perceive you as confident. So shoulders back, chest out and tell yourself you can!” Fighting negative thoughts is a first step to confidence. When we tell ourselves we can’t do something we are more likely to struggle so believe that the human mind and body is capable of much more than we think. And remember we aren’t born good at things, we learn them. Believing in yourself and your abilities is half the battle.
We are not an island and countless surveys have found how important having good friends is to having a happy life.
Some people prefer their own company but make time to be with others even if it’s just being alongside others while doing something you love. So if you enjoy gardening, perhaps think of helping a group who help maintain the grounds of a charitable property like the National Trust.
This will allow you to meet likeminded people and foster friendships but not have to deal with the intense closeness you might find difficult. “Positive relationships in work are also vital as is knowing and accepting your responsibility for creating positive relationships and being aware of how you make other people feel and how you can make other people feel,” adds Stephanie. “You don’t have to be best friends with someone to have a positive relationship. It’s about being consistent.”
Everyone can find some form of exercise which works for them. Be it something at a slower pace or high intensity gym classes. Even just making a pledge to walk more or do 10 minutes every morning of stretches can have a big impact on your happiness as well as your health. “It gets endorphins pumping in the body and releases serotonin in the brain,” explains Stephanie.
Being outside in the fresh air and in open spaces has a positive effect on happiness levels.The Finnish Forest Research Institute, found that people began to feel psychologically restored after just 15 minutes of sitting outside in a park or forest. After a short walk, these feelings increased. Both relaxation and vitality levels soared and study participants in the park or forest felt 20 percent better than their urban-streetside peers, and felt more creative. “Where you can, take a lunch break outside the office for a change of scenery, even if it’s 10 minutes – it gives our brain gets a break and it will increase your neurotransmitters which are essential to learning and memory.” Short breaks will get the brain cells dancing and make you think and work better. And if you take those breaks if the great outdoors then they will have an even greater impact.
We can sometimes think of laughing as a silly thing but the act of laughing has a huge effect on us psychologically and physically. It releases endorphins which make us feel happy, relaxed and comfortable. It decreases stress levels, sends blood pumping around our bodies and ups our oxygen levels.
“A positive mind set is the key to success, make sure you pick a healthy approach to life that is not just realistic for your lifestyle, but good fun too. Learn to laugh at yourself. You can develop your own sense of humour by watching comedians and how they explain situations in a comical way. Revisit past events and see if you can think about them differently – through the eyes of a comedian. Using humour tricks like exaggeration and wordplay can alter the context of a situation and help you feel more positive,” suggests Stephanie.
Having a healthy, balanced diet will impact on mood and help you feel better about yourself. A simple nutritional deficiency can lead to feelings of depression, tiredness and general malaise.
When your body and mind are not being given the fuel to work properly they will struggle to function properly and have an impact on positive thinking and our physical abilities and coping mechanisms. “Being healthy is not about banishing treats from your life either,” says Stephanie. “Treats in moderation are beneficial but try to limit them to when you’re in a good mood as you are more likely to eat less and rely on them as emotional crutches.”
Being optimistic is a mindset we can chose. Some people seem to always be finding the positives and you can be that person too. It’s about changing the way you see the world and approach situations.
“While being skepticism helps avoid risk, optimism is about looking for opportunities,” explains Stephanie.
“Know how to build optimism and try to look for solutions and opportunities. Ask yourself how might I feel about this situation in one month, one year or even a decade!”
When we put situations in this perspective they can often seem less overwhelming and lead us to think more optimistically about outcomes.
If you’re looking for another simple way to lift your mood, try a daily dose of turmeric. But if you’re feeling depressed please confide in a good friend and consult your doctor – who will help you. Nobody should ever feel as though they have to suffer in silence.