10 Habits of A Happy Person

(4.5 min read)

It’s hard to believe we’re nearly two months into 2017. It’s not exactly a welcoming time of the year, let’s be honest. Christmas is long over, the novelty of winter is wearing off, and new years’ resolutions have largely been broken.

All is not lost, though. We’ve still got time to make the most of the last bit of winter, spring is just around the corner, and tomorrow’s a brand new day. It’s never too late to recommit yourself to working towards a better you.

The following are 10 habits that you can adopt to help brighten your days, improve your mental functioning, and, ultimately, put an end to the dreary February doldrums:

1|  Prioritize your health – Eat for wellness, stay hydrated, and get a good night’s sleep.  I’m a very big advocator of taking care of physical health as a means of taking care of mental health. Body and mind are interconnected, so the way you treat your body has a big impact on your mental functioning. Choose a balanced, whole foods diet (eating organic whenever possible) drink lots of purified water, limit caffeine, sugar, and alcohol intake, and prioritize sleep. I’d also recommend getting some basic bloodwork done to make sure you’re not low in the critical vitamins and minerals needed for good mental functioning. These might include (but aren’t necessarily limited to) the B vitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, copper (including ceruloplasmin), and iron.

2|  Make peace with who you are and where you come from.  This is easier said than done, but it’s crucial that whoever you are or wherever you come from, you find a way of accepting yourself and your past. Holding onto past hardships, mistakes, and hurts is a sure way of holding you back from living a fulfilling life in the future. You may need the help of a skilled counsellor to help you do this, as addressing the past can bring up some painful emotions in the present. If you would like help doing so, please don’t hesitate to contact me to book an appointment for an online, or in-person, therapy session.

3|  Recognize & let go of your unhelpful thoughts & behaviours.  We’re all guilty of it. We all engage in some very unhelpful and/or downright destructive ways of thinking and behaving in response to our circumstances. These patterns hurt not only ourselves, but impact our relationships with other people and the world around us. A combination of cognitive therapy and mindfulness meditation can be a wonderful tool to help us recognize and step outside of these habits when we’re engaging in them (again, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like some help doing so). It’s critical that we learn to let unhelpful patterns go if we want to repair our relationships and find enjoyment, rather than negativity, in our lives.

4|  Take control of your current situation as much as you can.  We can’t always control which cards we’re dealt, but we can control how we respond to them. Viktor Frankl wrote about the importance of making meaning during the most difficult times in life, and how we can find purpose in just about any unpleasant situation. If you can’t do anything to change your circumstances, ask yourself how you can actively use it as a means of bettering yourself, inspiring greater change in the world, or simply inspiring the people around you. If you can change your situation, then ask yourself what exactly needs to be changed, and do your best to make it happen.

5|  Find peace in your relationships – Talk & laugh with others, in person, every day.  Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to live in isolation. However, it’s becoming easier to isolate ourselves with growing possibilities of studying, working, and socializing online. It’s important to make sure we step out of the online bubble and connect with people in real life. It’s also important that when we do so, we focus on the best traits in one another. We have a limited amount of time with our loved ones, so if we’re always arguing and knocking each other down, we’ll leave behind a legacy of pain. Life is short, so make the most of your time together.

6|  Don’t be a slave to tech! – Rethink & reduce your online presence.  In addition to having the above mentioned social benefits, reducing our dependence on technology frees up a huge amount of time (more than you can imagine!). A lot of people complain that there isn’t enough time in a day, yet they somehow manage to use social media multiple times within a 24-hour period. It’s crucial to find balance between helpful and unhealthy use of technology. Managing your time online allows you to manage your entire life better (at work, and personally). This will help boost your self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, and it will free up a lot of time to spend on other meaningful activities.

7|  Engage in relaxation every day.  Logging off also allows us more time to relax naturally (without the aid of a screen). This is important for protecting our physical health, which is important for protecting our mental health. There’s no need to feel guilty about making time for reading a book, taking a bath, or simply laying down for a rest. In fact, these activities need to be scheduled into your daily routine more often! Simple relaxation is an important prescription for extending life, and enhancing the quality of our days.

8|  Get moving, outdoors in nature, a few times every week.  Exercise is one of the most powerful known antidepressants (Blumenthal, Smith & Hoffman, 2012). Spending time in nature is also known to have significant health benefits (Bowler, Buyung-Ali, Knight & Pullin, 2010). Combining the two? Well, you get the point… If you’re going to exercise, might as well get off the boring treadmill and breathe in the fresh outdoor air, regardless of the season (just make sure you dress appropriately). Go for a walk, get on your skies, or hop your bike. You won’t regret it.

9|  Simplify your life – Learn to say no & minimize material possessions.  This is one of the most under-rated sources of good mental health, in my opinion. Western society is trained to think in terms of bigger is better, and more is never enough. But, research actually shows that people are less happy as they accumulate more things (Tsang, Carpenter, Roberts, Frisch & Carlisle, 2014). Minimalism is a trend that seems to be catching on, and for good reason. Reducing physical clutter reduces mental clutter, as well as financial pressure, while increasing the opportunity to accumulate experiences, which have the biggest pay-off (Van-Boven & Gilovich, 2003). Minimalism also applies to your engagements and commitments. Keep your schedule simple. Less is definitely more.

10|  Connect with & act according to your personal values.  I recently wrote about the importance of connecting with your values in a previous blog post. Here, I will say it again. It’s crucial to be clear about what’s most important to you in life. What type of person do you want to be? How do you want to live? What sort of environment do you want to be in? Who do you want to be surrounded by? How do you want to treat other people? When we’re honest with ourselves about who we are and live according to our values, then we can’t really go wrong. Doing so will help us live more authentic lives, and we will find ourselves much happier along the way.

Increasing your sense of contentment in life isn’t a matter of dabbling in these habits every now and then. It requires adopting a new way of life, and making the commitment to stick with it each and every day, especially when times get tough (and guaranteed, they will!). It may take some hard work and time to get going, but, ultimately, it’s something that we’re all capable of.

***


Blumenthal, J. A., Smith, P. J., & Hoffman, B. M. (2012). Opinion and evidence: Is exercise a viable treatment for depression? American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, 16(4), 14-21.

Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M. & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10(456), 1-10.

Tsang, J., Carpenter, T. P., Roberts, J. A., Frisch, M. B. & Carlisle, R. D. (2014). Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 64, 62-66.

Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To do or to have? That is the question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1193-1202.

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