We could all use a little more happiness in our lives during these stressful times. Here are some science-backed ways to cultivate it at work and at home.
While there is no single route to happiness, evidence suggests there are some tweaks we can make in our own lives that can help us achieve a little more happiness. At a time when there's so much external strife that doesn't exactly perk up our mood, here are some science-backed ways to feel a bit happier in both your work and home life.
Laughter: When you laugh, you help the release of cortisol, which can help us feel less stressed. But what if you have trouble finding anything to laugh about these days? Naomi Bagdonas, a lecturer at Stanford University, suggests you practice priming. Priming is the concept that we find what we set out to look for. Just as if you’re primed with the word doctor, you might see the word nurse more readily in a word puzzle, you can introduce concepts that will make you more likely to find humorous moments in your day-to-day life.
One way to go about this is to go through your day and jot down any moment when you laughed or shared laughter. In a study, students who engaged in this practice reported experiencing much more joy and laughter in their lives by the seventh day of this practice.
Cute Animal Videos: A study by Leeds University finds that watching cute animals is good for your health and happiness. It lowers heart rates, drops blood pressure and greatly reduces anxiety. OGN has compiled a handful of cute videos for your viewing pleasure.
Improved Communication: The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen says relieving stress is the factor that can help us increase happiness the most. And while you may believe that stress at work comes from being too busy, the Institute's CEO Meik Wiking, says poor communication is usually at the heart of stress. “Stress comes from places where communication does not flow properly,” Wiking says.
His Institute has found that the intervention with the most benefit is helping people across the organization talk openly about what is wrong, how it can be improved, and what they are feeling. The takeaway here is that by opening up to your colleagues and being clear about what may bother you, you can pave the way to better communication and less stress overall.
Don't Just Co-exist: A study from Southern Methodist University in Dallas discovered that people actually feel happier around friends than family. However, the study’s author pointed out that the finding had more to do with the type of activity being engaged in rather than the people with whom it was shared. With family, we’re more prone to simply coexist together, doing things like chores whereas, with friends, we tend to do more fun activities.
The important takeaway here is that you can create better social connections with your family (or the people you share your home with) when you try to engage in more fun activities like board games or baking rather than just coexisting.
The Great Outdoors: We have all heard, many times, that spending time outdoors boosts our mental health. Experts have long known that time outdoors makes you happy. Spending just two hours a week in natural environments such as parks or green spaces boosts well-being, according to a 2019 paper published in the journal Nature. And, with winter coming, it's wise to plan outdoor escapades; the Norwegians even have a word for it: Friluftsliv. They have what Stanford University health psychologist Kari Leibowitz calls “positive wintertime mindset.” Remember: “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing!” (In Norwegian, it rhymes.)
Restore Yourself: Find out what restores your calm. Is it going for a walk? Talking to a friend? Enjoying art? Sorting the sock drawer? When you determine what restores you, schedule time each week to devote to your restorative practice. One of the team at OGN Towers recommends another idea. She's a huge fan of taking photographs and has masses of albums, as well as many video tapes from when her children were young. There's something extremely special about bringing back good memories simply by looking at a picture or watching videos of times past. Indeed, a survey published in Nature last year, suggested that positive memories can help reduce vulnerability to depression.
Bright Light Therapy: There’s a reason depression levels are linked to the season. The sun is a powerful force, and sitting in front of a lightbox that generates 10,000 Lux for 30 to 60 minutes a day was correlated with a 2.5 point drop on the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. Don’t have access to a lightbox? Try getting outside whenever the sun is shining. Remember, take a Vitamin D supplement - it will not only help your health, evidence increasingly points to its benefits in fighting off coronavirus.