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Want To Be Happier? Try Adopting These Habits For Better Health

Posted on March 26, 2024 by Henry Ford Health Staff
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We’re all looking for the secret potion that will help us live healthier, happier lives—the job, relationships and life experiences that will bring us joy. But what if achieving real happiness requires a conscious effort?

According to Alexis Federman, D.O., a primary care physician at Henry Ford Health, happiness is actually the result of choices we make every day. “From what you eat for breakfast to how you spend your downtime, happiness happens when you make decisions that support a healthier life” she says.

How To Be Happier

If you’re hoping to cultivate more happiness in your daily life, these 10 strategies can help.

1. See your doctor.

Paying a yearly visit to your primary care physician is critical to your overall health and happiness. In addition to covering preventive screening exams, your doctor can help you identify risk factors such as diet, smoking and inactivity that can negatively affect your happiness level.

2. Get enough sleep.

When you’re sleep deprived, your mood is likely to take a nosedive. “Sleep is critical for both body and mind to function optimally,” Dr. Federman says. “Studies show that people who get between eight and nine hours of sleep are healthier, happier and more productive.”

To create the best conditions for your mind and body to reset, practice good sleep hygiene: Go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day (even on weekends). Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet, and power down devices two hours before bedtime.

3. Eat a savory breakfast.

After several hours without food, eating a satisfying breakfast can put a spring in your step and set you up for a happier day. Dr. Federman recommends avoiding sweets and fats for the first meal of the day and opting for protein-rich smoothies, oatmeal and eggs. “These foods break down more slowly and help you feel more energized,” she says.

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4. Get moving.

Being physically active can help keep your weight in check, reduce disease risk, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday tasks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five days each week, including things like brisk walking, biking, tennis, gardening and swimming.

For a greater boost, get your exercise fix outdoors. Studies show that spending time in nature releases feel-good hormones.

5. Forge connections.

Research suggests that building meaningful relationships is the greatest predictor of happiness. “Having a strong support network improves our ability to recover from stress, anxiety and depression,” Dr. Federman says.

“Loneliness is linked to stress, anxiety and depression, as well as heart disease, insomnia and cognitive impairment,” she adds. A diverse pool of friends challenges you to think creatively and opens your mind to new possibilities.

6. Have fun.

Carve out time for play and laughter in your daily life. Create a happy songs playlist (and rock out to it). Watch comedies and spend time with friends who make you laugh out loud. Enjoyable activities release a flood of chemicals that boost mood and reduce stress.

7. Cultivate gratitude.

Expressing gratitude, even to yourself, is a simple and powerful way to feel better about yourself and the world around you. A few ideas: Name three (or more!) things you’re grateful for each day, handwrite a thank you card to someone you appreciate and meditate on your feelings of gratitude. “Practicing gratitude not only increases your appreciation in the moment, it also boosts long-term happiness,” Dr. Federman says.

8. Watch the self-talk.

It’s not uncommon to play your worst moments on a loop in your mind. You might find yourself saying some variation of “I’m so stupid! Why did I do that?” or “I should’ve tried harder, gone a different direction or made a different choice.”

One way to flip the script: Think about what you might say to a friend or colleague and use that line with yourself. “You’re a bright person … you’ll do better next time.”

9. Minimize screen time.

Whether you’re watching TV, surfing the Internet or scrolling through social media, screen time can be draining. Limit usage to no more than 30 minutes each day outside of school and work activities.

Social media is especially good at hijacking happiness. “Mindlessly scrolling through acquaintances’ perfect pictures has been shown to increase feelings of depression and anxiety—especially for teenagers,” Dr. Federman says.

10. Volunteer.

Being altruistic makes people happy. It’s linked to areas of the brain leading to contentment. “Merely promising to be more generous is enough to create changes in the brain that make us happier,” Dr. Federman says. “And it does society good, too.” Make time to volunteer or donate gently used items to people in need.

Choose Happiness Now

No matter how old (or young) you are, it’s never too late to start your quest toward greater happiness. Don’t focus on things like, “I’ll be happy when I lose 15 pounds,” or “I’ll be happy when my kids get out of school,” or “I’ll be happy when I get the perfect job.” Focus instead on what you can do right now to cultivate more happiness.

“Start small and make one change at a time,” suggests Dr. Federman. “Happiness isn’t something that happens outside of you. It’s something you create from the inside out.”

Concerned that you may be facing obstacles in the path toward more happiness? Don’t ignore those feelings. If you’re experiencing ongoing depression or anxiety, or suffering from feelings of worthlessness, talk to your doctor. “There are plenty of treatment options available for these issues,” Dr. Federman says.


Reviewed by Dr. Alexis Federman, a primary care doctor who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center - Livonia.
Categories : FeelWell
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