Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean we’re destined to be 50 shades of glum. And with mood so closely linked to our overall health and wellbeing, it’s even more important to find ways to smile through the dark times.
There are things you can do, scientifically proven, to help you feel happier and improve your outlook on life in challenging times.
Research has found that just 3 min of negative news in the morning can ruin your mood for the day. If you’re going to consume content in the morning, make sure it’s positive and uplifting to help set your mindset for a productive day. Or better yet, start your day with exercise or meditation.
But it’s not just the morning. News is coming at us from everywhere - all the time!
Here are some ways to help you disconnect from toxic media:
Avoid engaging in conversations on tense topics
Set yourself a news-free day each week
Set timers or use apps to reduce doom-scrolling (toxic news addiction)
Put devices in another room when not in use
Limit your news consumption to 30 min per day
It’s the lack of control that makes most of us anxious. So, instead of getting stressed about things you can’t control, focus your energy on what you can control. If you’re worried about people being out of work, donate or volunteer at a food bank. You could even start a collection at work!
If you’re struggling to take action on your stress, try these three steps:
Step 1: Acknowledge your stress
Acknowledge your stress to begin shifting your mindset from a fearful, defensive place to one of thought, purpose and action.
Step 2: Own your stress
Connect your values and goals with your underlying stress by completing the following sentence: “I’m stressed about [insert stressor from Step 1] because I deeply care about…”
Step 3: Use your stress
Focus on how you react to stressors and channel your energy into positive, happier outcomes. Is your reaction in line with the values and goals behind that stress? Is your reaction helping or hindering?
Taking action on your stress can really help to improve your disposition in challenging times.
According to Psychologist Dr Tayla Steinberg, “receiving, giving, or even witnessing acts of kindness increases immunity and the production of serotonin”. This feel-good chemical helps calm you down, physically heal, and make you feel happy.
Furthermore, a 2020 study in the journal of Psychological Bulletin found that spontaneous acts of kindness, such as helping an elderly neighbour carry their groceries, can have a more positive effect on mood and overall wellbeing than planned acts, such as scheduled volunteer work.
For a happiness boost, try these random acts of kindness today:
Give a compliment to colleague
Send a hello email or text to a friend or family member you haven't seen for a while
Make a handmade card
Smile at everyone
Help an elder with their groceries
Do a chore for someone who needs help
Say “I love you” to everyone you love
Listen to a friend
For more random acts of kindness ideas for home and work, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.
No surprise here. People who exercise regularly are generally happier and healthier. And you don’t even need to hit it hard to benefit. Research shows that people who work out once a week or for as little as 10 min a day tend to be happier than those that don’t exercise.
Regular exercise also improves sleep quality, drastically affecting your mood, outlook, and ability to recover from setbacks. But all too often, the challenge isn’t just getting started, it’s sticking with it.
Author of “Atomic Habits”, James Clear, recommends these three simple ways to make exercise a regular habit:
1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier
Put on your walking gear immediately after you close your computer at the end of the day.
2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small
Make it so easy you can’t say no - like a 10 min walk around the block.
3. Focus on the habit first and the results later
The first goal is to make the habit stick, then start to set specific physical goals.
For 75 years, Harvard’s Study of Adult Development tracked the physical and emotional health of 724 people from 1939-2014. The lessons aren’t about wealth, fame, or working harder. Study director Dr Robert Waldinger states,
“The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
Three main lessons emerged from the study:
1. Loneliness is toxic
People who are more socially connected to family, friends, and community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than those who are less connected.
2. Quality matters
It’s not the number of friends, or whether you’re in a committed relationship or not, it’s the quality of your close relationships that matters most.
3. Good relationships protect our brains
Feeling you can count on someone close in times of need keeps your memory sharper as you age.
So how do you nurture relationships? These tips from Dr Waldinger’s 2015 TED Talk are a good place to start:
Replace screen time with people time
Try something new together - long walks, date nights
Reach out to a family member you haven’t spoken to in years
Forgive and repair family feuds and grudges
It’s important not to downplay your stress. Your concerns are real. But you aren’t helpless - you can do something about it and Indie is here for you too, so you have a wellbeing coach in your corner.
Disconnecting from toxic media, taking action on your stress, giving, exercising, and nurturing your relationships, are all scientifically proven ways to bring happiness into your life - even in the most challenging of times.