I promised to share with you more happiness boosters this month. This is an appropriate time to focus on your happiness, as you celebrate the Christmas season with friends and relatives. And so, here we go:
Widen your circle of friends.
Relationships with close friends are one of the best vehicles to happiness. Trust me, I know this. Nothing lifts me up more than a good laugh with friends. Bonds with friends give us a sense of purpose and come with many emotional benefits. Research shows that friends keep us healthy, reduce anxiety, and even foster longevity. In fact, friendships are so critical to a person’s well being that the opposite of friendship – social isolation – has been found to be as damaging to one’s health as heavy smoking is. To make the most of your ties to others, put the same energy into your relationships with your friends as you would in a romantic relationship. Be enthusiastic, set aside time for special activities together, and keep each other updated on your daily lives. Your friends will do the same for you, which will create feelings of support, belonging and gratitude. If you have not kept in touch with your friends, the holidays are a good time to do so.
Decide and move on.
Do you know that less is truly more when it comes to choices? Too many options can paralyse you, prompt you to make poor decisions, or leave you second-guessing yourself. When you think there are more attractive alternatives out there, even your good decisions may leave you unsatisfied. People who continually seek out the best of everything – be it a job, a partner, or even a gadget or dress – are more stressed and less fulfilled. There are times I become that kind of a person. I find myself rethinking a decision, feeling that may be I could have done better. But I have learnt new tricks to reduce the anxiety that comes with this feeling. I try not to revisit a decision once it’s made. I say to myself that, “good enough is good enough.” This at first may be unsettling, but after a few days you become liberated and are at peace with your decision. I have also learnt another lesson – of limiting my choices. If I want a pair of shoes or dress, I will limit my choices to three, choose one and move on, end of story. This leaves me limited room of thinking about many other choices I missed out.
Silence toxic self talk.
Do you have a habit of ruminating on your shortcomings? Thinking obsessively about your mistakes drags you down and gives you an increasing negative disposition. One problem leads to another, and all of a sudden it seems as if your whole life is a mess. Over time, this pattern makes you vulnerable to depression and anxiety. But it’s easier than it seems to break the cycle. Once you accept that you are human and prone to making mistakes, you will remedy the mistake, if you can, or say sorry and move on. When you find it difficult to get your mind off the blunder you have made, try to distract yourself by doing something that helps you refocus. I like taking a walk in the garden or listening to music to distract myself. Just one small action can pop the bubble of worry surrounding you.
Match your intentions to your actions.
You have goals, both big and small; you make to-do-lists and set priorities. So why don’t you feel fulfilled? We find happiness when we derive pleasure as well as meaning from what we do. In other words, you may say family comes first, but if you work long hours each day, you are creating an internal conflict that chips away at your chances of happiness. When researchers from the University of Georgia in Atlanta, USA, examined the lives of people who reached 100 years, they found one of the most common things the centenarians shared was a sense of purpose they continued to pursue. Ensure you have a purpose in your life and pursue it diligently with actions not words alone. If you work long hours and want to spend more time with your family, start by leaving the office 30 minutes earlier each day until you achieve your goal.
Get a hobby.
Creative pastime activities make people content but many have difficulty fitting one into their packed schedule. Creativity helps you adapt to life by making you more flexible and open to experiences. This, in turn, fosters satisfaction and self-esteem. Since the benefits come from the process rather than the product, you don’t have to write an award-winning poem to feel the effect. A hobby you are passionate about helps you broaden your horizon. Another way to broaden your horizon is to change your routine. When you break from the daily grind and watch your mind expand, your happiness level rises.
Though its been proven time and again that exercise lifts your mood and improves sleep quality, we often let our workout time slide. If a tight schedule is keeping you from lacing up your sneakers, keep this in mind: A study from Northern Arizona University in USA found that energy levels, fatigue and mood improved after just 10 minutes of moderate exercise. After 20 minutes, the effects were even greater. This means just two or three short bouts of exercise each day are enough to improve your happiness level. A good way to squeeze exercise in your routine is to start walking every day. You can walk to work, in your neighbourhood, or around your work place. If you know you will not go out on your own, form a walking group with colleagues or friends. Your interactions with others will increase when you walk and chat, and this will give your mood a double boost. Follow my tips, boost your happiness and enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas everyone!