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How to Be Happy

What does it mean to be happy? Happiness isn't something you can just wake up and decide to feel. Even with all the medications and other get-happy-fast remedies on the market today, there is no way to reach a permanent state of happiness. It is ephemeral, and it can come and go with something as trivial as a change in the weather. Still, there are ways to steer clear of the paths leading you toward anger, anxiety, sadness, and frustration. Here are a few ways to help get you well on your way to achieving a happier you.

  • Focus on the now - Start living your life in the moment. Don't worry about your doctor's appointment tomorrow when you're having dinner with your family tonight. Be mindful of what's presently going on around you. Let yourself enjoy the food, the conversation, and the company.

  • Stay fit - Take care of your body. Eat nutritious food and stay active. Do your best to make exercise an integral part of your everyday life. This can be as simple as running up the stairs in your house instead of walking, or playing with your kids at the park. If you have time to take a class at your local gym, pick an activity you enjoy. If you need motivation to stick with it, team up with a friend.

  • Get excited - Just the anticipation of an exciting or happy upcoming event can raise your endorphin levels and lower stress. In one study, conducted by the University of California, Irvine, 16 subjects all agreed they thought a certain videotape was funny. Half of them were told three days in advance they would watch it, and they started experiencing biological changes immediately. Upon seeing the video, their endorphin levels rose 27 percent.

  • Sleep more - If you're an American, you're probably aware that we are a sleep-deprived nation. Turning out the light by 9 p.m. and getting a night of at least eight hours sleep can do wonders for your mood and your overall outlook on life. If getting to bed by 9 sounds nearly impossible, a 20-minute cat nap during the day can be helpful, too.

  • Clean up - How can you relax when every surface around you is covered in clutter? Dedicate a weekend to some spring cleaning. Purge your closet of clothes you no longer wear. Throw away old bills and magazines. Turn that junk drawer in the kitchen into something you can actually use. Decorate your environment with things you love to look at, like pictures of your family and friends.

  • Quit multitasking - Studies have shown that people who multitask are more likely to have high blood pressure. Instead of folding laundry or washing the dishes while you talk on the phone, sit down somewhere comfortable and focus your attention on the conversation. Don't check your e-mail until you're done working on another project. Both your health and happiness will benefit from this.

  • Just say no - Do your best to eliminate activities that aren't necessary and that you don't enjoy, and don't take on more than you can handle. If you're stressed out by the thought of running the school auction again this year, take a step back and let someone else handle it.

  • Sing along - Studies show that music activates parts of the brain that produce happiness - the same parts that are activated by food and sex. Music is also relaxing. One study showed that adults who listened to their choice of music during non-invasive eye surgery had significantly lower heart rates and blood pressure than those who listened to no music.

  • Use lists - It is said that writing down your thoughts helps relieve stress, so why not write down your tasks to help you organize your thoughts and calm your anxiety? Make lists and use them often. Checking off each item as you complete it will give you a great sense of fulfillment.

  • Get your hands dirty - Fresh air and exercise are two of the best stress reducers, which is why gardening can be so good for your mental well-being. The sense of accomplishment that comes from watching seeds turn into flowers or enjoying fresh vegetables from your own backyard will last for days and weeks to come.

  • Tune out the news - Go one week without reading the newspaper, watching the news, or visiting CNN.com. Take a vacation from the media showcase of misery and take a walk, read a book or meditate.

  • Volunteer - Helping those less fortunate than you will help you put your own problems into perspective, not to mention provide you with some valuable social interaction. And best of all, helping others will make you feel good! One study found that volunteer work enhanced all six aspects of well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression.

  • Feed your soul - Studies have shown that actively religious people are happier and cope better in times of stress. Have a little faith. Among other things, it can provide you with a support community, feelings of acceptance, and a reason to focus beyond yourself.

  • Face your feelings - Don't bury your negative feelings in an attempt to be happy. If you don't accept them, they'll only bubble up, and eventually, boil over. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better, whether it's going for a long drive, talking about your problems with a close friend, or treating yourself to your favorite dessert. Sometimes you need to do something indulgent to feel good, so give yourself permission to do so every once in awhile, and do it without guilt.

  • Count your blessings - If you take a few moments each day to reflect on some of the positive aspects of your life - your good health, your loving family, your wonderful friends - you're sure to experience a heightened sense of well-being overall.

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Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen


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