The Path to Happiness Starts With Self-Care
Self-care is any act that nourishes your body and soul. This can include everything from flossing to getting a haircut.
Physical self-care practices include eating well, prioritizing sleep and exercising regularly. Psychological self-care includes practicing self-compassion and maintaining a healthy inner voice. Spiritual self-care is nurturing the spirit through practices like meditation, prayer or yoga.
Research shows that a regular exercise program can increase your happiness, boost your mood and improve your memory. The best part is, you can start seeing the benefits with just 10 minutes of physical activity a day.
Many people associate exercise with the feeling of a “runner’s high” that leaves them happy and energized. However, studies show that endorphins only play a small role in how exercise makes us feel. In fact, the majority of the mood-boosting effects of exercise come from changes in brain chemicals and body systems that can make you happier.
When you exercise, your body releases a group of “feel-good” natural chemicals called neurotransmitters, which include serotonin, dopamine, brain-derived neurotrophic factor and endocannabinoids. These chemicals have been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression and promote feelings of joy, confidence and mastery. In addition, exercise decreases the levels of agitating hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that can cause feelings of stress and anxiety.
In one study, researchers found that adolescents who exercised regularly experienced higher levels of subjective well-being and self-satisfaction. In addition, they also had greater life satisfaction and a sense of purpose. This was likely due to the positive impact on mood, increased memory and reduced cortisol levels from regular exercise.
Other studies have shown that exercise can help prevent depression and even have a similar effect as antidepressants. These beneficial effects of exercise may be attributed to the fact that it increases levels of the monoamines noradrenaline and dopamine in the brain, and reduces the release of the stress hormone cortisol.
Additionally, physical activity can enhance cognitive functions and increase the thickness of the hippocampus, a region of the brain that is responsible for spatial memory. This can help you remember things about your environment, such as directions to your favorite restaurant or how to find your car keys.
All types of exercise can be beneficial to your mental health. However, most of the research on how exercise makes you happier is based on aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, walking and swimming. Other types of physical activity, such as strength training and yoga, can be just as effective. Just try to choose a type of exercise that you enjoy, so that you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
2. Eat Well
You probably know that eating well is important to your physical health, but it’s also important for your mental wellbeing. In fact, studies show that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can improve your mental health by increasing feelings of happiness.
Eating well can help with happiness by nourishing your body, which can lead to an increase in brain chemicals, such as serotonin. Serotonin plays a role in your mood, sleep, learning, memory and appetite. Eating well can also help with happiness by lowering stress, as it can improve the way your body deals with negative emotions.
In the past, it was thought that vegetables had a greater impact on happiness than other foods, but new research shows that fruits and vegetables both increase happiness in the moment. In the study, people were asked to rate their in-the-moment feeling of happiness after consuming different types of food. The results showed that a person’s feeling of happiness increased after consuming foods with a lower glycemic index, like fruits and vegetables. The in-the-moment happiness increases were comparable to those that were measured after consuming high glycemic foods, such as chocolate bars and burgers.
However, the researchers were quick to point out that they are not saying that it is “healthy” to eat chocolate bars or burgers. This type of high-glycemic-index eating might provide short-term satisfaction, but it’s not going to make you happy in the long run. Instead, the researchers suggest that you choose healthy snacks and meals to nourish your body and mind.
If you struggle with making healthy choices, remember that it takes time to change old habits. Be patient and try to introduce one small change at a time. For example, start by reducing your processed sugar intake, and then replace it with fresh fruit. Eventually, you’ll find yourself enjoying the healthier alternatives, and you’ll be on your way to a happier life!
3. Get Enough Sleep
Although genetics and circumstances play a large role in happiness, many studies show that we can increase our enjoyment of life through regular habits such as getting enough sleep. Just like breaking bad habits, it takes effort to change your routine and make good ones a priority.
Several studies have shown that getting adequate amounts of sleep improves mood and reduces the risk for various health conditions. Getting enough sleep can help you control your weight, prevent heart disease and maintain a healthy balance of hormones.
A lack of sleep can cause you to feel irritable, anxious, stressed and angry. Taking the time to get enough sleep may be challenging as most of us live in a busy world that demands constant productivity, but it is possible. Putting self-care practices into place, even if they only take five minutes each day, can significantly enhance your overall quality of life and lead to happiness.
Physical self-care involves the daily care of your body, including eating at regular times and exercising regularly. Exercise can improve your mood, reduce stress and strengthen your body. It’s important to do exercises you enjoy, whether that’s walking in nature or trying a new group fitness class.
Emotional self-care includes activities that help you connect to others and the things in your life that bring you joy, contentment or delight. For example, spending time with friends and family, practicing gratitude and optimism, and focusing on your purpose are all ways to create positive emotions.
Spiritual self-care can include religious or spiritual activities such as prayer, meditation or reciting affirmations. It can also involve writing a letter of appreciation to someone who has positively impacted your life.
Getting enough sleep can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness and increase your energy levels. There is no one-size-fits-all amount of sleep that’s right for you, but a general rule of thumb is to get at least seven hours of rest each night. Ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep by keeping a consistent bedtime, avoiding heavy meals and caffeine before sleeping, removing electronic devices from your bedroom, exercising during the day, and ensuring that your bedroom is dark, quiet and comfortable.
4. Take Care of Yourself
It’s no secret that taking care of yourself is essential to happiness, but many people don’t realize that there are different aspects to self-care. It’s not just about eating right, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly — it’s also about being mentally healthy, emotionally stable and spiritually fulfilled. In addition, there are several other types of self-care that can help you achieve your overall happiness, such as putting down your phone for a few hours or learning something new to expand your knowledge and skills. Better Tools has some helpful articles you can read about how to properly take care of yourself.
There’s a fine line between practicing self-care and being self-centered, so it’s important to strike the right balance. You should never put yourself above your family, friends and co-workers — but you should also be aware of how you are treating yourself. This can be done by paying attention to how you feel and setting healthy boundaries.
For example, if you’re feeling anxious, take a walk and breathe deeply to calm yourself. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try writing a journal or talking to a friend to express how you are feeling. If you’re feeling tired, schedule time for yourself to get a good night’s rest. Putting yourself first is essential, but it’s also important to know your limits and say no when necessary.
When you make self-care a priority, you’ll find that it benefits your physical and mental health. Moreover, you’ll be better equipped to take care of those around you and handle life’s challenges.
So don’t let the busyness of your day-to-day life prevent you from making time for yourself. Take a step back to remember what brings you happiness, and create a list of non-negotiable self-care practices that work for you. Then, commit to incorporating those habits into your daily routine. With a little time and effort, you’ll soon notice a difference in your mood. Until next time, happy living!