How to be happy, live a purpose driven life in 2018
What can you do to ensure that 2018 will be a truly happy year? Medical News Today looks at some tips that researchers have recommended for a healthier, more fulfilling life. If there is anything that everyone undoubtedly wants in their life, it is that often elusive feeling of happiness. But there is, of course, no miracle recipe that all of us can follow to feel that glow of joy 24/7.
In this article, we do not tell you how to reach Nirvana. Instead, we look at the small things that most of us can reasonably achieve in the New Year so that we may improve our mental and physical well-being.
Here are some steps that you can take starting right now to boost your quality of life. The rest is up to you, so mind that you keep your New Year’s resolutions!
Be more active
This year, many studies have focused on the role of physical exercise not only in keeping us fit, but also in improving other aspects of our physical and mental health. A study conducted earlier this year by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, found that women’s perception of their own bodies improves after they exercise.
The effect appears to be immediate and doesn’t depend on mood or actual state of fitness after exercising. Furthermore, numerous recent studies have shown that exercise can counteract and prevent depression, which affects 40 million adults in the United States every year.
As little as one hour of exercise each week, regardless of intensity, can keep mood disorders at bay, found researchers from Australia’s Black Dog Institute. “Any movement is better than nothing,” explains Michelle Segar, from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, so we should stop feeling guilty about not reaching a set target or not exercising at a certain intensity.
Get enough sleep
Much research published in 2017 has focused on the prominent role played by a good night’s sleep in our mental and physical health. Sleep, we now know, is important in memory consolidation, fear learning, and keeping our brain well-rested so that we can react appropriately to events during the day.
Since people affected by insomnia are twice as likely as their peers to develop depression, it comes as no surprise that a good night’s sleep should be a priority in our search for happiness and wellness. Ensuring that we are well rested can make our level of contentment peak, says a study that was conducted by the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. The authors of the paper compare this happiness boost with winning the lottery.
A study from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL, suggests that people who have a clear life purpose do actually sleep better at night. So, as you draft your New Year’s resolutions, why not take a step back and consider what your main goals in life are, and how you can achieve them?
Settle for a happy diet
This may come as no surprise, but what you eat does influence your mood. Research published in PLOS Online earlier this year argued that eating a fruit- and veggie-happy diet may improve mental health within two weeks.
The study authors found that adding more servings of fruits and vegetables to our usual intake could make us feel more motivated and boost our energy levels.
A systematic review of multiple studies that investigated the link between diet and mental health concluded that a Mediterranean-style diet consisting mainly of fruit, vegetables, fish, and whole grains could prevent depression.
Make friends with the great outdoors
Research also suggests that, if we want to get that joie de vivre into our lives in 2018, then we had better spend more time outside. Going to the local shopping mall won’t cut it, however. In order to really feel happier, we should spend more time in nature. One study shows that green spaces make us happy, and, conversely, when we don’t have access to nature, we tend to become depressed.
Moreover, a recent experiment conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia showed that people who took a minute to observe small details in nature and register the emotional impact caused by these felt happier and more connected to their peers.
So, one easy step that you can take to improve your life in 2018 is simply a step outside, and then keep on walking. After all, a leisurely walk on its own has been found to have a positive effect on mood.
Be kind to others and to yourself
Finally, but very importantly, in order to achieve a stronger sense of fulfilment and well-being, you should learn to treat yourself with kindness — and then extend that generosity to others. Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire in the U.K. found that, although self-acceptance is a habit that can lead to greater happiness, it is one that very few people have formed.
A study conducted earlier this year also confirmed that, if we embrace our negative emotions, we are less at risk of perpetuating them and more likely to achieve self-healing. One of our goals in the New Year should definitely be practicing more self-love and self-care.
At the same time, the care that we show to others, as well as our degree of gratefulness toward our peers, can influence our levels of happiness.
Profs. Phillipe Tobler and Ernst Fehr, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, showed that generosity is strongly associated with happiness, and we feel more joy when we give.
This supports previous research that indicated that volunteer work brings psychological benefits.
Lastly, remember to just be thankful. Gratitude for what we have, and for the people in our lives, is another important factor when it comes to mental well-being, leading to more optimism and improved relationships.
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