Have you ever wondered what triggers happiness? Research has shown that once you get past providing for your basic needs, additional money doesn’t materially increase your happiness level. So, are there any strategies that can move the needle on our happiness scale?
The answer is YES! Research found that a few tricks and change of habits might induce more happiness in our lives. The first is exercise. Cardiovascular exercise (that is, a strenuous workout) functions almost like a wonder drug with regard to a person’s overall well-being and has recently been associated with the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain known to be affected by depression.
You probably already know that processed sugars can cause unhappy moods, but until recently the reasons had been unclear. A growing body of evidence indicates that our gut microbes affect our mental health in significant ways, and the foods we eat can reduce certain strains of bacteria. Eating a plant-based diet, low in sugar and processed foods, may help promote the body chemistry associated with happiness.
In addition, there is evidence that people who maintain a structured schedule are better at avoiding depression than their unstructured peers. A daily routine is in itself comforting when you’re down or depressed, and the habits you form ensure that you will get out and be social (and maybe get exercise) even if you don’t feel like it.
A body of research also suggests that regularly communing with other people may be the single best thing you can do for your mental health. When we get depressed, there is a tendency to isolate ourselves, but if we have a community to fall back on, people to talk to, a good friend or life partner who will be there for us, it can have a powerful counter-effect on depression.
Finally, meditation improves mental health. Studies have shown that eight weeks of meditation training does a better job of reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety than antidepressants! Among other things, meditation reduces activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN), which is active when our minds are wandering into negative or stressful thoughts.
If you feel down or simply want to increase your happiness, try some of these changes and as the song goes: “Don’t worry be happy!”
“I strive to provide clients with peace of mind about their financial affairs so they can focus on enjoying a rich and meaningful life.”