Opinion: How to be Happier and Healthier; a Few Reminders.
Last weekend, we were reminded to be thankful. Now, as winter looms and days grow shorter, darker, and colder, perhaps we could use a few reminders of the things we already know, really, about being happier and healthier — mentally healthier, too. Thanksgiving day — Monday, October 10 — was also World Mental Health day. It’s worth spending a few moments to think about retaining and perhaps improving our state of being. The following reminders come to us from “Action For Happiness” and “Mental Health First Aid (England)”.
First, that old saw about it being “more blessed to give than to receive” holds true — when we give to others, it makes us feel better. All of us, including the least well-off financially, can give the gift of listening to others — non-judgmentally; or can share skills or knowledge. We can be generous with our attention — turn off that phone and talk to someone in person.
Giving attention is closely tied to relating to others. Keeping friendships alive instead of simply moving on or relating only through electronic devices can be important to your happiness. Try getting in touch with someone you haven’t seen for a while. Again, turn off those distracting devices and be fully present with them.
Exercising produces “feel-good” endorphins in our bodies while it gives us all sorts of other benefits, physical and mental. For the best benefits, get as much of your exercise outside as you can; it’s good for us to be out in the trees and hills. If you’re capable of walking, walk to work or to do errands around town as much as you can. Don’t just automatically start the car every time to need to go somewhere. It may take a bit longer to walk, but the benefits are huge! And you can smile and talk to people on your way.
Be aware of what’s around you; this is being “mindful” and is a way of alleviating anxiety. What can you see? What can you hear? Are there any scents drifting on the air? What does you sense of touch tell you about where you are? This is another way of being in touch with the world around you — just paying attention to where you are and what your surrounding are. It’s also a good way to notice and enjoy wildlife — and to avoid hazards!
Experiment with new activities — learn something. Try out a new role. It’s good for your brain, and often good for your mood.
If your experiment or learning experiences don’t go well, be resilient. We can’t control all that happens, but we have some control over how it affects us. We can choose to accept an outcome that we didn’t want, and to learn something from it and then move on to something else; we can ventilate to a friend about it and then let it go — that’s if we have maintained friendships with others who are willing to give us the gift of their attention and caring! If we have made a serious mistake that has hurt someone else, we can accept responsibility for it, apologize and do what we can to repair the harm. Everyone makes mistakes. It makes us feel better if we can acknowledge them and learn from our mistakes, and try to make up for them.
That approach to making mistakes is part of accepting who we are, accepting that we can’t always be everything we’d like to be; we don’t have to beat ourselves up for it. We can be grateful for the things we can do, and the things we have, rather than yearning after skills or possessions we think we want but don’t have. How much do we need, anyway? Much less than most of us already have.
Have some fun. Set time aside for what you love to do. Focus on your positive emotions — they build up a buffer against stress and over time, can lead to lasting changes in the brain that support well-being.
And as for diet, which has a huge influence on our health and well-being, don’t obsess and stress about it. Eating well is really simple: just avoid processed foods with their burden of excess fats and sugars, avoid foods containing pesticides and herbicides, eat mostly plants, and don’t eat too much. Drink water as your beverage of choice, and be grateful that we have enough.
There. I feel better already.