The keys to happiness: 7 habits to be happier

“May I be given the strength to endure what cannot be changed and the courage to change what can be, but also the wisdom to distinguish one from the other. » This famous quote from Marc Aurèle gives us a first key to happiness: let’s focus on what can be changed in our lives in order to move towards more happiness.

But what habits can help us be happier and less anxious? Here are 7.

Habit #1: Smile

Forcing ourselves to smile can make us see life in pink! In a study published in Experimental Psychology, researchers asked a group of people to maintain a forced smile and others not. They then showed participants facial expressions and body movements in the form of pictures and videos. Result: the participants who had forced themselves to smile interpreted the images in a much more positive way than the others.

According to the researchers, this phenomenon is the result of stimulation of the amygdala – the emotional center of the brain – by the facial muscles. When you smile, this area of ​​the brain releases brain chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) that give rise to a positive emotional state.

Dr. Marmolejo-Ramos explains: “When your muscles tell you you’re happy, you’re more likely to view the world around you in a positive light.”

To learn more, read: To be happier, smile!

Habit #2: Spending time in nature

Numerous studies show that contact with nature promotes physical and mental health. For example, in a Stanford University study, the authors asked 38 healthy people to walk for 90 min either in a green space near the university or in an urban environment, on a street with car traffic. The researchers observed that walking in nature reduced rumination and blood flow in an area of ​​the brain that is commonly associated with rumination (the subgenual prefrontal cortex). Mental ruminations are often negative thoughts that invade the mind. On the other hand, walking in town did not have this effect. Other studies show that adults who walk regularly in green spaces suffer less from depression. The walk in nature would also act on the amygdala of the brain.

Read : Forest bathing, a new anti-stress

For Emmanuel Duquoc, author of The 3 emotions that heala walk in nature can also help calm his anger: “Starting on your own is also an effective route, especially if you are walking or running in nature, movement and contemplation of nature having in themselves a calming effect. More activity requires attention, the more it involves the body, the more effective it will be. Shopping or eating, for example, are not such effective methods because it is possible to rehash while practicing them.”

Habit #3: Exercise

If you go in the middle of nature to play sports, it’s even better! In 2021, a study published in Medicine showed that aerobic physical exercise reduced depressive symptoms in college students. The aerobic exercises include, for example, jogging, cycling, brisk walking, etc.

Find this study in our article: Students: for your morale, try jogging, meditation or tai-chi

Habit #4: Get enough sleep

Sleep and depression are strongly linked. On the one hand, people with depression tend to oversleep. And on the other, chronic lack of sleep may aggravate mood disorders or induce the first symptoms of depression.

In I learn to sleep better, biologist Shawn Stevenson recounts an experiment conducted at Stanford on university basketball players where researchers studied the effects of sleep on their performance. Athletes were asked to increase their amount of sleep to an average of 8.5 hours per night. Sleep specialist Michael J. Breus presented the positive results of the study on basketball players, including on their minds: “They reported an improvement in their mood and overall physical well-being (during games and practices).”

To find good sleep habits, read I learn to sleep better

People’s happiness depends on the happiness of the people they are connected to

Habit #5: Hang out with positive people

To be happy, know how to surround yourself with the right people! This is suggested by a survey conducted as part of the Framingham Heart Study. DResearchers at Harvard and the University of California looked at the social networks of 4,700 adults followed for twenty years. Their conclusion is simple: “People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are at the center of the network are more likely to become happy in the future. » Indeed, within a network, happiness spreads from one person to another. For example, the researchers explain: “A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the likelihood that a person will be happy by 25%. » Similar effects are seen in spouses who live together, siblings who live less than a mile away, and next-door neighbors (if you have to move, a word of advice: visit your future neighbors!). Conclusion of the authors: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of the people they are connected to. »

Habit #6: Meditate or Do Breathing Exercises

Mindfulness meditation builds calm. Increasingly used in psychotherapy to fight against depressive symptoms and stress, it invites you to focus on your breathing, to observe your thoughts and to let them pass without judgment.

In general, breathing exercises, such as cardiac coherence, lead to a slowing of the respiratory rate which is favorable to relaxation and well-being. A study of the university of Pisa on Slow Breathing Relaxation Methods compiled the results of research on techniques where participants breathed less than ten times per minute. They found that slow breathing techniques act on the autonomic and central nervous systems: there were links between parasympathetic activity, brain activity, emotional control and psychological well-being in healthy people who practiced slow breathing exercises.

Habit #7: Eat Good Foods

Overall a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in sugary foods, meats or ultra-processed foods reduces the risk of depression. fatty acids omega-3 found in oily fish are also known to have a positive effect on mood. L’Mediterranean diet also seems good for morale and reduce the risk of depression.

Good for the mind, adopt the anti-depression diet proposed by our team: The anti-depression diet (subscribers)

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The keys to happiness: 7 habits to be happier

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