Who doesn’t want to be just a little bit happier? I mean, have you ever said to yourself “Gosh, I’m feeling a little bit too happy today. I should probably take it down a notch”?
Yeah, I didn’t think so. But, because we so often chase some elusive state of complete mental ecstasy, we overlook the little quick fixes that can help us build towards it. That’s sort of like picking up a book and wanting to skip right to the happy ending.
It just doesn’t work that way. Whether we like it or not, happiness takes work, but it’s guaranteed to be worth it.
At age 33, I was taking a cocktail of different psychiatric drugs to treat my lifelong depression and anxiety, including the anti-depressant venlafaxine, methylphenidate for the treatment of ADHD, and the powerful anti-convulsants lamictin and sodium valproate, which double as mood stabilizers.
These drugs were supposed to make me feel happier and think about killing myself a little less frequently or, you know, not at all. `Spoiler alert: they totally didn’t work.
After taking a fistful of pills every day for two years, I had gained significant weight (I had gone from a lean 165 pounds to a slightly robust 187 pounds), was suffering from constant headaches and dizzy spells, and had trouble remembering words and making sense of my thoughts – which is a bit of a problem when words are how you make a living.
Oh, and did I mention that the meds were costing me around $80 every month?
But I would have been able to live with all of these unpleasant side effects were it not for the fact that I still felt like total crap emotionally and psychologically. I had developed into a chunky, irritable and mostly broke depressive with a lifelong dependence on psychotropic medication to look forward to. Yay me.
So, one day, I simply said “screw this noise” and, with the supervision of an admittedly reluctant psychiatrist, started to ween myself off the medication.
Emotionally, I felt better almost instantly. I kid you not. Sure, there were some annoying and even downright dreadful physical symptoms as a result of SSRI withdrawal (the horrid “brain zapping” being the least fun out of all of them), but I could actually hear my mind thanking me for liberating it from its chemical shackles.
The marked improvement in my overall mood led me to conclude that the tools to be happy, or at least happier, had been around me all along, I had just been too caught up in what I hilariously thought was living to notice them.
I’ll say one thing for the drugs, breaking up with them helped me to see the world with renewed clarity and to experience the magical world that is hidden just beyond ours.
There are at least 101 ways to be happier than you were yesterday and, in the coming weeks, I hope to lay every single one of those ways down in a new eBook.
In the meantime, here’s an abbreviated list of instant mood-boosters to get you going.
- Share in the victories of others
Do you find yourself quietly resenting a friend or colleague whenever something good happens to them, and think to yourself “I work my ass off. Why does [insert seemingly undeserved bit of fortune] happen to him? Life is so unfair!”
That kind of thinking is toxic, and will ultimately rob you of your own happiness and make you bitter.
- Pay someone a compliment
Sure, getting complimented feels good, but it’s even more rewarding to make someone’s day by letting them know that you really like their new hairstyle, or you really appreciate the hard work they’ve been doing. You’d be surprised at how telling someone something good about themselves changes their entire body language and causes their face to light up. Go ahead and try it!
- Drink more water
Everyone knows that water is good for you. But did you know that consuming more of the stuff can actually improve your mood? Staying properly hydrated has been found not only to improve your physical health, but actually proves beneficial to mental and emotional wellbeing as well (and I don’t mean when it’s mixed with whiskey, okay?)
- Get more sun
I feel like I should add the disclaimer “ONLY WHEN WEARING SUNSCREEN! DUH!”, but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and choose to believe that you already knew that.
You’ve probably heard of something called Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated as SAD. Those medical folks sure have some sense of humor). People who suffer from SAD (this author included) typically fall into a funk during the winter months when there is less sunlight.
The reason for this is that exposure to sunlight causes our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which has been directly linked to mood and mental health. So, the next time you’re feeling down, go sit in the sun for a while or, alternatively, get your hands on a good quality UV light for your workstation.
- Forgive someone
I’ll be the first to admit that some things are easier to forgive than others, and you definitely shouldn’t force yourself to feel something you’re not ready to. But studies have shown that the act of forgiveness is not only good for your emotional health, but can actually improve physical health by decreasing stress, leading to reduced blood pressure and even better quality sleep! Count me in!
Let’s face it, the one thing that the vast majority of human beings crave is a sense of purpose. We want to feel that we are making a difference, leaving a mark, however small. Volunteering or doing charity work not only makes a difference in the lives of others, but it also fulfills our inborn need to accomplish something of meaning. Some places that you can volunteer are old age homes, animal shelters and soup kitchens.
- Make a list of 10 things that you’re thankful for
I’ve tried this one myself, and it’s a quick fix that really works. It may seem daunting at first, but you’d be surprised at just how easy it is to find 10 great things about your life. In fact, you may find it difficult limiting yourself to just 10…so don’t! Write away!
- Allow yourself to cry
Crying, like everything else our bodies do, serves a unique and important purpose: it’s a form of release, a catharsis, that enables us to cleanse ourselves of emotions such as grief or even anger and move past what has been causing us pain.
- Write or blog
Blogging is something that I have personally found to be very therapeutic. Even if you just write for yourself and nobody else ever reads it, writing provides a healthy outlet for thoughts and emotions as well as fulfilling the human need to be creative.
- Eat these foods
Diet plays a monumental role in mood and, in today’s fast-paced world of meetings and deadlines, we often sacrifice healthy eating in favor of convenience. Bad move, ke-mo sah-bee.
Processed foods and refined sugars will not only contribute to that expanding waistline, it can also wreak havoc with your mood. When it comes to good mood food, the experts recommend fatty fish such as sardines and anchovies, leafy greens, lean meat (like turkey) and whole grains and cereals.
- Change up your routine
Chances are you’ve heard the phrase “stuck in a rut” before. Heck, you’ve probably even used it yourself.
Of course, routine isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it helps us to plan our day and avoid unnecessary disruption to our schedule. But rigidly sticking to the same routine can lead to tedium which, in turn, can lead to our old friend depression (or at the very least boredom) rearing its ugly head.
- Practise breathing
My guess is that, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already mastered the art of breathing. In fact, it’s pretty much the first thing we learn to do and, to most of us, it comes quite naturally. However, I’m talking about mindful breathing; in other words, being conscious of every breath you take (you’ve got that song by The Police stuck in your head now, don’t you?).
When we breathe deeply and slowly, our brains are “tricked” into believing that we must be calm and relaxed instead of freaking the eff out, and it responds by actually plunging the body into a state of deep relaxation.
Check out some of these simple mindful breathing exercises.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself
We take ourselves so damn seriously that we forget to focus on important things like, you know, being happy. We confuse career success and financial well-being with happiness, and the result is that we keep chasing impossible ideals and moving our own personal goal posts, leaving us feeling constantly unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
Don’t be afraid to have a good, hearty laugh the next time you face plant in front of a crowd of onlookers (assuming, of course, that you didn’t sustain a serious injury), or the next time your iPhone autocorrects something innocuous to something borderline pornographic. Hey, life happens. You might as well have a good chuckle when it does.
- Add turmeric to your diet
Turmeric is a yellowish spice generally found in curries, and it contains the chemical curcumin which, in addition to having myriad physical health benefits, has also been shown to be an effective anti-depressant.
Add some ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and honey, and make yourself a delicious (and healthy) turmeric tea.
- Hit the gym, Slim
I’ll be honest with you, going to the gym isn’t exactly my favorite pastime. It ranks just slightly higher than “going to the dentist” on my list of things that I’d rather not do. But, for all my animosity towards it, I can’t deny that I feel absolutely incredible – both mentally and physically – after as short as 20 minutes of cardio exercise. If, like me, you find the treadmill a bit on the boring side, get yourself a good set of headphones, slap on some pumping jams, and watch those 20 minutes just fly past.
- Take up a hobby
A good work-life balance is important, and finding an enjoyable pastime outside of work is a great way to keep busy while simultaneously challenging yourself and exercising creativity.
- Lose yourself in a book
It’s still the best escape from reality and, best of all, it’s still totally legal!
- Get enough sleep
The health benefits of sleep are well documented but, with our fast-paced lifestyles and energy drink IV drips, we rarely get enough of it. How much sleep you actually need depends largely on your age but, for an adult, around 7 to 9 hours of quality Zs should do the trick.
19. Be sexy
Being, or feeling, sexy isn’t a matter of being attractive to other people, it’s about being attractive to yourself, first and foremost. It’s about being confident and comfortable in your own skin. Whether, to you, sexy means buying some lacy lingerie or just getting a fresh haircut, you owe it to yourself to make yourself happy before worrying about what others might think.
20. Keep a mood journal
Frequently prescribed for people suffering from mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, keeping a mood journal can benefit absolutely anyone, regardless of their mental state.
A mood journal can help you identify triggers that may cause negative emotions, as well as the things that make you happy, and you will eventually become more mindful of your emotions and consequently have better control over them.
Originally published at forourloveofwriting.com