How you spend your days is how you spend your life.
This statement, an iteration of a quote usually attributed to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Dillard, is an eloquent way of saying that your habits define who you are. It’s a colorful reminder to choose daily activities that contribute to your happiness.
The notion of choosing good daily habits is somewhat akin to the psychological concept of self-care, which is a practice crucial to boosting or maintaining your well-being. No matter what you do for others, if you don’t take time to take care of yourself, it could catch up to you eventually in the form physical or mental degradation.
When you adopt healthy habits, you are consciously choosing to live a healthier life. If you’re striving for better physical or mental health, try adding one or more of these seven habits to your daily routine and see what it can do for your well-being:
1. Wake Up Early
Research indicates that many successful and happy people have a consistent morning routine to get the day started right. In fact, a recent study by the University of Toronto revealed that people who wake up early aren’t just happier in the mornings, but they also maintain a greater degree of happiness throughout the day.
Early risers in the study reported having an overall higher life satisfaction than those who sleep in. Scientists say there are many contributing factors for why this occurs, in addition to several theories that suggest it has something to do with the body’s natural circadian rhythm connected to the rise and fall of the sun.
2. Get Your Blood Moving
A great deal of contemporary research suggests that sitting for long periods of time can cause or contribute to feelings of depression. Your body is designed to move, not remain sedentary.
Daily exercise isn’t just good for your body’s physical health; it’s also crucial for your mental health. Whether it’s yoga, biking, running, walking, lifting a dumbbell at your desk, or team sports, try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity into your day to help you stay happy and healthy. Exercise encourages the release of endorphins, which are one of the brain’s most important feel-good chemicals.
Humans are a social species. This is easy to forget in our high-tech world that often encourages digital interaction over the real life kind we need and physiologically crave. Consider replacing your next text message with a phone call or an in-person visit. Intentionally hug your loved ones every day, if possible. Human touch helps us feel supported and reminds us that we aren’t alone. It also causes our brain to release a hormone called oxytocin, which is another naturally occurring feel-good chemical in our bodies.
Set dates if you have to, but make it a priority to spend quality time enjoying the company of others. Human connection is crucial to our happiness. Honoring that lunch date with a coworker rather than eating alone in front of a computer screen should work to boost your mood and keep you feeling connected to your fellow human beings.
Allocate time to meditate, unplug, and clear your mind. This habit helps many cultivate a fulfilling sense of happiness. By grounding yourself daily in a meditative practice of some kind, you create a reprieve from daily stressors and take an active step toward peace of mind.
Several meditation studies have revealed that consistent, long-term meditation can physically change the brain, help people become happier, more empathetic, less self-centered, and better equipped to handle stress. To get started, try incorporating a simple 10-minute meditation into your daily routine. Give it a little time and you’ll likely begin to notice several benefits above and beyond a happier outlook and disposition.
5. Honor Your Peak Performance Times
Evaluate your daily activities and pay attention to your body and energy levels to see when you can get the most done.
Everybody works differently. Perhaps you truly aren’t a morning person. Maybe you tend to be more creative at night or more productive in the afternoon. Pay attention to your patterns and find what works for you. Create a daily schedule that honors your mind, body, and spirit rather than constricting it.
6. Learn to Say No and Set Boundaries
Some people have trouble accepting that they cannot be everything to everybody. Think of your happiness level like a gas tank; you only have so much to give to others before you run out of physical and mental energy.
Learning to say no helps preserve precious resources and energy that are sometimes depleted before your day is even over. Learn to say yes to what nourishes and say no to what depletes you. If you don’t, who will?
7. Practice Gratitude
Sure, life is full of grief and suffering, but it’s also filled with millions of tiny, daily instances of beauty and joy that go overlooked because our minds tend to focus on the bad stuff. Your circumstances aren’t always your choosing, but you have power over what you choose to focus on.
By focusing on the good in your life, you are better able to maintain a grateful perspective. If you continually focus on the negative, it will likely be harder to cultivate or maintain a sense of happiness.
To help you focus on positive happenings, consider keeping a gratitude journal to help you stay in thankful state of mind. Make it a daily practice to write down what you are thankful for each and every day. This exercise can help keep you smiling even when times get tough.
Practice the Best Self-Care for You
Try adopting a few of these daily habits and pay attention to how your happiness and health are affected. Everyone is unique. Think about what makes you personally happy and healthy and consider adding some of your own self-care activities to your daily routine.
If you make good changes to your daily routine and still find yourself experiencing excessive stress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms, consider meeting with someone in a safe, judgement-free space to discuss what you’re feeling. Consider finding a therapist or mental health professional with whom you can establish a therapeutic relationship and work on developing a good self-care routine that encourages happiness in your life.
- Giang, V. (2012, September 13). Why early birds are happier than night owls. Business Insider. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-early-risers-are-happier-2012-9
- Harris, D. and Brady, E. (2011, July 28). Re-wiring your brain for happiness. Research shows how meditation can physically change the brain. ABC News. Retrieved from: http://abcnews.go.com/US/meditation-wiring-brain-happiness/story?id=14180253
- Sitting, lack of exercise linked with symptoms of depression in new study. (2013, September 6). Huffington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/sitting-depression-mental-health-exercise_n_3880963.html
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