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15 Tips to Boost Your Well-Being and Happiness

15 Tips to Boost Your Well-Being and Happiness

Taking better care of your body boosts your well-being fairly fast. “[Exercising and eating well] provide nearly instant benefits, helping the body and the mind to manage most any difficulties, including anxiety and depression,” according to clinical psychologist and certified life coach John Duffy, PsyD. In fact, this is the first thing Duffy discusses with new therapy clients.

In addition to nourishing your body and participating in physical activities you enjoy, there are many other ways you can improve your mental health.

According to clinical psychologist Ryan Howes, Ph.D, “well-being is associated with balance, understanding, acceptance and constant growth.” Below you’ll find 15 ways to help you flourish and bolster your well-being.

1. Accept your emotions. “Some would argue that most of our physical, mental and relational problems come from our inability to adequately experience emotions,” Howes said. “We deny, bury, project, rationalize, medicate, drink away, smother in comfort food, sleep off, sweat out, suck (it) up and sweep under the rug our sadness, anger and fear.”

Some people spend more energy on avoiding their emotions than others do on actually feeling them, he said. So the key is to give yourself unconditional permission to feel your feelings. “When you feel safe enough to let your guard down, whether that’s alone or with someone you trust, you can focus on the situation, fully experience the feelings and may then be able to better understand why it hurts and what you want to do about the situation,” Howes said.

Writing about negative emotions also helps. According to clinical psychologist Darlene Mininni, research has shown that people who write about their deepest emotions are less depressed and more positive about life than before they started writing. To reap the benefits, it’s important to follow a few guidelines. Here’s Mininni’s emotional writing guide.

2. Take daily risks. Structure and routine are important. But you also might get stuck in a rut. And that means you’re not growing, Howes said. Taking certain risks can be healthy and rewarding, he said.

“Challenge yourself to take a risk each day, whether it’s talking to someone new, asserting yourself, trusting someone, dancing, setting a tough workout goal or anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone.”

3. Live in the present. “Mental health tends to become challenged when we get sucked into what used to happen or what people ‘did to me’ rather than taking responsibility in what I am doing or creating today, right now,” according to psychotherapist Jeffrey Sumber. He encouraged readers to live in the present without hyperfocusing on the future or the past.

4. Be introspective. Avoid coasting through life without assessing yourself, Sumber said. For instance, he periodically asks himself questions such as “Am I in denial about anything or resisting anything anywhere in my life?”

Duffy also suggested stepping back and considering where your thoughts, feelings and behaviors are coming from. You might ask: Is that thought helpful? It that behavior necessary? Is there a better option?

5. Laugh. “Sometimes, we take life far too seriously,” Duffy said. Need proof? Duffy ran across information that revealed that kids laugh about 200 times per day; adults laugh an average of 15 times per day. He suggested everything from seeing a funny movie to playing games like Charades or Apples to Apples.

6. Determine and live your personal values. “[Your values] serve as an ‘inner GPS system’ that guides you through life, helping you make the right decisions and keeping you on track,” said Megan Walls, CPC, PCC, ELI-MP, a certified executive and life coach and owner of Conscious Connection. “Knowing and living your values will lead to a sense of balance, confidence and fulfillment.”

7. Identify and use your individual strengths. Using your strengths, Walls said, helps you feel energized and empowered. Not sure what your strengths are? Walls recommended Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinders 2.0, which features 34 strength themes and an assessment.

8. Keep tabs on your thoughts. Without even knowing it, you might be caught in a vicious cycle of negative thoughts, which seem to sprout naturally. Not only do these thoughts sink our mood but we also start to see them as truths.

Fortunately, we can work through these thoughts and see them for what they are: untrue and changeable. Walls suggested monitoring your thoughts and challenging and replacing negative ones. (Here are four questions to ask to reduce automatic negative thoughts.)

9. Practice gratitude. “You’ll find you shift your overall outlook on life when you come form a perspective of gratitude,” Duffy said. He suggested readers make a list of three things they’re thankful for every morning.

Another idea is to recite at least 10 reasons why you’re grateful for your job, according to Master Certified life and career coach Kristin Taliaferro. “Look for unexpected surprises such as ‘my sunny office window’ or ‘cool work friends to have lunch with.’”

For inspiration, you might check out Living Life as a Thank You by Mary Beth Sammons and Nina Lesowitz. It’s filled with inspiring stories of gratitude, according to Duffy.

10. Discover or rediscover a passion. Take the time to consider your passions. For instance, Duffy’s wife recently tried painting, and found that she loves it and is really talented. “Without a doubt, it has done great things for her overall sense of well-being,” he said.

11. Do what makes you happy first thing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re going through your days on autopilot, and that can get tedious and depressing. Start your day off on a positive note by engaging in an enjoyable activity every morning.

One of Taliaferro’s clients started swimming at a YMCA pool in the a.m. She told Taliaferro that it’s completely shifted her outlook and lifted her mood.

12. Get rid of rotten eggs. “There’s usually at least one rotten egg in your life that’s dragging down your mental outlook,” Taliaferro said. For example, some of Taliaferro’s clients are especially affected by the news. One of her clients decided that if it’s not on the AOL homepage then she doesn’t need to know about it.

Identify your rotten eggs and figure out how to remove them. Your rotten eggs might seem small. But even annoyances can add up and chip away at your mood and well-being.

13. Surround yourself with positive scents and sounds. Our surroundings can affect our well-being. “You can create a positive feeling at home with lemon, peppermint or other essential oils you love,” Taliaferro said. She plays different kinds of music regularly depending on what she’s in the mood for.

14. Get inspired. Find inspiration in everything from subscribing to a daily quote to listening to uplifting audio books on the way to work to reading magazines with exciting ideas, Taliaferro said. Duffy also suggested reading Inspiration by Wayne Dyer, which is one of his favorites.

15. Carve out time to meditate. “Protect a few minutes each day to sit, relax and breathe,” Duffy said. People tend to think that meditation is complicated. But you don’t need much time or effort to meditate, and it’s quite soothing. Try this super simple meditation from Mininni.


Your well-being: more than just a state of mind

Americans are a diverse lot, so it’s no surprise they give different answers when asked about their well-being. But it seems that well-being differs from state to state, too. In the latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which gauges the physical and emotional health of people in all 50 states, residents of Hawaii reported the best sense of overall well-being while West Virginia residents reported the worst.

“Sure,” you might say, “Who wouldn’t be happier in Hawaii?” As a graduate of West Virginia University, I admit that there were times as a student in Morgantown when I longed for sunshine and balmy breezes instead of gray winter days and rural towns covered in coal dust (although I loved my school and I loved those country roads). But well-being is not a simple matter of palm trees versus coal mines.

The index calculates overall well-being based on six quality of life categories, each of which is made up of several components:

  • Life evaluation (are you thriving, struggling, or suffering?)
  • Emotional health (such as happiness, worry, being treated with respect, stress)
  • Work environment (such as job satisfaction or supervisor’s treatment)
  • Physical health (such as obesity, feeling well rested, sickness)
  • Healthy behaviors (such as not smoking, eating healthy food, exercising frequently)
  • Basic access (such as to clean water, medicine, enough money for food, shelter, healthcare)

Poll respondents in Hawaii had the highest scores in the emotional health and work environment indexes, and were most likely to say they were thriving. People in West Virginia were most likely to say they were not thriving, and had the worst emotional health, the worst health habits, the most diagnoses of depression, and high rates of obesity. People in the other 50 states fell in between. Check out how your state fared online.

Do people in low well-being states, like West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas, have to stay that way? Is it hard to change?

“There’s good news and bad news about our ability to change our sense of well-being or happiness,” says Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. “It turns out that, just like for weight, we have genetically determined happiness set-points. So if we’re not taking steps to improve our sense of well-being, we tend to gravitate back to the same level.” Depending on your genes, that level may be pretty happy or pretty unhappy, says Dr. Siegel, who is also the faculty editor of Positive Psychology, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

About 40% of what determines happiness is under our control. In contrast, only about 10% has to do with good and bad fortune. “It’s not mostly events, but our responses to events, that determines our level of well-being,” says Dr. Siegel.

He offers several steps you can take to improve your emotional well-being, no matter what state you’re in:

1. Live in the moment. When you’re fully engaged in activities, you will enjoy them more and be less preoccupied by concerns about the past and the future.

2. Be grateful. Keeping a daily gratitude journal promotes positive feelings, optimism, life satisfaction, and connectedness with others.

3. Do things for others. Happiness comes most reliably from connecting with others and not being overly self-focused. Try to do things that benefit someone or something other than yourself.

4. Take inventory of your strengths, then apply them in new ways in your daily life. For example, if you count curiosity as a strength, read about a new subject. If you consider yourself brave, try something that makes you nervous, such as public speaking.

5. Savor pleasure. Reminisce about good times, celebrate good moments with others, be happy when you accomplish something.

Overall well-being also includes physical health. People who reported experiencing overall better health, such as those who live in Hawaii, Colorado, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont, tend to exercise more, smoke less, and like their jobs more than folks in other states.

If poor health or unhealthy behaviors are dragging down your well-being, addressing these issues is one way to improve well-being. That may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to.

“Two-thirds of all illness is the result of our lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Edward Phillips, founder and director of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Harvard Medical School. The Institute is dedicated to teaching health care professionals how to help their patients make healthy changes.

Dr. Phillips shared some of the key tips that help improve health one small step at a time:

1. Take responsibility for your health. That means going to your doctor and actually following his or her advice.

2. Apply your personal strengths to your health. If you’re a disciplined, organized professional, what can you apply from your work life to the change you want to make now?

3. Come up with reasonable and small first goals. “Find something that’s a 2% change, like walking ten minutes a day. Go for a walk at lunch, walk while you’re talking on the phone. What’s the smallest change you can make and be confident you can do it? I’ve met very few patients who can’t do that,” says Dr. Phillips, who is also the faculty editor for Simple Changes, Big Rewards, another Harvard Medical School report.

4. Be accountable for your changes. You’ll do much better if you track and report your progress to a loved one or friend, or to a program on a website or an app.

5. Pay attention to the benefits. The value of the change, such as sleeping better from exercising, can become the motivation to continue that change and make others. When you see that change is possible, you’ll be encouraged to make more changes.

Is it really that simple? Make a small change and your well-being will improve? “Absolutely,” says Dr. Phillips. “People can make reasonable changes and achieve them. And then improved behavior begets improved behavior.”

That’s a plan that can rank high on anyone’s list.


Why It Matters

Studies have discovered that people with higher psychological well-being are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. They are also more likely to enjoy a better quality of life.   Better psychological well-being also is associated with fewer social problems.

For instance, research has found that people with high psychological well-being are less likely to engage in criminal activity or abuse drugs and alcohol. In addition, positive psychological well-being tends to predict higher earnings and more prosocial behavior, such as volunteering.

People also are more likely to enjoy positive psychological well-being when they have their basic needs met. Living in a safe area, having enough food, and having adequate shelter are all important factors for emotional health.

If you’re looking to improve your psychological well-being, there are several things you can do to feel and function better. Here's an overview of four things you an do to improve your overall sense of well-being.


16 Scientifically-Backed Ways To Boost Your Happiness Almost Instantly (INFOGRAPHIC)

Whether you have five minutes to relax or a year to focus on building lasting habits, here are 16 scientifically-backed ways to boost your happiness levels.

Smile. A 2011 study showed that thinking about something positive that makes you smile can actually make you happier (fake smiles don't do the trick), while 2003 Clark University research found that smiling activates positive memories.

Go for a run. Physical activity boosts the brain's release of endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters that can improve mood and well-being.

Pray. Spirituality and religious involvement is linked with greater well-being and happiness, according to a review of more than 300 studies on the connection between spirituality and health, while prayer is thought to relieve stress.

Laugh. In addition to relieving stress, laughter can boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Go for a stroll in the park. There are many health benefits to spending time in nature, including, perhaps, increased well-being. One UK study showed that subjects were significantly happier when in natural environments as compared to when they were in urban environments.

Perform an act of kindness. Do something nice for someone else today -- it could make you happier, according to University of California research.

Listen to happy music. Students who listened to "happy" music while making a concerted effort to feel happier experienced elevations in mood, according to a small study published this year in the Journal of Positive Psychology.

Walk tall. Walking with an upbeat stride might make you feel happier, according to Florida Atlantic University research. In the study, walkers who were told to take long strides with their arms swinging and heads held high reported feeling happier after a three-minute jaunt than a group that shuffled and looked downwards while walking.

Meditate. Meditation may be helpful in lowering stress levels and reducing symptoms of mild depression, and has been linked with emotional well-being and improved sleep.

Keep a gratitude journal. Be thankful for what you have! A number of studies have found a strong correlation between gratitude and well-being, starting at a young age. Teaching kids gratitude in schools has been linked to boosts in positive emotions and optimism.

Go on vacation. The mere anticipation of an upcoming trip can boost overall happiness for up to eight weeks before you take off, according to a 2010 Dutch study.

Play with a puppy. Your brain may be wired to enjoy playing with puppies. One study suggested that petting a furry friend can increase activity in the left-side of the brain, which is associated with pleasure and happiness, and pet ownership has been linked with increased well-being.

Take a nap. Sleep deprivation can up your stress levels. One experiment showed that after memorizing a list of words, sleep-deprived college students could remember 81 percent of words with a negative connotation ("cancer"), and only 41 percent of positive or neutral words ("sunshine"). What's more, researchers have linked catnaps with improved mood.

Enjoy a nice cup of tea. Noticing and appreciating life's small pleasures can literally rewire the brain for happiness by shifting the brain's negativity bias, according to psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness. "We're surrounded by opportunities -- 10 seconds here or 20 seconds there -- to just register useful experiences and learn from them," Hanson told The Huffington Post.

Volunteer. Helping others could go a long way towards helping yourself. A recent University of Exeter study found that volunteering can boost happiness, ease depression and even help you live longer, Everyday Health reported.

Have sex. Sex might just help you relieve stress and boost well-being. A study by the Institute For The Study of Labor found that people who have sex at least four times a week tend to be happier and less depressed -- not to mention make more money. Plus, it could even keep your heart and immune system healthy!

Think of happy times. Feeling nostalgic about the past can make you feel happier and more optimistic about the future, according to a recent University of Southampton study.


Use Your Strengths to Boost Happiness

One of the most popular exercises in the science of positive psychology (some argue it is the single most popular exercise) is referred to as “use your signature strengths in new ways.” But what does this exercise mean? How do you make the most of it to benefit yourself and others?

On the surface, the exercise is self-explanatory:

Select one of your highest strengths – one of your character strengths that is core to who you are, is easy for you to use, and gives you energy

Consider a new way to express the strength each day

Express the strength in a new way each day for at least 1 week.

Studies repeatedly show that this exercise is connected with long-term benefits (e.g., 6 months) such as higher levels of happiness and lower levels of depression.

Put the Exercise into Practice

In practice, however, people sometimes find it surprisingly challenging to come up with new ways to use one of their signature strengths. This is because we are very accustomed to using our strengths. We frequently use our strengths mindlessly without much awareness. For example, have you paid much attention to your use of self-regulation as you brush your teeth? Your level of prudence or kindness while driving? Your humility while at a team meeting?

For some strengths, it is easy to come up with examples. Want to apply curiosity in a new way? Below is a sample mapping of what you might do. Keep it simple. Make it complex. It’s up to you!

  • On Monday, take a new route home from work and explore your environment as you drive.
  • On Tuesday, ask one of your co-workers a question you have not previously asked them.
  • On Wednesday, try a new food for lunch – something that piques your curiosity to taste.
  • On Thursday, call a family member and explore their feelings about a recent positive experience they had.
  • On Friday, take the stairs instead of the elevator and explore the environment as you do.
  • On Saturday, as you do one household chore (e.g., washing the dishes, vacuuming), pay attention to 3 novel features of the activity while you do it. Example: Notice the whirring sound of the vacuum, the accumulation of dust swirling around in the container, the warmth of the water as you wash the dishes, the sensation of the weight of a single plate or cup, and so on.
  • On Sunday, ask yourself 2 questions you want to explore about yourself – reflect or journal your immediate responses.
  • Next Monday….keep going!

Widening the scope

In some instances, you might feel challenged to come up with examples. Let me help. After you choose one of your signature strengths, consider the following 10 areas to help jolt new ideas within you and stretch your approach to the strength.

How might I express the character strength…

  • At work
  • In my closest relationship
  • While I engage in a hobby
  • When with my friends
  • When with my parents or children
  • When I am alone at home
  • When I am on a team
  • As the leader of a project or group
  • While I am driving
  • While I am eating
  • Bringing in psychology

Other Considerations

You can also consider any of the 24 character strengths from the psychological perspective, since, after all, each strength is a capacity for thinking, feeling, and behaving:

  • Thoughts: What does perspective think like? When I’m expressing perspective, what thoughts go through my mind? What thoughts are present when I am acting in a prudent way? A kind way?
  • Emotions: What does bravery feel like? How might I notice humility as a feeling in my body…what bodily sensations align with the expression of humility?
  • Behavior: What does it look like for me to express gratitude? When I enact judgment/critical thinking, how am I coming across? What is the action involved when I am expressing fairness?

More ideas

  • Read about two new ways to use each character strength.
  • If you are a visual person, you might like the pin-board of images I created on Pinterest for using strengths in new ways.
  • Additional ideas on how to apply your character strengths are provided by positive psychologist, Tayyab Rashid.

Learn How to Activate the 5 Happiness Strengths

Did you know there are 5 strengths that are linked to greater levels of happiness? After you complete the VIA Survey, your in-depth Total 24 Report provides guidance on integrating these five important strengths into your life. Don't wait! Get your Total 24 Report today.

References

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0

Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5 (1), 6–15.

Madden, W., Green, S., & Grant, A. M. (2011). A pilot study evaluating strengths-based coaching for primary school students: Enhancing engagement and hope. International Coaching Psychology Review, 6 (1), 71–83.

Mitchell, J., Stanimirovic, R., Klein, B., & Vella-Brodrick, D. (2009). A randomised controlled trial of a self-guided internet intervention promoting well- being. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 749-760.

Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do positive psychology exercises work? A replication of Seligman et al. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68 (4), 382–389.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Proctor, C., Maltby, J., & Linley, P. A. (2009) Strengths use as a predictor of well-being and health-related quality of life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 583–630.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.


5 Tips to Boost Your Well-Being and Happiness

Nothing matters more than yourself and the people around you. But is that all? Your emotions don’t matter when you are moody or angry? They do. They affect the way you behave, even in front of your close ones. Being happy is not always an option but there are ways to make that happen, even when the environment is not fit at all. Well-being is very important for someone to be able to cope with life and its challenges. Well, here are 5 tips to boost your well-being and happiness.

Let your emotions flow out:

5 Tips to Boost Your Well-Being and Happiness

Stopping emotions doesn’t help you in either of the ways. Rather they channel out through a different path. Sometimes even make things worse for you. When you get moody, speak out in a lower tone, maintain your anger. Else, go in an empty room and rush out your anger into thin air. When you resist your emotions, you hurt yourself in many ways. And there is no use in that.

Laughing can be a solution sometimes:

Boosting the course of better well-being throughout a busy and tiresome day, is not easy? Wait, is it? Certainly. A busy schedule keeps your mind busy and your heart wretched up. Open those up for a small period. Experience a break, through a laugh or a chat with a colleague. Giving your mind a break also reflects positivity in your work. Well, that’s not optional.

Your values are equally important as you:

Good values become bad when you lose control of yourself. Greetings and appreciations become less meaningful when the third party doesn’t respond well. Don’t react to it. Instead, maintain your manners and behavior good, optimal irrespective of the response. This is highly important for your own happiness and makes sure that your values are well admired and trained to take on any behavior. That’s another way to boost well-being.

Learn to channel your strength:

Another key tip for boosting your happiness is to channel your strength into a better path for achieving the best output. Everybody is strong enough to do anything in life. In the meantime, losing self-confidence is a common life practice. You lose your happiness over time and become more self-depressed rather than being strong. One way to deal with it is to make up for your strength. Listen to inspirational music. Watch counseling videos to get hold of your strength and channel it right.

Take a Self-help course:

Counseling is the best for deciding on something that you are usually confused about, including life choices, relationships, and careers. While boosting your well-being persona and path to happiness, it’s not enough. For a better solution, a self-help course is much better to ensure your development. Both on the side of academic and personal development, it can be a boundary-pushing strategy to get back your own self-confidence, give your skills a try and make your life out of it. Even re-grow yourself towards the right values, the right sense of deeds and lean into the ultimate path of happiness. Organizations like Landmark Forum (also knows Landmark Montreal) and others deliver programs that make a significant difference in those aspects of people’s lives that they care about the most.