Happiness is an important part of life, yet it can feel harder to achieve (and maintain) as we enter the chaos of the pre-holiday season. So, what does it take to be happy? A good place to start is to find ways to manage stress on a daily basis. The team at Helix Healthcare Group compiled four simple practices to get you on the right track—all backed by science.
For thousands of years, meditation has been used to bring calm and help connect with one’s self. But did you know that meditation has several other benefits that can contribute to the overall happiness in your life? In a recent review done at the Johns Hopkins University Evidence-Based Practice Center, researchers looked at past studies to help determine the efficacy of meditation programs. The review included 41 trials and 2,993 participants, with a length variation of 4 weeks to 9 years. For people hoping to relieve stress and improve mental health, it was determined that meditative practices—especially mindfulness meditation—resulted in positive outcomes. Though more research is required, these results tell us that there is a connection between meditation and overall happiness.
The simple act of deep breathing is thought to harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and in turn improve our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Take a few moments to do so each day; both your mind and your body will thank you.
2. Connect with nature
Several studies have shown the benefits of incorporating nature into our daily lives. Researchers in Zhejiang Province, China explored the connection between mood changes and a forest walk. After separating participants into 2 groups, one group was asked to walk through a forest while the others were to walk through an urban area. Before and after their walks, participants were asked to complete a mood profile and perform tests that would reflect inflammatory and stress responses. Researchers observed that the group of nature walkers demonstrated overall positive effects, and that mood and stress responses measured as more positive than those of the other participants. As expected, these results show a strengthened connection between nature and personal happiness.
Next time you’re feeling the stress pile on, give yourself permission to step outside and reconnect with nature. You’ll soon notice a shift in your mood.
3. Experience your culture
Connecting with people who share a similar cultural background has always been considered important when it comes to discovering a sense of self. However, a study done in Norway has shown a potential connection between participation in cultural activities and overall health and happiness. By issuing questionnaires to over 50,000 participants, researchers gauged the effects of engaging in activities such as attending the theatre or participating in an art show. It was found that people who joined in the fun—especially men—felt happier and healthier than those who did not.
Lucky for you, the holiday season is the perfect time to take part in traditions—from caroling with neighbours to decorating the tree to enjoying a family dinner.
4. Express yourself
Time and again it has been proven just how effective therapy can be in improving quality of life. Not only does it give you the opportunity to share your inner thoughts and feelings, therapy also allows for growth and deep self-reflection that is not always possible on your own. After reviewing 39 studies with over 6,000 participants, researchers from the Netherlands concluded that positive psychological interventions (i.e., self-help, group therapy and individual therapy) have a positive effect on both mental and physical well-being.
While you may not have time to seek out a therapist during the holidays, connecting with a dear friend or trusted loved one may just be exactly what you need.
Happiness doesn’t have to be a fleeting feeling. With a little effort, you can ensure the holidays are full of joy and free of stress.