Over the last 10 years a whole new industry has sprouted around Happiness: New books, new websites (we love Happify!), new studies, new courses. Happiness, or even better, Instant Happiness seems to be the hot topic everywhere.
But what’s the big idea?
We know that we’d rather be happy than miserable but now we have scientific evidence that feeling good is not only a desirable feeling, it is also good medicine. Happiness has found to protect our heart, boost our immune system, reduces stress, pain and ailments. In fact, happiness combats diseases and disability and lengthens our lives. Happiness, as measured by life evaluations provides a broader indicator of human welfare than do measures of income, poverty, health, education, and good government viewed separately. Researches can predict happiness on a national level by looking at GDP, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom to make life choices, generosity, perception of corruption, positive affect (joy, laughter), negative affect (sadness, anger).
So how do we go about inviting more happiness into our life and keeping it there? We have browsed through hundreds of articles, studies, books, videos, recommendations by scientists, journalists and coaches and came up with this list of favorite picks for instant happiness:
- Get Moving
Researchers at the university of Vermont have found that the positive impact of just 20 minutes of exercise can stay with you for 12 hours. Exercise reduces stress hormones and cortisone levels, has proven to remedy depression and anxiety and it increases our endorphin levels, neurochemicals that are similar in structure to morphine. They activate our opiate receptors and make us feel good. It’s like drinking champagne without any negative side effects. And the best thing about exercise is that it will boost our happiness long before its health effects kick in. So if sweating on a treadmill isn’t your thing, try dancing, gardening, walking, biking, or playing golf. The main thing is to keep on moving.
- Cultivate Gratefulness
In his book “Thrive” Dan Buettner recalls the following conversation he had in Denmark, according to the UN World Report on Happiness, one of the happiest countries in the world: “We believe that a rich person is not necessarily the one with a lot of money. It’s the one who really has a lot to be grateful for: nature, the company of other people, the capacity to enjoy a good book, and an understanding of philosophy. The more things for which you develop a fondness, the richer the life you live . . .”
Dr. Eva Selhub, mindbody expert and resilience coach recommends taking small “puffs of appreciation”. Throughout the day take short breaks, look around you and find things you are grateful for: The early morning sunrise, watching children play, the love in your life, new blossoms opening in Spring, the smile of a person in the car next to you . . . Small puffs go a long way and very soon you will find more and more reasons for gratefulness and happiness in your life.
- Choose Love
A recent Harvard study found that the biggest predictor of your happiness and fulfillment overall in life is love. Having love in your life on helps your nervous system relax, helps your brain stay healthier for longer, and reduces both emotional as well as physical pain. It’s not the number of friends that are important, it’s the quality of the relationships–how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another.
- Enjoy Nature
We all know it: When we are outside, exposed to the beauty of nature, it’s variability, it’s smells and sounds, our brain automatically shifts into a positive mental state, as does our body.
Especially walking through nature seems to boost our happiness. From forest bathing, a Japanese custom where people deliberately spend time in nature to relax and get grounded and eco therapy to the positive effects of wilderness and hiking vacations, scientists are finding more and more evidence of the profound impact nature has on us. Being in nature helps us reduce anxiety and stress, increases our attention span, improves our creative skills and makes it easier for us to connect with other people. Why exactly that happens, nobody knows for sure. But don’t stay focused on trees. Get out and into the forest!
- Surround Yourself with Happy People
We are social beings, wired for connection. But be mindful of who you hang out with. Entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn points out that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Community and friends are good for our health and there is nothing as contagious as happiness. Surrounding yourself with people who value happiness as much as you do will naturally lift up your spirit. That doesn’t mean that complaining is not allowed. We all go through good times and bad times and among our friends we shouldn’t have to cover up our feelings when times aren’t so rosy. But some people stay generally positive, inspiring and motivating even during tough times. How to find them? Remember that like attracts like. Think about the person you want to be, be clear, be authentic and stay open for new relationships. The right people will find you.
- Go on a Happiness Retreat
Sometimes life takes unexpected turns and knocks out our enthusiasm, vitality, and joy of living. We loose track of our happiness. When that happens, consider taking a break. Spend some time away, ideally in a place that has cultivated the Art of Happiness already. We consulted the UN World Report on Happiness as a guide and selected a shortlist from the top ten happiest countries in the world. Here it is:
- New Zealand
Pick your favorite country from this list, then look for a destination that offers additional elements that will reliably make you happy: Beautiful nature, stunning location, attentive staff and a nurturing environment, like-minded people.
For a little extra happiness booster consider attending a group retreat under guidance of an experienced happiness mentor. Our choice is internationally known Wellness Coach and Happiness Guru, Shannon Kaiser, who will be leading an authentic happiness retreat at legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada from April 30 – May 4.
Under the title of Clear Your Fear! Live Your Best Year! Shanon Kaiser will guide retreat participants through a proven process of removing fear, self sabotaging habits and limiting beliefs from their lives and making happiness an unapologetic, authentic, natural way life. We are going and Shannon’s just about on her way too …
Ulli Lagler Peck is founder and owner of The Wellness Agency®, a wellness consulting firm that specializes in design, management and marketing of wellness retreats. The Wellness Agency® works with hotels, resorts and spas around the world and helps them implement high-quality, authentic wellness programs that provide proven benefits for their guests' health and wellbeing. Ulli firmly believes that wellness retreats open doors to a healthier, happier way of life and that everyone should attend at least one wellness retreat once a year.
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