Welcome in a new year with these small lifestyle adjustments that show you how to be happy even while dealing with so many external pressures. This post from The Guardian has put together a list of little changes that have a huge impact on your state of mind.
What’s top of your list of new year resolutions for 2016? Do more exercise? Eat better? Spend more time with your children? Find a fulfilling career? How about ticking all your boxes and simply be happy?
Sadly, you can’t simply “become” happy. Happiness is often an indirect consequence of our actions and the way we think. However, the good news is that making even the smallest adjustments can help us attain that elusive state we all aspire to.
Ahead of a Guardian Live/Idler Academy event looking at how to achieve happiness, panelist Rachel Kelly, author of Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps To Happiness, offers some simple changes we can all make to our lives to improve our state of mind.
1. Slow down
We are human beings, not human doings and it’s very easy to forget that in the frenetic world in which we live. Make a point of setting aside time for a night off and defend space in your diary for doing nothing at all. And if you suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out), recalibrate and think of it instead as the joy of missing out. A night in can be just what the doctor ordered to maintain a sense of control over busy lives.
2. Be mindful
Build a “mindful” activity into your day. It can be any routine activity you perform amid the haste of the day, like hand washing. Slow down and give the task your full attention. You’ll soon start appreciating these small moments of stillness.
Perfectionism is an illusion, but the pursuit of it is real and can have damaging consequences. So readjust your thinking. If a friendship, relationship, work project is 60% right, then you’re doing well. Beware too, of perfectionism’s close friends: an all or nothing approach; workaholism; fear of failure; and being over-sensitive to the judgement of others.
4. Nourish your body
It’s a proven fact that the food we eat can have a direct impact on our mood and serotonin levels. So surround yourself with the good stuff: leafy green veg, probiotics, a sprinkle of cinammon and dark chocolate.
The strong glare of a phone’s backlight isn’t conducive to deep sleep. I have instated a wind-down hour before bedtime in which the phone is firmly it its charging station. It’s all about creating the right conditions for your body to feel relaxed and able to sleep.
Clearing cupboards helps give you a sense of control and owning your own space. It can be life-changing as Marie Kondo maintains in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever. It also helps you enjoy the objects that you’ve consciously decided to keep instead of relegating them to the status of just more stuff.
When things get too much, try the one-finger-on-the-nose breathing trick. Surreptitiously life a finger against one side of your nose. Then just breathe through the other nostril. By halving the rate at which you breathe, you lower your blood pressure and trigger the body’s relaxation response. Great in the face of strong emotions.
8. Redefine failure
Stumbling blocks can be stepping stones and failure can teach us so much. Be less risk-averse and adopt the attitude embodied by a cartoon in my office which says: I’ve made so many mistakes, and learnt so much, I’m thinking of making some more.
Breaking a sweat, ideally first thing in the morning, releases endorphins and sets you up for the day. Lack of exercise can leave you feeling sluggish and lethargic, so, if you can, start your day right.
10. Read a poem aloud
As you do so, your mental to-do list melts away and your thoughts still, focusing entirely on the lyrical sounds of the words. One of my favourite poems is: The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats; I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,/And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made. Imagine yourself in that bee-loud glade.