Happiness is often associated with immediate gratification, for example winning the lottery, the beginning of a new romance or even indulging in your favorite comfort food. According to research, however, happiness is influenced by your lifestyle choices and genetic disposition. This happiness ‘set-point’ that largely determines your well-being will fluctuate when something positive happens or the opposite, afterwards returning to equilibrium.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Psychology Professor at University of California found through her intensive research that approximately 40 percent of our happiness is within our control suggesting that happiness is a choice that anyone can make. In the words of the influential Jim Rohn, ‘Happiness is not something you postpone for the future, it is something you design for the present’. Here are some lifestyle habits which intentionally bring about positive thought process and enhance self esteem.
Respect Your Body
Enjoy the power and beauty of your body. Your body is the most sophisticated, intelligent and resilient instrument you will ever own. I honestly took this for granted until I worked in healthcare. Every morning you get out of bed at ease and stretch is a miniature miracle. Learn to become aware of and thankful for this.
Exercise is well known to boost the immune system and stimulate release of endorphin. However, research has found that exercise is also effective in reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety, in addition to improving your overall mood. This is mainly attributed to reduced cortisol levels, a hormone that is released when you experience stress.
Diet and how you fuel your body on a daily basis is an integral element to your emotional well-being. It is well researched that small but frequent meals best satisfy our body’s needs and that Omega 3 Fatty Acids, such as smoked salmon, enhance cognitive function and overall sense of satisfaction.
Hunger and the act of comfort eating is often indicative of your unresolved emotional needs. The well known acronym H.A.L.T (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is useful when you strive to become more in tune with your body. Hunger is a physiological need rather than a craving for comfort, companionship or attention. We often misinterpret our emotional needs as hunger. Anger, is a little bit more complex, you must learn to express anger constructively and assertively. By suppressing this emotion, you may engage in destructive behaviors to escape the intensity of the emotion; such as binge eating or self loathing.
Next in the H.A.L.T. acronym is Lonely, which refers to self imposed isolation. This difficulty in reaching out can be indicative of deeper emotional distress or self esteem issues. Binge eating is not the answer to loneliness. If loneliness is a constant companion seeking professional help is a proactive way in peeling back the layers and overcoming this challenge. Finally, feeling Tired often provokes people to ignore their fatigue by engaging in emotional eating. Feeling physically tired, overloaded and overwhelmed can lead to comfort eating. However it is important to try to listen your body, it may be telling you to restructure your schedule or reduce your stressors.
Sleep allows the brain to recover from the rigors of the day. Not getting enough sleep has been found to increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and depression. According to the 2017 Journal of the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult requires 8 hours sleep (that is one third of your day). It is time you paid more attention to mastering the art of a peaceful slumber.
Shakespeare personified jealousy as the Green Eyed Monster. An apt description as envy will eat up your personal satisfaction and confidence faster than any other negative thought process. If you are going to compare yourself, do not measure yourself against other people. Compare yourself to you today as opposed to where you were 6 months ago, or a year ago. What have you learned? Have you realized your personal goals?
“Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end it is only with yourself” Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen
When you look to others to determine your personal goals, you make decisions out of a place of fear. Everyone is on their own unique journey. Fear can often motivate people to create a life for people on the outside rather than themselves. This fear can often motivate one to stay in abusive relationships, unfulfilling jobs and even incur credit card debt. Live your life for you, rather than the people on the outside. Try to focus on what feels right for you on a day to day basis.
Surround Yourself with People you Admire
Maintaining strong social connections and laughter helps to alleviate symptoms of depression. Researchers from the University of Queensland conducted two experiments to research how social connections affect symptoms of depression. The findings are published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. This research found that joining groups and establishing strong social connections can alleviate symptoms of depression and poor self esteem.
However, it is important to choose your social group wisely. Jim Rohn set forth the theory that you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Though this theory is not yet scientifically proven, the premise of the law of averages is indeed sound. When you apply the law of averages to your social circle, you can see the importance of surrounding yourself with people you admire. Positive social connections will foster feelings of connectedness, empowerment and joy. Conversely, toxic friendships will evoke feelings of shame, self doubt and even alienation. Becoming mindful of your social interactions and asking yourself if you admire the people you surround yourself with will prompt you to be more intentional about creating a strong and supportive social network.
Move Forward with Intention
You wouldn’t go on a road trip without mapping out the most appropriate route, so why would you live your life any differently? Most of your personal goals or aspirations can be broken down into smaller more manageable steps. In order to think about where you want to go, you must first release your inhibitions, fears and self limiting thoughts to think openly about what you truly want. Reflecting on past mistakes can be useful in gaining knowledge and wisdom.
However, dwelling on the past can often cause feelings of stagnation and disempowerment. Try to apply the lessons of the past to your future aspirations in a way that is kind and supportive.
Recapture Your Inner Child
Have you spoken to a 7 year old recently? If you have, you will notice the conversation is centred on what they like, what is considered ‘fun’ and they will not hesitate in letting you know what they are excited about. They may even choreograph a special dance to express their excitement. Having the same conversation with someone at 27, 37 or 47, (you get the picture) is very different.
Often as you progress in life your thought process becomes more centered on your fears, stressors and uncertainties. Why do we choose to focus on life’s obstacles rather than what experiences challenge and excite us?
Research from San Francisco State University found that people who spent money on experiences rather than possessions benefited from more prolonged feelings of joy and happiness. Creating memories of experiences with our loved ones can last a lifetime. Always try to have something on your calendar that excites you, even if it is your favorite TV show, a perfectly lazy Sunday Brunch or even going somewhere new.
Practice Gratitude Daily
Remember the compliments and forget insults. Often insults are a reflection of the giver rather than the receiver. By noting any compliment you get, you can actively restructure your thought process to focus only on self appreciation. Through this level of self care you will also find yourself wanting to build others up rather than tear them down.