10 Ways To Be Healthier & Happier This Year

What are the secrets of a happy life? People have tried to answer that question for thousands of years. They’ve looked to philosophy and countless self-help books. The media associates happiness with wealth, beauty and fame. Advertisers, on the other hand, say happiness is the result of buying the right products. But none of this is the measure of a happy life. Happiness is the result of our activities and choices. Deciding to live a healthier lifestyle is a great start to a happier life. However, with all the temptations to stray from healthy living, it can be a hard to stay on track. Here is a guide to help you live life to the fullest this year.

1. Get Outside

Nature makes us happy. According to a study conducted by the University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts, there’s a significant increase in our health, happiness and well-being when we spend time outdoors. Green spaces improve our mental health, and sunlight helps us produce vitamin D, a nutrient long associated with fighting off depression. In other words, simple activities such as planting flowers, feeding the birds or going for a walk can lift our spirits. Being outdoors allows us to become part of something bigger. Samuel Johnson, the 18th century poet and writer, said it best: “Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.”

2. Prioritize Your Pillow

There’s a connection between getting zzz’s and feeling pleased. Sleep affects our brain function, and a healthy, well-rested brain makes us feel better. Sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, an increased risk for stroke and diabetes and an increased risk for depression. According to the Huffington Post, 65 percent of adults who sleep over seven hours report excellent mental health.

3. Stay Motivated

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to set short- and long-term goals. Why? Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. Meaningful and realistic goals give our lives a sense of direction and purpose. Goals should be challenging, but achievable; if we set the bar too high, we set ourselves up for failure. There’s a complex relationship between motivation and happiness. For example, does happiness drive motivation or does motivation drive happiness? Perhaps the best way to stay motivated and happy is not to over-think it.

4. Connect with People (in the Real World)

“Man is by nature a social animal,” said Aristotle the Greek philosopher. Social relationships are essential to our happiness and well-being. Family and friends give meaning to our lives, provide comfort and support and allay our worries and fears. However, often times our online friends outnumber our real-world friends. Personal connections are lost to Facebook likes and Twitter updates. Social media isn’t as social as it appears. According to a University of Michigan study, increasing use of Facebook led to a decline in happiness and overall life satisfaction. It’s time to put away the computer and connect with people in the real world.

5. Take Care of Your Body

Turn off the TV and go for a walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to the store instead of driving the car. There are lots of ways to stay active and take care of the body. You don’t need to run a marathon or go to the gym six days a week. Studies indicate that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can reduce chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and improve mood.

6. Get Rid of Stuff

Self-help guru James Altucher has written sixteen books, the most popular of which is “Choose Yourself.” In the book, the former tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist discusses the importance of simplifying and downsizing. Altucher found happiness in whittling down his worldly possessions. It’s an approach to life that others have celebrated as well. Maria Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, set off a global de-cluttering craze with her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” When it comes to happiness, sometimes less is more.

7. Travel

Travel is a great way to strengthen character and broaden the mind, both of which can lead to a greater sense of happiness and well-being. Look no further than Julia Roberts in the film, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Travel allows us to get out of our comfort zones, meet new people, see new things and have our character tested in ways like never before. It’s an enriching educational experience. When we escape the daily grind, we also have the chance to look back at what we have at home and have a greater appreciation for it.

8. Be Grateful

There’s truth to the old saying that “being grateful today leads to happiness tomorrow.” According to UMass Dartmouth researchers Martin Seligman, Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have been found to exercise more regularly, have fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole and feel more optimistic about their upcoming week as compared to those who keep journals recording the stressors or neutral events of their lives.

9. Be Comfortable with Who You Are

Learn to accept yourself. When you dwell on your flaws and shortcomings, it’s hard to be happy. Remember…nobody’s perfect. Don’t beat yourself up if you cheated on your diet, skipped a workout or two or gave into some type of temptation. We tend to compare ourselves to other people, but more times than not these comparisons are based on unrealistic views of those people. Too much self-criticism causes stress, anxiety and unhappiness.

10. Have Hobbies

Hobbies are fun, challenging and stimulating. Trying new things and learning new skills gives you a feeling of self-confidence and accomplishment. Learn to play an instrument. Take up a foreign language. Try a new sport. Master the art of French cooking. Choose something that interests you, and learn how to do it. Have a “growth” mindset and thrive on challenges. Joy, satisfaction and positive emotions will follow.

Think positively, and take control of your happiness with these 10 easy steps.