Happiness is not a long term state, but rather one that fluctuates day to day, and even throughout the day. It is also not an emotion that is completely out of your control. While there are some factors of happiness that you cannot change, such as genetics and environment, about 40% of happiness is completely within your control.
You can start changing your emotional state and working towards being happier by identifying what you can change and making alterations. These small steps – backed by scientific research – are easy ways to improve your happiness.
Quick Ways to Be Happier
Whether you want to be happier in general or you are looking for ways to relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety, making small changes in your life can often have a big impact. This is because the small changes have a physical impact by increasing the dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin in your brain, making you feel happier overall.
These are 5 simple, evidence based changes you can make that will produce more of these neurotransmitters that promote happiness:
- Increasing Oxygen in the Brain – The brain relies on oxygen to create serotonin and endorphins, so a shortage of oxygen will limit the production of neurotransmitters. You can increase oxygen by promoting blood flow. Overall good health is one way to do this, but easy changes you can make now include increasing exercise, since boosting your heart rate will get more blood into your brain, and consuming fewer beverages with alcohol or caffeine, as both of these limit blood flow.
- Eating Foods that Promote Serotonin Production – An overall healthier diet boosts both physical and mental health, but if you want to focus on specific foods for happiness, there are several that increase serotonin because they contain the chemical tryptophan. Some of the best foods for this are poultry, fish, bananas, and nuts.
- Regulate Cortisol Circadian Rhythms – Cortisol is a stress hormone that can cause you to feel anxiety and adrenaline. Your body has a natural increase and decrease of cortisol throughout the day, largely impacted by exposure to sunlight, which is part of the reason happiness is generally easier to achieve in the summer when daylight hours are longer. You can adjust your circadian rhythms to regulate cortisol production by going to sleep and waking up at roughly the same times every day. Waking up an hour earlier in the wintertime to maximize daily sun exposure will also help to regulate cortisol and keep you feeling upbeat and alert without experiencing stress.
- Use Diaphragmatic Breathing – Using this deep breathing technique will reduce stress and help you feel calmer and happier. It pushes your body into a state of relaxation physically, which causes your mind to feel more relaxed as well. To try diaphragmatic breathing, put a hand on your chest and stomach. Only the bottom hand should move as you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 2, and exhale for 6.
- Introducing Novelty into Routines – Part of the reason that going on vacation is exciting is because it brings novelty to your life, which can increase the production of neurotransmitters. You can achieve a similar result by changing daily routines in order to introduce novelty to otherwise routine situations. Even small and simple changes are effective as long as they introduce something new into your life.
Implementing some of these changes into your life can be effective at preventing depression and helping you lead an overall happier life. If, however, you are already facing depression, it can be difficult to reduce symptoms on your own even by making these changes.
In these cases, using mental health medication prescribed by a Dallas psychiatrist can help further reduce symptoms so that you can start making these changes and others to improve your overall happiness in the long term. Dr. Sehdev of Aware Behavioral Health works with patients experiencing depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns that are holding them back from happiness. Make an appointment with Aware Behavioral Health today.