Aristotle once said that “happiness depends on ourselves”. But where do we begin? There is no secret recipe for happiness — it comes from within. Try practising these 5 healthy habits that will help you improve your sense of self, the only asset that brings true happiness.
Habit # 1. Early to Bed, Early to Rise
The first happiness habit to master is the art of being a morning person. Everyone has met a morning person in their life — the people who have a skip in their step before 7AM. Do they really have that much energy so early in the morning? If you would rather roll out of bed ten minutes before work, force yourself to get up early. The goal is to wake up early enough to get up with enough time to start your day with ease.
A study entitled Emotion conducted by Christoph Randler found that in general, those who identify as morning people are fundamentally happier and healthier than the “night-owl” subjects. Randler hypothesized that the corporate days of 8 to 5 are part of the reason morning people claimed more success.
Rising early accommodates the 8 to 5 schedule but still allows you have devoted time to yourself. Use this time to do something you love before the craziness of your morning sets in. Learn a new skill or develop a morning habit of mindfulness practises to get your mind ready for the day. This alone-time will help you feel like you are more than just a hamster on a wheel. You will start to find happiness in choosing activities you want to do and in taking control of your morning.
Habit # 2. Meditative Practises
Once you’re up early, practice starting your day with mindful meditation. This does not mean you have to sit cross-legged listening to gongs in the background — find what meditation works for you. It can be prayer, journaling, or simply sitting in your favourite chair with a coffee. As long as you can be present in the moment, your practice will pay off.
A regular practice like these can develop a happier brain. In a study conducted on London drivers, scientists Eleanor Maguire and Katherine Woollett found that paying dedicated attention changes your brain synapses. In London, taxi drivers have to pass an exam that makes them display a total mastery of the 25,000 streets in the city.
Maguire took MRI images of people studying to be cab drivers over many years. Each time she checked in, the scans showed that “grey matter” was increasingly growing in the part of the brain that links to self-awareness. By actively paying attention to their surroundings and studying, these people were changing the physical map of their brains and became happier overall.
Fortunately, you don’t have to study the streets of London for regular meditation in the morning to have this effect. By paying attention to your inner self and setting your intents for the day, you’ll find yourself experiencing longer stretches of true happiness.
Habit # 3. Exercise
Science has clearly proven that exercising regularly links to improved mental health and happiness. If you are just beginning your search for happiness and need help creating healthier habits, exercise can also be a way to “fake it till you make it”. Like meditation, exercising regularly can also physically change the brain.
People understand that exercise boosts endorphins and makes you feel good, but researchers have also found that it also helps facilitate synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. This discovery means that by exercising, you are teaching your brain to be a better learner.
Use this knowledge to overcome the old saying “can’t teach a dog new tricks” and help your brain learn these new happiness habits. Developing an exercise discipline will give your brain impetus to learn these new healthy behaviours and bring more positivity and happiness in your life.
Habit # 4. Eat Healthy
No happiness list is complete without this habit. However, it is important to understand that eating healthy is not a part of happiness habits because it will make you skinny or more like the people you see in magazines. Instead, eating healthy is an essential part of promoting happiness because it can boost your mood, energy, and help with stress. In her book Eat Your Way to Happiness, Elizabeth Somer explains how a healthy diet can gradually improve your mood.
“As people lose weight, their moods improve, or vice versa — as their moods improve, they lose weight. As their moods improve and they lose weight, they cut their risk in half for a whole host of ills, from heart disease to diabetes, in part because they are more motivated to take good care of themselves.
But the link goes further than that. Boost their happiness quotient and they lower stress hormones, such as cortisol, and the inflammatory processes associated with disease. Lower stress means people sleep better, think more clearly and have more energy, which are all factors that help them lose weight and stay happy.”
Like your other new habits, eating healthy helps chemically change your disposition in a sustainable way. As you begin to notice the change a few greens bring to your life, you will be wanting to choose the healthier choice because you will understand the direct benefits you receive.
Habit # 5. Don’t Try to Control Other People
The final habit to master to promote happiness is to understand that you have no control over other people. The idea that you have any control over the thoughts or actions of others is a myth. Thoughts like fretting about your loved ones or hoping your boss will notice you only set yourself up for disappointment.
A study conducted at Berkeley’s found that the obsessive need to control how others see you or to “fit in” to a group erodes your self-awareness. In your need to achieve a certain result, the outcome always begins with you. The key to this habit is to understand that you can only control your own thoughts and actions. Letting go of the need to control others will allow you to get to know yourself and your needs — a knowledge that will last a lifetime.
There is no timeline to master these principles. It is ok to tackle one habit at a time or enforce all of them at once. Don’t forget that fully cementing a habit takes a bit of time. If you practice these five habits regularly, you will create a no-fail road to happiness.