Sometimes happiness seems something to strive for, to try and catch, like a fish, the end of a journey.
The secret is of course to find happiness along the journey.

Of course that is not always easy. There are so many things happening every day that can make us go totally crazy. Sometimes it only takes 5 minutes and your day has totally gone down the drain.

Smart, meditative gurus say that you can’t always change a situation, but you can always change the way you look at it. Because when it comes to happiness, your attitude is as important as the things that are happening to you.

Shit hitting the fan? Just put on some purple glasses, look at it from a different angle. In other words: change your thoughts, change the world.

But is that really so? Thoughts don’t come falling out of the sky. They are generated in your brain, which in turn is connected to your body by thousands of nerves. Your body and brain exchange information constantly on how things are ‘up here’ and ‘down there’.
So your mood is also determined by your bodily state. When you are well rested and feel good, you can take a lot more than when you are stressed and tired. And try to think of something different when you are in pain… Not easy, although it will help ease that pain.
Or try to quit smoking, or to loose weight. Your brain will generate thought after thought that tries to make you grab that cigarette or that cookie.

So when you don’t feel so good in your body, it is difficult to be positive and happy. And research proves that. When healthy, optimistic people were kept awake night after night, they changed into unhappy, unstable and whiny people.

How does that happen?

Your brain secretes substances that take care of happiness, wellbeing and safety, such as serotonine and oxytocine. Oxytocine takes care of attachment and trust. Serotonine delivers relaxation and wellbeing and is also called the ‘happiness hormone’.

When you take care of yourself, these hormones are set free automatically by your body. Taking care of your body is the key to happiness.

So below I want to share 6 simple ways to boost your happiness.

Sleep has a very strong impact on your hormones and the brain. Nothing can improve your mood than a good night’s sleep. The relationship between nightly rest and your mood is quite complex, but most people become edgy and less happy when deprived of sleep. And they can concentrate less. And those problems can already appear after one bad night. So imagine what a few or more broken nights can do.
To improve your sleep, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day and make sure your bedroom is fresh and aired out enough. Try to avoid artificial light, switch off the television and computer at least 2 hours before you go to bed and switch off as many lights as possible. Light some candles and get into the mood for sleep in a natural way so that you wake up the next day fresh and ready to go!

People who do yoga often feel better in their body than non yogi’s. At least that’s what research says. And it doesn’t matter if you are a prisoner or a menopausal woman 🙂 If you do yoga once or twice a week during a few months, your mood improves considerably. Yoga makes you calmer, even off the mat. You can deal with stress better and your mood improves and becomes more stable.

3. SUN
Is the weather nice? Then try to be outside as much as possible, because nothing boosts your mood more. We all experience this in the spring when the days become longer and the sun is out more often. In autumn we miss the sun and the lack thereof makes our biological clock go off kilter, which has an effect on our production of happiness hormone serotonine. The result: many people get a bad mood or even get depressed. Sunlight stimulates production of serotonine and vitamin D, which prevents depression. Fifteen minutes a day outside is enough to load up your batteries.

What has been known in more traditional medicines has been proven by research lately: bodily contact, such as during a massage, is healing and maybe even necessary for a healthy mind and spirit. Through positive touch you relax and release some oxytocine which makes you feel safe and taken care of. Like coming home. It literally improves the contact between body and spirit. You see this with mothers holding their babies. Oxytocine makes sure that a baby becomes curious and tries to discover his environment trustfully. Other advantages: touch activates your defense system and stimulates blood flow and the detox via your muscles. Even touching hands has this effect already. So imagine what a massage, a hug or sex can do!

A simple smile is enough for a happiness firework in your brain. As soon as you laugh, nerves in your cheeks get activated that directly connect to your brain and request the release of more serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. And that feels just wonderfully relaxing. Your blood pressure and heartbeat also go down. When you practice enough, the effect can be as strong as anti depressants, but without the side effects! 🙂 It even works if there is nothing to laugh about. Force a smile and see what it does to your mood… And try frowning and making a sad face and see what that does to your mood! Hah! So make sure you laugh, a lot! Try some laughing yoga, watch a funny movie or train yourself to see the funny things in every situation.

When you run yourself into a sweat, you can get into a kind of trance, a ‘runner’s high’. It is created by endorphins, natural painkillers that the brain produces. But you don’t have to run like crazy. Each form of exercise can do this for you. Your mood and concentration improve visibly if you go for a walk, cycle or swim for half an hour each day. People who never move already see improvement in their mood if they only come in action twice a week. Dancing is an absolute tip! Dancing not only releases the endorphins but the music and the rhythm release oxytocin in your brain and let you shine!

So, go, move, get outside, laugh and when the day is over, have sex and fall asleep. And you will wake up a happy person! 🙂

Loosely translated and adapted from an article in happiness magazine (Dutch edition)