October 31st, 2018
By Dr. Ellyn Turer — There are 5 actionable & non-negotiable things I believe everyone can do to start feeling happier today. I call them non-negotiables because there is no negotiating out of doing them. I have been both actively pursuing and fascinated with happiness and balance for a very long time. After seeing patients for over a decade, I have consistently observed that incorporating the following 5 things in your life will bring you an undeniable sense of happiness:
- Aim for a minimum of 3 days per week. Ideally, get between 4-6 good work-outs in each week. I went to a conference on mind-body medicine a few years ago. Nearly every presenter made it very clear that we need to be telling our patients to exercise for the undeniable mental health benefits. Exercise will always out you in a better mood!
- Aim for a minimum of 3 times per week. Anything is better than nothing. Try to get at least 10 minutes, but even 3 minutes will still prove beneficial. There is a cumulative effect that comes with meditation. The longer you practice meditation throughout the course of your life, the better you’ll feel. I have reviewed countless meditation apps. My #1 choice is headspace. I even use headspace myself!
Other excellent meditation apps include: Calm & Buddhify. Meditation is so good for you! It helps decrease your overall level of reactivity to everyday stressors, so you ultimately feel less stressed. It literally makes no sense not to meditate. It took me years to become a regular meditator and even today my practice is not perfect. However, it has become a regular part of my weekly routine and I’m better for it. As a side note, I also meditated throughout my pregnancy and I’ve been told I have a baby Buddha.
Eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient dense food. What we consume has a direct impact on both our physiological and psychological well-being. Numerous foods have been linked to decreased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. Some examples of these foods include, but are not limited to: blueberries, salmon, walnuts, Brazil nuts (one every other day), oranges, dark chocolate, asparagus, avocado, curcumin, & chamomile tea (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6). Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t get your Baked & Wired Fix on from time to time, but overall lets treat our minds and bodies better by making cleaner food choices.
Practice good sleep hygiene
Ahhhhh…sleep! It’s essential to make getting quality restful sleep a priority. Aim to go to bed around the same time at night and wake up around the same time every morning. Here’s the magic number: 7.5. Remember it. Dan Buettner, a resident expert in happiness and longevity, states that the happiest people in the world get at least 7.5 hours of sleep per night (7). So, let’s make that a goal. Sure, you can function on less, but who wants to merely be able to function. There’s a huge difference between existing and living. Getting quality sleep will help you really LIVE. In addition, lack of sleep affects your brain’s capacity to control emotion. The more well-rested you are, the better equipped you will be to handle everyday stress. Sleep is medicine. Make it a priority.
Schedule at least 1 meaningful social activity every week.
- As a society we are becoming increasingly disconnected from each other. You’re checking Instagram while watching Bachelor in Paradise while shopping online (or maybe that’s just me ). Happy people feel connected to others. One day a week may seem low for some and high for others, but it’s so important. I make a point to schedule at least one activity with a friend every week.
You have so much more control over how you think and feel than you ever realized! If you regularly incorporate these non-negotiables in your life, you will be happier. I know it.
Let’s do this! Happiness is a choice. Let’s make the choice together.
1.) Delub, E. (2015, November 16). Nutritional Psychiatry: Your brain on food.
2.) Esmaily, H., Sahebkar, A., Iranshahi, M. et al. Chin. J. Integr. Med. (2015) 21: 332. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11655-015-2160-z
3.) Latif, R. & Sunni A. A. (2014). Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; A controlled clinical Study. International Journal of Health Science, 8(4), 393-401. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4350893/
4.) Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-Regulated Anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2013, 701967. Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/701967
5.) Mao, J. J., Xie, S. X., Keefe, J. R., Soeller, I., Li, Q. S., & Amsterdam, J. (2016). Long-term Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology, 23(14), 1735–1742. Retrieved from: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2016.10.012
6.) Murphy, M., & Mercer, J. G. (2013). Diet-Regulated Anxiety. International Journal of Endocrinology, 2013, 701967. http://doi.org/10.1155/2013/701967
7.) Buettner, D. (2017, October 17). 9 Questions for Dan Buettner: Happiness lessons from the happiest places in the world. Retrieved from: https://www.bluezones.com/2017/10/happiness-lessons-from-happiest-countries-and-cities-in-the-world/).