You’ll be smiling in seconds with these foolproof quick tips
By Meghann Foye Posted August 11, 2008 from WomansDay.com
Does it ever seem like happiness is as elusive as gas under $3 a gallon? It’s no secret that women are under more stress than ever before, but there are easy ways to regain balance—in as little as five minutes. “Once you make small changes, you’ll start to feel less stressed, and you’ll automatically start making better decisions so you don’t take on more responsibility than you can handle,” explains John Gray, PhD, author of Why Mars & Venus Collide. Next time you feel anxious, stressed or sad, jump-start a better mood pronto with these quick happiness helpers.
Join a Message Board
According to a recent happiness study of college students over the course of one semester, the most content of the bunch had lives containing a combination of good social relationships, family ties and romantic partnerships. If work and family responsibilities leave little time for face-to-face interactions, consider a cyber source of support: Signing on to a message board with like-minded women can provide the same effect.
Take a Breather
Can’t stop yourself from running through the same negative thought spiral again and again? Try this ancient yogic breathing trick, called Nadi Sodhana: Close one nostril using your thumb. Hold for five seconds, breathing in, then out, then close other nostril using the pointer finger of the same hand. Repeat six to nine cycles until you start to feel more relaxed. The cycle forces your brain’s impulses to switch from left to right and back again, releasing you from the negative thoughts instantly.
Start a Blog
Experiencing the kind of blues that even Ben & Jerry can’t cure? Writing about your feelings could offer a sweeter release. Numerous studies have shown that putting a name to your emotions can result in a drop in blood pressure, a healthier immune system and an immediate halt in your body’s stress response. If you start your own blog, you’ll get the added bonus of feedback from commenters who might identify with your problems and offer help.
Research a New Hobby
Considering a major life change to get out of a rut? Start smaller. In a recent University of Missouri study, a researcher found that a change of circumstance—such as moving or ending a relationship—resulted in only a quick uptick in happiness, while starting a new ongoing activity, such as joining a hobby club or starting an exercise program, brought lasting joy.
Call Your Top Five
Instead of spending time trying to expand your social circle, flip through your speed dial and call a close friend. You get more joy from spending time with old pals who know and love you as opposed to casual acquaintances, according to research by Meliksah Demir, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Arizona University.
Many studies have found that any form of creativity is usually associated with a positive mood and joy. Always wanted to try your hand at painting? You don’t have to be the next Picasso—just being in the moment is enough to inspire a happier outlook on life. If you need inspiration, try creating your own rendition of a favorite photograph or bring a vase full of peonies to life on canvas.
Eat Spaghetti Bolognese
Your grandmother may have been on to something: Serotonin, the brain chemical that promotes a feeling of peace and tranquility, gets a kick-start from tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as red meat. The trick is that it’s only absorbed properly with the help of insulin, which is found in carbohydrate-rich foods, so to keep your body’s feel-good machine running at full speed, seek out recipes that combine the two.
There’s a reason why a lady in red is so memorable: According to color experts, red is the hue we pay most attention to and associate with passion, luck and sex appeal. Next time you’re feeling down, reach into the closet for some crimson clothing, or choose candy apple as your nail color for a quick confidence boost.
Hit the Mall
A few years back, researchers at UCLA discovered that there’s a hormone called oxytocin, which, when its production is stimulated, lowers stress in women. The best part? It starts pumping on its own anytime you’re being nurtured, nurturing others or nurturing yourself. (Think checking in on a family member, going to lunch with friends or, of course, shopping!)
Writing out a to-do list may feel good, but sharing what’s on it with a friend will make you feel even better, says Dr. Gray. Unlike men, who feel more powerful when they complete an item on their list, women find little satisfaction in crossing off just one item in a seemingly never-ending list. Instead, talking about the tasks on your plate can help you sort through them, leaving you better equipped to handle everything. “It’s like a purse—you have to go through it to know what’s in there,” says Dr. Gray.
Pop Some Chocolate
Here’s another reason to thank Mr. Hershey: In addition to all of its heart-healthy antioxidants, chocolate also contains phenylethylamine—a mood-regulating chemical found naturally in the brain. Researchers at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson say it may also boost the brain’s production of the natural antidepressant serotonin, making it a double dose of goodness.
Reallocate Your Rebate Check
Before you sign over your IRS rebate or yearly bonus to savings, ask yourself, “Is there anyone else in my life that needs a chunk of this more than I do?” According a study in Science, people who spend part of their annual bonus on others are happier than those who don’t. Giving as little as $5 was linked to a surge in happiness, so go buy that ever-supportive friend a Starbucks gift card to feel the kind of jolt caffeine can’t give.
Count Your Blessings
Next time your woe-is-me mind frame is getting the best of you, take a moment to pen a note of gratitude—you might be surprised by how much better you immediately start to feel. Make the practice a habit and you can enjoy even more lasting effects: According to University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons, a leading happiness researcher, people who write in gratitude journals on a regular basis feel better about their lives as a whole and maintain greater optimism about the future.
Buy Yourself Flowers
Yes, the pretty blooms will undoubtedly brighten your day, but there’s also a little-known reason why flowers—or any plant, for that matter—can make you feel better. When you take time to smell the roses, you’re breathing in a special form of oxygen that’s easier for your lungs to absorb, allowing you to feel more relaxed in seconds. Flowers and plants emit this form straight from the bud, which may be the reason behind the tradition of bringing flowers to sick people, says Dr. Gray.