1. Move Your Body
Physical activity of any kind has a positive impact on well-being and happiness across all stages of life. An overall active lifestyle is a very influential way to improve happiness. Why? Physical activity improves physical health, including heart health. It also helps reduce anxiety and depression and improves confidence, positive self-perception, and mental health. Studies have shown that high or even moderately active individuals report higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness compared to those who are less active. Find new ways to be active in everyday life, from training for a marathon to simply taking the stairs at work.
2. Get Outside
Spending time outdoors has been shown to improve mental health. Studies show that engaging with nature and being in natural environments positively improves emotional well-being and mental health. Exposure to natural light, fresh air, and the calming sights and sounds of nature can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Explore nature walks in your town or complete tasks outdoors that would typically be done inside, like responding to emails, making phone calls, or folding laundry.
3. Get Regular Sleep
Quality sleep is crucial to your health and overall well-being. Chronic sleep deprivation directly affects your ability to handle daily tasks, which can lead to fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and a general decline in well-being over time. Studies show that people with shorter sleep lengths and insomnia tend to have lower levels of happiness. Conversely, those with longer, better sleep report less anger and higher happiness levels. Aim for a regular bedtime and waketime routine to optimize your sleep and get in 7-9 quality hours per night.
4. Reduce Screen Time
Evidence suggests that excessive screen time is linked to reduced physical activity and metabolic rate, which can negatively impact happiness. It’s especially important to avoid screens prior to bed, as exposure can interfere with sleep quality, which in turn can impact mood. High screen time has been associated with irritability, poor mood, and cognitive issues. Multiple studies have also linked worsened depression and anxiety symptoms with more screen time. Therefore, limiting screen time is important for promoting mental well-being. You likely get enough screen time during the day from work, school, or other tasks, so choose leisure activities that don’t require screens prior to bed, such as reading, journaling, or listening to a podcast or audiobook. You can also replace screen time with a new hobby, such as knitting or playing an instrument.
5. Use Social Media with Caution
Don’t allow social media to fuel negative emotions, like anger and anxiety. Research has consistently shown that social media has negative effects on your mental health. If you feel social media has had control over the way you think or feel, consider a “cleanse.” Actively delete apps that don’t add meaning to your life and put that time saved towards doing something that does contribute to your happiness.
6. Use SMART Goals, not VAPID Goals
Have SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, responsible for, and time-bound) goals, not VAPID (vague, amorphous, pie in the sky, irrelevant, delayed) goals. Clear targets and a well-defined path are important. For example, a VAPID goal would be “I’m going to clean the entire house.” This goal will likely lead to dissatisfaction because there will always be something in an entire house that needs cleaning. But a SMART goal, like “I will do two loads of laundry by the end of the day,” has clearly defined parameters of what a completed task looks like. Additionally, establish a specific time to accomplish your goals, which allows for better planning and follow-through.
7. Pursue Happiness Indirectly
The path to happiness lies in pursuing it indirectly rather than directly. If you aim for a general goal of happiness, you may struggle to achieve what you are looking for. Instead, try to focus on micro-goals with daily successes as well as self-discovery, personal growth, and meaningful connections with others. When you immerse yourself in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, you create a sense of purpose and as a side effect, improve overall happiness. Examples include pursuing your passions, engaging in acts of kindness, or contributing to a greater cause.
8. Maintain Healthy Practices
Getting out of a depression rut is difficult. You may want to sleep, stay inside, and stare at screens. While none of those things are inherently wrong, and the rest should be prioritized, it’s important to do things that actively cultivate happiness. Rather than succumbing to instinctual behaviors that contribute to sadness and social isolation, try to actively engage in activities that promote well-being. This may involve seeking social connections, engaging in physical activity, spending time in nature, practicing gratitude, or pursuing meaningful hobbies. By consciously choosing behaviors that support happiness, you can actively shape your emotional well-being and lead a more fulfilling life.