10 Foods To Make You Happy

Food can affect our mood in different ways. It can increase our levels of feel-good brain chemicals, it can cause fluctuations in our blood sugar levels and it can create adverse reactions to the artificial additives used in processed food.

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is an essential component to maintaining good mental health, below we have listed 10 foods that have been proven to help boost your levels of happiness:

Continue reading 10 Foods To Make You Happy

The Art Of Positive Thinking

benefits

I met up with a friend recently and asked him how his work was going. “Miserable” he replied. He then stopped himself and said: “Do you know, I have to stop doing that. Work is great. I have a good job, I am well paid, and I will get a great pension. But we are all miserable, we have all got in the habit of telling everyone how miserable our jobs are – and it is infectious. You begin to believe it”.

This reminded me of an article I had read recently which talked about how negative thinking in school staff rooms was affecting teachers: “All teachers need the odd whinge, but our workloads and mental health would improve greatly if we stopped mithering and focused on the highlights”.

Yes negative thinking can be infectious, but so can positive thinking. Research has shown that we can change the way that we think, and by doing that we can change the way that we feel and behave. We can learn to see the positives in our day and as a result feel happier and more fulfilled; and – as a bonus, evidence suggests that happier workers are more productive workers and score more highly across all performance indicators.

Here is an exercise that has been shown to help boost your happiness and change negative thinking into more positive thinking:

At the end of each day write down three things that brought you happiness and joy. You may wish to create your own happiness jar – each evening write down the things that made you happy and add them to your jar. When you are feeling low you can read your pieces of paper and remember the moments that brought you joy.

Learn to see through the fog of habitual misery and spot the silver lining.

Giving With Love

christmas

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. Mahatma Gandhi

A BBC poll suggests that almost half of adults in England experience loneliness – people of all ages and in all circumstances.

In last year’s Christmas blog I spoke about the impact of loneliness and encouraged people who were experiencing loneliness to reach out. This year I want to focus on the act of giving. Whether or not someone reaches out to us, we all need to be there to provide each other with the emotional and practical support that at times in our lives we all need.

Of course, no giving is truly altruistic. The giver benefits just as much as the recipient. Giving helps us to feel:

  • More socially connected – it fosters a sense of trust and strengthens our bonds with others. The more we give the more likely we are to receive support from others when we need it.
  • Happier – the act of giving activates the regions in our brains connected with pleasure, social connection and trust.
  • Healthier – the more we help others the lower our blood pressure, the healthier we feel and the lower our risk of dying within the next 5 years!
  • Less stressed – giving to others and creating a sense of social connectedness acts as a buffer against feelings of negative stress.
  • Better about ourselves – giving boosts our self-esteem and mood and gives us a sense of purpose.

Plus, giving has been shown to be contagious, by giving to others we create a ripple effect throughout our community – encouraging others to give as well.

The tough bit though, the really tough bit, is being able to give in a way that is open hearted, generous, and without strings. Giving so that the recipient feels that they are helping us, and giving in a way that it makes it easy for people to receive. That is the challenge – giving with love.

Four Reasons Why Our Friends Are Important

friends
A recent survey by the counselling organisation Relate reported that 1 in 10 of the people questioned did not have a close friend and that 1 in 5 of us feel unloved. 81% of people who are married or cohabiting feel good about themselves compared with 69% who are single.

Friendships are important, but it is often a part of our life that we just don’t give enough attention to. It sits in our ‘would be nice to do if I had enough time’ pile rather than our ‘essential’ pile.

There are lots of reasons why we should be investing the effort in making and maintaining good, supportive friendships. Here are just four:

1. Friends Make you Happy
People who have close friends are happier. People who consistently rate themselves as ‘very happy’ have more rich and satisfying friendships; they spend least time alone and more time socialising. Great relationships might not guarantee you great happiness, but the evidence is that you cannot achieve great happiness without them.

2. Friends Lighten the Load
Having your friends with you either in your thoughts or in person helps us to negotiate life’s challenges. Researchers found that people accompanied by a friend, or who thought of a supportive friend saw a hill as less steep than people on their own or thinking of someone who wasn’t a friend. Having a friend by your side or in your thoughts quite literally “lightens the load’ and helps you to manage life’s difficulties.

3. Friends Increase Our Resilience
Having the support of friends increases our physical and our mental resilience. Social connection protects us from stress related illness and symptoms and boosts our immune system providing resistance to infectious diseases. It also protects us from the vagaries of life. The greater the network of people we can call on when life is dealing us a dud-hand, the greater our ability to cope.

4. Sharing Good News With Friends Boosts Your Feel-Good Factor
Sharing good news with others helps us to savour the experience. Research has shown that when good things happen, sharing the news with friends helps us to experience even more positive affect than could be attributed to the event alone. Telling someone else about a positive event increases your happiness and life satisfaction. When it comes to good news, it is definitely positive to share.

For further information:

1. Diener, E., Sligman, M.E.P., (2002) Very Happy People Psychological Science. 13:1

2. Schnall, S., Harber, K.D., Stefanucci, J.K., Proffitt, D.R. (2008) Social Support and the Perception of a Geographical Slant. Journal of Exp Psych 44

3. Cohen, S., Doyle, WJ., Turner, R., Alper, C.M., Skoner, D.P., (2003) Socialbility and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Psychological Science 14:5

4. Langton, C.A., (1994( Capitalizing on coping and daily-life events: Expressive responses to positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 67.

Is Love Important?

waltervalentineAt this time of year our thoughts begin to turn towards romance and love. For those of us in a relationship we may be thinking about whether or not we buy into the commercialisation of romance, or we may be flinging ourselves into the sentiment of the day whole heartedly.

For those of us not in an intimate relationship we may be feeling that the day is irrelevant, or that February the 14th is a national conspiracy highlighting the fact that the world evolves around ‘smug’ couples.

But does love make us happy?

I’m not sure if it makes us happy, but close relationships certainly give us a solid foundation from which to live our lives. Not just intimate relationships – love and companionship in its many forms: friends, family, even pets – connections, community and bonds that make our world a happier place.

Human beings are innately social. We have evolved to see loneliness as a threat. Social isolation raises levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, raises blood pressure and weakens our immune system.

Conversely, the presence of supportive others have been shown to alter our perceptions of everyday challenges so that they are perceived as being less threatening, as well as acting as a buffer protecting us from the negative effects of stressful events.

But of course it has to be the right relationship. Recent research has shown that the fear of being single often results in people settling for less in relationships. The fear of being single can lead people to prioritise being in a relationship above that of the quality of the relationship.

So as we approach Valentine’s Day what steps can you be taking to boost your emotional relationships?

Be honest with yourself
Many of us are perfectly happy being single. It is a good place for us to be at this time in our lives. But for others it can be a cause of unhappiness. Be honest with yourself. If you would like to increase your chances of meeting someone begin to broaden your social circles, and explore ways of increasing your chances of meeting someone romantically.

Whether you are entering a new relationship or reflecting on a long-term relationship ask yourself whether the driving force is your fear of being single. Are you making decisions based on that fear rather than on the quality of the relationship?

Celebrate the connections you have
Whether you are in a romantic relationship, or whether you have supportive friends or loving family. Celebrate the connections that you have got. Just because it is Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you have to make a grand gesture. But just a hug, a text, a phone call, or even a card will let the people close to you know that you are thinking of them.

Happy Valentine’s Day.