“Most Folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be”
– Abraham Lincoln
It’s coming up to that time of the year where we start to think of the new year that is approaching and the new goals and resolutions we want to impose on ourselves. Last year, I wrote a blog about the new years resolutions that everyone should have, while this blog is relatively similar, it is more of a blog for those that don’t believe in resolutions. Some of you believe they set you up to fail, while others claim that you don’t need to wait until the new year to have new goals. However, evidence has shown that when a person writes down a goal or a deadline, their goals were more likely to be met than those who did not write any goals or a deadline.
There is one thing that universally EVERYONE wants; happiness. So today’s blog is the 9 steps that you can take to be a happier version of you! You certainly do not need to wait until the new year to make positive changes, so make a change this week to develop a naturally more positive frame of mind in time for a fresh start. These 9 steps are just things that I really believe in, some I practice on a daily basis and some are more recent changes that I have made over the past year. You do not have to follow this list extensively and you may even have 1 or 2 to add that you know works for you.
That’s right, take some quite time to simply envisage your goal, state, situation or desire that is a little into the future and really immerse yourself in that image. What can you see? What can you feel? There is evidential proof that positive visualisation can end with positive results. Why? Well to put it simply, the brain does not know the difference between what is real and what isn’t; therefore the brain will really believe the state that you have chosen it to believe. If you think about it, those who envisage something happening in the future are more likely to make it happen, because they’ve essentially planned for it. They know what they want, they know what to expect and they know what steps they need to take along the way. A great example of this is when athletes envisage winning a race, winning a game or successfully completing a skill. This positive visualisation enhances their arousal levels and decreases their anxiety because they’re persuaded that is really is going to happen, so their brain and body believes it!
One of my favourite coaches to watch on YouTube is Tony Robbins and I encourage you to watch his video: The Magic of Visualisation. Another great technique that I myself have never done, but is something I would love to do in my new house, is to create a vision board. For those of you who do not know what this is, is it quite simply a board that reflects how you feel and what you want to achieve. This is different to a photo collage of your friends or your holiday pictures, because the aim of this is to motivate you, re-inspire you and to remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing on a daily basis and for what purpose. When you’re creating your board, think of your ideal: relationships, career, money situation, living arrangements, travel ideas, physical health, mental health and your social life and create a large collage. If you’re struggling for ideas, take a look at Pinterest for some creative inspiration.
THINK AND SPEAK POSITIVELY
The power of positive affirmations can work wonders when you truly believe the words you think and utter, and why wouldn’t they? Let’s say you woke up first thing on a Monday morning and immediately say to yourself “Great, this is going to be the worst week ever and it’s going to go really slow”, then how on earth could you possibly have a happy, productive and fulfilling week when you’ve already told yourself how your week is going to go? Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to be fake and start lying to yourself when perhaps things aren’t going so well for you, it just means that you need to at least think and believe your day or week will be positive before it’s already begun. Then, when it comes to a time where something didn’t exactly go to plan, think, speak and react positively, or at least differently to how you would normally react. See how this new perception leaves you feeling this time instead of how it would have made you feel if you reacted more negatively.
If you’re someone who is naturally negative, you may find it difficult to find ways to think and speak more positively. My advice would be to go on Youtube and listen to an array of positive affirmation videos and podcasts; listening through your headphones. Some of the most popular positive affirmation videos are by Louise Hay and Jason Stephenson. Furthermore, there are many self-help books both on Kindle and paper copy that are designed to programme your mind into thinking more positively instead of negatively through simple tricks and techniques.
CLEAR YOUR ENVIRONMENT
We’ve heard of this time and time again, a tidy room = a tidy mind. So there must be truth in this phrase if it is always repeated! Start by decluttering your wardrobe, getting rid of things you no longer wear; perhaps donate it to charity or give it to a friend. Then take the next step of decluttering rooms until the whole house feels better, then give it a super deep clean, put on fresh bedding and let the windows open ajar. While you’re creating more space, think of where you would like to put your vision board, where is an area that you spend most of your time?
Next, declutter your mind. One of the dangers we have is ruminative thinking, where we continually replay conversations, events, and situations in our head, and often these are associated with regret and negativity – do not live in the past! To clear your mind, it is highly recommended that you take time to unwind, preferably without noise, the television or social media. This might entail yoga, pilates, a bath with candles, reading a book, or simply lying in bed a little earlier than normal. This will allow you to relax and get used to not being hectic 24/7. Is is okay to relax and you should never feel guilt while doing so.
DISCONNECT TO RECONNECT
It isn’t new knowledge that we all need to reduce our time on social media; it is not a productive or rewarding hobby to have. It leaves many of us feeling annoyed, angry and jealous. So why make yourself feel that way? Did you know that those who spend more time on social media are more likely to be depressed? Not to mention that psychologists have actually named a recognised condition called ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’, do I need to explain what that is? This doesn’t mean that we all should suddenly delete our accounts, it just means that some of us may find some benefit to have a digital detox. If you can’t actually stop yourself from going a whole 24 hours, let alone a few hours without going online, then there is an issue! I personally feel that one of the most unuseful things to do first thing in the morning is to check social media. There is a staggering number of people who can’t even get out of bed without checking their notifications or news feed, surely this is fuelling annoyance, anger and jealousy which is further fuelling our negative minds? Instead, I would highly recommend that you start your day by taking the time to eat a nice breakfast, make a tasty lunch, exercise or listen to some happy music. I would also recommend that you don’t check social media until you have completed your to-do list for the day, purely on the basis that it is so distracting – you may find that you get more things done.
We’ve all seen the popularity of ‘good mood food’ and ‘you are what you eat’. If you’re eating foods that are consistently high in sugar, you will consistently have sugar highs and lows, leaving you feeling low on energy and craving that sugar once again. Similarly, if you’re eating foods that are energy dense and lack any nutritional value, such as fizzy drinks and ready meals, you’ll feel sluggish, tired and lacking of energy. I suggest that you make sure that you incorporate plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet so that you benefit from the vitamins, minerals and fibre, you can literally eat as many fruits and vegetables in one day as you like; challenge yourself on how many colours can you eat in 1 week! I also suggest that you make your own lunch using fresh ingredients and that you completely avoid processed meals – but of course treat yourself one day a week, it would be rather boring otherwise!
We are a nation who claim we never have time for exercise. But you really do not need an hours gym session every day in order to move more and get active. Sorry gym bunnies, but it is proven that 1 hour in the gym simply can NOT undo the damage of 23 hours of being sedentary (even if you look fit and healthy). Instead, we need to be finding plentiful opportunities throughout the day to simply move. This could be an active commute (cycling, walking, getting off the bus a stop earlier), walking in the day more (walking the dog for longer, taking the kids to the park, walking during lunch breaks), taking the stairs, exercising where possible (gym, home, park) and being active on the weekend (walking on the beach, coastal walks, bike rides, horse riding, playing sport). This is so our ‘active minutes’ over the course of 24 hours significantly increase.
A recent study published a few days ago compared 1 group of obese people who had a gym plan, with another group of similarly obese people who were told to cycle as part of their daily commute (twice a day). Over the course of 9 months, which group do you think lost the most weight? Well I can tell you that the study found that the active commuters actually lost the most weight, which shows the importance of active minutes rather than going to the gym – both combined is completely advantageous so if you’re lucky enough to afford a gym membership or club, go for it! If you’re not sure how active you are, start timing yourself, switch on your stop watch on your phone every time you’re on the move and see if you can improve this the next day.
There is an endless list of benefits for being active, but for the purposes of this blog, I would like to highlight some of the key benefits which are: an increased release of the happy hormone ‘endorphins’, increased confidence about yourself, improved sense of wellbeing, pleasing results if you notice weight loss or physiological changes and a sense of accomplishment for completing personal and set challenges.
SPEND MORE TIME OUTSIDE
Following on from moving more, I think that this one is going to be the most difficult. A lot of people (particularly here in the UK) see Autumn and Winter as the time of year to retreat indoors with cosy candles and log fires until Spring (though that does sound appealing). But just because it’s a little colder and darker does not mean we need to be banished to our sofas like we’re a hibernating polar bear, it just means that we need to be sensible and wrap up a little warmer! Trust me when I say that beach and coastal walks are not just for the summer. You will still see some fantastic scenery, especially when places start to become more crip and misty. Wrap up warm, take flasks of hot drinks and bring delicious food for a car picnic. Or, find a cosy country pub along your travels to retire in when you’ve finished your exploration. Evidence has shown that mental health significantly improves when we reconnect with nature and are surrounded by natural scenery.
BUY EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS
While it is really nice to treat ourselves, is it really not the same as creating memories. I’m not saying this means we all now need to travel around the world for £10,000, though this does sound amazing! This could simply be calling a friend (or not) and doing some sight seeing in your city. This could simply be slowly saving up for that holiday you’ve always wanted to go on, not matter how long it takes you to save. I firmly believe that no adventure will come with regret, not to mention all the learning that comes with it. If you’re thinking, “okay well how am I supposed to do this with no money?” I would say start by experiencing free things, museums, art galleries, free comedy shows and hiking. Then, I would also recommend that you significantly reduce the amount of food and coffee you purchase from coffee shops, takeouts and restaurants because I have really noticed how it eats my money away. Challenge yourself to 1 month of eating food from your weekly supermarket shop and decline offers for eating expensive meals out.
EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE
atThe early bird catches the worm right? While there is nothing to not love about a warm and cosy bed, unfortunately lying around for half the day isn’t productive and isn’t a good hobby to have. Getting up earlier allows you to have more time in the day to fulfil your goals. It also allows you time to actually wake up in the morning. How many times have you skipped breakfast or missed out on time to make lunch because you didn’t get out of bed? How about making time to exercise in the morning to get it out of the way? Waking up a little earlier means the you’re more likely to be tired earlier in the evening, which means that you’re more likely to sleep more soundly. There is also evidence to suggest that rather than hours per night, one of the most important things is to get more hours in before midnight, it is reportedly 3 times better! It is thought that while you’re sleeping before midnight, the body is able to restore itself better, it is able to detoxify better, it is able to replenish cells better and it is able to balance out hormones.
I hope you enjoyed this blog, please let me know if anything on the list particularly worked for you or what personal tips you have that you feel contributes to your happiness!
© 2017 Naomi Laws. All rights reserved.