I came across this article recently about ten of the best (scientifically proven) ways to increase happiness and thought it was interesting enough to share here. It got me thinking about the things that make me happy. There are lots of things that make me happy for either a short time or to leave that glorious lingering feeling of contentment, and ones that boost something biological (endorphines mostly I assume) that increase my energy and enthusiasm for life. So I thought I would share my own top ten, some are the same and some are different.
1. Spending time with my family
This is number 4 in the article and encompasses family AND friends, I’m separating the two, mostly because I need both SEPARATELY and TOGETHER. I put this one in first place but I should add that too much uninterrupted time with just the girls and Mr Good does send me stir crazy. So even though they make me immensely happy, listening to the girls play, laugh and chatter away constantly, reading and snuggling with them at night makes may heart sing, but every now and then I need a break to help me focus on these great things and not on the niggles, whining and tantrums.
This one is interesting given our recent move. Having left most of my friends in Melbourne, it’s been a little isolating for me, being at home all day. I have two lovely friends here in Ballarat (one from high school and another newer one) who have been wonderful, but breaking into new friendship groups reminds me of being the new kid at school. It’s also not something that comes naturally for me, but something I need to force myself to do. Of course that’s not to say I’m leaving my old friends behind, I keep in touch regularly (thank goodness for Facebook), and will be seeing them all from time to time I hope. But having local friends is important too. I’m definitely a better person when I spend time with girlfriends with and without the children. And I did just that yesterday having a child free lunch with my Ballarat-dwelling high school friend at the cutest little tea shop (finger sandwiches and little cakes for lunch, yum!)
As much as I enjoy curling up on the couch, under a granny rug with a good book in winter, I definitely suffer the winter blues by the end of it. I assume its a lack of Vitamin D (which I take a supplement for), but spending even just 15-20 minutes in the sunshine definitely boosts my mood. It’s so much easier now that the days are longer and the sun is warmer, but even in cooler months I try to get out whenever the sun is out, push the sleeves up and soak up the rays for a bit (did you know you absorb Vitamin D best from your forearms, well if I am to believe my pharmacist?). According to the article 20 minutes outside on a nice day improves thinking and memory as well as improving your mood, nice.
I’m not sure why this gives me such a lift, but I miss it terribly when I don’t get to do it for an extended period. I love the cyclical nature of gardening, there’s always something starting and something finishing up. If you get your heart broken because your tomatoes all got blossom end rot or your broccoli got decimated by caterpillars there’s always next season to have another go and probably something else in the garden that has done so much better than you expected. I also love the feel of the soil in your fingers, and the smell of digging in the dirt, especially if it has recently rained or better yet raining lightly while you’re out there.
Something I struggle to fit in at times but I feel much better when I do get some. And as much as I enjoy running, I’ve realised recently that even a twenty minute walk with the girls is enough. It’s my current goal to get out every day or at least every other day and do something specifically physical. I’ve started a Pilates class on Saturday morning and I’ve been taking the dog for long walks whenever the girls are out with Mr Good (which is a good thing for both the dog and me). By the way, this was number one on the official list and even as little as seven minutes a day is apparently enough.
6. A good night sleep
Number two in the other list, this probably should be higher on my list, but as I get it so rarely I need to be able to be happy even if I am tired or I’d end up a puddle of depression. Having said that there is nothing like waking up naturally after a full uninterrupted night sleep (which I’ve had twice this week, hurrah!).
7. Having a tidy and organised environment
This is cruel irony for me given that I’m not a naturally tidy person and the three people I live with are the complete opposite of tidy and organised. All I know is that when the house is in a reasonable state my mind is more settled and I can relax more.
8. Discovering new places
This could either be a little local park or cafe or shop, and nearby national park for a picnic or a full on holiday. I just love it. On our way to visit Mr Good’s mother on Sunday we drove through the back roads checking out some gorgeous little country towns on the way. It was perfect. Of course I wanted to get out and explore them all but then we wouldn’t have made lunch. And now I need to get planning for our holiday in December, two weeks in NSW. One week will be at the family cabin near Eden, but the other week will be further north. Any suggestions? The planning process is apparently the thing that makes us happy even more than the actual holiday. I’m not sure if I agree with that or not?
9. Losing myself in a really good book
I sometimes find myself standing at the stove stirring dinner with a book I just can’t put down in my hand. I can sit down for lunch after the girls have finished and are playing happily thinking I’ll just read a couple of pages while I eat only to realise half the afternoon has disappeared. And put my on a beach or in a banana lounge by the pool and I’ll work my way through quite a pile. Of course not all books have this ability but the ones that do are really special. I feel like I’ve lived the story and know all the characters personally.
10. A foodie experience
This could be a great market, a new restaurant or cafe, a new skill in the kitchen (I’m addicted to sourdough!) or just making something nice for the family. As long as it about good food I’m happy.
There were others on the list that I really liked, but don’t really do. In particular helping others (100 hours a year is the magic number) is something I always intend to do but rarely follow through very well. However one worried me, apparently a short commute to work makes you far happier than a higher income or a bigger house. Given that Mr Good now has quite a long commute (though not actually much longer than when living in Melbourne) I’m hoping that the perfect job comes up in Ballarat for him soon.
So what are the things that make you happy?