How to be happy naturally

The Good Life Letter 

Sunday 14th August  2011

  • Discover how to be happy without pills or therapy
  • The health benefits from a smile that could help you live longer

There seems to be no end to national misery at the moment, I have actually started to dread opening a newspaper or listening to the news.

Could it be that it's become so hard to learn how to be happy?

It seems that the world is teetering on the brink of financial meltdown which is having a knock-on effect in all aspects of our lives - not least in the prospect of job security.

And if this wasn't bad enough the last few days has seen every hoodlum, ne'er-do-well and low-life think that they have the right to destroy people's lives and livelihoods. There is just no respect for anyone or anything, and I hope that when the good folk of law enforcement finally do feel their collars they will get what they deserve.

It's enough to make you want to pull the bedclothes over your head and hide away from it all.

But, dear friend, do not despair.

Whatever you do don't let all of this bad news and misery affect you and your health because today I want to show you the perfect half-dozen ways to keep yourself chipper in the face of such adversity.

1. Happy Food. You could be forgiven for thinking that indulging your passion for sugar-rich chocolates, cakes and sweets would lift your mood - but actually too much sugar can act as a depressant. You are better off searching for those foods which are rich in an essential amino acid called tryptophan.

It is converted in the body into the natural feel-good chemical serotonin, so a diet rich in it will help you sleep, lift your mood and help regulate your appetite.

Food sources of tryptophan include red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey.

2. Positive Thinking. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the woes and troubles of our lives that we forget to look at the good things around us. Many of us quickly move on from celebrating our successes, or won't allow a warm glow of satisfaction for a job well done - but it is important.

Be careful of doing too much self-praise though as researchers at University College Riverside in the US found that people who wrote down five things they were grateful for, or were proud of, once a week were happier than those who did the same three times a week.

3. The Power of Love. Having someone to hold onto can be the trigger to a long, happy and joyful life, as long as you are open and honest, caring and loving to them and they do so in return.

The physical act of love promotes the production of endorphins which are nature's pick-me-ups, and their effects can be long-lasting, helping to reduce pain as well as build a stronger bond between the couple.

4. Music for the Soul. Another well-known way to get a natural high is to listen to your favourite music, and it really doesn't matter what your personal taste extends to either.

Whether your favourite style is Vivaldi or Velvet Underground it has the same effect on the body when you hear it, which is to cause the release of dopamine.

Dopamine appears to play a role in signaling reward in the brain. For example, enjoyable sensations are associated with increased brain dopamine levels, while individuals experiencing depression or anxiety may have lowered brain dopamine levels.

5. Move Better. Taking regular exercise is never a bad thing for keeping yourself fit and healthy, but it also has a dramatic impact on how you feel.

Once again activity causes a release in endorphins, which as I have already said, help brighten even the darkest heart, but there is also another very good reason to break out the Lycra.

If you set yourself a target, say walking to the shops, which you manage to achieve you will get a tremendous sense of fulfilment - and this may also increase the endorphin high.

I say 'may' because researchers are not sure whether it is the success or the activity which causes the chemical release, but either way physical motion can provide a natural hit of energy which will lift your spirits.

Many academics are citing this factor as being behind the latest news that cancer sufferers are more likely to survive if they take regular exercise.

6. Exercise Your Funny Bone. Don't be afraid of getting a few laughs in as the act of guffawing actually does you good.

As you know, I am a lifelong fan of Ronnie Barker - a comedy genius, and of all of his work I still find myself drawn to Porridge. The life and times behind bars of Norman Stanley Fletcher reduces me to a heap of giggles every time I play the DVD; and in doing so pumps more of the powerful dopamine into my system.

Whatever it is that tickles your fancy, make sure you take time to enjoy it. With so many shows available on DVD, more comedy clubs starting up and even the Edinburgh Fringe running at the moment there has to be something out there to make you laugh. Give it a go.

So, you see, there might be a little light at the end of this particularly dark tunnel; I hope that you are not hiding under the bedclothes right now because with a little positive action we can all get a little happier - and goodness knows we need it right now.

Yours, as always

 

 

 

 

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