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HOW TO BE HAPPY

You can take action to change your mood for the better
By Karen Kwan

It’s okay to not be okay, but sometimes we could all use a little refresher on how to be happier with our lives. And here’s the good news: you don’t have to win the lottery (in fact, research has shown that money doesn’t necessarily lead to contentment). Much of what we can all do to be happier can be done quite simply.

 

Grow old
Yes, it really is (in part) that simple. Even though many of us fret about aging, recent research has found that as we age, we become happier with each decade. This contradicts what we commonly believe: that with our bodies declining both mentally and physically, we surely feel sadness about losing our youth. But the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that people feel better about themselves as time goes on. Rather than feeling gleeful in their youth, 20- and 30-somethings are more likely to feel anxiety, stress and depression, whereas older adults have better mental health and are better able to manage stressful life changes.

 

Have sex once a week
You might think that having sex more often is the secret to happiness, but for busy people, just the notion and pressure of trying to have sex as often as possible could actually lead one to become stressed about not getting enough. One study, which was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, found that happiness does increase with more frequent sex, but only up to once a week. More often than that doesn’t lead to an increased factor of happiness.

 

Hang around happy people
Happiness is actually contagious. Researchers have found that when we are happy, we excrete an odour in our sweat, and these chemical compounds are detectable by others. The findings, published in Psychological Science, show that with these chemical cues, happy people can trigger a boost in mood for those around them.

 

Follow happy people on social media
Although social media is often blamed for creating much FOMO and discontent with life, one study has found that good vibrations can be viral when it comes to happy status updates. Conducted by researchers at UC San Diego, the study shows that we don’t only choose to be friends with people like ourselves, but that the company we choose to keep can cause our emotions to change. So the friend who posts cheerful news about the world and their life is, without you realizing it, encouraging you to see and post about the good things in your own life.

 

Get your greens (and your fruit while you’re at it)
How much? According to Canada’s Food Guide, adults need anywhere from seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. And a study published this year in the American Journal of Public Health found that people become more satisfied with their lives when they get eight servings daily. The researchers found it boosts our happiness levels much more quickly (within two years) than it impacts our physical health. That’s a compelling argument for finding some room in your budget—and your shopping cart—for the good kind of munchies.

 

 

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness

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