Some people are naturally happy. You probably know one, or maybe you are one. These people are quick to smile or offer the “bright side” when encountered with a friend who needs a boost. Minor setbacks are seen by this crew as just that—minor, rather than the serious life-changers that otherwise unhappy people experience. And while there is no true scientific formula for achieving happiness, there are indeed ways to be more happy more often, according to science.
Unfortunately, it seems that an astronomical number of Americans are lacking feelings of bliss and enjoyment. Instead, 21 million people (an underestimated figure, no doubt) suffer from depression, which is caused by everything from financial issues to a lack of love. And many individuals suffering from depression or sadness are on prescription drugs which are most often accompanied by more side-effects than benefits. While it’s hard to convince someone on depression medication that they may be able to reverse their situation completely naturally, it is possible.
5 Scientifically-Supported Ways to Boost Happiness
Here are a few research-backed strategies for increasing happiness in your own life:
- 1. Stop Eating Processed Foods and Fast Food- A study published in Public Health Nutrition found that those who consume fast food are 51% more likely to be depressed than those who abstain from unhealthy and processed foods. It was also found that the same held true for those eating baked goods and junk food. The abstract concludes with: “Fast-food and commercial baked goods consumption may have a detrimental effect on depression risk.”
- 2. Sleep – Not only does quality sleep boost your chance of making healthful food choices, it helps improve your overall mood. You’ve probably experienced this first-hand, but if you’re not convinced, the Science Channel explains how your body increases stress hormone production when you aren’t well-rested. The magic number is different for everyone, but aim for around 7 hours each night.
- 3. Develop Healthy Personal Relationships – In this age of technology, you would think our over-connectedness would bolster our moods. You’d be wrong. Life satisfaction has actually fallen with the increase in “connectivity,” leading to the belief that nothing is a substitute for real (face-to-face, not Facebook) friendships.
- 4. Meditate – Several studies have indicated the positive link between meditation and mental health. When we are depressed, we are “consumed by negative preoccupations, thoughts and worries,” explains researcher Catherine Kerr. Meditation helps temper that. Mindfulness meditation can cut the recurrence of depression by up to 50%, a significant rate for a half-hour of your time.
- 5. Go Outside – Not only has vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) deficiency been linked to depression, studies have found that something as simple as a walk in the park can dramatically improve your mood and reduce depression symptoms.
Depression is a serious problem. But too often people are quick to subscribe to the belief that the only control they have over it involves taking a pill. This simply isn’t the case. Natural, active health can lead to happiness.