While I am an eternal optimist, I have a hard time believing small changes can make a big difference. And yet, this list below makes a believer out of me. Sometimes, when you’re going through a hard time, it’s impossible to change your circumstances. For example, if you’re overtaxed at work, you may have to ride it out until you’re able to get more help. Or if your husband is traveling a lot for work and you have to stay home with the kids, you may not be able to achieve much of a balance until his traveling abates. However, I truly believe these small tweaks can make a huge difference in how you feel both physically and emotionally--even when you can’t change your situation. They aren’t necessarily addressing the issues that are causing you distress, but they sure can help increase your happiness.
1. Get enough sleep
The idea of getting more sleep to increase one’s happiness is both simple and complex. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night truly is one of the fastest ways to increase our physical and emotional wellbeing. Yet with our never ending to do lists, social and family obligations, and the many factors that disrupt our sleep (babies, stress, etc), getting enough sleep can seem like an impossible feat. But it’s crucial to happiness. And if you don’t believe it, commit to putting your sleep first for one week. Do what you need to do to make getting 8 hours of sleep a night a priority. See how you feel after those 7 days. Doesn’t like feel easier, more manageable, and dare I say, brighter?
2. Move your body
Last Sunday, I woke up feeling sluggish and unhappy after a night of very little sleep. I drank a lot of water, had a good breakfast and did some stretching. I was amazed by how much better I felt once I moved my body and shifted my energy.
If you have a workout regimen that works for you, squeeze it in at least 3 times a week. I discovered Pure Barre last year and have been amazed by the impact it has had on my life. If you haven’t found a workout that makes you want to keep going back, try walking, stretching or using a rebounder. I love the rebounder because it’s very hard to remain in a bad mood when you’re jumping up and down. Since it’s a workout you do at home, it’s also super convenient. I personally have and love the Bellicon, but I know there are others with great reviews as well. Do whatever you can to just move your body. As you do, you will move your energy and make room for happiness to seep in.
3. Be mindful of what you eat
If you’re over 30, you probably know what type of food makes your body feel and look good. I say over 30 because before our late 20s, the body is so forgiving. I remember spending afternoons with my best friends eating dessert after dessert when I was in my early and mid-20s and waking up the next day feeling fine. It was even hard to gain weight! At 39, I would wake up the next day feeling achy and bloated!
Once our bodies begin to hand us the bill for what we eat--and charging us interest!!--we pretty much know what works and what doesn’t work. If you’re feeling stressed, down, trapped, overwhelmed, it’s easy to reach out to food for comfort. Trust me, find comfort in the foods that make your body feel good instead.
For me, that’s eating a whole foods, plant based diet. Nothing has a bigger impact on how I look and feel physically and emotionally than eating clean, entirely plant-based food. For LYB owner Lisa Berry, it’s more of a clean, pescatarian diet. Whatever works for you, works. Just focus on what you know will help you feel more energetic, less bloated, have fewer aches and get better sleep.
4. Drink water!
This tiny tweak can make a huge difference. In fact, studies show that remaining well hydrated not only flushes out our systems and boosts our metabolisms, it also improves our mood.
Drinking lots of water also improves your skin. I actually gauge whether I have drank enough water by the lines on my face. They are so much more visible when I am dehydrated! Another telltale sign that I haven’t drank enough water is if my lips are chapped.
5. Make time for friends or family--even if it’s just a scheduled phone call
When life gets busy, social interaction tends to be the first thing to fly out the window. And it’s not just that we don’t have time, so often our friends and family members don’t have time either, so it becomes impossible to schedule a meeting. But making time for friends and family makes a huge difference. Sometimes this can just be a phone call while you are driving home from work. Connecting with people you love and sharing what is going on in your life lifts you up like few things can. Over the years, I have made a point of narrowing down who I want to devote my scarce time to and then making sure I connect with them. Nurturing these relationships feels like ensuring I have a life vest on because these ladies are the ones who keep me afloat when the seas get stormy.
6. Carve out time for yourself
Lisa Berry and I often talk about how difficult it is to make time for ourselves, and how important it is to do so. Lisa swears by taking at least half a day a week to be in the silence and regroup. Unfortunately, she is lucky if she can do this once a month. I have come to find it’s enough if I manage to carve out time to do things that feel meditative to me, like cleaning and cooking. Neither is restful and there is usually a child hanging off of me, so they are not relaxing, either. But I feel so much better when I eat good food and have a clean space that I begin to feel replenished while I am working towards these end results. I, therefore, consider cooking and cleaning to be time for myself. I also make time to read (see below).
7. Distract your mind
Reading novels is of crucial importance for my emotional wellbeing. I don’t have a lot of time to read, but even 15 minutes of reading a day has a huge impact on the way I feel. I read in bed right before I go to sleep. Reading relaxes my mind, transports me out of my daily worries, and gives me an emotional vacation by allowing me to slip into the characters' skins for a little while. When I am reading a good book (and I drop any book I don’t like within the first 50 pages), I feel like a friend awaits me at the end of the day, ready for me to settle into a comfy space.
Music also has the power to transport me into different spaces, as do TV shows. Whatever it is that strikes your fancy, make a habit of indulging in that which allows you to take a break from your reality. Those 15-30 minutes a day of escape can help shift your energy into a better place.