5 Evidence-backed ways to feel happier in hard times

As coronavirus pandemic trudges onward to a backdrop of political antics, you may be finding yourself looking at the post-pandemic future as a time where happiness can be experienced again.

But there’s a problem with deferring happiness to the future—after all, all we got is the present. When tomorrow comes, it’s turned into today, offering up new challenges for us to deal with. That’s why it’s important that we find ways to experience happiness in the now–even if the now is not so pleasant.

With that in mind, here are 5 evidence-based changes you can make each day to feel happier in these challenging times.

Come into the now: In a ground-breaking study, psychologists at Harvard University found that the more our mind wanders away from the present moment, the more vulnerable we are to stress, anxiety, and depression. The average mind is said to wander some 47 percent of each waking day, but there is a simple discipline we can practice each day to reduce the amount of time our mind wanders. All the discipline requires is that you notice when you are falling into rumination and snap your mind back into the present moment when that happens. Each time you do so, think of it as a small victory that can help you feel happier in the long run.

Go to nature, or bring it to you: A study featuring more than 20,000 participants in the UK found that people felt significantly and substantially happier when they were outdoors in natural habitats. If you can’t get to a natural area, there is an alternative: virtual reality (VR). In a study, researchers used VR devices that gave people a simulated exposure to nature. What they found was that stimulate exposure, as well as exposure to daylight and indoor plants, can positively impact our experience of happiness.

Get present to what you have, not what you’re owed: When you are being thankful, what you are simply doing is bringing your attention to what you have and what you can contribute, rather than focusing on what you don’t have and what you feel life owes you. There is power in being thankful, with studies showing that thankfulness brings our attention to the present moment and helps us steer clear of social comparisons that leave us feeling inadequate.

Find small ways to develop and maintain connections: We have another study out of Harvard for you. It’s one of the longest studies ever done on physical and mental health in adult life, starting in 1938 and following 724 men through their lives. From the study, researchers concluded that close relationships have a far higher impact on people’s physical health and experience of happiness than money or fame. This tells us that making a conscious choice to develop and maintain social connections is a powerful way to experience more happiness in life—even in difficult times.

Build recovery into your day, every day: Life can be relentlessly volatile and complex, leaving ourselves vulnerable to stress and its side-effects. That’s why it’s a good idea to make recovery a part of your day. We tend to think of recovery as something only athletes do, but the reality is that we can all benefit from taking the time to relax and do the things that bring us joy.

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5 Evidence-backed ways to feel happier in hard times

As coronavirus pandemic trudges onward to a backdrop of political antics, you may be finding yourself looking at the post-pandemic future as a time where happiness can be experienced again.

But there’s a problem with deferring happiness to the future—after all, all we got is the present. When tomorrow comes, it’s turned into today, offering up new challenges for us to deal with. That’s why it’s important that we find ways to experience happiness in the now–even if the now is not so pleasant.

With that in mind, here are 5 evidence-based changes you can make each day to feel happier in these challenging times.

Come into the now: In a ground-breaking study, psychologists at Harvard University found that the more our mind wanders away from the present moment, the more vulnerable we are to stress, anxiety, and depression. The average mind is said to wander some 47 percent of each waking day, but there is a simple discipline we can practice each day to reduce the amount of time our mind wanders. All the discipline requires is that you notice when you are falling into rumination and snap your mind back into the present moment when that happens. Each time you do so, think of it as a small victory that can help you feel happier in the long run.

Go to nature, or bring it to you: A study featuring more than 20,000 participants in the UK found that people felt significantly and substantially happier when they were outdoors in natural habitats. If you can’t get to a natural area, there is an alternative: virtual reality (VR). In a study, researchers used VR devices that gave people a simulated exposure to nature. What they found was that stimulate exposure, as well as exposure to daylight and indoor plants, can positively impact our experience of happiness.

Get present to what you have, not what you’re owed: When you are being thankful, what you are simply doing is bringing your attention to what you have and what you can contribute, rather than focusing on what you don’t have and what you feel life owes you. There is power in being thankful, with studies showing that thankfulness brings our attention to the present moment and helps us steer clear of social comparisons that leave us feeling inadequate.

Find small ways to develop and maintain connections: We have another study out of Harvard for you. It’s one of the longest studies ever done on physical and mental health in adult life, starting in 1938 and following 724 men through their lives. From the study, researchers concluded that close relationships have a far higher impact on people’s physical health and experience of happiness than money or fame. This tells us that making a conscious choice to develop and maintain social connections is a powerful way to experience more happiness in life—even in difficult times.

Build recovery into your day, every day: Life can be relentlessly volatile and complex, leaving ourselves vulnerable to stress and its side-effects. That’s why it’s a good idea to make recovery a part of your day. We tend to think of recovery as something only athletes do, but the reality is that we can all benefit from taking the time to relax and do the things that bring us joy.

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