Why Having A Pet Can Bring You Happiness

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If you’re an animal lover then having a pet is a great addition to your life. I’m a self-confessed dog lover. I love everything about them. I love their endless ability to be happy no matter what’s going on and the abundance of love they seem to dish out at every opportunity. I really think we can learn a lot from their unconditional state.

But what are the roles that animals play in our happiness? Pets in general can supply us with an amazing amount of happiness and here are some ways that the furry addition to your life can enhance your overall well-being.

They stop us from being lazy. Especially if you have a dog, getting outside and walking is a great benefit. Studies have shown that walking with a dog makes us walk 28% faster than if we were walking with a person resulting in dog walkers having higher fitness levels.

They make us healthier. Aside from keeping us active, exposure to animals at an early age can lower the risk of developing allergies. Petting animals produces a higher level of antibodies in our systems that fight off allergies later in life.

They help to heal us. Having a well-loved pet can lower stress levels resulting in less cardiovascular problems and lowering blood pressure caused by stress. Even people who have had heart attacks have been known to recover quicker when owning and interacting with a pet.

The ability to unite. Having pets diffuses tension resulting in more unification within squabbling families. People tend to laugh more and be more playful around animals and therefore creates a more harmonious environment.

They provide emotional benefits. It’s no secret that having a companion helps relieve loneliness and elevates our mood. Pet owners have found to be more physically fit, less lonely, suffer less from depression, are more conscientious and less preoccupied than non-pet owners. They also trigger a larger release of oxytocin which we all know is the feel-good hormone and therefore leads to a larger sense of happiness and well-being.

Any dog or cat owner can tell you how happy their pet makes them. There’s something about coming home to an excited wagging tail and the feeling of something wanting to genuinely spend time with you. There are countless benefits to having a furry friend in our life.

 

 

 

How Does Nature Increase Our Happiness And Well-Being?

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Ever been for a hike into the mountains and felt renewed afterwards or felt refreshed after walking your dog in the woods or by the sea? This is probably nothing new to any of you – that taking ourselves outside and taking in the nature around us boosts our mental well-being and happiness levels.

In today’s modern world, we are forcing ourselves more and more indoors and online resulting in less exposure to all that feel-good natural energy we have access to. Or perhaps you’re someone who lives to be outside on a constant basis and can’t go a day without immersing yourself in mother nature.

There have been many scientific studies that have gone towards investigating the true effects that being in nature has on our happiness levels but what exactly happens to us when we’re exposed to a natural environment?

Our Stress Levels Decrease. While the physical act of taking a walk or going for a run will definitely lower your stress and anxiety levels, doing this outside surrounded by nature can actually emphasise this even more. This has been compared to people walking in built-up areas such as cities where there has been a significant difference in heart rate and anxiety levels. Those that walk surrounded by nature are more likely to be relaxed and at peace than those walking in places where little nature is found.

Our Negative Thoughts Lessen. Have you ever been for a walk in the forest or by the sea to ‘clear your head’? Afterwards you feel immensely more calm. Well, studies have found that being in nature affects our mood for the better. People are found to experience more positive emotions after being in nature such as excitement, hope, happiness, calmness and just a general positive outlook on difficulties or problems.

Rumination of negative thoughts which can lead to depression and anxiety are lessened – in fact simple exposure to nature can shut sown parts of the brain that are associated with depression.

Our Tiredness and Mental Fatigue Defuses. ‘A breathe of fresh air’ has become quite a common saying and has maybe lost some of its true meaning but being out in nature (and especially near water) we are breathing in much more pure oxygen and negative ions which are good for our well-being and ultimate happiness.

We are completely bombarded with information on a daily basis and it’s more than our brains can really handle without getting mentally and physically drained. Being outside surrounded by trees, plants, water – whatever it may be – can give our minds the mental energy boost we need in this day and age. Not only that, but studies have found nature can increase our ability to restore our attention which is good if you find yourself zoning out after information overload.

We Become More Kind Towards Others. Research has found that after spending time in the great outdoors, you are more likely to feel more kindness, generosity and trust towards others because you are experiencing more positive emotions.

It Evokes Awe Within Us. If you really think about how amazing mother nature really is and how intricate, complicated, exceptional it all is then you will experience awe. Awe allows us to contemplate and acknowledge just how small we are, in comparison to nature, as individuals. Nature-inspired awe involves a “diminished self” and the “sensed presence of a higher power” and you definitely don’t have to be a spiritual person to experience this! Awe is actually a powerful feeling that can contribute to your happiness.

So try to get yourself out in nature as much as possible. Not only will it be good for you physically but also mentally with many reasons for it to contribute to your happiness and well-being 🙂

I didn’t talk much about the different ways being around water can have a massive positive effect on our happiness levels, so here’s an article I wrote about the wonderful power of water – whether oceans, lakes or rainstorms – and the effect it has on our well-being 🙂

Science Explains How Staying Near Water Can Change Our Brains

Are You Happy In Your Career?

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Happiness in our work and career is often overlooked. We are told from a young age that we work to make money and not to be happy but since the majority of us spend most of our lives in our job, isn’t it important to be happy while doing it?

While a lot of the time it could be a simple mindset change or creating a different perspective on our job, I think many of us fall into a career that we just don’t get excited about. We often get told that dreaming big doesn’t pay the bills and being successful in something that you’re passionate about or suits your ideal lifestyle is reserved for the lucky few.

We dream about escaping the 9-5 chains of the office, in a job that involves meetings, spreadsheets and endless back and forth emails. Whatever job you do, does it make you happy?

A lot of changes have happened in my life over the last few years – being made redundant from my 9-5 office job in London, travelling to China to teach English, moving to Norway for almost 3 years, and then making the decision to move back home. Career-wise, after a whirlwind few years, I suddenly found myself lost as to what I wanted to do and spent endless days searching for jobs I had experience in but wasn’t really interested in doing  – it was soul-destroying.

Until one day I realised I didn’t want to spend hours commuting to a job I didn’t want to do, in a place I didn’t want to be. I wanted freedom, I wanted to do a job on my own terms, I didn’t want to sit in an interview trying to convince someone I can do a job I ultimately didn’t want to do. It was a journey and one where I had to believe I could achieve what I want in life and life is too short to be spending it in an unhappy state.

I started this blog and from this I realised how much I loved writing. From no experience, I applied for a few writing jobs and I’m now turning this into a freelance career – one where I have the freedom to be creative and do what I love most – travel!! I’ve just come back from Paris and Prague which I wouldn’t have been able to do so easily if I had gone for that long-commuting office job. I don’t know where it’ll take me but I know I’m happy and that’s what counts 🙂

I wanted to write this for anyone who is currently unhappy in their job. If you are, I would strongly recommend you to read a wonderful book called Be A Free Range Human by Marianne Cantwell. It really helps you understand what you really want to do with your working life – it’s not a cliche book about how to find your passion but it’s about what lifestyle you want and focusing on what ultimately makes you happy.

So don’t think you can’t be happy in your job. We live in a time when people are breaking free from the jobs they hate and realising that it’s not all about slaving away until we finally retire looking back and wondering what we got out of it. You deserve to be happy all day every day so make it a reality 🙂

 

Do We Get Happier As We Get Older?

Today is my birthday…hurrah! It got me thinking about happiness and age – specifically do we get happier as we get older?

Happiness tends to be positively linked with age and there has been a plethora of scientific research that has delved into the answer to this question.

It seems happiness is intrinsically associated with youth and youth means opportunity, excitement, health and the start of the life journey. Yes, we have more energy and future hope but I don’t think this necessarily equals being more happy. Youth brings more mistakes that cause us to feel lost and confused. Societal pressure to have your life going in the right direction can cause stress and feelings of failure if it doesn’t work out the way you expect.

We’re happier when we’ve accomplished our major goals. Many studies have shown that happiness becomes more prevalent in our lives when we’ve completed the goals we’ve set ourselves. This causes us to float along in life more contently and happily because we no longer have to strive for the big things we want out of life. This isn’t to say we stop working towards goals but we do this in a more laid-back, ‘along for the ride’ attitude.

We appreciate things more when we’re older and appreciation plays a huge role in happiness. Gratitude and appreciation is a major factor in the achievement of happiness and with the increase of age comes the increase in appreciation. It’s been found that although identity in youth is formed through experiences such as travelling, falling in love (several times), and general thrill-seeking, as we get older we find identity is found in everyday, simple pleasures and with this comes more contentedness.

With wisdom comes happiness. Every year we get older we add our lifetime experiences to our sense of self. We learn from what we’ve done and fine-tune our ideas, beliefs, understandings and apply this to life going forward. The wisdom we develop adds to our happiness as we realise others opinions don’t matter so much or how much money we make isn’t ultimately as important in making us happy as loved ones do.

We have a greater sense of acceptance as we get older. We resist less as we get older. When we’re younger we tend to want to control circumstances that are mostly outside of our control. With this brings frustration and sense of failure if it doesn’t go our way. Age allows us to accept our situations for what they are and being happy with them. This is where appreciation and feeling content with how things are ups our happiness levels.

So turning a year older, whatever your age, shouldn’t be approached with apprehension and reluctance. Be safe in the knowledge that your happiness is most likely going to rise to whole new levels 🙂

If you’re interested, here’s a great TedxTalk about age and happiness:

 

 

The Effects Of Sleep On Happiness

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Sleep is a necessary component to our happiness. Getting enough sleep can reduce stress and depression which in turn will reduce health problems and increase and optimise our ability to function during the day.

It’s not always easy getting enough sleep with the busyness of modern life and having to juggle work with other areas of our life. Stressful events can stop us from getting those forty winks and if this happens regularly it can take its toll on our waking life.

De-stressing your life will obviously have it’s benefits in the long run; exercising and meditation practice are a couple of things you can incorporate easily into your daily routine to promote a better night’s sleep.

And of course it’s not just the quantity of sleep but the quality is even more important. 8 hours of restless sleep is worse than a good, solid 6 hours sleep. So what can we do to help ourselves get this much-needed shut-eye and therefore increase our happiness levels and quality of life?

Exercise. This is probably the most obvious and effective ways to get a good night’s sleep. Having a regular exercise routine will expel our energy efficiently and prepare the body for a good and well-deserved rest through the night.

Eating habits. What we eat has a massive effect on how well we sleep. Eating a healthy, balanced diet with less sugar and bad fats will promote a better sleeping pattern.

Hydration. Drinking enough is crucial for the body to function properly at night. Being sufficiently hydrated will allow the brain to work at its optimum levels both during the day and night.

Meditation and yoga. Stress has a huge effect on the amount we sleep and the quality of that sleep. Trying relaxation methods such as mediation or yoga will lower blood pressure and ease the mind preparing you to drift off to sleep more easily.

Sleep is so essential to our overall happiness and well-being.  At the end of the day, a tired person is not a happy person. It has been found that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to have a high amount of reoccurring negative thoughts and people with adequate amounts of sleep rate themselves higher on the happiness scale.

So if you feel you’re not getting enough sleep then don’t scrimp on your 8 hours and make sure those 8 hours are as optimal as possible by making a few changes to your lifestyle if necessary and try to sleep yourself happy 🙂

8 Ways To Create a Positive Day From Your Morning Routine

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We all know that starting the day on a positive note can set us up for a more positive day. But how often do we do this? How often do we intend to get up 15 minutes earlier but once that damn alarm goes off we reach out for that snooze button?

A lot of the time we can end up rushing too much in the mornings which can inadvertently cause us unneeded stress, anxiety and panic. But is this really necessary? Do we realise how much a structured morning routine can help us with our day and overall happiness? Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it can be sometimes to get the strength to get out of bed especially if you’ve had an unrestful night sleep or you have trouble sleeping in general. But there’s a great power in getting up a little bit earlier.

1. Appreciate and enjoy your morning shower. We can enjoy a slightly longer shower that wakes us up better. It’s a small price to pay for getting out of bed earlier. If you’re really brave, then try a cold shower – many, many health benefits but in truth one of the worst yet most invigorating experiences I’ve had! (Not for the faint-hearted!)

2. Make time for a good breakfast. The act of not rushing around results in us being more mindful. We have more time to make a decent, healthy breakfast and actually savour it setting our body up with a good injection of fuel instead of grabbing the easiest or unhealthiest breakfast – or worst still, no breakfast at all 😮

3. Meditate. A great thing to do is actually meditate every morning. I started doing this about a year ago (no, I’m not a mediating guru – my mind wanders all over the place!). Now I’ve somehow managed to make it well and truly part of my routine – it clears my head, sets me up for the day and puts my brain into mindfulness mode which carries on throughout my day. I really noticed how much it changed my outlook and helped me cope with the day ahead.

4. Don’t expose yourself to negative news. Cut out listening to or reading the news. In an earlier post Is The News Having An Impact On Your Happiness? I talked about how listening to the news (which is primarily negative) can deplete your happiness. If the news is the first thing you immerse your mind in then perhaps stop. Read more positive news – you want to protect your positive vibe as much as possible.

5. Don’t check emails and social media. I’m sure most of us are guilty of this. You wake up and the first thing you check is Facebook, Twitter, WordPress 😉 or emails. I’m not saying to stop checking but try not to let this be the first thing you do when you wake up. At least try to reduce it. Facebook especially can sometimes be a downer which we don’t need first thing in the morning.

6. Spend time outside. If it’s a nice morning, spend time sitting out in the garden or porch. Maybe eat your breakfast out there. Go for a quick walk and just appreciate being out in the fresh air.

7. Exercise. The morning is a perfect time to do your exercise routine. It gets it out of the way and releases those endorphins that carry on all the way through the day. Whether it’s running, cycling, yoga or just going for a walk. It will do wonders for your outlook.

8. Be present with the people you live with. Some of us have kids to deal with in the mornings which can cause us to rush, get stressed or frustrated. Get up a bit earlier and allow yourself to enjoy the moments you have with them. With more time you can appreciate the little conversations you have with others instead of frustration-induced rushing. You’ll be more relaxed and create a much more positive atmosphere which will rub off on those around you.

Our morning routines are really so crucial for our happiness. Having that extra time in bed may seem like a good idea at the time but at what price? We are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to have mindful moments, chances to set up a proper structure to the rest of our day and ultimately screwing with our happiness levels. It might not seem like much but implementing a solid, relaxed routine will help you in many ways and increase happiness much more than you realise 🙂

How Smiling Contributes To Our Happiness

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We all love seeing people smile. We all love making people smile. It’s a fundamental human trait. It’s also highly infectious and seeing someone smile causes us to react with our own grin even if it’s with a stranger.

Smiling is something we did often as children – smiling, laughing, playing and just being in the moment and enjoying it. I think I read somewhere that children laugh and smile around 200-300 times a day while adults, on average, only smile around 20 times. What the hell happened?! I guess many would say that life happened. Stress, worry, anxiety happened – everything that comes with modern life and ‘adulting’.

Everyone knows smiling is good for us – we release those feel-good endorphins and we all know these help us to feel happier and less stressed. There are numerous other benefits too – a hearty laugh exercises the body and stretches our muscles, it helps release emotions and also helps draw people positively to us – we can seem more approachable and confident to others and they’ll react better towards us and in the right way it can resolve conflict. And what’s the number one trait people look for in a partner? Someone that’ll make them smile and laugh.

So if this is a huge key to feeling happy and getting us into a positive state then perhaps we should try and consciously smile a bit more?

Fake smile. Scientific studies have shown that even if you form your face into a smile (in other words, faking a smile) your brain is tricked into thinking you’re happy and releases endorphins. So this is a great exercise for you to do to up your happiness a bit (perhaps try this alone lest you look like a loony in the street gurning at yourself!) So much strong evidence in the field of research is coming through about just how much our body and physiology affects our thoughts and feelings.

Do things that make you smile. I think sometimes we tend to forget to do things that actually make us smile. We don’t always consciously go out of our way to do these things. Find some music that brings back fond memories and have a dance around for 5 minutes – anything.

Spend more time with people that make you happy. These people can work wonders for getting us out of a funk sometimes and help those smiles come to the fore more often.

Watch a funny film or TV comedy. Always a winner here – guaranteed laughs and smiles all round and can really lift our vibration.

Smile as much as you can. When you’re out and about try smiling more at people. Smile at the shop assistant. If you catch someone’s eye just give them a simple smile and carry on. These are little instances but you’ll eventually find that smiling will instantly put you in a happier state.

Being mindful about smiling can be hard especially if we don’t always feel like we have anything to smile about in the moment. But perhaps try to be more conscious of it and smile a bit more in your day-to-day life. In most cases it’s become a habit to not smile and just get on with our work, chores and the millions of other things we need to do. But just give it a go, even just for a day. Be aware of how much you smile or don’t smile and see how it changes your perceptions and your overall vibration and well-being 🙂

 

 

 

Want To Be Happier? Be Less Busy!

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If you feel you need to be busy then stop and think about why that might be. There are times in our lives when we need to be busy – we can be juggling many responsibilities at once and most of them revolve around work, family and social life. We want to have a good balance to make our lives as happy as possible but are we actually creating this? Or are we diminishing our happiness in the process of being too busy?

We are living in a society where we are very distracted with phones, TV and internet but even as we’re distracted we’re trying constantly to focus. Now, focus can be a positive thing but not when it stops us from being mindful of our surroundings and ourselves. Busy-ness in essence is robbing us of our present moment. We all know that relaxing is a way of recharging our batteries and we should all do it but for some of us it comes with a price and that price is not getting things done, letting people down, the constant feeling of needing to be out seeing friends or picking up kids from here and there.

When we sit quietly and don’t think about anything or do anything, this can start to feel uncomfortable – that itching feeling that we need to be doing something or that voice in your head saying You can’t sit here doing nothing, you have a million things to do! and so the busy-ness ensues until we’re exhausted and worn down – never giving ourselves the chance to stop and simply do nothing.

But next time your little voice starts piping up remember this: magical things happen when you sit quietly and do nothing. When we take a break and stare into space our brain isn’t doing nothing – the unconscious part of our brain is much faster and smarter and processes information on a much higher level than our conscious mind. So taking breaks actually allows us to access a much more powerful part of our brain and gives this part of our brain a chance to work.

In an earlier blog post Simple Kindness Promotes Big Happiness I wrote about how kindness is important to our overall happiness. Studies have also shown that busy-ness reduces our ability to be kind to others. A Samaritan study was conducted at Princeton University campus where students were asked to help someone who seemed to be having cardiovascular problems  – for those that weren’t rushed to get to class, 60% stopped to help. For those that were a minute or two late for class, there was a 10% drop in the number of students that helped out – quite a decrease in kindness just by feeling a little bit busy.

Another important reason to stop and relax is to be aware of our feelings and emotions. Being busy tends to mask how we’re really feeling about something. We don’t even have time to process – as a result we can end up suppressing negative emotions that need tending to or just not appreciating and taking in any positive things that have happened in our day. Being aware of our emotions, positive and negative, are essential to our happiness and well-being.

It’s essential for our happiness to be mindful of what we do in our day. Is it really necessary to stay in bed for an extra 15 minutes and then create stress by rushing to get ready when we could have had a more relaxing morning routine? Is it necessary to always arrange plans after work so you have no down-time in the week? You could be missing out on a huge number of things because you’re busy rushing about – simple conversations, noticing what’s going on around you or just enjoying the present moment. Simple changes can bring a greater ease into your life. Try to find ways to alleviate the need to be busy – has it just become a way of life?

Approaching life in a more relaxed, mindful way is so important to our everyday happiness which in turn will benefit those around you. Cut out the unnecessary busy-ness and make sure that you take the time out to relax, recharge your brain and not worry about to-do lists – the world will keep on turning if you’re not doing something right this second and your happiness levels will thank you for it 🙂

 

The Happy Documentary :)

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As a sucker for a good documentary, I sat down the other day and watched The Happy Movie. I realised I was a bit late in seeing this as it was made in 2012 but what an eye-opener it is. If anyone hasn’t seen this and has an interest in what makes a happy life and likes a bit of science thrown in to back it up, I would completely recommend this.

It’s a wonderful documentary that gives a fascinating look at the science behind happiness – following people from all walks of life from the slums of Kolkata to Tokyo and seeing who is happy and what elements in our lives create this widely sought-after emotion. I think you can probably guess what these are but if you have a spare 1hr 15 mins then it really is worth a watch (I’ve posted the trailer below) 🙂

“The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but the good news is that the things we love to do are the building blocks of a happy life: play, having new experiences, friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have – these are the things that make us happy and they’re free. With happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has.”

 

Is The News Having An Impact On Your Happiness?

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We are constantly bombarded by the news, but of course we are because we need to know what’s going on in the world, right? The media has a huge impact on us. Most of us don’t have first-hand knowledge about events going on and so our knowledge is very dependant on the news and the media. It plays a huge role in how people think of the world and also themselves and it might just be affecting our everyday happiness.

Everyone knows that if we eat junk food every day we’ll become unhealthy. The same can be applied to the information we read and pay attention to in everyday news and media outlets. Traditional news has a huge emphasis on the negative and unfortunately the fact is that the majority of news needs tragedy and negativity to sell newspapers or make money. When I really thought about this I decided to test this out and open up the news app on my phone. Sure enough, there were 12 top stories and out of those 12 only 1 story was actually positive. Perhaps it was a particularly bad day? I don’t know.

We all know that journalism is about asking the questions but are journalists always asking the right questions? Questions that will produce a shocking or intriguing story will get the ‘better’ story and in that process we, the readers, don’t end up getting the true view. Now, I realise I’m generalising here – there are many newspapers and news outlets that try their best to keep a fair view but unfortunately the majority don’t do this and as people keeping up with local and world events, we are probably affected by this more than we realise.

There are a lot of bad things that happen in this world and it’s probably right that we should know about them, for example crime, war, injustice or famine but for our happiness to flourish, we need to balance this out with positive subjects. Unfortunately, with 24 hour news many stories are emotionalised or sensationalised to keep the watcher or reader gripped and unnecessarily putting too much emphasis on the entertainment of certain stories rather than an unbiased, constructive type of journalism.

Psychological research has shown that people who are subjected to a range of negative news stories were found to have an increase in anxiety and slight depression. The affect that negative stories have can potentially heighten a range of personal concerns even though they are not specifically relevant to the content of the story itself.

So what should we do? I’m not saying we should avoid news altogether (although this has been done by many people) but perhaps we should lessen the amount of time we spend reading or watching negative news items.

Be aware of how much of the news is unnecessarily negative. Be mindful when taking in the news  – ask yourself, is this something I need to know? If not, stop and move on. Be aware of unnecessary sensational and over-emotional stories because we don’t want people playing on our fears or emotions – it’s just non-essential to our well-being.

Cut down on the amount you are exposed to. If there’s something important that you need to know about don’t worry, you’ll find out about it. Otherwise maybe try and cut down on the amount you read or watch. Just catching up quickly in the morning over breakfast may be all you need.

Weed out the positive news items. If you’re reading something, try and focus just on the positive stories – try reading the sports pages first as they tend to be more on the positive side!

Read a positive publication. There’re some wonderful publications out there that just focus on positive news. Positive News is a great website that reports on science, environment, economic and lifestyle topics that are all written with constructive journalism. They even have a print edition if you’re that way inclined! Sunny Skyz and Good News Network are other great websites that emphasises positive stories. I’m not saying this is a way of getting hard-hitting stories but exposing yourself to a more positive element of news will definitely help balance out your perception of the world.

So why not try it out? To be honest, we probably aren’t even aware how much the news affects us on a daily basis and how much it lowers our vibration and ultimately our happiness. We want to keep a positive mindset as much as we can so at the very least, start your day with a happy news story and end your day with one too 🙂

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