Help Yourself to Happiness

According to a recent survey published by Oracle, seventy-eight percent of those polled said they would pay a premium for true happiness if it were possible. Given that doing so is not possible, positive psychology researcher Stephanie Harrison took time to consider other ways of moving toward happiness. One undepreciated way, she found, is through serving others.

In her recent book, “New Happy“, she shared that she thinks “the secret to happiness is using who you are to help other people, and to do that, you have to discover who you are, who you really are, away from the conditioning that we’ve been given by our society.”

Here are some quick tips to get started. To learn more visit https://www.cnbc.com/2024/05/16/this-is-the-secret-to-happiness-from-a-happiness-researcher.html

  • Send a note to a loved one letting them know how much you appreciate them
  • Write a nice email to someone praising their work
  • Call a friend you haven’t heard from in a while
  • Give a call to a store or business that you enjoy and thank them
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Speak up about a cause that holds value to you

3 Resiliency Habits

The topic of resiliency was popular pre-COVID and, in the last four years, has become a necessary concept to understand and promote.

Recently, Ashton Jackson at CNBC reviewed the work of Penn’s Adam Grant on the subject.

Everyone experiences unexpected hardships. You can bounce back and learn from them with an important soft skill: resilience.

The more mentally resilient you are, the more quickly you can recover from challenges or persist in the face of them, according to Wharton psychologist Adam Grant. The trait helps you take smarter risks, beat burnout at work and live a happier life. Without it, you can more easily get stuck on your problems and fall into a negative mental state.

Building resilience takes time, but finding ways to foster wellness, healthy thinking and connection with others can help you strengthen your adaptability and mental flexibility, according to the American Psychological Association.

Here are three habits that can help you become highly resilient, experts say:

Tend and befriend

If your typical response to stress is to get away from it or shut down, you’re not alone. But resilience is all about finding ways through life’s stressors and learning from them, and creating social connections can help.

“We all know about fight-or-flight — the stress response that can occur when we encounter a perceived threat,” executive coach and author Jason Shen wrote for CNBC Make It in March. “But social scientists have uncovered a different and equally important stress response called ‘tend-and-befriend,’” which involves seeking contact with others when you’re facing a tough situation.

To cultivate this response, Shen recommends trying these activities:

  • Schedule chats with friends or family to discuss the stressful situation, or simply boost your mood.
  • Join a support group where you can discuss your problems, in depth, with people who might be experiencing similar circumstances.
  • Give someone a hug. The action boosts “happy” chemicals like oxytocin and endorphins, which can help calm you down in the face of stress.

Take a digital break

Content on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook can be a nice distraction. It can also cause mental health-related challenges like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and increased isolation or loneliness.

To build resilience, take a digital break every now and then, says University of Pennsylvania humanities professor Justin McDaniel — otherwise known as the teacher of Penn’s “monk class.”

McDaniel spent almost a year living like a monk, and found that limiting digital use can help you clear your head and make you more available for meaningful, in-person connection — both of which can help you strengthen your resilience.

“I always tell my students that the difference in a lot of things in life is dealing with 30 seconds of discomfort,” McDaniel told Make It last year. “What if you got in an elevator or onto the subway with someone else and didn’t immediately pull out your phone?”

Help other people

Doing acts of service for other people, like volunteering, can help you build mental resilience and find community, the Mayo Clinic noted in a blog post last year.

Reflecting on the experience afterward can show you the impact of your work and help you maintain motivation, according to Grant. His advice is simple: Keep a journal of your contributions to others.

Grant found the journaling approach to be effective after conducting a study with two groups of employees. One wrote about what they were grateful for every day, and the other wrote about three ways they helped others each day.

“Attending to gratitude made people happier. It certainly made them more satisfied with their jobs. It didn’t affect their resilience, though,” Grant told Make It in 2017. “What really boosted resilience was focusing not on contributions received from other people, but rather, contributions given to other people.”

Insights Into Nursing Wellness

This week’s DD comes to us via Jennifer Garefino, Operational Excellence Specialist, in honor of National Nurses Week.

Let’s start with a question: How much does a nurse walk during their shift?

According to recent data, an average 12-hour day shift will require a nurse to walk about 5 miles. The authors of this article suggest that nurses walk much more than many other professions, and because of this, nurses will be able to reach their fit goals and stay healthier because of the increased amount of exercise they receive on the job, at least in this one regard. But what else going into nursing wellness? Read more at NurseToghether.com!

Gut Check

According to a recent paper, “The number of individuals experiencing mental disorders (e.g., anxiety and depression) has significantly risen in recent years. Therefore, it is essential to seek prevention and treatment strategies for mental disorders. Several gut microbiota, especially Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, are demonstrated to affect mental health through microbiota–gut–brain axis, and the gut microbiota dysbiosis can be related to mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. On the other hand, dietary components, including probiotics (e.g., Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium), prebiotics (e.g., dietary fiber and alpha-lactalbumin), synbiotics, postbiotics (e.g., short-chain fatty acids), dairy products, spices (e.g., Zanthoxylum bungeanum, curcumin, and capsaicin), fruits, vegetables, medicinal herbs, and so on, could exert protective effects against mental disorders by enhancing beneficial gut microbiota while suppressing harmful ones.”

So what do we do about this? The folks over at the blog “Well+Good” recommend 9 areas you can focus on, perhaps one area per week over the next few months, to attend to the importance of guy health. Full details are at https://www.wellandgood.com/how-to-improve-gut-health/, but the list boils down to this: Eat more plants, add fiber wherever you can, try fermented foods like miso or sauerkraut, reduce processed food intake, drink plenty of water, and avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Check the article above for specific tips on how, or consult with your doctors at your next appointment.

Get Dirty!

Science says grab a handful of soil or hike a muddy trail, it can benefit everything from your mood to your microbiome!

Holly Burns at the New York Times recently provided a summary of these findings in her article “A Little Bit of Dirt Is Good for You.” She interviewed Christopher A. Lowry, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder, and his recommendations are below.

  • Embrace the dirt while you move. Activities like mountain biking, camping and hiking are easy ways to come into contact with a diverse microbial ecosystem, Dr. Lowry said. “I think we underestimate how much exposure we get from simply being outside.”

  • Plant or pick something. Gardening has long been associated with reduced depression, anxiety and stress, and it calls for plenty of time spent working in the dirt. When people ask him how to get started, Leigh Johnstone, a gardener and mental health advocate in Southampton, England, who goes by “The Beardy Gardener” to his 21,000 Instagram followers, asks them one question: “Well, what do you like to eat?” Tomatoes are one of the easiest things to grow, said Mr. Johnstone, because they need very little maintenance and can be planted in a pot or hanging basket on a balcony. He also suggested strawberries and herbs like basil, mint or chives.

  • Do like the kids do. Jill Dreves, the founder of Wild Bear Nature Center in Nederland, Colo., has a simple recipe for getting dirty: Make a mud pie. She suggested throwing something similar to a sip and paint event: Ask everyone to bring an old cake pan and get creative with mud. “Bring out some rocks and beads to press into them, collect some pretty leaves, press your hands or feet in,” said Ms. Dreves, who has organized mud pie parties with her staff. “We save that kind of thing for little kids, but really, as adults, we need to be doing more of it.” If you have actual kids to entertain, build a fairy garden, Ms. Yurich said. Gather leaves and moss to create a miniature, magical landscape, using sticks to construct huts, bark for the floor and stones for seating. Mr. Johnstone and his 2-year-old daughter like making bug hotels, which encourage insects to shelter inside. They also make seed bombs, which you can assemble any time of year, then store until spring or autumn to throw around the yard, Mr. Johnstone said. “A lot of people still have this nervousness around touching soil,” he said. But for him, “it makes me happy.”

Psychological Wellbeing Through Decluttering

Research suggests that clutter can affect our wellbeing broadly, being associated with anxiety, poor sleep, and inability to focus. It can also make us less productive, triggering coping and avoidance strategies that make us more likely to snack on junk and watch TV shows (including ones about other people decluttering their lives). More globally, clutter can influence our cognition, emotions and subsequent behaviors, including our relationships with others.

So what can be done about this? Jancee Dunn at the New York Times Well Blog suggests three projects you can likely accomplish when you get home tonight and that may move you closer to a sense of wellbeing.

Let go of mystery chargers and cords: According to Melissa Dilkes Pateras, an organizing expert and author of “A Dirty Guide to a Clean Home,” Many of us have a dusty box or bag of mystery cords, chargers, remote controls and reusable batteries. We have no idea what they’re for, but we’re afraid to throw them out. It’s time to dump out the container, said Pateras, who is known to her 1.6 million TikTok followers as the “Laundry Lesbian.” Separate the chargers, batteries and phones into piles. “Think about all of the things in your house that have cords or chargers, and go through and try them,” she said. If nothing fits, she said, out they go. “You don’t need your Razr flip phone charger,” she said. To drop off electronic waste, contact your city’s sanitation department or search on sites such as Call2Recycle, Earth911 or GreenCitizen. Stores like Best Buy offer electronics recycling programs. And if someday you find that you truly need that discarded cord, Kennedy said, a replacement is usually easy to find.

Clear the clutter out of your car: Kennedy has found that even the most committed neatnik may have a different attitude when it comes to their car. “Some people will say, ‘My car is my one place where I can just do whatever, it’s my nest space. So I’ve got wrappers all over. I’ve got bills. I’ve got my requisition for blood work.’” To start, Kennedy said, bring a garbage bag, wet wipes, glass cleaner and a dry cloth out to the car. Check the doors, the cup holder, the center console, the glove compartment, under the front seats, the back pockets of the car seats and the trunk. Throw away anything that’s outdated or doesn’t belong, said Kennedy, such as old paperwork or fast food toys your kids played with for two seconds. “There’s a joke in the organizing community that we keep donations in our car that you mean to drop off, and then we leave them in there for a year,” Kennedy said. If you keep reusable shopping bags in your trunk, Pateras said, “the rule of thumb is to have as many as you use for your biggest grocery shopping trip.” And if you haven’t used something in the past few months, and if it’s not for an emergency, Kennedy said, return it to its proper place in the house. (A first aid kit can stay in the car, Kennedy said, but out-of-season sports equipment doesn’t need to join you year-round.)

Dig out from under the kitchen sink: Shira Gill, organizing expert and author of “Minimalista,” calls this area a “shove-and-pile zone.” “Even if you’re the only one that sees it,” she said, “clear it out as a treat for yourself.” First, Pateras said, pull out every single thing under the sink. Then wipe off the surfaces, and get rid of expired products and worn-out items like sponges and cracked rubber gloves. Toss specialty cleaning products that you haven’t used in at least a year, like that curdled grout cleaner, Gill said. (The American Cleaning Institute provides instructions for safe disposal). Gill also puts her dishwasher pods in a container like a Mason jar, she said, “which takes up less room and looks nicer.” Kennedy recommends getting a caddy for your cleaning products. Stock it with multipurpose cleaners, which will lighten your load, and some microfiber towels, she said. I finally chipped out the loaf under my sink, and now that area is clear and tidy (and dry). My new motto: No shoving, no piling.

Otherish

We’ve all heard the age-old wisdom that “it is better to give than to receive” from parents or spiritual teachings. Psychologist Adam Grant extends this idea to suggest that a culture of giving can lead to higher productivity, morale, and efficiency.

According to his research, generosity fosters a sense of community and trust, encouraging collaboration and support among team members. This environment enables individuals to flourish, as they feel valued and supported. To foster a culture of generosity, leaders need to step up and lead by example. They need to create an environment where generosity is recognized and rewarded and where employees feel safe giving without fear of being exploited.

Grant coined the term “otherish” giving, which refers to offering help to those you choose to, and which ultimately benefits you by lifting your spirits. Economists describe this feeling as the “warm glow” of giving, while psychologists call it the “helper’s high.” Neuroscience also indicates that when we engage in these acts of giving, our brain’s reward and meaning centers are activated, which emit pleasure and purpose signals as we act for the benefit of others. The bottom line? The social connection tied to giving–whether to a person in need in your community or organization or a grassroots charity close to your heart–gives the giver the greatest psychological benefit and boost of happiness.

You can read the full article and learn more about Grant’s work at https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/adam-grant-says-your-overall-happiness-comes-down-to-1-word.html

Worry Well About Your Health

Robert H. Shmerling, MD is the senior faculty editor at Harvard Health Publishing; and member of the editorial advisory board at Harvard Health Publishing. He recently published a piece entitled “How well do you worry about your health?” in which he describes how many of us worry about our health, yet a lot of what we focus on poses little risk.

Dr. Shmerling says “it’s impossible (and ill-advised) to never worry about your health” and asks id we are worrying about the right things. Below is a summary of his comparisons which lead him to his advice: “try not to focus too much on health risks that are unlikely to affect you,” he says. “Instead, think about common causes of poor health. Then take measures to reduce your risk. Moving more and adding healthy foods to your meals is a great start.

And in case you’re curious, the average number of annual deaths due to quicksand is zero in the US!

Spring Renewal

Spring has sprung, and in many cultures this is looked at as a time of renewal. While those renewal efforts are often physical, we can also use this period as a reminder to renew our overall wellbeing. Enter Calm’s recent article “10 ways to (re)find joy in life.” Read the full article, or just scan the list below and choose one to try to work on for the next week or two!

  1. Explore new hobbies and activities: Broaden your horizons by trying new things. This can add excitement to your life and help you discover new passions. Make a list of activities you’ve always wanted to try and take the first step towards trying one this week.💙 Take some time to find out what activities bring you happiness and joy. We recommend beginning with the Discovering Happiness series by Shawn Achor, which dives into habits and activities that are destined to make you feel happier.
  2. Prioritize a healthy diet: What you eat affects your mood. Focus on balanced, nutritious meals that fuel your body and mind. A simple first step could be including more fruits and vegetables in your diet and staying hydrated with water or herbal tea.💙 Change your life by prioritizing what you eat and learn about the importance of a healthy diet in The 4 Pillars of Health series. Remember that food is used for both fuel and fun, and incorporating treats into a healthy lifestyle can ramp up those happiness levels, too.
  3. Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is crucial. This means getting enough rest, managing stress, and doing things that make you feel good. Set aside a few minutes each day for relaxation or a favorite activity.💙 Discover the tools of self-care and create a nourishing practice of reflection and rest in the Radical Self-Care series. 
  4. Stay active: Exercise releases brain chemicals thought to boost your mood. Start with short, enjoyable physical activities that fit into your daily routine, like a daily walk or some stretching exercises. Bonus points for noticing how you feel after the workout and writing it down in a journal to motivate yourself in the future.💙 Lace up your sneakers and head out for a 30-minute Mindful Run (or walk) with Mel Mah and tune into the world around you. 
  5. Build positive relationships: Positive interactions with friends and family can greatly enhance your happiness, so surround yourself with people who uplift you. Reach out to a friend or family member for a chat or a get-together this week.💙 Practicing Empathy can have positive effects on your own happiness, as well as the happiness of those around you. Give it a try and witness how your connections can blossom.
  6. Connect with nature: Spending time in nature can be calming and rejuvenating. Whether it’s a walk in the park, gardening, or just sitting outside, try to spend some time outdoors every day.💙 If you can’t get outside, you can mentally escape to a more tranquil place with a soundscape like High Sierra Lake or Forest Ambience
  7. Cultivate patience: Finding happiness is a journey. Be patient with yourself as you explore what brings you joy, and understand that happiness can ebb and flow. Acknowledge your feelings and know that it’s okay to have ups and downs.💙 Follow along in this guided meditation with Tamara Levitt on how to cultivate and practice Patience.
  8. Reach out for social support: Speaking about your feelings and experiences can be therapeutic, so talk to friends or family members. Consider joining a local support group to boost your social circle.
  9. Perform acts of kindness: Doing something nice for others can boost your own happiness. Try giving a compliment, volunteering, or helping a neighbor this week, and notice how it makes you feel.💙 Learn how to perform Random Acts of Kindness, which are scientifically proven to increase happiness for both the giver and receiver. 
  10. Seek professional help when necessary: It’s important to recognize when you need additional support and to seek it out. Whether it’s talking to a healthcare professional, joining a support group, or simply confiding in a trusted friend, reaching out is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Well-being Insights from Unlikely Places

Jancee Dunn has been writing about health and science for more than 20 years, and currently published the Well newsletter for The New York Times, a weekly update on personal health and fitness. Recently, she covered a secret to well-being that may surprise you. You can read the full article here, and below is a summary and some thoughts on how you can adopt her findings into your life.

In short, experts say that toddlers — full of energy, curiosity and laughter — have a lot to teach adults! She interviewed Dr. Hasan Merali, an associate professor of pediatrics at McMaster University and a pediatric emergency room physician, who shares the following:

Try positive self-talk.

Young children tend to coach themselves out loud, a practice known as private speech (such as this popular clip from a 4-year-old snowboarder).

Toddlers aren’t shy about self-talk, Dr. Merali said, and you shouldn’t be, either. Research suggests that for adults, positive self-talk can help with problem-solving, learning, confidence and managing your emotions. I told Dr. Merali I tend to speak harshly to myself, but would try to sub in phrases like “You can do it” instead.

Take any opportunity to move.

Two-year-olds are active for almost five hours a day, according to a review of 24 studies. They move joyfully and instinctively, Dr. Merali said.

Adults can look for ways to move more, even if it’s just for a minute. Take a quick walk around the block, or schedule a meeting on foot rather than sitting down. If you’re home alone, do what Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University, has called “full-body karaoke,” singing and moving to your favorite song. Brief bursts of activity have been shown to increase longevity if they add up to 10 minutes per day. Standing up for three minutes every half-hour can help control your blood sugar, too. You can also find ways to be around young kids, “a happiness that is unmatched,” Dr. Merali said. (The nonprofit Generations United features a national database of intergenerational programs and activities.)

Ask questions.

Young kids are not afraid to pose questions, Dr. Merali said. One study found that they asked an average of 107 questions an hour. (This will not surprise their parents.)

I have written a few children’s books, and my favorite part of library readings was question time: “Have you ever been to the moon?” “Can you turn into a cheetah?”

Adults have been socialized to hold back our questions because we’re often worried about what other people think, Dr. Merali said. But asking questions not only helps us to gain information, it’s also an important way to build relationships, he said.

Fix your sleep schedule.

Toddlers thrive on routine, and having a schedule with consistent sleep and waking times will help you, too, said Alberto Ramos, a sleep neurologist and researcher with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. If your schedule permits, and if you have the urge, napping also has a host of benefits, including sharper thinking and reaction times and improved memory. As long as you’re not dealing with insomnia, which can be worsened by napping, Dr. Ramos recommended a short nap — 20 to 30 minutes maximum — in the early afternoon.

Look for opportunities to laugh.

Toddlers “see the world as a comedy club,” Dr. Merali writes. One study found that young children laugh six times as much as adults. But we can seek ways to build playfulness and humor into our day. Listen to a comedy podcast or trade silly texts with someone, Dr. Merali said. Research shows you laugh more when you are with friends, so make time for them, he said. “I get a daily dad joke mailed to me,” Dr. Merali told me. “And during my lunch break, I watch videos.”

What does he watch? “Funny toddler videos,” he said. Of course.