It’s easy to feel happy in the sunshine but I feared the change in weather might make some of us glum. I found this information by ‘Happiness Expert’ Professor Laurie Santos enlightening and hoped you might too.
Santos is a Yale Professor of Psychology and says it’s a misconception that happiness is down to circumstances when, if fact, as long as we have our basic needs met we can thrive and be happy in any situation – even lockdown.
Research shows that, actually, only 10% of happiness is determined by circumstance, 40% is governed by our thoughts, actions and attitude and 50% by our genes (I have to add hormones here too surely?! John is living with a woman in menopause and a boy in puberty and I think you’ll understand why he’s suddenly so keen on the long bike ride)!
Anyway the message is simple. Habits have a huge impact on our feelings on well being. The top tips to contentment are:
- Maintain good social connections
- Adapt a mindset of gratitude (be the person with the glass half full), live in the present (try not to spend too much time worrying about the past and the future) and be kind to yourself (we aren’t going to be the best parent / best homeschooler / best worker right now and that’s OK)
- Have healthy lifestyle habits including daily exercise and sleep.
Good Social Connections
Not all social connections give us the same feeling of well being, as anyone knows who has just lost half an hour of their life scrolling through mindless social media! Santos recommends jotting down how each social connection makes you feel. Personally I’ve rediscovered the joy in a one-to-one phone call (I hardly ring anyone in normal life) but one ‘Happy Hour’ on Houseparty every now and again is plenty. Being aware of what actually works for you will help form helpful habits.
Sing and Dance
When it comes to exercise the recommendation is to move your body for at least 20 minutes a day. Something we can all do at home is turn the music on and dance (demonstrated beautifully here by John)! The beauty of music is that an old favourite can immediately transport you anywhere, anytime. We tried an online dance class but for sheet joy just turn it up loud and dance!
Likewise sing! Working our vocal cords releases the feel-good endorphins and the louder the better. Apparently part of the ear is stimulated by loud and noises and registers as pleasure in the brain. Again look online if you fancy joining an online choir if that’s your thing but, for me, if there’s joy to be had in singing then it’s best done alone!
Anything that distracts the mind by forcing it to focus on the present can boost happiness. We’ve never been a creative family so I felt rather jealous of your fabulous creations recently. I’ve heard and seen plenty of evidence that lockdown is already inspiring SE Fitness to dig out paint brushes, sewing machines and drawing pencils. Great work, keep it up!
Twenty minutes of gardening can reduce stress and boost cognitive function according to a study last year. You don’t even have to get your hands dirty because, in fact, just the exposure to trees, sky and birdsong improves mental well being. If you have a garden and it stops raining why not move the laptop and work outside for a while. Failing that then at least remember to look up now and again and open the window! Hopefully we will have more SE Fitness Gardening Tips from Kate Rose later in the week.
A Hot Bath
Researchers have found that a hot bath can be very beneficial for improving mental well being and may even be more beneficial than exercise! Taking a bath has also been found to improve sleep quality which is a huge factor in keeping body and mood well. I imagine most of you, like me, rarely have a bath normally because they take too long. For those of us with more time on our hands make the most of it and indulge, it’s good for you!
If you’d like more information from Professor Santos then check out her podcast series ‘The Happiness Lab’ which includes ten podcasts on how to deal with coronavirus related stress. https://www.happinesslab.fm/