What makes you happy?
Well this is an elusive concept at best for most of us.
There is no instant pudding formula for finding that sought after sweet spot.
That being said, I am here to tell you that it is ab-so-lutely achievable.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Ever.
Here are 17 tips to a happier, healthier and younger brain that will give you a great foundation.
Check ’em out!
What Makes You Happy? Take Some Time to Meditate!
Yep. Taking some you time for yourself has never come with more advantages!
The positive benefits of meditation are staggering! Did you know that you retain more grey matter overall if you meditate? It also decreases the volume in the amygdala (the area that governs the stress response). There is also thickening in the Hippocampus, which is where learning and memory reside. Wow!
Structural changes aside, you will find stress and anxiety are reduced while your ability to concentrate and pay attention grows! People with addictions also benefit greatly from meditation.
In a nutshell, if you are wondering what makes you happy and wanna feel better this tool is for you. The best part is it only takes 5 minutes per day to start meditating. It truly will help you find a calm and happy space and your brain will love you for it.
Throw on your hiking boots and start exploring local trails. Connecting with the great outdoors is scientifically proven to make you healthier and happier.
Who would have thought?
The simple act of going outside and taking part in the world has a tendency to make people more content. It also brings out creativity when you “unplug”. This alone reduces stress levels and creates a feeling of peace and connectedness.
One study actually links long distance hiking to improved antioxidative capacity, which helps people fight disease. If you have cancer there is also research that shows people who partake in regular exercise have an easier recovery. There are also tangible health benefits such as reduced cholesterol, improved heart health, decreased blood pressure and overall improvement in muscular and bone health.
What more could you possibly ask for? Hit those hills today!
Take a Break!
Far too many of us feel overwhelmed at work. The numbers are staggering. 83% of employees feel stressed out and 40% think they can’t take time off. This is a seriously worrisome trend. To compound matter, in 2009 Harvard conducted a study proved a relaxed brain learns new skills faster and improved memory.
Clearly working yourself to the bone isn’t what makes you happy!
So what the heck are we doing? Working endlessly doesn’t have any benefits when it comes to your brain and mental health. Like any other part of your body, the brain needs to rest.
You don’t have endless reserves of energy! Take break, it helps reboot your system, allowing you to come back healthier and happier than ever.
The Health Complications Are Costly Indeed!
If you are male and skip vacations for a number of years, your risk of having a heart attack leaps by 30%!
Think that’s scary? I have more: If you don’t take a vacation (male or female) for many years your risk for coronary artery disease leaps by 40%!
This is not the only problem – people who take regular vacations live on average 21% longer than those who don’t!
Book your vacation today. The term working yourself to death has roots in the truth
Give Up the White Stuff - Yes SUGAR!
The birds are singing and there’s not a cloud in the sky. It’s a great day for a doughnut and coffee…or is it? Research shows that depression and anxiety ramps up when you eat sweet stuff. Your blood sugar goes on a roller coaster ride – high highs and low lows.
Come on, you know exactly what I am talking about right? The doughnut and coffee you craved tasted great – but the sugar slump hits and you feel worse than you did earlier in the day.
The good news is, people who oust the white stuff typically have lower incidences of depression.
There are also scary links between glucose levels and Alzheimer’s. It’s a well-known fact that Diabetes and Alzheimer’s often go hand in hand. So if you are looking to retain your memory in the later years be sure to cut down on sugary treats!
Losing Your Mind?
UCLA conducted a study on lab rats that clearly illustrated a link between sugar and the loss of memory and learning skills. The brain is most definitely impacted by sugar intake.
Do yourself a favour and have some scrambled eggs with veggies and a slice of wholewheat toast instead. Your brain and body will celebrate your smart choices.
The brain is plastic, which means it changes constantly. Affirmations are a way to break negative chains of thought you may have become accustomed to over time.
We can be brutal with ourselves and it’s important to remember that we become our thoughts.
Positive statements allow you to literally “rewire” your brain. Happy thoughts help generate chemicals that enable you to stay in a good frame of mind.
What makes you happy? Your body thrives on positivity and the breaks down with negativity.
Wake up each and every morning and affirm the amazing person that you are. It will help tear down any downward spiralling inner dialogues.
What Makes You Happy? Work Out Regularly
Yep. Hard to believe but it’s true.
Did you know that exercising repairs the brain by creating new neurons and building new neural connections?
It also gives us an endorphin rush that helps us feel happier in our daily lives.
The one kicker is that it takes about 30 minutes to actually get this process started, which is why we have a hard time thrusting ourselves into a workout.
Sometimes mother nature has a wicked sense of humour.
Start with You and Your Home - You Can't Fix the World
If you find yourself asking what makes you happy, then you need to look closer to home. Simply put you can’t fix other people. You have to start with yourself.
Life is overwhelming if you look at it as a whole.
There are so many tough situations, tragedies and losses that you could quite literally submerge yourself in a title wave of emotion if you allowed it.
Factoring yourself into the equation is something many of us fail to do. No one has an endless well of emotional resources, so be sure to replenish them often.
The best way to heal your brain is to figure out what makes you happy and to find a way to heal yourself before you try to heal the world.
If you do this, you will find happiness and contentment grow within your 4 walls, enabling you to assist others in the long run.
We all know there are a multitude of benefits that we take for granted on a daily basis. Clean running water, heat, shelter and breathable air are just a few of the things that we expect to be there.
BUT what if those things were not accessible? Not too long ago humankind was living in caves and scrabbling for food – so it’s not unimaginable.
The simple act of practicing gratitude has been proven to impart benefits that last well after the exercise has been completed.
Feelings of wellbeing, calm and reduced depression are often the by products of such gratitude and a great reason to integrate journaling into your daily life.
To put it bluntly, we are truly lucky to be here today. Embrace that and give thanks! It’s great for you AND your brain.
Give, Give & Give Some More
Give and you shall receive has roots in brain health. Being generous with others has been scientifically proven to be very beneficial to your mental health. We are actually wired to contribute to our communities. This is easy to forget in our “me centric” world.
A fantastic study was done that affirms that the benefits are far greater when you give than when you receive.
Researches used fMRIs to conclude that stress levels were reduced and there was increased reward based activity in left and right ventral striatum and in the caregiving giving septal region in the “givers”.
Unfortunately the receivers didn’t get the benefits of stress reduction.
The moral of the story is, for as much as you give, you get back much more.
Take Part In Your Community
Studies show that people who have a strong support network of friends are 22% more likely to live longer than those who are more isolated!
Mental stimulation and support in times of need obviously helps people to liver healthier and more fulfilled lives.
Friends also buffer stressors – which in turn help create an environment where relaxation is possible.
This is of course very good for your overall health.
What makes you happy is having people who care about your well-being. It also helps us to prepare for the roadblocks we all encounter.
Life is a much better place when you have people to lean on.
Adopt A Dog
Do you love animals? If so, they could be the key to your happiness. Possibly you believe that what makes you happy is Netflix, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and your couch – but let me tell you a puppy could bring so much more!
Dogs need physical activity. There is no way around this. Walks become part of your daily routine, come rain or shine.
This is fantastic for your physical well-being, which as we all know is directly linked to your mental state.
Research has shown that spending 15 – 30 minutes with your dog helps you feel calmer! Wow…and just think – it only takes a few minutes of petting your pooch to raise dopamine and serotonin levels as well.
Who needs antidepressants when you have a furry friend around?
The Secret to What Makes You Happy? Bust Out a Book
Grab a cuppa herbal tea and a good book my friends, because there are very few things that are better for your brain than reading.
Incredibly reading reduces stress levels by 68%! It’s believed that this occurs because you are completely focused on the material you are reading rather than yourself, so the body relaxes.
Reading also activates areas of the brain. These neurological changes persist even when you stop reading. Incredibly studies reveal that reading can also slow the progress of Alzheimer’s. People who read have lower levels of beta amyloid protein, which is connected to this devastating disease.
Other added benefits include increased empathy, reduced depression, development of vocabulary and knowledge and improved memory and concentration.
NOW that is a pretty strong argument to pick up a copy of Moby Dick if you ask me!
Pick Up Mathematics
There are structural differences in the brains of children who perform well when it comes to mathematics. Three areas in the brain that predict improved learning when it comes to arithmetic are the the posterior parietal cortex, ventrotemporal occipital cortex and the prefrontal cortex. These regions have more volume and are very connected, which enables them to work in concert.
So what if you are terrible at math? Well, I would say it’s important for you to switch around the way you think. The plastic nature of the brain allows us to change areas that we perceive as weak.
If you are looking for an added bonus, your brain health also benefits from the strain.
Working hard on areas of the brain that have been previously neglected will open up a whole new world for you and help keep your brain sharp in later years!
Get Plenty of Sleep
Catching your zzzzz’s is so, so important. Please don’t ever underestimate your brain’s need for sleep.
If you don’t get enough rest cognitive decline is in your future. Sleep deprivation has even been connected to Alzheimer’s.
When you hit the hay your brain has the chance to clean itself out. The glympahtic system clears your brain of toxins at night and chemicals are also excreted that allow both the brain and body to repair themselves.
Studies have found that people who don’t get enough sleep have decreased brain volume.
Researchers are unsure of whether a smaller brain makes it harder to sleep or lack of sleep causes the smaller brain – but sleep deprivation may indeed be the culprit.
Far Reaching Consequences
Depression is also prevalent with people who don’t get enough sleep. You know how you feel when you only get a couple of hours of rest. Who isn’t in a bad mood with foggy thinking?
Chronic sleep issues can also lead to a whole host of other physiological ailments such as diabetes, cancer and weight gain to name but a few.
If you are looking to live a happier and more fulfilled life, getting enough sleep should be top of your list.
Find a Hobby Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Stuck in the same old rut? You are not alone.
It’s like groundhog day for many of us. The alarm goes off and you hit the snooze button again and again…
My advice? Take the bull by the horns and strike out on your own.
Get out of your comfort zone and learn a new skill or adopt a hobby. Life doesn’t have to be dull and monotonous if you take time to sample some of the fun and exciting things that are out there – and your brain will thank you for it I assure you!
Why not learn how to dance or take Tae Kwon Do lessons?
If you engage in a new skill you will increase your ability to focus, energize new areas of your brain and enliven the mind body connection.
This is most definitely a win, win!
Kick Booze in the Bum
Yes the occasional glass of wine may have health benefits. But if you have taken to self medicating and you are indulging on a daily basis you may want to rethink this habit. Low doses of alcohol have been linked to a reduced risk of dementia, that being said if you drink more than 2 drinks per day this doesn’t hold true.
Moderate intake of alcohol may increase your risk of stroke, dementia, cancer and psychosocial impairment. The structural and functional properties of your brain can be altered which may result in brain shrinkage or other types of damage.
This doesn’t include some of the cognitive issues that appear due to consumption such as poor decision-making and temporary loss of control over normal your mental functions!
What makes you happy is clarity, so kicking the alcohol habit can really help to keep your brain in top form.
Eat Healthy - The Mediterranean Diet Rocks
This is really one of the most important things you can do. As they say, you are what you eat and this holds true for brain health. Please do not overlook the importance of the food you eat. It can make all the difference in the world.
So many people skip green leafy vegetables. You should be eating them EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Yes you heard me right! In addition to the greens – vegetables of all shapes, sizes and colors are very important if you want to take care of your brain.
Do yourself a favour and start making green smoothies. They are a great way to get your fruit and vegetables in with little hassle.
Healthy Diet ,Healthy Brain - That's What Makes You Happy!
You should also make sure you eat nuts, legumes, fish, poultry, berries and olive oil and cut out processed, fried foods and red meat. A Mediterranean style diet really is ideal. Studies have shown that people who adhered to this way of eating lost less brain volume in a 3-year period than those who didn’t.
A healthy diet will regulate the rest of your body and make for a better life overall!
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