Want 2017 to be a great year? Then try these seven steps to be happier inside and out:
▪ Bury the hatchet. Stop holding grudges. They drain precious emotional resources and keep you stuck in a painful rut. Extend an olive branch to the offending parties. Graciously accept any apologies and be willing to offer those of your own. Make this a time to wipe the slate clean and work toward a healthier relationship.
▪ Enjoy the outdoors. A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that people who spend time just 20 minutes outside each day have more energy and are less susceptible to physical ailments than those who stay indoors. It’s easy to see why. When you’re outside you get more Vitamin D, exercise and fresh air. You also feel grounded by the sights, sounds and smells of trees, water and wildlife.
▪ Declutter. Pick one well-defined space, like your purse, glove compartment, linen closet or underwear drawer. Toss out everything you don’t like and aren’t using. Work quickly; don’t spend more than 30 minutes at a time. The results will seem drastic at first. But your brain will appreciate the physical and psychological space.
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▪ Give to others. When it comes to being altruistic, research shows you get more than you give. A study published in May in the Journal Medicine scanned the brains of volunteers who received help solving a complicated math problem and those who provided the support.
The helpers’ brains were activated in regions involving reward and caregiving and deactivated in areas related to stress. The recipients’ brains remained unchanged. You can reap similar rewards by doing something altruistic daily. Comment on others’ acts of kindness. Join an organization that focuses on giving.
▪ Get enough sleep. We know adequate sleep is important. But statistics from the Centers for Disease Control say more than 15 percent of Americans suffer from insomnia or have difficulty sleeping. And it’s a contributing factor to increased rates of obesity, congestive heart failure, anxiety and depression. Improve your chances for a good night’s sleep by limiting evening screen time, going to bed at a regular time, decreasing caffeine consumption and engaging in relaxing activities before bed.
▪ Manage your thoughts. We create unnecessary stress for ourselves when we engage in destructive thinking. Such negative patterns as expecting the worst or taking everything personally sap enjoyment from everyday activities and decrease our ability to cope with real emergencies.
Catch yourself in the act and try different phrases such as, “This isn’t so bad,” or “I have a competent medical team taking care of me.” Practice deep breathing to keep yourself calm.
▪ Laugh often. A deep belly laugh is relaxing, triggers endorphins and boosts your immune system. It also protects your heart and burns calories. There are emotional benefits too. Chuckles draw people together, defuse conflict and decrease pain.
Incorporate humor into your schedule by inviting friends over for game night or relating funny stories. Attend a comedy show. Watch a hilarious YouTube video. Roll on the floor with your grandkids. Laughter is good for you — and that’s no joke.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.