10 EASY WAYS TO FEEL BETTER, Spring 2023

A Ripple Spring 2023 article

1. EXPRESS GRATITUDE
Extensive research finds that regularly practicing gratitude increases optimism, promotes a positive outlook on life, reduces symptoms of depression, and even improves sleep. All that’s needed is to simply write down three things you’re thankful for, small or large. Some examples: Had a lovely chat with a friend. Went for a walk. Ate a delicious ice cream. Petted a cute dog…

2. GO FOR A WALK
People who exercise regularly are shown to have lower stress, anxiety, and depression and are more likely to be happy in general. No long, complicated regimes needed: just 10 minutes of moving your body can release feel-good endorphins.

3. SPEND TIME WITH LOVED ONES
According to a Harvard study of adult development conducted over 80 years, strong social bonds are a primary and deciding factor for happiness. So call a friend, set aside quality time with a loved one, or double up on your happiness levels by going for a walk with a family member.

4. LISTEN TO MUSIC
Listening to our favorite melodies releases the feel-good hormone dopamine, activates the brain’s pleasure and motor centers, reduces stress, and helps to energize us physiologically and psychologically. And all the better, if you dance, too!

5. SPEND TIME WITH A PET
“Well-established evidence shows that the bond between a human and an animal positively impacts our physical and mental well-being, with research suggesting that petting an animal can trigger biochemical changes in the body,” says psychology lecturer Lowri Dowthwaite. Don’t have a pet of your own? Visit a friend who does or volunteer at an animal shelter.

6. ENGAGE IN A RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS
Compliment a stranger’s outfit, open the door for the person behind you, donate to charity, or send an encouraging message to a friend… Studies show that conscious acts of kindness reduce depression and anxiety and expand long-term happiness. “Acts of kindness tap into the basic human impulse to help others, activating the brain’s reward system,” says Martin Seligman, author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. “In fact, being kind is scientifically found to produce the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we tested.”

7. SNUGGLE UP
Researchers have found that contact with soft textures makes us feel instantly more relaxed, comforted, and emotionally flexible, so cuddle up under a velvety blanket. An extra trick to try: make that blanket green, pink, or yellow to benefit from the effects of colors associated with feelings of serenity, ease, joy, and optimism.

8. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR INNER FLOWER CHILD
“Common sense tells us that flowers make us happy, but there’s also science to back this up,” says Jeannette Havilan-Jones, the professor behind a 10-month study titled ‘An Emotional Approach to Positive Emotions’. Flowers function as a reward signal because they are unconsciously linked with abundance in our hunter-gatherer brains. The fragility and beauty of flowers remind us of the care that is necessary to sustain life. And whether you’re growing, giving, buying, or admiring flowers from a distance, Mother Nature’s bounty promotes the release of serotonin and oxytocin, two naturally produced anti-depressants.

9. SMILE
Smiling while looking upward — the opposite of what we do when we’re feeling low — activates the happiness-making chemicals dopamine and serotonin, and even enhances the way in which we perform cognitive tasks. As a bonus, smiling is contagious, so you’re sharing something small but precious with others. The one caveat? Your smile must be genuine, so access happy thoughts when you do it.

10. SET A BEAUTIFUL TABLE… FOR YOURSELF
Are you inclined to grab scrappy or functional meals for yourself while keeping your best dinnerware and linen for visitors? Flip the switch and set a beautiful table for yourself alone. Lovely crockery, candles, a rose in a bud vase add up to a creative exercise in self-esteem and simple pleasure. And don’t forget to give thanks for the food (even if it’s a tuna sandwich!) for the extra boost of a gratitude practice.