How to Enjoy Life
Enjoying life is often thought to be a mindset, the result of reflection, action and gratitude. And while most of us lack sufficient free time to escape to some mountaintop temple to follow our bliss, the best way to find happiness is to make practical, everyday changes. Coupled with conscious choices to appreciate the people in your life and making space to do the things you're best at, small changes to your life soon add up to greater enjoyment in life.
- Get a pet. Owning a pet provides love, companionship, and hours of entertainment. Pet ownership has health benefits too, such as reducing your blood pressure and the risk of heart disease, increasing your feelings of well-being and connectedness, and teaching you lessons in empathy and nurturing. For extra warm and fuzzy feelings, consider rescuing a pet from your local shelter.
- Get into music. Listening to music taps into your brain’s imagination and sense of self-identity, boosts your self-esteem, and lessens feelings of isolation. Listening to music feels empowering. Put on your favorite album––or that one you keep meaning to dive into, turn up the volume, and cut out all other distractions so that you can really experience the music.
- In some cases, music has been shown to help people coping with dementia, giving them a greater sense of empowerment.
- Start the day with a smile. Your facial expression is traditionally thought of as a window into how you feel, but it's also thought that your facial expression can influence your mood. Therefor, be sure to smile freely, to ensure that your mood is upbeat. You might even want to greet yourself in the mirror with a smile first thing in the morning––that happy face may be just enough to keep that mood flowing all day long.
- Take a break. A decent break doesn’t mean zoning out to the TV or going down the internet rabbit hole. It means setting some time aside and making it special. As a thank-you to yourself, give yourself a vacation or “staycation”; a change of scenery––even if it just means having a picnic in your backyard or building a fort with your kids in the living room. Taking a break that is different from the ordinary and lets you "hang loose" can do wonders for your sense of fun, escape, and fulfillment.
- Spend time with interesting people. It is well known that people with a wide circle of friends tend to live longer. Of course, birds of a feather flock together, and it’s also been shown that your friends’ behavior can actually have a big impact on yours. Make sure you hang around with positive, interesting people to inspire yourself to live a richer life.
- Putting off getting in touch with an old friend? Make that call today! If you can’t reach the person by phone, set some time aside to write a long email.
- Being dragged down by an unhealthy friendship? Enabling your friend’s bad behavior doesn’t do either of you any good. Do some soul-searching and decide whether to resolve things with a heart-to-heart or to simply end the relationship.
- Have trouble meeting new people? Get outside your comfort zone by going to new places, striking up conversations with strangers, taking on a new hobby, or even joining a social activity group on something like Meetup.com.
- Reduce stress. You don’t need a clinician to tell you that stress is no fun, but did you know that even a mild stress-induced mood disorder like sub-clinical depression can ravage your immune system? In fact, the duration of a stressful period has more effect on immunity than its severity. To fight stress, first recognize it and stop trying to battle on alone. Find ways to ground yourself and to let off steam constructively. Sport, exercise, a hobby and spending time with friends are all good ways to counteract stress. You might like to try guided imagery, yoga, or tai-chi; if you have a severe mood disorder, seek counseling and/or medication.
- Remove the stress or manage it better. Can you change the cause of the stress? Then do so. In many cases though, stress links back to your job. In uncertain times, changing jobs can be difficult, in which case, you must find ways to manage it better. This includes becoming more assertive about your needs and boundaries, working smarter not harder and using workplace resources to counteract detrimental practices that are impacting your health and well-being.
- Learn new things. Getting a higher education can bolster your self-esteem and interest in the world. But it's not for everyone and it's not the only solution––reading, traveling, taking fun classes, attending guest lectures, and meeting people from other cultures will do the same thing. Or try MOOCs––massive online open courses––these courses offer very stimulating ways of stretching your knowledge and abilities, in your own time. Ultimately, instead of running from new experiences, engage in them––and seek more whenever you can. After all, you only live once.
- Find a hobby. Whether you choose stamp collecting or kickboxing, hobbies and extracurricular activities are necessary in the pursuit to enjoy life. Hard routines are counterproductive to spontaneity and surprise––leave a little flexibility in your schedule so that it doesn't become routine and humdrum. Do your hobby or activity because you love it, and because it gets you "into the flow", and not for reasons such as keeping up with other people or conforming to unrealistic social standards.
- Read a good book. Putting your feet up and watching your favorite show at the end of the day is definitely a treat, but since passively watching a story doesn’t do much to stimulate your imagination, it can also leave you feeling restless and zombified. For a change of pace, find a book that you can lose yourself in for a while. If you don’t consider yourself much of a reader, think outside the box and find something that relates to your hobbies: if you’re a baseball fan, pick up Bill Veek’s autobiography; if you’re a biker, try Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
- Keep notes of passages or ideas that really resonate with you. If you keep a notebook in your usual reading spot, ready to jot down such inspirations, you'll soon amass an inspirational collection of ideas that matter to you and may help direct your sense of purpose for years to come.
- Bolster your immune system. Nobody feels happy when they’re sick! Even doing something as simple as taking a vitamin with vitamins C, E, and A, selenium, and beta Carotene might help to boost your immunity. More usefully though, eating good food such as fruit, vegetables, grains and animal foods will provide good nutrients as a result of the complexity of vitamin and mineral interactions unprocessed foods offer. Exercising, sleeping well, and taking mental breaks can also do wonders for your body’s natural defenses, thereby boosting your energy and well-being.
- Exercise. Exercising effects the release of endorphins, which transmit messages to the brain, translating into positive feelings. Regular exercise not only combats depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness, but also bolsters your immune system. Even walking for exercise can increase your antibody and T-killer cell response.
- Sleep well. Sleep is strongly linked with a person’s health, stress levels, weight and quality of life. Moreover, while you sleep, your body produces cells that fight infection, inflammation, and stress, which means that getting too little sleep makes you more prone to getting sick and increases the time you need to recover from illness.
- Exercising is one of the absolute best ways to sleep better at night.
- Play in the dirt. Scientists are finding that friendly bacteria in the soil actually trigger the brain to produce serotonin (much like how antidepressants work). If you have a garden, get out there and dig. If you don’t, consider starting one––if not for flowers, for vegetables and herbs. Even a designing a container garden can create a spot of sunshine in your life.
- Obviously, not-so-friendly bacteria are also in your garden. Wear gloves to protect your hands, especially if you have cats or neighboring cats use your garden as a toilet. And wash your hands well after playing in dirt!
- Eat healthy. It’s a no-brainer that eating well (fresh, unprocessed, basic foods) has a huge variety of health benefits. In addition, taking the time to cook fresh foods for yourself gives you an emotional boost: it smells good, it looks good, it tastes good, and, when you become proficient at cooking, it can even provide a fun, creative break from your routine. In addition to being a form of self-pampering, cooking is also good for your wallet. If you’re new to it, start with a few fast, foolproof recipes that won’t turn you off cooking forever. The less processed food in your diet, the healthier you'll be, which in turn will ensure a good deal more happiness for you.
- While these guidelines have scientific theories supporting them about happiness, remember that being able to enjoy life depends on the person. There is no scientific measurement of happiness, and everyone's idea of happiness and fulfillment is different. In a nutshell, you can choose to be happy––or not––and the only person with control over that, is you.
- Worry is a useless form of wasting energy. Take that worry energy and do something instead of fretting. If you're so wound up that the thought of doing anything frightens you, take a break or a snooze, then come back and deal with the problem confronting you. You'll feel a lot better for tackling it than not.
- There is no "one-size-fits-all" solution to happiness. By all means read what the self-help gurus and articles such as this suggest you try. But don't take it as gospel––if a suggestion doesn't work for you, then don't beat yourself up over it. Find an alternative that does work and stick with it instead.
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