Avoiding Unnecessary Stress
Accept your stress. It may seem counterintuitive to accept your stress,
but accepting your stressor means that you’re aware of what is causing
your stress and what you need to avoid. Accepting does not mean
ignoring, but rather that you understand the origin of your anxiety.
Realize that your stress is a healthy response to overwhelming stimuli,
and that it can be dealt with in an equally healthy fashion.
Avoid your stressors. Seems obvious, right? Sometimes staying away
from what is stressing you out is harder than it sounds. If you know
particular person or activity is the origin of your stress, simply cut it/them
out of your life. If your stressor is something more permanent - work,
school, or family, for example - find ways to spend time away from it.
Taking time away from your stressors is the first step to relieving your
Reframe your problems. Sometimes, a stressful situation is just a
matter of perspective. Instead of focusing on the negatives and the
problems that are causing you anxiety, concentrate on the positives.
When you change your viewpoint, you can change your level of stress
altogether. Do your best to see things in a positive light, and avoid
cynicism at all costs.
Be better organized. Often times, stress arises from feeling
overwhelmed. Use a planner to keep track of your "to do lists". Being
organized and getting your priorities straight can help you break
responsibilities down into manageable pieces and focus on the things
that really matter to you. Staying on top of chores and errands will keep
you in a positive mindset, and help you get more done in the long run.
Learn to say no. You cannot do everything you are asked, so why keep
pretending that you can? Indeed, the more you promise and don't
deliver, the less people will perceive you as being nice; rather, they'll
consider your supposed largesse a nuisance, knowing that you'll drop
the ball at the last minute. Instead, be assertive and learn to say no
politely but firmly and always when you know there isn't a chance at all
that you'll get the thing done.
Learn how to delegate. As with trying to do everything, never
delegating is about you trying to have control and not trusting that others
can do their job as well as you can. Learn to let go by giving more
credence to the abilities of others. Giving up tasks may seem stressful in
theory, but will free you up for more personal time. Find reliable people in
your life that you can trust with tasks that you are too stressed or anxious
Making Environmental Changes
Clean up a bit. Even the most steadfast of souls will waver in an ever-
messy environment. If your home, office, car, or workspace is overly
messy or dirty, it is certainly having an effect on your mental wellbeing.
Take a few minutes to clean up your most unorganized areas, and your
mind will breathe a sigh of relief.
Take a few minutes to get ready. It’s hard to feel prepared for the day
when you haven’t taken time to get yourself ready. Spend a few extra
minutes in the morning to prepare yourself for the days events. Take an
extra long shower, put on your favorite outfit, and go into the day ready
to take on anything.
Listen to some music. Music has shown to have a very strong effect on
mood and mental state. Calm yourself down by listening to your favorite
soothing music. Although you may prefer heavy metal or rap, try listening
to something a bit softer and slower for the best effects. Keeping music
playing in the background while you work, study, or just go about your
daily activities is a great way to subconsciously alter your stress levels.
Try aromatherapy. That’s right, what you smell can actually alter your
stress levels. Scientific studies have linked the scent of lavender and
oranges to reduced stress and anxiety levels. Use a lavender scented air
freshener in your home, office, or car, or spritz a bit of the essential oil
onto your hair and skin before you head out the door in the morning. You
can also dab a bit of the essential oil onto your temples to relieve a
Change your environment. If making little changes isn’t enough to
cheer you up, try moving to a completely new place for a bit. If work or
studying is too difficult in your office or at home, relocate to a cozy coffee
shop or a park. Having a new environment will help you to move your
thoughts away from your stressors, and give you a chance to breathe
and recover from your anxiety.
Relaxing Activities to Try Out
Take a bath. Some people are bath people while others are shower
people. No matter which you are, it is hard to deny the comfort of a warm
bubble bath with a cozy drink and a good book. If you’re stressed out, try
curling up in your bathtub for a while. The warmth will relax your
muscles, and help to soothe away your stress.
Maintain a favorite hobby. When we get stressed and anxious, it’s
easy to push hobbies to the side and focus on ‘priorities.’ However, by
leaving out any free time for yourself, you may be making yourself more
stressed! Return to a lost hobby by playing your favorite sport, picking up
your art journal, or heading out for a hike. You’ll feel refreshed and better
able to deal with your stressors when you’ve given yourself time to do
something you love.
Try out a new activity. If you don’t have any old hobbies that you want
to continue, or you never had any in the first place, try out a new activity
you’ve been interested in. It’s never too late to learn a new trade! Try
auditing a class at a local community college, or find other classes in
your area. Better yet, self-teach yourself something new, and practice to
get better! Learning a new activity forces your mind off of your stressors,
making it easier for you to relax.
Head outside. Sunlight is a natural cure for depression, which is tied to
stress and anxiety. Even if you aren’t able to get sunlight, mother nature
provides excellent stress relief via the great outdoors. Walk through a
park, hike up to a mountain, go for a fishing trip - whatever interests you.
Just get outside to do it! It’s hard to be stressed when you’re witnessing
the beauty of the natural world, while putting your body to work at the
Laugh it out. Laughter is the best medicine, so they say. Laughing may
seem difficult if you’re stressed and anxious, but incorporating it into your
life will make a marked difference. Turn on your favorite sitcom, look at
funny youtube videos, or get together with a funny friend. Smiling and
laughing release stress-relieving hormones in your brain which will have
you feeling better in no time.
Drink a cup of tea. Tea-drinkers have shown to be less stressed over
time than non-tea drinkers, making this a great activity for reducing
stress. Grab a cup of black tea for the best results, but any tea will do.
Having the warm cup to hold onto will help you to relax, while the flavor
will give you something sweet to focus on.
Get a massage. Massages aren’t just great for your body, they actually
release feel-good hormones in your brain as well. The next time you’re
feeling stressed, call up your favorite masseuse and schedule an
appointment. Getting your tension worked out of your muscles will help
to work the tension out of your mind as well. Better yet? Have a loved
one give the massage for you. The combination of your partner or
spouse giving you the massage will release extra hormones, practically
demolishing whatever stress you had.
Adopting a Stress-Fighting Lifestyle
Eat healthy foods. Few would be surprised to hear that among the
myriad benefits healthy eating provides, stress relief is one of them.
Don’t let junk food and sugary sweets bog you down and increase your
anxiety hormones. Instead, incorporate healthy grains, fruits, and
vegetables into your daily diet, and your body will compensate by
creating more stress-fighting hormones. Soon enough, you’ll be stress
free with nothing to thank but your diet.
Get daily exercise. The infamous ‘runners high’ isn’t a phenomenon
isolated solely to runners; exerting yourself physically releases
endorphins that make you happy. That means that if you’re stressed, you
can cheer yourself up and throw your anxiety out the window just by
making your heart work a bit harder. Head for a bike ride or swim, pick
up some weights, or play your favorite sport to gain both physical and
Focus on your sleep. When people get stressed and overwhelmed with
a million and one things to do, often one of the first things to be
sacrificed is sleep. However, this is one of the biggest health mistakes
you can make. Getting adequate sleep allows your body to recharge and
refresh, leaving you with a clean slate in the morning. If you don’t get
enough sleep, your body can’t get rid of the excess hormones and toxins
that have built up and cause stress, making your stress a never-ending
cycle. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
Keep a journal. Although keeping a journal may seem strange or
tedious, writing down your thoughts on a regular basis can help keep you
stress-free. When you feel bogged down with some emotional or mental
stressor, write about it in your journal. Getting it out on paper will give
you a sense of relief you might not otherwise find.
Cuddle up more often. If you are in a healthy relationship, try going to
your partner for a bit of physical touch. Studies have shown that regular
cuddling, kissing, and sex all release oxytocin - a hormone that produces
happiness and reduces stress. That’s right - some of your favorite
activities actually improve your mental well-being. Do these on a regular
basis to keep your hormone levels up in general, making it less likely that
you’ll get stressed out in the first place.
Practice your spirituality. The top reason many people participate in
religious practices? To relieve stress and anxiety. If you are already a
part of a religious group, try turning towards it more during your times of
stress. It is likely you will find relief in the support of your community,
while growing stronger spiritually simultaneously. If you suffer from
chronic stress, consider joining a religious group and see what mental
benefits it has to offer.
Maintain healthy relationships. It’s easy to get stressed when the
people you surround yourself with are unhealthy and co-dependant.
Rather than maintaining negative relationships with people that annoy
you or cause your anxiety, foster relationships that support you and
make you feel better. If you know you want to cut someone out of your
life, do so slowly and without hurt feelings. You’ll feel better in the long
run, even if it’s difficult in the short run, to have only happy and healthy
friends in your life.
Happiness — it's what we all strive to find and keep, even when it's as
elusive as ever. Nobody ishappy all the time, but some people are
definitely more fulfilled than others. Studies reveal that happiness has
little to do with material goods or high achievement; it boils down to your
outlook on life, the quality of your relationships, and basic amenities like
good governance and community resources. Read on for more tips and
tricks on how to unlock the happier you.
Be optimistic. In the 70s, researchers followed people who'd won the
lottery and found that a year afterward, they were no happier than people
who didn't. This hedonic adaptation
suggests that we each have a
baseline level of happiness. No matter what happens, good or bad, the
effect on our happiness is temporary, and we tend to revert to our
baseline level. Some people have a higher baseline happiness level than
others, and that is due in part to genetics, but it's also largely influenced
by how you think.
o Add up all the little happy things that happen to you during the day. For
example, there was no traffic on the road, you had a nice breakfast, your
friend said something funny that made you laugh, you took your dog for
a walk in the park and played with it. All of these added together account
to one big happiness.
o Look at the glass half-full instead of half-empty. Your girlfriend break up
with you? Now you have a chance to meet someone else! You lose your
job? Now you have the opportunity to find a better one! Adjust your
mentality so that, in everything that happens to you, there's some kernel
o Put yourself in situations where good things are likely to happen to you.
It's easier to stay optimistic if you set yourself up for success. Cheating
on a partner, or stealing a bike — while temporarily thrilling — rarely end
well for any party involved. Ask yourself before you act: Am I setting
myself up for success or for failure?
o Think of your current situation (however hard it may be) and then think of
how much harder some other people have it. Just be happy that you are
not in that worse situation. Learn to enjoy your life!
Follow your gut. In one study, two groups of people were asked to pick
a poster to take home. One group was asked to analyze their decision,
weighing pros and cons, and the other group was told to listen to their
gut. Two weeks later, the group that followed their gut was happier with
their posters than the group that analyzed their decisions.
of our decisions are more crucial than picking out posters, but by the
time you're poring over your choice, the options you're weighing are
probably very similar, and the difference will only temporarily affect your
o Next time you have a decision to make, and you're down to two or three
options, just pick the one that feels right, and go with it. Never regret the
decisions you make, though. Just live by the 3 C's of life: choices,
chances, and changes. You need to make a choice to take a chance, or
your life will never change.
Make enough money to meet basic needs: food, shelter, and clothing.
In the US, that magic number is $60,000 a year. Any money beyond that
will not necessarily make you happier. Remember the lottery winners
mentioned earlier? Oodles of money didn't make them happier. Once
you make enough to support basic needs, your happiness is not
significantly affected by how much money you make, but by your level of
o Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort isn't what
makes people happy. It makes people bored. That's why it's important
to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel personal growth.
Treat your body like it deserves to be happy. It may sound cheesy to
say, but your brain isn't the only organ in your body that deserves to be
happy. Researchers have found that exercise, healthy diets, and regular
sleep are key factors in growing more happy and staying that way.
o People who are physically active have higher incidences of enthusiasm
Scientists hypothesize that exercise causes the brain
to release chemicals called endorphins that elevate our mood.
o Eat right. Eating healthy foods — fruits and vegetables, lean meats and
proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds — gives your body and brain the
energy it needs to be healthy. Some scientists speculate that unhealthy
diets, especially those rich in processed carbohydrates, sugars, and
industrial vegetable fats, is responsible for brain shrinkage and certain
brain diseases like depression and dementia.
o Get enough sleep. Study after study confirms it: the more sleep you get,
the happier you tend to be.
Getting just a single extra hour of sleep
per night makes the average person happier than making $60,000 more
in annual income, astoundingly enough.
So if you're middle-aged,
shoot to get at least eight hours of sleep per night; the young and elderly
should shoot for 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night.
Stay close to friends and family: Or move to where they are, so you
can see them more. We live in a mobile society, where people follow
jobs around the country and sometimes around the world. We do this
because we think salary increases make us happier, but in fact our
relationships with friends and family have a far greater impact on
happiness. So next time you think about relocating, consider that you'd
need a salary increase of over $100,000 USD to compensate for the loss
of happiness you'd have from moving away from friends and family.
o If relationships with family and friends are unhealthy or nonexistent, and
you are bent on moving, choose a location where you'll make about the
same amount of money as everyone else; according to research, people
feel more financially secure (and happier) when on similar financial
footing as the people around them, regardless of what that footing is.
Be compassionate. Compassion is all about doing something kind for
someone in need, or someone less privileged than yourself. A brain-
imaging study (where scientists peek into people's brains while they act
or think) revealed that people gain as much happiness from watching
others give to charity as they do receiving money themselves!
o Think of easy, quick, and effective ways that you can make your
community a better place by being compassionate:
Tutor, volunteer, or get involved in a church group. Countless children
are looking for someone to teach them and act as a role model.
Make a microloan. A microloan is when you give someone (usually in the
developing world) a very small sum of money for an economic project of
their own. Many microloans have 95%+ repayment rates.
Give a person in need food, clothing or shelter. It's so basic we often
forget to think about it, yet so easy to do.
Have deep, meaningful conversations. A study by a psychologist at
the University of Arizona has shown that spending less time participating
in small talk and more time in deep, meaningful conversations can
increase happiness. 
So next time you're beating around the bush with
a friend, instead cut right to the chase. You'll be happier for it.
Find happiness in the job you have now: Many people expect the right
job or career to dramatically change their level of happiness. But
research makes it clear that your levels of optimism and quality of
relationships eclipse the satisfaction gained from your job.
o If you have a positive outlook, you will make the best of any job; and if
you have good relationships, you won't depend on your job for a sense
of meaning. You'll find meaning in interactions with the people you care
about. You'll use your job as a crutch instead of relying on it for meaning.
o This is not to say you shouldn't aspire to get a job that will make you
happier; many people find that being on the right career path is a key
determination in their overall happiness. It just means you should
understand that the capacity of your job to make you happy is quite small
when compared to your outlook and your relationships
Smile: Science suggests that when you smile, whether you're happy or
not, your mood is elevated. 
So smile all the time if you can! Smiling
is like a feedback loop: smiling reinforces happiness, just as happiness
causes smiling. People who smile during painful procedures reported
less pain than those who kept their facial features neutral.
Forgive: In a study of college students, an attitude of forgiveness
contributed to better cardiovascular health. You could say forgiveness
literally heals the heart. While it is unknown how forgiveness directly
affects your heart, the study suggests that it may lower the perception of
Make friends. In a 2010 study published by Harvard researchers
in American Sociological Review, people who went to church regularly
reported greater life satisfaction than those who didn't. The critical factor
was the quality of friendships made in church. Church-goers who lacked
close friends there were no happier than people who never went to
church. When researchers compared people who had the same number
of close friends, those who had close friends from church were more
satisfied with their lives.
o The difference is the forming of friendships based on mutual interests
and beliefs. So if church is not your thing, consider finding something
else you're deeply passionate about, making friends with those who
share similar interests.
o When you interact with people who share your interests, you feel happier
due to sensations of reward and well-being. This is because during such
interactions, endorphin and dopamine — neurotransmitters responsible
for feelings of happiness and relaxation — are released into the body. In
other words, your body is designed to feel happier when engaged in
Value happiness: Happiness can be learned, but finding meaning and a
purpose in life is what leads to it, not the other way around
I found myself saying: ‘Right now, no, but I will be again, I’m pretty sure
of that. And you’re not to worry. No one can expect to be happy all the
time.’ And yet it seems the pursuit of happiness has become a national
Eminent economists, politicians and psychologists debate endlessly
about the best way to create a happy society, while David Cameron’s
‘happiness index’ aims to pin down just how content we are.
Plenty of woolly self-help books exist which promise to unlock the secret
of happiness. Just last week, the Institute of Economic Affairs concluded
rather prosaically that money had a large part to play.
But I’ve found, when my life isn’t going to plan, there are plenty of simple
things that help — for starters, my friends, my son and my dog. Then
there’s walking in the countryside, getting lost in a good book, learning
something new, still being a size 10 as I approach 60, a new recipe that
turns out well. The list is endless.
But a new book tries to probe deeper. In it, you won’t find spiritual
philosophy, but evidence-based material that aims to unlock the secrets
of happy people. In the World Book Of Happiness, Leo Bormans has
drawn together the research and discoveries of the world’s leading
experts on the psychology of happiness. Researchers have questioned
thousands of people and what he has discovered is as surprising as it is
ACCEPT WHAT YOU HAVE
Research shows that happy people have modest levels of expectation
and aspirations — they want what they can get — while unhappy people
never seem to get what they want. They also know how to avoid
disappointments and how to generate pleasant surprises. This is
because they strive for realistic goals and are happy with their lot. As Dr
Jose de Jesus Garcia Vega, of the University of Monterrey, Mexico,
confirms, we must accept things as they come.
‘We spend a lot of time complaining about the things that happen to us,
but this is a waste of time and effort,’ he says. ‘To be happy, we need to
enjoy what we have.’
ENJOY WHAT YOU DO
Happy people do what they enjoy and enjoy what they do — and don’t
do it for the money or glory. There’s no point being stuck in a job you
hate, surrounded by unfriendly colleagues just because the money is
good — people forget that they are allowed to be happy at work, too.
Many spend the best years of their lives trying to make money,
sacrificing their health and family in the process, says Dr Garcia
Vega. Later, they spend the same money they made working trying to
recover their lost health and estranged family.
LIVE FOR TODAY
Don’t dwell on the past, on things that went wrong or previous failures.
Similarly, don’t dream about an idealised future that doesn’t exist or
worry about what hasn’t happened yet. Happy people live for the now;
they have positive mind sets. If you can’t be happy today, what makes
you think tomorrow will be different?
Don’t be afraid to step back and re-evaluate your goals. Imagine your life
as a story that you can edit and revise as you go along. This kind of
flexible approach requires positive thinking and an open mind — you
need to actively choose to be happy.
Iceland has the happiestpopulation, while Britain came ninth in a
‘You always have the freedom to choose the manner in which you wish
to approach any given situation,’ says Dr Garcia Vega.This theory is
backed up by Ingrida Geciene of Vilnius University, Lithuania, who
researched the happiness of people in 31 European countries.
She found that ‘voluntarists’ (people who feel they have free choice and
complete control over their life) were happier than fatalists (people who
think little can be changed by personal intervention).
Luckily for us, Northern European countries contain more voluntarists
while Latin European countries such as Spain and Italy have a higher
percentage of fatalists.
We get our happiness from other people, and from supporting other
people. Remember that just as other people can make us happy, we are
all ‘other people’ to someone else. And cherish people who are important
to you. Research also shows that married people are happier than single
If you want to be happier, develop an outgoing, social personality —
accept that drinks invitation, join the walking club, book group or choir.
The best way to savour pleasure is in the company of others. Build a rich
social life, says Eunkook M. Suh, a psychology professor at Yonsei
University in Seoul, not as an obligation, but because it is rewarding,
meaningful and fun.
Active, busy, social people are the healthiest and happiest, in society.
Get involved: make your motto ‘use it or lose it.’
In the World Book Of Happiness, Leo Bormans has drawn together
research from the world's leading experts on the psychology of
Ambition is healthy and makes people happy, explains Claudia Senik, a
professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, but envy makes them
unhappy. Yet comparisons with others can spoil the benefits of ambition
and are only useful if you learn something from them. Focus on your
goals and dreams so you can enjoy your ambition and achievements.
Just as you shouldn’t compare yourself with others, it’s important not to
worry about what others think about you — then you can truly be
Happy people are spontaneous, natural and real; they say what they
think and feel, and aren’t concerned what others think of them. Being
oneself makes one feel free and authentic.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Happy people don’t worry and they
recognise that 90 per cent of worries never come true.
You might envy those laid-back bohemian types who just do things on
the spur of the moment, but don’t be fooled. Happy people plan and
organise, they have goals and a purpose. You can only get what you
want or desire if you know what it is you want or desire in the first place.
So while those chilled-out friends might seem happy, they’re actually just
Bottling up emotions and bad feelings creates psychological distress and
physical discomfort. Happy people get things off their chest, their motto
is: get rid of it, or it will get rid of you. Similarly, work at developing
optimistic thinking; happy people always look on the bright side.
Successful athletes know to focus on winning, not losing, explains
Miriam Akhtar, one of the first positive psychologists in the UK. We need
to switch from a negative, glass-half-empty outlook to a glass-half-full
and put optimism into practice to be happiest. Optimism is the mind’s
natural self-defence mechanism against depression.
Happiness can be learned, but finding meaning and a purpose in life is
what leads to it, not the other way around. The happiest people
appreciate and realise that being happy adds years to their life, and life
to their years