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  1. 1. Avoiding Unnecessary Stress 1. 1 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. 2. 2 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 stress. 3. 3 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. 4. 4 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. 5. 5 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. 6. 6 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 to manage. [1] Making Environmental Changes 1. 1 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. 2. 2 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. 3. 3 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. 4. 4 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 stress-induced headache. 5. 5 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.[2] Relaxing Activities to Try Out 1. 1 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. 2. 2 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. 3. 3 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.
  2. 2. 4. 4 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 same time. 5. 5 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. 6. 6 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. 7. 7 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.[3] Adopting a Stress-Fighting Lifestyle 1. 1 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. 2. 2 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 mental health 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. 3. 4 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. 4. 5 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. 5. 6 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.[4] 6. 7 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. EditSteps 1. 1 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[1] 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.[2] 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 of good.
  3. 3. 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! 2. 2 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.[3] Now, some 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 happiness. 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. 3. 3 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 optimism.[4] 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. 4. 4 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 and excitement.[5][6] 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.[7] o Get enough sleep. Study after study confirms it: the more sleep you get, the happier you tend to be.[8][9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 5. 5 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.[12] 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.[13] 6. 6 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![14] 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.[15]  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. 7. 7 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. [16] So next time you're beating around the bush with a friend, instead cut right to the chase. You'll be happier for it. 8. 8 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.[17] 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. [18][19] 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.[19] 9. 10 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 stress.[20] 10. 11 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
  4. 4. 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.[21] 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 social interactions.[22] 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 preoccupation. 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 inspiring. 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? CHOOSE HAPPINESS 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. NICELAND Iceland has the happiestpopulation, while Britain came ninth in a world survey ‘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. RELATIONSHIPS 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 people. STAY BUSY 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 happiness DON'T COMPARE 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. BE YOURSELF 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 yourself. 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. STOP WORRYING Don’t take yourself too seriously. Happy people don’t worry and they recognise that 90 per cent of worries never come true. GET ORGANISED 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 drifting along. THINK POSITIVE 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. VALUE HAPPINESS 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