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How to be happy

Mindapples doesn’t write much about happiness (there are plenty of fine organisations around doing that); instead we focus on mental health, feeling at home in your head, and accepting whatever feelings you have.

Wanting to be happier is a perfectly good goal though, and most of the things positive psychologists and happiness campaigners advocate can be a part of a mentally healthy lifestyle. In our latest book, The Mind Manual, we even featured a whole chapter on ‘How to be happy’, reviewing the psychology of happiness and how to apply it to our lives.

One of the best resources we found was that the British Psychological Society has compiled a ‘guide to happiness’, filled with experimentally-validated tips for being happier. It’s always a little strange to read scientific guides to things that are as subjective and philosophically complex as ‘happiness’ – after all, the pursuit of happiness is more than simple biochemistry – but there are some interesting findings in the piece.

Please do read it for yourself if you have time, but here are a few of our favourites:

  • We’re happier when we’re busy. Although our natural inclination might be to chill out, finding things you love doing is a great recipe for a happy life.
  • Sharing good news helps. Be careful not to brag or make other people feel bad by comparison, but finding people to share your joys makes the joys sweeter.
  • Don’t imagine everyone else is happy. Looking around the world, and particularly the internet, it can feel like everyone else has it made – but in fact they probably feel just as up-and-down as you do.
  • Little and often is the best way. Small, frequent daily mood boosters – mindapples, if you like – help more than big life changes or audacious goals.
  • We’re resilient to happiness – but also unhappiness. The same things that make it hard to stay permanently cheerful also make it hard to stay permanently sad.

Happiness means different things to everyone though, so don’t aspire to feel “the right way”. Instead, notice the times when you feel good, think about what you’re doing in those times, and try to do a bit more of them. Happiness isn’t an end-state to be reached; it’s a habit to be practiced.

Learn more about how to be happy and healthy in our illustrated guides to the mind, The Mind Manual and A Mind for Business, published by Hamlyn Press and Pearson/FT.

Drink water! What dehydration does to your mind

We all know water is good for us, and it’s certainly easy to get hold of it, but we don’t often stop to think about how beneficial it can be, not just for our physical health, but for our minds too.

Recent research shows that dehydration not only affects our physical wellbeing, but also our mood, and our ability to think clearly.

Studies carried out at the University of Connecticut in 2012 showed that even mild dehydration – approximately 1.5% below normal body water levels – caused participant to experience fatigue, tension and anxiety, and difficulties when working on mental tasks. The adverse effects on mood were particularly prominent in women, both at rest and during exercise.

Mild dehydration can be as little as 500ml less than you need – the equivalent of one small bottle of water. Even this small amount can make a big difference.

They also found that staying hydrated is as important for those who work in an office sitting down as it is for those who are physically active. Negative effects of dehydration are experienced whether one is resting or walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes.

So make sure you drink enough water during the day. It’s an easy and effective way to help prevent low moods, tension and poor mental ability. Experts recommend drinking 2 litres, or 8 standard glasses, of water a day, to stay hydrated and keep yourself mentally effective (though bear in mind you will also get water from the food you eat too). So drink more water! It’s free!

Learn more about your mind in our illustrated guides, The Mind Manual and A Mind for Business, published by Hamlyn Press and Pearson/FT.

References:

Money can buy you happiness, new research reveals

Research published today has revealed that money is much more useful for making people happy than was previously thought. Despite the popularity of books like The Spirit Level and Happiness, and a large body of recent studies across the developing world suggesting that economic performance does not in fact correlate with wellbeing or life satisfaction, new research…
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Why taking care of our feelings matters

“Positive emotions are worth cultivating, not just as end states in themselves but also as a means to achieving psychological growth and improved well-being over time” – Barbara L. Fredrickson Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, 2001 According to recent psychological research, the experience of positive emotions such as joy, interest, contentment and love, not only…
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Why having fun is good for you

We all know that leisure time makes us feel good, but now scientific evidence shows that taking time out and engaging in activities you enjoy really does lead to both psychological and physical wellbeing. It’s a well-established fact that physically healthy actions such as eating well and getting enough sleep make us feel better, it…
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Happiest Helping Together

“John Helliwell, emeritus professor of economics at UBC and co-director of a CIFAR panel looking into Social Interactions, Identity and Wellbeing, was at Harvard yesterday summarizing his and others’ recent research on happiness research, with special attention to the social context of well-being. He observed that the amount of data and experimentation regarding happiness research is…
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Exercise Builds a Calmer Brain

We’ve known for a long time that exercise reduces stress … but new research on rats
described in The New York Times
 is showing that exercise actually builds calmer brains.

“It looks more and more like the positive stress of exercise prepares cells and structures and pathways within the brain so that they’re more equipped to handle stress in other forms,” says Michael Hopkins, a graduate student affiliated with the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory Laboratory at Dartmouth, who has been studying how exercise differently affects thinking and emotion. “It’s pretty amazing, really, that you can get this translation from the realm of purely physical stresses to the realm of psychological stressors.”