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Ten Things You Can Do Today to Foster Happiness

1 of 3 in Series: The Essentials of Reducing Stress and Being Happy

You have to work to achieve happiness — the greater and more consistent the effort, the greater the eventual reward. Here are ten simple, effective strategies that, if you make them part of your daily routine, will help you reach your goal of a life full of positive emotion.

Think of these important points as prescriptions, think of them as the ten secrets to a happy life, think of them as the Ten Commandments of Happiness, think of them anyway you like — just make sure you turn thinking into action!

  • Establish and stick to a morning ritual: Your morning ritual could involve exercising, meditating, praying, remembering all the things you have to be thankful for, or writing compassionate notes to family and friends in need.

  • Eat a healthy diet: A healthy diet is a source of energy and nutrients, both of which contribute to physical and emotional well-being.

  • Exercise: If you don’t get enough physical exercise, you have less energy and stamina to work at achieving happiness. The simple tasks of everyday life become chores, and no one looks forward to doing chores! To reconnect with the joy of living, you have to get your body moving again in a way that goes beyond your normal daily routine.

  • Get enough sleep: Sleep is essential to health and happiness. Yet, millions of people suffer from acute and chronic sleep deprivation. Children need around ten hours per night. An adolescent needs eight to nine hours. Adults require seven to eight hours.

    Seniors can get by on roughly six hours unless they’re unusually active — for example, doing a lot of physical labor or continuing to work full-time into their retirement years. (Seniors often nap at least once during the day, which means they can get by with a little less sleep at night.)

  • Meditate: Meditation is the oldest technique known to man for producing a state of inner calm and relaxation. All religions include meditation, in one form or another, as a primary way of achieving a spiritual connection. It has a variety of medicinal benefits — lower blood pressure, decreased muscular pain, improved sleep — in addition to leading to improved self-esteem and a general sense of well-being.

  • Make a spiritual connection: It doesn’t matter which religion you practice, or whether you actually consider yourself religious at all. (Plenty of people think of themselves as spiritual, but don’t follow any particular religious faith). What matters is how often you make that spiritual connection. Research has shown that just showing up at a religious service of some sort once a week cuts your odds of developing heart disease literally in half. Now there’s something to be happy about!

  • Be thankful: Gratitude is one of the identifiable key ingredients to achieving happiness. First your needs are satisfied and then you’re grateful — that’s how it’s supposed to work. But for many unhappy people, that’s not the case. They find themselves neither satisfied nor thankful for what life has provided in the way of material things or opportunities.

  • Think and feel with compassion: All world religions and all truly great figures in the history of mankind have one thing in common: They teach, preach, and exemplify compassion. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Jesus, and Martin Luther King Jr. all were champions of compassion.

  • Lend a helping hand: What have you done lately to help someone else? You don’t have to be a knight in shining armor. The simplest things count, too.

  • Have a sense of humor: Lighten up! Try not to take life so seriously. Put a smile on your face. Don’t just read the sports page in the newspaper — read the comics! End the day by listening to your favorite late-night comedian. Spend some time with an irreverent friend, someone who has a healthy respect for the absurdities of life. According to the Bible (or The Byrds), “There’s a time to laugh and a time to cry.” Make sure you have the right balance between the two.

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