Every Friday in May we’ll be posting a new installment of our ThrivePass Wellness Series as a way to help you become the healthiest version of yourself. Each installment will focus on a different aspect of health: happiness, stress-free living, exercise, and diet. The goal with this series is to help you achieve well-rounded wellness that, with some lifestyle changes and ThrivePass tips, you can sustain for a long time. First in our installment is our guide to living happy.
Exercise: A little, counts for a lot
So maybe we’re cheating a bit by including exercise in our tips for living happy, but countless studies have shown that exercise can have a major impact on your mental state. In Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage,, a trial was conducted to measure the effects of exercise on depression. The participants were divided into three equal groups. Group A was given medication; Group B was given both medication and exercise, and Group C used exercise only. While the immediate results of the study were negligible, doctors found at the six-month checkup date that while Group A and Group B both had 38%, and 31% instances of relapse, respectively, Group C who used only exercise had only a 9% instance of relapse.
While exercise shouldn’t be regarded as a cure-all for depression it can often be a good starting point, and even if you’re not depressed exercise can elevate your mood. In fact, a study by the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better in general, even when they saw no physical changes.
Sleep: hit the snooze when you can
Sleep is a complicated phenomenon. While it’s restorative and helps the body recover and repair itself, sleep deprivation can cause incredible strains on your body both physically and mentally. In NutureShock, a book by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman a study was conducted in which sleep deprived students were asked to memorize a list of words. The students tested could remember 81% of the negative words like “cancer” and only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation.
It turns out, that sleep-deprived people are unable to recall pleasant memories but are able to recall negative memories. This is because negative stimuli are processed by a different part of our brain than positive or neutral stimuli. Sleep deprivation impacts the part of our brain that processes happy memories. So, in order to be happy you need to get sleep. We’ve covered this too, and even debated whether or not you should wake up early or work out. Check them out here and here.
Help Others: 100 hours a year
For most aspects of our health, there are no concrete goals. No numbers, statistics, or hours put, in that will intrinsically make us healthy. But, according to the National Service, 100 hours a year of volunteer serving, or helping others (that’s two hours a week) can actually improve your health and happiness in the long term. Of their participants, those who volunteered for at least 100 hours per year had less of a decline in self-reported health and function levels, lower levels of depression, and a lower mortality rate than those who did not volunteer.
Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania professor and author of Flourish, puts it simply:
[…] we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.
Get Outside: Sunshine almost always makes you happy
Wishlist has touched on the benefits of seeing nature everyday (you can read their post here), but the science linking happiness and the outdoors gets remarkably specific. In fact, according to The American Meteorological Society, temperature has a more profound effect on our happiness than other contributors like wind speed, and humidity. They even pinpointed 57 degrees Fahrenheit as the perfect temperature for maximized happiness. And while most studies suggest 20 minutes of outdoor activity a day for peak happiness levels, any length of outside jaunts can boost your happiness.
Just a little vitamin D a day, the sunshine vitamin, can help ward off depression, and boost your immune system. If you’re lacking on warm weather you can take vitamin D as a supplement too, to shake of any winter blues.
Experiences: Stories over stuff
We’re big proponents of experiences over things, in fact our sister company Wishlist is entirely based off this principle. It turns out, though, that science is also on the side of stories over stuff. George Vaillant the director of a 72-year study of 268 men said, when asked what he has learned from the study “that the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”
At the end of the road, most of the changes to your happiness are going to be outside influences. Surround yourself with people you love, enjoy the outdoors, and help others and you’ll be happier in no time.
How are you staying happy? Let us know by commenting below or on our Twitter. As always, stay up to date with all ThrivePass news by following us here or on Twitter and LinkedIn. Stay tuned for the next installment of our ThrivePass Wellness Series.