Your daily happiness checklist
It’s no secret that health and happiness go hand-in-hand. To look after our mood, we need to look after our health, so BALANCE has come up with a handy checklist of happiness boosting tips, tricks and habits. Try incorporating at least one from each of the four areas – movement, nutrition, balance and productivity – every day to kickstart your happiness journey.
1 Dance Throw on the tunes and dance around your bedroom. A University of London study found that patients with anxiety disorders experienced significant improvement when they did a regular modern dance class, and Nietzsche famously said, ‘We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.’
2 Yoga Just an hour of yoga can boost your brain’s gamma-aminobutyric levels, which are associated with lower levels of stress and anxiety. To push yourself, try an online 30 days of yoga challenge.
3 Get your heart-rate up A single session of aerobic exercise boosts levels of feel good chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, as well as reducing stress hormone cortisol. Pull on your trainers a few times a week and feel all the better for it.
4 Work out on work days According to a study from the University of Bristol, squeezing in a workout on workdays can boost feelings of motivation by 41% and overall work performance by 21%. If you’re stressed about a work project, an injection of morning or lunchtime exercise could be what you need.
5 Get outdoors If weather permits, exercising outdoors is a brilliant way to boost your mood. Recent studies have shown that a walk outdoors can boost feelings of self-esteem, vitality, and enthusiasm.
6 Resistance training Resistance training using free weights, weight machines or your own body weight has been shown to boost memory, improve cognition, lower anxiety and improve sleep. Sounds like a recipe for happiness!
7 Go for a run As well as the famous runner’s high endorphin boost, the repetitive motions of running have been shown to have a meditative effect on the brain. Even a 15 minute run can have a mood boosting effect.
8 Play a team sport People who play team sports have been shown to have higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Think about sports you enjoyed at school and find an amateur team in your area – or better, start your own.
9 Balance your mood with brazil nuts If you suffer from depression or anxiety, you may also have low levels of the nutrient selenium. A recent study showed that symptoms of mood disorders decreased after five weeks of participants consuming 100 mcg of selenium a day – easily found in just 1.5 brazil nuts.
10 Indulge in chocolate Dark chocolate doesn’t just taste good, it can make you feel good too. One study found that 40g of dark chocolate helped reduce stress in female participants. Aim for a good quality chocolate containing 70% cocoa. Try Calm Cocoa by Meredith, a pure 100% dark Madagascar chocolate.
11 Eat oily fish Omega-3 fatty acids have long been linked with good cognitive function. A recent study from New Zealand found that it’s also linked to better mental health. Aim for two portions of salmon, sardines, trout, or mackerel a week.
12 Eat kefir Did you know that 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut? Gut health and mood are so closely linked that the gut is often referred to as ‘the second brain.’ Give your gut some TLC by indulging in Onken Super Kefir, packed with billions of live cultures that will give your microbiome a helping hand. Loaded with vitamins B6 and B12 it helps support the normal function of the immune system. What’s more, it’s available in tasty Lemon & Ginger or Strawberry & Pomegranate flavours (£1.50 for a 350g pot).
13 Practice mindful eating Eating mindfully has been linked with better digestion, improved mood, and decreased emotional eating. Set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes and focus on eating a meal slowly, fully appreciating the flavours and textures.
14 Go bananas Bananas are high in vitamin B6, a vital nutrient for synthesizing happy neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Try adding one to your breakfast for a great start to the day.
15 Have a cuppa As well as waking you up, your morning coffee could also be making you feel good. One study showed that both decaf and regular coffee significantly improved moods.
16 Go green Leafy greens are packed full of folate and magnesium, key nutrients shown to positively impact mood. So load up your plate with spinach, chard and kale a few times a week.
17 Try mindfulness Mindfulness can help improve emotional, social, physical and mental health, with as little as two minutes a day practice. Try an app like Headspace or Calm, or search for YouTube clips to get started.
18 Practice gratitude Every night before you go to sleep, think about five things that you feel grateful for. Practicing gratitude shifts thinking from negative to positive, and can encourage a surge in feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin.
19 Savour the small moments Train yourself to look out for small moments of happiness or contentment. Tune into your senses as you have a positive experience and really focus on how you feel in the moment.
20 Positive journal Spend five minutes writing about a positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours. Reliving it can double the positive impact it had on your life, as well as boosting your powers of memory and comprehension.
21 Plan your goals Sketch out what your ideal future would look like. Focusing on your goals can help activate your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) – you’ll then be more likely to spot opportunities or tools to help you succeed in achieving your goals.
22 Send a thoughtful message Send a message to a friend or loved one letting them know how much you value their contribution to your life. This habit helps nurture important social relationships, which in turn can cushion you from stress.
23 Try a new hobby People who have regular hobbies have been shown to enjoy better moods, less stress, and lower heart rates. Now’s the time to indulge in painting, gardening, or learning a language.
24 Ignore your inbox On average, we check our inbox 15 times a day and waste 21 minutes a day on unnecessary emails. To avoid breaking up the flow of your day, schedule 2-3 times daily sessions to send and reply to emails.
25 Utilise your time well If you’re most productive in the morning, use that time to work on your most important tasks rather than wading through your inbox. Know you have a sudden burst of energy towards the end of the day? Schedule your toughest jobs for this time.
26 Use the pomodoro method This classic productivity tool works by working in 25 minute blocks, with five minute breaks in between. After five sessions, reward yourself with a 15-30 minute break.
27 Block distractions The average digital worker checks their social media or email every six minutes. Try a website or app blocker like RescueTime or Forest to stop yourself procrastinating.
28 Brain dump If you’re struggling to focus, a quick ‘brain dump’ on a sheet of A4 paper can help you get rid of mental clutter. Jot down everything that’s bothering you and all the personal tasks you need to do, then get back to work.
29 Play music A study at the University of Miami found that people who listen to music while working had better ideas, worked faster and had better moods. Turn up the tunes!
30 Drink a glass of water Your brain is made up of 75% water. Even a 1-2% drop in hydration can cause symptoms of brain fog and poor concentration – drinking a glass of water can help you sharpen up.
31 Bring the outdoors indoors Decorating your workspace with houseplants not only looks great, but it might also help you focus. A study from the University of Exeter found that employee productivity was boosted by 15% after the addition of plants.