Simple ideas to boost your wellbeing
1. Pick up a book
It’ll improve your mood and social skills. Research suggests that reading fiction improves empathy and imagination, while a study by the University of Liverpool, UK, found that reading for pleasure improves life satisfaction and helps to lower stress levels.
2. Call an old friend
Sure, it’s good to keep in touch on social media, but research shows using it too frequently may lead to feelings of loneliness. Pick up the phone, then make time to catch up face-to-face.
3. Diarise your relationship
Every so often, write down your feelings about your partner. Research in the journal Psychological Science found that when at least one person in a couple did this, they were more likely to stay together and feel happier.
4. Commit to a screen-free day
No smartphone, computer, tablet, laptop or TV. Start with a couple of hours one evening after work, and build up to a whole weekend. You’ll be surprised how different it can make you feel.
5. Create a killer playlist
One sure way to boost your motivation is with music. Research from Brunel University in the UK shows that playing a tune you associate with physical exercise, whether that’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ or ‘The Eye of the Tiger’, may significantly increase your drive to work out.
6. Losing your temper
Repressing anger has been shown to be bad for your health. The trick is to express it well: try explaining how the offending behaviour made you feel – often people have no idea they’ve upset you.
7. Chatting at work
That time you spend discussing last night’s TV? It’s more important than you think. Brand-new research in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review found that having strong social networks at work plays an important role in our physical and mental health.
8. Having a sleep-in
Sometimes you just need to roll over and hit snooze, and that’s okay. In fact, research by the Endocrine Society found that losing as little as 30 minutes’ sleep on a weekday may increase your chances of obesity and type-2 diabetes in the long term. So if you’re shattered, go ahead and hit snooze. You might need it.
9. Improve your impact
Swap words like utilise or facilitate for more straightforward versions like use, and help. Research in Applied Cognitive Psychology found that using unnecessarily long words actually makes you seem less intelligent.
10. Buy someone a surprise coffee
Researchers at the University of California, found that people who were asked to perform five acts of kindness a week, like helping a friend, reported greater happiness than a control group. Those that squeezed all five into one day saw a huge 40 per cent increase in happiness.
11. Say... 'I love you' more!
Most of us don’t say it enough, and you’ll get just as big a boost from saying it as your friends and family will from hearing it.
12. Try something new
Numerous studies link engaging in new activities to increased happiness. So if you’ve always wanted to learn French or to take up painting again, book yourself into an affordable course. Adult Learning Australia is a good place to start. See www.ala.asn.au
13. Stand like wonder woman
This is called ‘power posing’ – striking a pose that’s expansive and open, rather than closed and stooped. Just a minute of standing up straight with your hands on your hips has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Research in the Journal of Applied Psychology also found that people who ‘power posed’ before an interview performed better and were more likely to be hired. So next time you’re feeling anxious before something important, strike the power pose.
14. Think about your funeral
Stay with us here. If you need to reconnect with your values, research from Michigan University suggests it can help to think about your funeral eulogy. How will your character strengths, attitudes, behaviour and achievements be described? This thought experiment should motivate you to set the right goals for you.
15. Stop stress in its tracks
Halt a sudden increase in stress levels by counting to 10 in a foreign language. It quickly distracts your mind enough to disarm that familiar adrenaline spike and gives you more time to deal with the situation.
16. Pet an animal
Petting a dog or cat can boost feelings of happiness and calm you down if you're feeling stressed. Take your dog for a walk to help you both feel energised and stimulated by the great outdoors.
17. Create a DIY herb garden
Growing and eating your own herbs is beyond satisfying. Try Mr Fothergill's kitchen garden pots for your kitchen window.
18. Play in the dirt
If you have access to a garden, boost your mood by getting your hands dirty. British research found that a bacteria in soil triggers the release of the happy chemical serotonin.
19. Use citrus scents
The scent of citrus has been found to decrease negative emotions and inspire healthier food choices.
20. Donate $5 to a cause you really care about
Research by Dr Martin Seligman shows that spending just small amounts on others delivers an ongoing sense of happiness compared to buying for ourselves. Check out probonoaustralia.com.au to find a cause.
21. Listen to literature (for free)
If you’re not a big reader, you can still enjoy some of the stress-relieving, imagination-boosting benefits of fiction by listening to it instead. Try Librophile.com, which is full of free audiobooks.
22. Go through old photo albums
A trip down memory lane usually raises a smile – and you can make it last longer if you pick out a couple of shots to frame and put up around the house.
23. Ask for help
Not only does it lighten your load, but research shows that when you ask someone to do a small favour for you, it increases how much they like you.
24. Book a date night with your partner
Choose something you used to enjoy in the early days of dating – movies, a gig, going for a walk to the beach with a bottle of Passion Pop (!) – to give your relationship a little injection of happiness.
25. Play to your strengths
Regularly using your own unique talents has been shown to elevate your sense of wellbeing in both the short and long term. Find yours at www.123test.com/strengths-weaknesses-analysis.