Wellness: integral health and balance between body and mind
Wellness is a concept that is inextricably linked to well-being. Its purpose is to improve your quality of life and to prevent physical or psychological disorders by taking care of, treating and stimulating different aspects. These include your diet, body, emotions, relationships and environment. It is a concept of comprehensive health that is becoming increasingly popular and worth knowing.
You’ve probably seen a wellness center in your city. Usually, they are beautiful locations where they offer a spa, gym and sophisticated relaxation rooms. There is, therefore, no doubt that many hotel chains use this term for financial purposes and to expand their customer base. However, it is worth mentioning that the essential purpose for which the approach was conceived is sometimes somewhat forgotten. All the more because it was established more than 50 years ago.
“Life is not life without well-being. It is simply a state of lethargy and suffering. “
Wellness is not a new concept
Wellness is nothing new at all. This integral approach to well-being arose some years after the end of the Second World War. The social and economic model improved slowly, and with it, other types of needs came into effect. Needs such as personal growth, freedom and the possibility to choose, to develop ourselves psychologically and emotionally.
It was a fascinating and decisive moment. A moment when psychology became aware that its scientific model had to open up to other possibilities. For example, many professionals decided to no longer focus on treating mental illness simply by providing people with mechanisms, resources and strategies to learn to be happy. No, the goal now was to let people invest in their well-being, in their own self-realization.
Pioneer in this field and maker of the wellness movement was Halbert L. Dun, a physician and biostatist. In the fifties, Dun gained increasing popularity through his conferences and his books. His message was clear and incredibly inspiring: “People have to live in a world that is more aware, making optimum use of their potential.”
The 7 keys to understanding wellness
Previously, we already indicated how hotel chains or health centers offer weekends that are related to wellness. However, these centers sometimes show us a false picture of what this movement originally strived for. Wellness is not something you should really try out on an outing or during a vacation. It is a lifestyle that you should integrate into your daily life.
It is, therefore, to be expected that more and more therapists will specialize in this strategy that seeks to optimize the potential. We must know, however, that it is not an easy task. It is an extremely active process that requires willpower, perseverance, full awareness and decision-making.
Another aspect that is worth considering is that wellness is also integrated into what is known as ‘complementary medicine’. We expressly speak of ‘complementary medicine’ because this strategy is not an ‘alternative’ for ordinary medicine. It certainly does not try to replace ordinary medicine.
The purpose of wellness is to prevent the occurrence of certain diseases and disorders before the signs of it occur to some extent. It does this by reminding us, for example, how important it is to eat well and healthy, to exercise or to care for one’s own emotional world.
We, therefore, stand for a new concept of ‘spiritual and physical’ well-being that teaches the individual to create healthier and happier living conditions. Thus the individual will be able to reach his maximum potential and acquire a stronger health.
Let’s look at the dimensions that make up wellness.
1. Physical well-being
How would you define physical well-being? The first thing that comes to mind is undoubted ‘the absence of disease’. But for wellness, you have to go beyond that. After all, being healthy is not only limited to being disease-free, it also means ‘feeling good’.
For example, people who suffer from arthritis, osteoarthritis or lupus. As we know, these are chronic diseases. What wellness would strive for in these cases is to improve their quality of life as much as possible.
In order to be able to invest daily in our physical well-being, we have to unlearn unhealthy habits such as smoking, undergo medical checks and reduce stress. In addition, we need to know which diet is most suitable for us and discover which type of exercise would be the most beneficial for us.
2. Emotional well-being
When it comes to emotional well-being, a therapist who specializes in wellness will give us the right strategies and techniques to recognize our own emotions. He will help us manage them and thus invest much more and better in our own well-being.
3. Intellectual well-being
The ability to open yourself to new ideas, concepts, perspectives and experiences is the key to self-realization and happiness. Being active, curious and above all receptive to everything around you is a fantastic way to improve your quality of life.
4. Social well-being
Now let’s ask you a question. Do the people in your social environment really provide you with what you need? Sometimes you become so accustomed to a certain social dynamic that you no longer notice how it affects you. You do not realize how much stress it causes and how this influence contributes to your dissatisfaction.
Becoming aware and becoming selective when choosing the people around you is another essential, determining mechanism of wellness.
5. Environmental well-being
This aspect is not so well known. Or at least it is often overlooked. Environmental well-being refers to your ability to recognize your own responsibility for the balance of nature. By this, we do not mean that you have to avoid pollution in all respects or that you have to live in the wilderness.
No, we are talking about environmental awareness. The idea is that small daily gestures performed by each of us produce real results.
Wellness also teaches us how important it is to always opt for food that is organically grown. It teaches us how to make our home and our city more sustainable, how we have to take care of the planet, how we can recycle, how we can reduce the impact of plastics, etc.
6. Welfare in the field
Are you happy with and at work?Are you satisfied with the activity that takes up so much of your day? Because it takes a lot of your time and life to do that, you know that. In fact, it is often our work responsibilities that give us the most stress and anxiety. That is why it is so important to think about this aspect.
Wellness also tries to improve this area. It wants you to deepen your skills, essential goals and desires to create an authentic harmony between your personal and work-related spheres.
7. Spiritual well-being
Also, spiritual development within this approach is an important step. It stems from the need to develop that inner peace where your life is in accordance with your values. You must always have a purpose in life that encourages you to get up every day, to gather strength, hope and optimism.
Finally, with this set of practices, we integrate a very concrete philosophy in our lives. It is the same philosophy that Halbert L. Dun propagated in his time. A philosophy that emphasizes the personal responsibility of the person. We are a whole, composed of emotions, a mind, a body, our relationships and the environment in which we live. All these aspects form a unity. A unit that should understand every science in a broader and more inclusive way. Science … and also ourselves.
Let us, therefore, take care of ourselves better and let us invest time and willpower here. Take good care of all these areas that you sometimes neglect or overlook, without even realizing it …
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Mediterranean diet benefits! The health benefits, 8 tips and 3 recipes!
Are you looking for a healthy way of eating?
There are so many diets and dietary guidelines that you can hardly see the forest through the trees.
But the Mediterranean diet still stands out. It is not actually a diet, but more a lifestyle and a way of eating.
You eat a lot of vegetables, you choose healthy fats and eat less meat and bread. Is it healthy?
There is a reason why people in the Mediterranean are getting so old!
Greece and Sardinia
There are certain zones in the world where people are very healthy and older than average. These are the so-called blue zones. Here people often become 100 years or older. Two areas are extra here. These are Sardinia in Italy and Ikaria in Greece. The way of eating is an important cause of their good health.
The striking thing is that it is not a single diet. The population of Spain is different from that of Greece or Southern France. So there are a number of nutrients that are used in the diet that are healthy, but the way of eating as a whole is varied. Every kitchen uses other products. You can see that they often eat locally grown vegetables, it is fresh and the quality of the food is high.
The blue zones also have a different life rhythm
Not only does the food differ from yours. The life rhythm is different. It is all a bit more relaxed, people are less stressed. Life is also adapted to the heat in the summer, for example, they keep a siesta. Furthermore, family ties are important and are often eaten together.
Compare this with your high workload, the many appointments on one day, how we have to do everything on time and see our family once every two months. Many people feel alone and experience little support from the environment. In addition to diet, the lifestyle is also important. But with food, you can already achieve a lot for your health.
The basis of the Mediterranean diet
The Mediterranean diet is based on eating habits from the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It is true that it mainly goes back to the sixties (because nowadays people in Greece and Spain, for example, are increasingly eating a Western diet). These are the characteristics of the Mediterranean diet:
Fresh products of high quality
Use of olive oil
The basis consists of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains, fish
Little red meat
As little sugar and processed products as possible
Because the Mediterranean diet is so diverse, you can not easily say which products do and which do not belong. That is also because they make different dishes in each country, have access to different products and draw on different traditions. But that also gives you the opportunity to choose dishes or products from countries that you prefer. This way you can enjoy eating very varied.
Important components in the Mediterranean diet
Many vegetables are used. The basis of the diet is vegetable food. You can eat all kinds of vegetables that you want. In the west, the emphasis is very much on meat and large quantities of it are eaten here. Often people eat around 250 grams of meat per meal in a western diet and this is not recommended in the Mediterranean diet. You can reduce this to 100 grams. In addition, you should only eat red meat once a week.
Usually, the inhabitants of countries around the Mediterranean drink a glass of red wine with food. We do not recommend drinking wine every day for your health, but occasionally drinking a glass of wine can have a positive effect, for example on blood pressure. Often, water is also drunk with meals.
Especially the extra virgin oil is widely used.
In the West, fats are often looked at carefully and we are taught that they are dangerous.
The fats in olive oil are healthy and support a healthy heart.
Eggs and dairy
You can eat in moderation. Yogurt, cheese and milk are used. Where in for example the Netherlands dairy is often central and especially milk and cheese are consumed, this is not the case in the Mediterranean sea areas.
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood are eaten more often than in a western diet. It is recommended to do this twice a week.
You can think of fresh or saltwater fish, mussels, crab and lobster, octopus and the like.
Fish and seafood contain healthy fats and many proteins that contribute to your physical health.
No processed products
Another plus is that as much as possible is chosen for unprocessed products. As a result, you will not encounter products such as soft drinks, candy, white bread and processed meat such as hamburgers and hot dogs.
Light products, which contain chemical sweeteners, also do not fit within the Mediterranean diet.
In a western diet, we eat a lot of carbohydrates in a day. You can find them in bread, potatoes, pasta and rice. In the Mediterranean diet, these have a lesser role. Mostly whole grain and unrefined grains are eaten.
Healthy and fresh herbs are used, such as basil, thyme and oregano.
The use of salt should be limited.
The Mediterranean diet is a healthier diet than the ‘normal’ western diet. The balance between the different fats is better, it stimulates the activity of the intestines and the pancreas and it contains a lot of fiber for a healthy digestion.
You do not have to count calories if you use the Mediterranean diet. You can eat three meals a day and twice a healthy snack. To learn more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, see the next point in this article.
What can you eat in the Mediterranean diet?
Vegetables: All kinds of vegetables, such as spinach, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, bell peppers.
Fruit: All fruits, such as oranges, bananas, strawberries, grapes, dates, melon, peach, pears, apples.
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts
Meat: red meat in moderation, chicken, turkey, duck.
Fish and seafood: Trout, salmon, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, sardines, mussels.
Legumes and potatoes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Eggs, dairy and cheese
The health benefits of the Mediterranean diet
This diet has many benefits for your health.
Listed below are the most important:
Longer life span and more health
Research shows that people in the Mediterranean region are on average 20% healthier and they live longer. When you start with it, you can quickly notice the benefits of this way of eating. With the Mediterranean diet, you can actually age years.
Helps with weight loss
Although this diet is not specifically meant to lose weight, you will find that you can lose weight simply by choosing healthy products. You eat varied and choose less sugar and processed products.
You also eat fewer carbohydrates and if you eat them, they are healthy. This diet helps to gain and maintain a healthy weight.
You get valuable nutrients
To stay healthy and fit, it is important to follow a diet that is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
The Mediterranean diet contains this plenty. Because you eat a lot of vegetables, fruit and legumes you provide your body with everything it needs.
These healthy substances also help to keep dangerous diseases at bay and slow down the aging process.
Reduces the risk of cancer
The monounsaturated fatty acids (omega 3, 6 and 9), large amounts of antioxidants and phytosterols make the Mediterranean diet very healthy and help reduce the risk of cancer.
This applies to colorectal cancer and breast cancer.
Helps prevent diabetes
Diabetes is a disease that is increasingly common in many countries globally. According to research from 2015, 1 in 3 people develop diabetes and 50% of the population is already in the early stages of diabetes. A diet that helps keep your blood sugar in balance and prevent diabetes is not a luxury.
With the Mediterranean diet, you get a lot of fiber and slow carbohydrates inside. This ensures that the blood sugar level remains stable. The good fats from olive oil, fish and nuts are also healthy for your heart and blood vessels.
Nutrients from the Mediterranean diet and their effect
Olive oil is also still mixed with cheaper soy oil or rapeseed oil. That is why it is important to invest in a pure, sun-ripened olive oil.
Only then can you count on added value for your health.
Pure extra virgin olive oil is rich in omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, antioxidants and polyphenols. Unfortunately, these substances are lost when you heat the olive oil.
If you want to bake, you better use virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
What is olive oil good for?
Olive oil reduces the amount of triglycerin in blood. This is a bad cholesterol that can block the blood vessels. So olive oil protects the heart and blood vessels.
Has a blood pressure lowering effect.
Reduces the risk of breast cancer and other forms of cancer.
In combination with eating fish, it helps reduce the chance of getting rheumatism by 80%.
Helps to prevent osteoporosis
Herbs give your meal a lot of flavor, but are also very healthy. They contain vitamins and antioxidants, but often also have a specific effect on our body. For example, peppermint can calm the stomach and help thyme if you suffer from coughing. But herbs contain even more valuable substances.
Herbs contain the so-called salvestrols. They make this fabric to protect themselves against the dangers of nature: against fungi, insects and bacteria.
The more dangers there are for a plant, the more salvestrols they produce. Salvestrols are covered by the polyphenols and they are healthy for us.
In the Mediterranean diet, you can find a lot of vegetables, fruits and herbs that contain salvestrols.
For example, arugula, aubergines, peppers, mint, sage, thyme and basil. Fruits such as raspberries, pears and prunes also contain salvestrols. Research shows that piperine, which is in black pepper, helps to absorb these polyphenols.
Garlic is widely used in the Mediterranean countries. Not only because it makes food spicy and tasty, but also because garlic and the other members of the garlic family (such as onion, shallots and leeks) have very valuable properties.
Reducing blood pressure
Increase the good cholesterol HDL
Help plaque break down in the veins
Have an antifungal effect
Protect against viruses and bacteria
Contain sulfur and selenium that support the liver
Reduce the risk of diabetes by improving the sensitivity to insulin of cells
Fish is eaten in the countries around the Mediterranean, including salmon. Now almost all types of fish are healthy, but salmon stands out. Packed with healthy fats that protect the heart and blood vessels, rich in omega 3 that helps to lower cholesterol and inhibit inflammation. Omega 3 is good for the skin, for healthy bones and teeth and the immune system.
Regular salmon eating can protect the body against stroke and dementia. Salmon helps in the production of vitamin D, a vitamin that can help prevent depression. Fish contains a lot of proteins, which are important for the development and maintenance of muscles.
These nuts can be used as a snack within the Mediterranean diet. They also grow in parts of the Mediterranean.
Spain is one of the largest producers in Europe. Almonds are a good source of fiber and contain a lot of magnesium and vitamin E (an antioxidant that protects your cells and tissues).
They contain little saturated fat, are rich in potassium and help to regulate blood pressure.
As a snack, you can take a handful of almonds, use almond flour to bake cookies or drink almond milk.
This nut, which is not a nut but a stone fruit, just like a peach, contains the most antioxidants of all nuts.
They also contain many unsaturated fatty acids. This helps to lower the cholesterol level.
Furthermore, they are full of important minerals, such as copper and zinc.
Walnuts are also good for digestion, they contain a lot of fiber. Research shows that they help regulate blood pressure and protect against stress.
The 8 best tips to get everything out of the Mediterranean diet
1. It is recommended to receive at least the following per day or per week:
Olive oil: 4 tablespoons per day
Vegetables: 200-300 grams per day
Nuts: 30 grams per day
Legumes: more than three times a week
Fatty fish: 3 times a week
2. Healthy snacks are:
A handful of nuts
A few carrots
Some salad from the day before
A bowl of Greek yogurt
Pieces of apple with almond butter
3. Base your evening meals on the vegetables you eat.
Carbohydrates in the form of potatoes, rice or pasta are not always necessary. If you do choose, take the whole-wheat version of pasta and rice.
4. Be creative with the preparation of your meals.
You can cook your vegetables, but also stir, steam or grill in the oven.
5. Use herbs to get variety in flavor.
They are healthy, but also give a lot of flavors. You do not have to limit yourself to Mediterranean herbs. Also think of coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric.
6. Find products that are produced in your area.
You often find an organic farm that sells fruit and vegetables. Go to the market to buy fresh local produce.
7. Eat three meals a day.
Make sure your breakfast, lunch and dinner are healthy meals. Take a maximum of two snacks. Do not skip your breakfast. Your body needs the energy to start up and get the digestive system going.
8. Does the Mediterranean diet appeal to you and do you want to immerse yourself in the Mediterranean lifestyle?
Pay attention to the following points:
Having a goal in your life is important. This can be social, sporting or work-related. But a goal in your life gives direction and satisfaction.
Move enough. Do some physical activity
Maintain your social network well. Give support to others who need it and ask for help if you need it yourself.
Give a lot of attention to your family, invest time and energy into this.
Provide as little stress as possible in your life. Keep pause now and then and take the time to get back to yourself.
Consider important traditions (or if you do not have them, bring traditions in your life). Celebrate a party, enjoy important moments in your life.
3 easy Mediterranean diet recipes
Below you will find 3 delicious recipes that you can use in the Mediterranean diet:
200 grams of black olives, pitted
1 tablespoon capers
2 anchovy fillets
Fresh red pepper to taste
Some finely cut flat parsley
1 tablespoon of lime juice
8 tablespoons of olive oil
Use a food processor to mix all ingredients except the olive oil. Grind it as nice as you like. Then add the olive oil. The tapenade can be stored for several days in the fridge.
Recipe for 3 people, preparation time 25 minutes
2 fennel tubers
1 large sweet onion
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic
4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs
Pepper and salt to taste
40 grams of parmesan cheese or pecorino
Turn the oven on and let it preheat to 200 degrees.
Cut the fennel into pieces, you can remove the middle hard part. Cut the onion into thin slices and place the vegetables in an oven dish. Squeeze the garlic above. Drizzle with oil and add pepper and salt to taste. Stir everything together. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and the cheese over it. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Salad of chicken with walnuts
Recipe for 4 people
1 head lollo rosso lettuce or oak leaf lettuce
75 grams of rocket
400 grams of chicken
400 grams of kidney beans
1 red onion in slices
2 tomatoes in pieces
1 avocado in pieces
100 grams of walnuts
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
Juice of 1 lemon
Fry the chicken in a pan and let it cool down a bit. Mix all ingredients for the salad. Cut the fried chicken into pieces and add it to the salad. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a container. Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy your healthy salad.
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10 scientific ways to be incredibly happy and more healthy!
Happiness is so interesting because we all have different ideas of what happiness is and what make us happy. But we will all agree on one thing: everyone wants to be happy/happier. Scientists also like to think about the theme of happiness. Below is a list of ten blissful scientific tips.
1. Training has a big effect on our happiness
The New York Times recently published an article about the scientific 7-minute workout. So if you were under the assumption that you do not have time for sports. Seven minutes of your time should succeed?
Dopamine, a chemical that plays a role in happiness, is a neurotransmitter in the brain that’s necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness. Many studies suggest that as we age, we’re constantly losing our stores of dopamine, which is why we need to constantly seek out experiences that release dopamine.
The best way to increase your brain’s dopamine production? Exercise. So run, lift, jump, play — and get happy.
It has been proven that training is an effective way to overcome depression. Shawn Achor refers in his book The Happiness Advantage to a study of three groups of patients with depression. One group is given medication, the second group started training, and the third group did a combination of the two. The results of the study were amazing. Although all three groups initially experienced corresponding improvements, this was completely different in a follow-up test.
The groups were called up six months later for a follow-up. 38 percent of those who had taken medication had become depressed again. The group that had experienced a combination of medication and exercises had a fall of 31 percent. But now comes the surprise: the group that had only done physical exercises, only experienced a drop of 9 percent.
2. Sleep more – you will be less sensitive to negative emotions
We know that sleeping helps us to recover our body. We can better focus on ourselves through a good night’s sleep and we are more productive. And it also appears to be important for our happiness.
A 2015 study of some 2,000 Swedish adults, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, examined the relationship between a person’s ability to regulate their emotions and the development of insomnia over time. At the beginning of the study, participants’ ability to regulate their emotions seemed to have no effect on their sleeping patterns. But six months and 18 months after the initial survey, the study found that people who were less able to manage their emotions were also more likely to experience persistent insomnia. This happened even for people who began the study without sleeping problems.
In a Walker experiment, students with sleep deprivation tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation such as cancer. But of words with a positive or neutral connotation such as sunshine or basket, they had only memorized 31%.
The BPS Research Digest also focused on another study that proved that sleep affects the sensitivity to negative emotions. The researchers used a tool that recognized faces during the course day, to investigate how sensitive the participants were to positive and negative emotions in relation to their sleep. Those who went all day without taking an afternoon nap became more sensitive to negative emotions such as fear and anger at the end of the day. Holding a siesta not only blocked these negative emotional reactions, but also turned them into positive reactions, which were reflected in facial expressions.
Of course, the amount of sleep and its quality is also important for the feelings of well-being throughout the day. If one sleeps insufficiently or badly, the brain activity appears to be diminishing.
3. Come to live closer to your work – a short distance is worth more than a big house
Our shuttle to our work has a surprisingly strong impact on our happiness. The fact that we have to cover a long distance from home to our work twice a day, five days a week, appears to have a big effect. With time, we become increasingly unhappy.
According to The Art of Manliness, we have no idea that a long distance to work makes us so unhappy. “While most voluntary conditions do not affect our happiness in the long run because we get used to it, but apparently people never get used to driving back and forth to and from work every day, because traffic is sometimes fixed and sometimes not’. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert puts it: “Driving in traffic is a different hell every day”.
We tend to compensate for this by means of a larger house or a better job, but these compensations do not seem to work. Two Swiss economists who investigated the effect of commuting in relation to happiness discovered that such factors could not possibly negate the misery of long distance.
4. Spend time with your family and friends – do not regret your deathbed
No contact with family and friends is in the top 5 where people regret their deathbed. Sufficient research has been done to prove that you are happier if you spend more time with your family and friends.
Social contacts are important even for introverts. Several studies prove that spending time with family and friends has a major impact on how happy we feel. George Vaillant led a 72-year old investigation into the lives of 268 people. In an interview for a newspaper, Vaillant was asked what he had learned from the people of the Grand Study. His answer was: “That the only thing that counts in life is your relationship with other people”.
5. Go outside – luck is at its maximum at a minimum temperature of 13.9 ° C
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn recommends Achor to spend more time in the open air to increase happiness. Making time to go outside on a beautiful day brings even more benefits: a study discovered that twenty minutes in the open air in good weather not only gives our mood a boost, but also makes it more open-minded and increases our working memory.
This is actually good news for those who struggle to plan new habits in their already full agenda. Twenty minutes is not that long and is fairly easy to fit into a busy schedule, even if it is during the lunch break.
The American Meteorological Association published a study in 2011 that showed that the current temperature has a greater effect on our happiness than, for example, the wind or humidity, or even the average temperature in a day. It has been shown that happiness rises from a temperature of 13.9 ° C, so pay attention to the weather forecast before you go outside.
A British study by the University of Sussex showed that being outdoors, close to the sea, is the perfect place to be happy on a warm, sunny afternoon at weekends. Participants were also happier in a natural environment than in an urban environment.
6. Help others – 100 hours a year is a magic number
It has turned out that offering help to others enriches your life. The perfect time would be 100 hours of help per year, or two hours a week. When we return to Shawn Achor’s book, he says the following about helping others: “When researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their purchases, the money they spent on activities such as concerts or dinners turned out to be much more fun for them. Then delivered the money they had spent on material things, such as shoes, televisions or expensive watches. Spending money on other people causes a boost of happiness, in other words”.
The Journal of Happiness Studies devoted a study to this topic. Participants recalled a purchase for themselves or for someone else and indicated their sense of happiness. Afterward, the participants chose to spend a financial windfall on themselves or on someone else. Participants who spent their money on someone else immediately felt better after they had done this. Happier were also those who chose to spend their windfall on others in the near future.
Spending money on other people makes us happier than buying things for ourselves. But what about spending time on others? A study among German volunteers showed how the volunteers were hit when they cannot mean anything to another person. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, it became clear that the shock of unification had collapsed a large part of the volunteer infrastructure in East Germany. The people who were affected by this turned out to be more unhappy than the group of people who had not experienced any changes in the volunteer work they did. Thus volunteering seems to contribute to the happiness of life.
Buddhism is often associated with meditation, pacifism, and deep Zen quotes. But one aspect of Buddhism that is often overlooked, especially in the West, is the concept of generosity. In fact, despite the popular stereotypes of Buddhism being all about peace and mindfulness, generosity is actually a very crucial part of Buddhism.
7. Smile regularly and think positively – it relieves pain
According to PsyBlog, a Dutch blog about psychology smiles helps us to keep the attention and perform better on a cognitive level. Smiling helps us to feel good so that we can keep our attention better and we are better able to keep an overview. When this idea was tested by Johnson (2010), the results showed that the smiled participants performed better on attention tasks that asked to see the ‘whole forest’ instead of just ‘the trees’.
A smile is also a good way to alleviate the pain that we experience in difficult circumstances. Smiling helps reduce stress caused by a painful situation. Psychologists call this a face-feedback hypothesis. Even enforcing a smile while we are not feeling well is already making our mood slightly better.
I always say that a smile can be a practice, a kind of yoga practice. Yoga of the mouth: you just smile even if you don’t feel joy and you’ll see after you smile that you’ll feel differently. Sometimes the mind takes the initiative and sometimes you have to allow the body to take the initiative. Sometimes the spirit leads, and sometimes the body can lead. This is why when you have joy, you naturally smile. But sometimes you can allow the smile to go first.
8. Plan a trip – and you can just stay home
It has turned out that only planning a trip is enough to give us a sense of satisfaction, even if we do not even really go. A study in the Applied Research magazine in Quality of Life showed that employees felt happiest when planning a trip. During the study, it turned out that the happiness effect of pretending to travel took up to eight weeks. Once you had been on vacation, the feeling of happiness quickly dropped to a normal level with most employees.
Researcher Shawn Achor also discovered something interesting about the thoughts: according to a study, people who only thought about their favorite movie immediately increased their endorphin level by 27 percent.
Imagine that you do not have time for a trip at the moment or for an evening of socializing with friends – then at least plan something on the calendar, even if it is a month or a year ahead. When you need a boost of happiness, all you have to do is look at the calendar.
9. Meditation – reprogram your brain to become happier
Meditation is known for increasing our focus, clarity and attention, and for giving us peace. But we are also happier. A study by the research team at the General Hospital of Massachusetts looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after an eight-week mindfulness course. The results were published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: it was concluded that the participants who had completed the course showed much more compassion and were more self-aware and that the parts of the brain associated with stress had become significantly smaller.
Meditation literally empties your mind and makes you calm. This has proved to be an effective way to lead a happier life. According to Shawn Achor, meditation makes you happier in the long run.
Studies show that in the minutes after the meditation, we feel calm and satisfied and that we are also extremely aware of ourselves and are filled with empathy. Studies also show that regular meditation can permanently reprogram our brain to levels of happiness. The fact that we are able to structure our brains through meditation is amazing, but also reassuring, because if we do not feel well today, we know that this is not permanent and that we are able to influence this.
Perhaps more than any other religion, Buddhism is associated with happiness. According to Buddhist thinking, happiness and sorrow are our own responsibility – and completely within our control.
“Buddhists say everything comes from the mind”, says Venerable David Lungtok, a Buddhist monk currently living in Sydney. “If we train our mind properly, happiness will be the result”.
It seems like quite a claim – that mental training can make you happy, no matter what happens to you.
But it’s a claim that’s backed up, not only by two and a half thousand years of religious tradition, but a growing body of research.
10. Be grateful and become incredibly happy
Showing gratitude is, in fact, a simple strategy with major consequences. During an experiment, it turned out that the participants who wrote down daily what they were grateful for, immediately improved their mood. The participants in the gratitude groups felt (almost all) better, compared with the groups that did not. The effect of gratitude was striking. The conscious focus on blessings created emotional and interpersonal benefits.
The Journal of Happiness Studies published the data from a study, in which participants were asked to write letters of gratitude to test how gratitude can influence our feelings of happiness. There were 219 men and women who wrote three times a letter of gratitude for a period of three weeks. The result was that writing a letter of gratitude provided a greater sense of happiness and more satisfaction with one’s own life and that feelings of depression diminished.
Psychologists have corroborated the gratitude-patience link. People with a strong sense of gratitude are more likely to be able to delay gratification, passing on a small reward now in favor of a greater reward later. Developing a sense of gratitude can help shopaholics stop impulse buying, for example.
This shows us that gratitude is also an antidote to greed. Greed often comes from a sense of not having enough, or at least not having as much as everyone else has. Gratitude assures us that what we have is enough; greed and gratitude cannot peacefully coexist, it seems. The same goes for jealousy, regret, resentment, and many other negative emotions.
Another nice fact: getting older also makes you happier
Finally, it is interesting to know that as we grow older, especially when we reach middle age, we often become happier in a natural way. There is still disagreement about how this is done, but scientists have some ideas about it. Researchers discovered that older people who were shown photographs often remembered the happy faces better than the unfortunate ones.
Other studies uncovered that as people get older, they seek out situations that make them happy – for example, by avoiding friends or acquaintances who could negatively affect their mood. Other studies show that older people are better able to deal with grief and loss and are better able to transform their goals in such a way that they lead to more joy in life.
So if you thought that getting older makes you miserable, you now know that the opposite is usually true.
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