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4 Ways To Be Happier Based On The Research

Jennifer Schmidt is Recreation Therapist, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and self proclaimed "Mental Health Mentor." When consistent triathlon training didn't "cure" her depression and anxiety (as her education promised), Jennifer sought other answers and discovered the root of her mental illnesses were likely being amplified by her intense training regime.

 
Executive Contributor Jennifer Schmidt

As someone reading this article, you’re likely one of the many people on this planet who feel the desire to be happier. But with the monotony of the daily grind, this emotion can seem rather elusive and even impossible. Don’t give up hope! The research shows that there are more ways than you think to take control of your happiness.


Close up portrait of a smiling young student.

What the research tells us


In a 2005 study, Dr. Sonia Lyubomirsky and colleagues suggest that happiness levels are determined by 3 factors: genetic set point, life circumstances, and intentional activity. A key finding in this study is that 40% of your happiness is determined by the “intentional activity” that you choose to do each day. In other words, a large portion of your happiness is completely up to you!


On one hand, it may be empowering to know that you have a great deal of control over your happiness. On the other hand, it can be difficult to confront the fact that your daily habits really do impact your happiness, especially if you’re exhausted and don’t feel you have the energy to do anything different. Regardless of whether you’re feeling uplifted or weighed down by the thought of being in control of your happiness, it’s important to know that intentional activities do not need to take a tremendous amount of time or energy. In fact, they can be included in activities that you’re already doing each day!


Ideas for intentional activities to add to your daily routine with small tweaks


1. Break big goals into smaller pieces and then check them off

Your brain loves to accomplish things. The trouble is that with big goals, we fail to identify and acknowledge the small wins that happen along the way. Keep your big goals front of mind, and make a practice of asking yourself each day what step(s) you’re taking today to get you closer to achieving that goal. Then, when you accomplish each small step, celebrate it!


2. Set aside time to reflect on what went well

The brain is built to filter for the negative, which means that you are built to look for your flaws and find ways to improve. This isn’t inherently bad, it can actually be quite helpful! But to increase our happiness, we need to balance this out by also acknowledging the things we are doing well. At whatever time you’re reflecting on your day, make a conscious effort to not just reflect on where you went wrong, but also take a moment to ask yourself “What went well?”


3. Be present

The human mind spends a lot of time in the past and future. When you consciously put yourself in the present moment, it cues your body that it is safe, which means that your nervous system can relax and put into place the right processes that will help you experience more happiness. It’s impossible to ask you to be present all of the time, but practicing being in the present during tasks you do daily like brushing your teeth, doing the dishes, driving to work, or spending time with someone you love, can help you calm the nervous system throughout the day and end up feeling happier!


4. Choose simple pleasures

Society has trained us to follow the rules, which often means doing things that we don’t like doing. Now, I’m not encouraging you to never do anything uncomfortable ever again. But I am giving you permission to find places within your routines that allow you to bring a little joy to the structure of your life. Wear your favorite outfit, drink your coffee out of that mug you love, make your favorite dinner, walk in that beautiful park, or include your favorite exercise in your workout. It doesn’t all have to be so serious. Get creative on how you can intentionally include things you enjoy in your day!


Happiness doesn’t have to be this huge ecstatic emotion we experience when huge things happen to us. It’s more about being aware of, or intentionally creating little joys within our daily lives.

If you’re looking to understand this topic more fully, I dive more deeply into the study in my podcast. Head over to Spotify to listen to episode 10, “How to Get Happy” on The Athlete Mental Health Podcast.


 

Jennifer Schmidt, Athlete Mental Health Mentor

Jennifer Schmidt is Recreation Therapist, Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and self-proclaimed "Mental Health Mentor." When consistent triathlon training didn't "cure" her depression and anxiety (as her education promised), Jennifer sought other answers and discovered the root of her mental illnesses were likely being amplified by her intense training regime. Her personal mental health experience combined with her professional experience in psychiatry fuelled her to start Ignite Health Coaching and Wellness, where she mentors endurance athletes on creating a lifestyle for positive mental health while simultaneously unlocking their true athletic potential.

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