The 7 secrets of happiness

Happiness may mean different things to different people, but one thing’s for sure: being happy can do wonders for your health. Here are a few guidelines to add to your life.
Motivated lady

1. Do what you love
It’s simple: doing things you really enjoy makes you happy. So do them! “Many women may have forgotten about the things they love or put them at the bottom of their priority list because, over time, they’ve become consumed by work or family,” says psychologist Dr Cindy Nour.

Think back to what you enjoyed when you were younger, and do more of that – whether it’s painting, reading, catching a movie with your sister or going to drama class. The same can be said for exercise: find something you love doing. There’s no point taking up an activity you don’t enjoy – research shows it’s harder to stick to it if you don’t like it.

2. Make a smarter to-do list
A long to-do list getting you down? It’s not surprising. “Being a slave to your to-do list takes time away from doing things that make you happy,” says psychologist Jen Knutson. “Trying to tick everything off the list can make your stress levels skyrocket, too, and that can make you tired and dampen your mood.” Combat it and get back to your happy place by scheduling free time or your favourite activity on your to-do list, as well as slashing the list until it contains a manageable amount of items. The same applies to changing your eating and fitness behaviours, too. Don’t try to do everything at once – focus on changing a few things at a time.

3. Be healthy
It’s a cycle – being healthy can make you happy and being happy can make you healthy! Statistics from a recent US census revealed healthy people were, on average, 20 per cent happier than their unhealthy counterparts. And when you’re happy it’s easier to make better choices. “When people are happy, they’re more likely to engage in healthy behaviours,” says Knutson. “Unhappy people tend to be more sedentary and make poorer food choices.” This is confirmed by UK research: a study of more than 3000 people aged 60-plus found that unhappy people were 80 per cent more likely to be in poorer health than those who generally have a cheery disposition.

4. Kick a goal
Setting small, realistic and frequent health-related goals is not only proven to lead to success on the scales, but it’s also a pathway to happiness. “When you set a goal, you’re being clear about what you want in life. And completing those goals increases your happiness because you have a sense of achievement and self-worth,” says Knutson.

5. Quit being perfect
Don’t raise the bar so high that you’ll never reach it. “One factor that can rob people of happiness is perfectionism and unwavering, unrealistic standards,” says Dr Nour. “This can make you feel like you’re never good enough.” To help you feel better about yourself, adopt flexible thinking and ditch the black and white – or good and bad – thinking.

6. Enjoy the present
“Living in the moment helps you enjoy the pleasures that life has to offer at this point in time,” says Knutson. “Avoid stewing over things you could’ve done differently. And let go of thinking, ‘I’ll be happy when I get married/lose weight/get that job.’” Learn from experiences and make the most of now to actively create the future you want.

7. Live like your on holidays
There’s a reason holiday photos are called happy snaps: it’s hard not to be happy when you’re on holiday. To get that feeling more often, Dr Nour says schedule mini breaks or events in your calendar to look forward to.