Top 10 Easiest Ways To Boost Both Your Happiness And Your Health

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Happiness and health.

These are probably the two biggest things that we all want in our lives.

And every once in a while, we’ll find that amazing thing that is both healthy and makes us happier!

Man, I love it when that happens.

Anyways, here are ten things you can do that are scientifically proven to make you both a happier and a healthier person.

 

1. Eat Dark Chocolate.

Attention ladies: this is my one weakness.

Give me dark chocolate and I will love you forever.

And I’m not alone on this one.

A lot of theories have been tossed around as to why people love chocolate so much, including the existence of drug-like chemicals found in chocolate, such as anandamides, which act on the same part of the brain as marijuana, and phenethylamine, which has amphetamine-like effects.

But there is nowhere near enough of these chemicals to have any real effect.

My theory: chocolate just tastes delicious.

Dark chocolate (emphasis on dark) is loaded with antioxidants.

Try to consume it without milk, since this seems to block the absorption of these antioxidants.

Moderate consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to help prevent cardiovascular issues, lower blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, and more.

Of course, the tough part with keeping dark chocolate consumption healthy is that you must use moderation.

Eat too much and the risk of wait gain counteracts all the benefits you could have gotten.

Want more excuses to eat chocolate? Check out these 12 reasons dark chocolate is awesome.

 

2. Have A Glass Of Wine.

Or sip on your favorite alcoholic beverage.

I’m sure you don’t need “science” to tell you about the mood enhancing effects of alcohol.

Wine and beer are delicious, but they also promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.

Red wine is loaded with antioxidants such as resveratrol which have been shown to help protect the heart from damage.

But it’s not just red wine that can be good for you; light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce all cause mortality, particularly relating to cardiovascular disease.

Yet again, moderation is key here.

Moderate drinking in women is one drink per day and for men is up to two drinks per day.

Start going much above that and the negative health effects of alcohol will wreck your body.

 

3. Drink Green Tea.

In addition to caffeine, a less known component of green tea is the amino acid l-theanine.

Theanine is known to induce calmness and relaxation, and has been shown in animal studies to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate mood.

In addition, the primary antioxidant in green tea, EGCG, has been shown to improve mood.

In case you haven’t noticed the pattern here, antioxidants seem to be a really key player in these healthy choices.

Green tea has a huge number of health benefits, including a substantial decrease in all-cause mortality for those who drink it.

I’m way too lazy to list the health benefits of green tea here, so just check out this other post I wrote with more than you could ever want to know about green tea.

 

4. Take A Nap.

Sometimes people will hassle you for taking naps.

But you know how good a nice mid-day nap feels.

In fact, napping doesn’t just improve your cognitive abilities and mood.

Napping is pretty darn good for you too, and finally its not about the antioxidants.

People who regularly take naps have a greatly reduced risk of cardiac mortality.

The expectation of a nap could even be enough to reduce blood pressure.

If you can find time during your afternoon to nap, you have every reason to do so!

Believe it or not, napping is not that simple. To get the most out of your zzzzz’s, you should learn more about how to nap strategically to get the effects you want.

 

5. Meditate For Five Minutes Per Day.

It’s so easy to implement this into a morning routine that I simply don’t understand why it isn’t more common.

There are many types of meditation, but lets keep it simple.

Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breath for five minutes.

It’s incredibly relaxing and sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.

Meditation is one of those habits that is incredibly rewarding, but hard to understand why until you try it.

Unfortunately, most studies done on meditation and health are of poor quality, so it is hard to say what physical health benefits, if any, we know for sure come from meditation.

However, those who meditate have been shown to have considerably higher functional health, including better scores on vitality, bodily pain, mental and emotional health, and social functioning.

 

6. Smile More Often.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: smiling makes you happier.

Just try to be upset and smile at the same time…it’s basically impossible.

Besides, you look better when you smile anyways, so just do it.

Turns out smiling more could increase your longevity as well.

While the evidence is very preliminary, baseball players smiling in their baseball cards tended to live seven years longer than those who didn’t smile.

 

7. Sleep Enough.

Obviously if you have things to do, you should probably get up.

But when you can, it’s totally ok to sleep in.

Getting enough sleep will make you feel a lot better.

Your brain replenishes the neurotransmitters that it used up the previous day while you sleep, so you’d better get enough.

Of course, getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of your health.

When I say it’s ok to sleep in, I don’t mean do it every day. Sleeping too much, like sleeping to little, is unhealthy.

So if you are sleep deprived, feel free to get a couple extra hours next Saturday and catch up.

 

8. Hang Out With Your Friends.

We all love to spend time with our friends.

Building close relationships with others is one of the best things that life has to offer.

It is usually the times that we are with our friends that we are happiest, and happy moments in our lives are always better when shared.

Having a large social circle with high quality, close relationships is beneficial for our health. More friendships means decreased mortality, and this has been repeatedly shown to be the case.

Don’t forget to cultivate positive relationships with others, because not only will your quality of life be better, but you might also live longer.

 

9. Laugh More.

Is it any surprise that laughing makes you happier?

Even if you are alone or you force the laugh, you still experience a boost in mood.

So laugh whenever you feel like it, or even when you don’t. It doesn’t matter, you’ll still be better off.

Laughter seems to have a whole bunch of health benefits, potentially including decreased blood pressure, stress hormone reduction, pain reduction, and improved immunity.

This seems to me to be the perfect way of boosting both your happiness and your health, except maybe….

 

10. Have More Sex.

Sex is pleasurable. Duh.

But the great thing is, sex is most certainly not a vice, at least not when it comes to your health.

Obviously, there is the exercise component, but there are other health benefits of regular sex as well.

Those who are sexually active have lower blood pressure, improved immunity, reduced risk of heart attacks, and improved sleep, among other benefits.

 

Conclusion

A lot of times we think that if a behavior is healthy, it must suck to do.

This is totally understandable, considering how our moms all told us to eat our vegetables when we were younger.

But as you can see, there are plenty of things we can do that are not just good for us, but awesome.

What else can you do to boost both your happiness and your health?

photo by: Dominic's pics

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Comments

  1. Meditation is an interesting and appropriate choice for this list. I feel like a lot of people in our generation assume a connection between meditation and religion: we all have an image of a Buddhist monk praying while sitting on the floor pretzel-legged. I’m not religious in the slightest bit and I’ve found that meditation as outlined above to be very effective at relaxing me and relieving stress. It’s simply not the case that you need to have your mind pointed at a religious object to reap the benefits of meditation!
    Ryan F. recently posted..The Buddha On Proper KnowledgeMy Profile

    • Mikey D says:

      Very true. It’s unfortunate that many people make that religious connection in their mind. A lot of people are probably turned off of something that has so much potential to help just about anyone.

  2. I know this just further reinforces my habit of drinking dark chocolate green tea milkshakes while getting freaky.
    Jeremy recently posted..Fine Chinese DiningMy Profile

    • Mikey D says:

      I’m glad I could contribute. Now you know you’ll be able to do that with an increased lifespan!

  3. Give More. Studies show that people who give more to charity, volunteer more to help others, etc.. are happier, regardless of income level, or how much chocolate they eat. Do more for others and you do more for yourself.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/dont-indulge-be-happy.html?pagewanted=all

    • Mikey D says:

      Definitely a good point that those who donate more tend to be happier….although I haven’t seen any studies that controlled for amount of chocolate eating, which could totally confound the results 🙂

      In the article it says happiness tends to increase until around the $75,000 mark before tapering off. I think it’s worth noting that even the happiness increases beneath that cutoff were fairly unimpressive…seems like wealth just isn’t that important once you are out of poverty.

      The article also made a great point about “underindulgence”, or consuming less than we are capable of, increasing our satisfaction with what we do consume. This is spot on. I can safely say that when denied my dark chocolate for an extended period, it tastes considerably better.

      “Do more for others and you do more for yourself.” I like that.

      Thanks for the comment!

  4. FloranteP. says:

    Old school says I wasn’t leading a healthy life, with most of the above-listed items I relish and enjoy. But, my being stubborn to stick into my addition, firmed-up my conviction to continue and probably advocate. Moderation and balance though, should be considered.

    • Yes, I agree. Moderation is very important. But, as one of my favorite books Lost Horizon says, “Everything in moderation. Even moderation.” So I guess every once in a while it’s ok to go a little overboard too!

  5. Great ideas!, a glass or two of wine a day can also be enjoyable and good for your health.

  6. 10’s false. Seriously. “I can say without the slightest hesitation, from my own experience as well as that of others, that sex is not only not necessary for but is positively injurious to health” – Gandhi.

    • Mikey D says:

      Now, everyone has a different experience in life, and conditioning or other factors can make it so that any particular individual will have a different reaction to any given stimulus.

      For someone with an extremely fickle heart condition, sex may instigate a heart attack. So from that standpoint, you are correct.

      That being said, a quote is in no way comparable to scientific evidence, even if it comes from as esteemed a name as Gandhi. Do you have any references to back up your claim?

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Thanks for this.
    Many people do get tripped up by seeing meditation as a “religious” practice. Spiritual certainly but religioius?
    Jan Kabat-Zinn introduced meditation into the mainstream through reframing it as mindfulness for use in his MBSR therapy.
    Mindfulness is certainly getting a lot of positive press – no less from the research that shows multiple benefits.
    My favourite is that it slows ageing.
    Sandy Seton-Browne recently posted..Neuroscience and focus: the complications of trying to stay aliveMy Profile

    • Mikey D says:

      I know that this is something that I personally need to be doing more of. Honestly meditation doesn’t even have to be “spiritual” (though I can see why it often would be, and often is for me personally). People can meditate simply because they want to slow aging!

  8. Random Commenter says:

    What if one is asexual regarding the last one? :/

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