Nobody can be Rachael-Ray happy all the time (maybe not even Rachael herself!), but there are days when you wonder whether a smile will ever cross your face again. Most often, stress and worry are to blame for a miserable mood. While doing research for her book Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, journalist Ariel Gore discovered that anxiety, not sadness, was the true barrier to living happily. “Happiness and sadness can actually coexist quite comfortably,” she says. “Survival anxiety, money anxiety, social anxiety—those worries and stresses are the real killjoy.”
Fortunately, there are ways to feel better even in the midst of tense times. Here are just a few:
1. Listen to music. It lowers your body’s level of cortisol (the stress hormone), reduces anxiety, and can even improve your memory. Whether you love Mozart, Alicia Keys, or Lady Gaga, it’s all good. Are you pregnant? One recent study found that lullabies and nature sounds were the best choices for helping moms-to-be relax.
2. Warm up. The comfort of feeling warm and cozy is a terrific stress-reducer. The doctors at the international Mandometer Clinics, which specialize in treating eating disorders, use warm rooms and blankets to help anorexic women curb their anxiety after meals. Take advantage of spring’s lingering chill by taking a hot shower and wrapping yourself in a fluffy robe afterward. Savor a cup of green tea or get a hot stone massage. If it’s a nice day, put on your sunscreen, grab a book and find a sunny spot.
3. Have a peanut butter sandwich. When you’re fixing your kids’ lunches, aren’t you tempted to make your old favorite for yourself? Go ahead. The protein in peanut butter naturally boosts your level of serotonin, the hormone that regulates moods, sleep, and behavior. Stick with an all-natural variety (you don’t need the saturated oil and preservatives in other brands), have it on whole-grain bread and skip the sugar-loaded jelly. You’re indulging your inner child, and who’s more joyful than a five-year-old?
4. Get a friend fix. A well-known study from the University of Illinois found that the happiest people are the ones with strong bonds to friends and family. (As if you need a bunch of psychologists to tell you that girlfriend-time is fun!) A lot of us don’t make it a priority to connect with our friends regularly. Get into the habit of reaching out to a friend at least once a week, or more often if you can. Send a text, call or get together for a drink after work. And you can never have too many girls’ nights out.
5. Bring nature into your life. Getting in touch with the earth is a time-honored stress reliever, and spring, when nature comes back to life, is a fabulous time to start. Have breakfast on the porch or in the backyard and watch the birds gathering material for their nests. Pick a tree in your neighborhood and look at it daily to see buds turn into leaves.
6. Write it down. For her book, Gore asked women to keep a journal of the best moments in their day. This mindfulness will get you into the habit of noticing the good times as they happen. “Focusing on the moments of flow and happiness in our daily lives instead of focusing on what went wrong just has a refreshing effect,” Gore says. “We notice the natural joy more easily, and we remind ourselves, and sometimes even begin to relearn, what we want to be spending our time doing. “ Buy a notebook and keep it on your nightstand so you can write just before bed. Your entries don’t have to be long; a few lines are plenty.
7. Get out of your rut. Many women Gore spoke to found that they were happiest doing something that took them out of their day-to-day routine: working on an art project, going on a hike, playing with the kids during a time when they didn’t have to rush off to school or sports. Shake up your schedule: Go for a walk at lunch hour instead of eating at your desk. If you spend your nights in front of the TV, turn it off and reach for your journal, a book, or a paintbrush.
In short: Don’t wait for joy to come to you—go out and grab it with both hands!
By Shana Aborn for BettyConfidential