We could all use a little more joy in our lives—especially these days! Unfortunately, happiness isn’t something that just happens. Some people are naturally sunnier, sure, but it takes some work and intention to get to our happy place on a regular basis.
“The most important thing people need to learn about creating their happiest life is balance,” says Krista Roesler, a psychotherapist, life coach and co-founder of Psych Company in Toronto. She says it’s essential to find equilibrium among all of the key aspects of life, including work, exercise, family, creativity and socializing. “That’s not easy, with all kinds of things pulling us in different directions and with low motivation levels due to nearly a year of being isolated in our homes,” she says. But it is possible, with the right strategies. Here are six expert-approved ways to spark more joy, starting today.
1. Get Enough Sleep
It’s no secret that an under-slept person tends to be more cranky than cheery. “When we’re tired, we can display behaviour that is hyperactive, oppositional and irritable,” says Alanna McGinn, a sleep consultant and founder of Good Night Sleep Site. Some research shows that poor sleep not only affects our mood the next morning, but that in the long term it can sour our outlook on life, too. One study published in the journal Sleep showed that improving a person’s sleep quality could actually boost well-being as much as winning the lottery.
To score the good z’s jackpot more often, McGinn recommends a number of techniques, which can include quieting a busy brain with journaling and triggering sleep-ready relaxation with deep breathing before bed. She also points to the importance of good sleep hygiene, which means keeping consistent sleep and wake times (yes, even on weekends), keeping tech out of the bedroom at nighttime and establishing a tranquil and comfy sleep space. She also recommends assembling a sleep tool kit that can stay on your night table. “It can include things like earplugs, an eye mask, aromatherapy—whatever is going to help you get that sound sleep that you need and help create a sleep sanctuary,” she says. You may also want to stash a supplement like magnesium in that kit. According to Health Canada, some 34 percent of Canadians are deficient in this mineral that can aid in muscle relaxation, reduce stress levels and prepare the body for sleep. “It’s something that I take daily,” says McGinn.
2. Do What You Enjoy (At Least Some Days!)
“Often it’s not easy to even know what we truly want or should be aspiring to as the hustle and bustle of life both swallows us up while passing us by,” says Roesler. “We need to try our best to populate our days with things that we want to do on top of the necessary things to survive.” So, you may need to work to pay your mortgage, for example, but could you find a job that’s more fulfilling? Or do you need to make space in your life to re-introduce a once-loved hobby (like painting or knitting or even triathlon training) that you’ve given up since becoming a parent, for instance? “Being authentic to your own wants, needs and hopes is essential to feeling happy and purposeful,” says Roesler.
3. Give More
Helping others makes us happier. In one international study led by Elizabeth Dunn, a happiness researcher and psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, people who gave to charity were found to be happier on average, compared to people who didn’t. What’s more, the study found that to match that glow people get from giving, they’d have to bring in about twice as much income (and this held true for people across every income bracket). Dunn’s research has also shown that we get the biggest boost when generosity hits close to home, and we can see the positive impact of our giving. Pulling out your credit card and making an online donation to an effective aid organization working across the world, for example, may feel great, but volunteering at a local food bank is likely to produce even more good vibes.
4. Say No More Often
Creating priorities, setting boundaries and acknowledging that sometimes you can’t do it all is essential because otherwise, it’s easy to find yourself totally over-stretched. “Being ‘time poor’ can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to happiness and it’s something I commonly see with our clients,” says Roesler.
In our new WFH culture, for example, it’s too easy to work at any hour of the day, any day of the week. “Setting up boundaries is more important than ever before, if we are to keep our heads above water,” she says. That means learning to say no, when necessary, to evening Zoom calls, extra assignments and anything else that doesn’t serve you. It’s learning what your own needs are, and asserting them in effective ways while still respecting others in the process.
5. Move Your Body—Every Day!
People who move more are happier. “We have all heard about the ‘happy hormones,’ like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine that are released when we exercise,” says Caleigh Rykiss, a personal trainer and the founder of Toronto-based fitness brand BOLO Inc. “But movement also forces us to get out of our heads and into our bod- ies, which can help us feel more present and connected to ourselves,” she says. The link between movement and mood is so strong that we might even be able to outrun depression, according to one study in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers found a 26-percent decrease in odds for depression in people who replaced just 15 minutes of sitting with running. According to Rykiss, the key is to figure out the form of fitness that gives you the biggest feel-good boost, be it a Peloton class or walking your pooch. “Keep searching until you find the one that feels like a breath of fresh air in your day,” she says.
6. Be a Goal Getter
“The first principle in setting a goal that helps you create a happier life is to really understand your core values,” says Roesler. “Figure out what’s profoundly important to you alone, since everyone has unique priorities.” Once you have clarity on what matters most, you can build your short- and long-term goals. Whether you’re building relationships, realizing career ambitions or working on creative aspirations, set your- self up for success by making those goals attainable. (It doesn’t mean you can’t dream big, but you might have to break down a big goal into smaller ones, to put it within reach.) Then, go get them all—with a smile!
Four Feel-Good Essentials for Happier Days Ahead
1. Whether it’s walking, a virtual HIIT class—or just running errands—these sneakers are engineered to perform however you get your sweat on. Plus, they’re comfy, breathable and stylish.
Reebok Nano x1 SNEAKERS, $150, reebok.ca.
2. Embroidery is the new knitting. If you’re looking for a joy-boosting ‘me’ time activity, these convenient embroidery kits come in cute patterns with straightforward instructions, so you can personalize a canvas bag or jean jacket in a (satisfying) jiffy.
We Are Knitters Sun Gazer EMBROIDERY KIT, $65, weareknitters.ca.
3. Using a weighted blanket is like deep pressure therapy you can do at home, and has been shown to help with a range of conditions, including anxiety. Think of it as a constant, comforting hug whenever you need it.
Casper WEIGHTED BLANKET, $229/15 lbs, casper.com.
4. A daily dose of magnesium could be your ticket to dreamland. Many
of us could use a boost of this mineral that relaxes muscles and preps the body for sweet sleep.
Webber Naturals MAGNESIUM CITRATE, $14, shoppersdrugmart.ca.